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The city never looks as magical as it does during the holiday season when Austria’s capital pulls out all the stops, sparkling and glistening with punch stands, Christmas markets and holiday decorations.
The Christmas holidays see the peak of Vienna’s tourism numbers in any given year. All the while, the Viennese enter shopping just as the “quiet time of the year” begins, so it’s never really that quiet. Next to flocking to the crowded streets and packed shops, this also means that there are plenty of events for locals and tourists alike: from peaceful markets, to ice skating outside city hall, to Christmas dinners at elegant cafés and gift-shopping at museums. Here is a primer on Vienna’s festive hotspots.
From mid-November through Christmas Eve, you can cradle a different mug of punch every night from the countless Christmas markets. However, most markets are so crowded that you’re more likely end up spilling your drink on a stranger’s jacket rather than actually drinking it. As an alternative to the tourist traps that many institutions of its kind have turned into, check out the student campus at Altes AKH that cultivates a calmer and more peaceful setting. Visitors can browse through local art vendors, enjoy a family-friendly assortment of stalls and feast on the organic food and beverages that are being sold by charming locals.
With global warming leaving its mark on many winter sports, ice-skating on the Danube has also become risky business. Regardless of weather conditions, Vienna Ice World opens in November and is spectacularly located in front of the city hall. Avoid coming during peak hours (afternoons and weekends) as the space on the ice might be limited. And no worries if you lack the necessary gear; everything you need can easily be rented at the venue. For less sporty but still motivated revellers, there is always the punch stand with hot mulled wine ready for sampling.
One of Vienna’s most prestigious cafés keeps its doors open on Christmas Eve. After enjoying a mug of punch on the (heated) outside terrace, guests can choose between multi-course menus or help themselves to the Christmas buffet. What kind of people celebrate this special night in a café, you ask? Many families and couples line up for a reservation weeks beforehand. And who can blame them? Instead of stressing out about preparing food for the whole family they can sit back to enjoy the festive decorations and the courteous service.
If you’re looking for more than accessories from the newest IKEA collection, the Museum of Applied Arts should be on your hit-list this Christmas. If you don’t want to come by in person (which would be a shame since the museum is a must-see), check out their excellent online shop. They offer an eclectic assortment of exclusive design ware, from everyday items to art pieces, you’re sure to find the perfect gifts for people who have everything, plus obscure and sought after prints and publications.