40 Magical Things to Do in Vienna in Winter & The Best Winter Day Trips

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There really is nowhere like Vienna in winter. Between the Christmas markets, great (indoor) art scene, and festive atmosphere, Vienna might as well be the European capital of Christmas.

Yet even if you come to Vienna in January or February you will find there are still so many great things to do in Vienna in winter that you can stay and explore for weeks on end!

Of course, you will have to decide on an itinerary once you’re here. These are my favorite Vienna winter activities after spending two weeks eating, shopping, and exploring Vienna in December, plus I have tips for visiting Vienna in wintertime below, including what to pack!

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the best things to do in Vienna in Winter

In this Article:

Essential Travel Resources for 2021 & 2022

These are my favorite companies that I use on my travels.

Find the best deals on hotels & vacation rentals on Booking.com.

For road trips and ground transportation, rent a car through Discover Cars.

Find the best city tours, day tours, bus tours, & skip-the-line tickets on GetYourGuide.

For packing and travel essentials order via Amazon.

For travel guidebooks to have with you during your trip, I always pick one or two (or five) from Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, Moon Travel Guides, or Fodor’s Travel Guides.

Get reliable travel insurance through World Nomads.

Book an affordable family or romantic photography session on your trip through Flytographer (Use the code HISTORYFANGIRL for 25% off your first photoshoot).

Where to Stay in Vienna

Austria - Vienna - Sacher Hotel

If you plan on coming to Vienna in winter, make sure to book your accommodations ahead of time! In winter, the resorts, hotels, and hostels book up early since Vienna is a popular winter destination. Here are my suggestions for where to stay on different budgets. Here are the budget categories I will be using:

  • Budget: A room in a hostel, usually USD $25-45 per night for a dorm bed or under $60 for a double.
  • Mid-range: Around USD $60-130 per night
  • Luxury: Around $150 per night or more

Budget: If you are a budget traveler, Vienna has many hostels where you can enjoy staying in the dorm before heading out to enjoy Vienna’s winter activities during the day. Wombats Hostel Vienna the Lounge has free wifi and a twenty-four-hour front desk, two things that I find clutch when I travel solo. Solo female travelers appreciate the option to stay in both mixed dorms and a female-only dorm. 

>>Check availability here.<<

Mid-Range: Located in a nineteenth-century linen factory, the Hotel Fabrik Wien is one of the city’s most beloved mid-range hotels. With discounted rates for solo travelers, they also make it easy for solo travelers to enjoy their trip in this near-upscale accommodation. With modern rooms and quick public transit access, staying here is both easy and comfortable. 

See also
10 Stunning UNESCO World Heritage Cities For Your Bucket List

>>Check availability here.<<

Luxury: While Vienna is not short on luxury hotels which all come highly recommended, if you’re looking to make your Vienna winter dreams come true, splurge for a room at the Hotel Sacher, one of the most famous hotels in all of Europe. The home of the famous Sacher Tort and located just across from the Vienna Opera House, the Hotel Sacher is the last word in Viennese luxury.

>>Check availability here.<<

The Best Things to Do in Vienna in Winter

I have these grouped by kind of activity since you (probably) won’t want to visit every Christmas market and every museum. Of course, you can if you have the time!

Visit the Christmas Markets

I spent two weeks trying to visit as many Viennese Christmas markets as I could, and these are my favorites! If you can go to more, you should, but if you can only go to one then pick one of these. 

If you prefer to visit a few Christmas Markets while learning more about the tradition, check out this Vienna Christmas Market Tour, which will take you to four markets in the city. This is a really fun way to get introduced to Vienna’s Christmas traditions as well as make the markets feel like a bit more of a party.

>>Check availability and reviews here.<<

Viennese Dream Christmas Market at Rathausplatz (City Hall)

This is the quintessential Vienna Christmas Market, and my favorite if you’re looking for a great Instagram pic since its an iconic image. So if you want this classic Vienna Christmas Card shot, don’t skip it. There’s also a skating rink here and a more carnival-like atmosphere than at many of the other markets. The buzzword for this Christmas Market is fun!

Christmas Village Maria-Theresien Platz

I found this to be the most delicious of Vienna’s Christmas Markets, and when I close my eyes and dream of Viennese food, my mind often drifts to the goodies I ate here. The shopping is great as well. With less activities here for children, this is a more adult-centric market. The buzzword here is yum!

See also
25 Most Underrated Cities in Europe for a Fabulous Vacation without the Crowds

Christmas and New Year’s Market at Schönbrunn Palace

 

If you’ve ever wanted to celebrate Christmas at a palace, this is the Vienna Christmas market for you! I suggest pairing this market with a tour of the palace, which I will discuss below.

The Christmas Market here is festive and elegant. I saw more than one group of women dressed to the nines. There were shows for children and great food and drinks, but the most important thing here was the enormity of the palace behind the market made everything feel that much more luxurious. The buzzword here is fancy!

The Best Streets & Shopping Districts

If you’re coming to Vienna in winter, I imagine you will want to do a little shopping. Whether you will be looking for Christmas gifts, Vienna souvenirs, or just ducking out of the cold, Vienna is a great shopping city.

Kohlmarket

Kohlmarkt street with Hofburg Complex timelapse in downtown of Vienna in Austria with crowd in the street. Many caffes and shops around

Connecting the Graben with Hofburg Palace, this luxurious shopping street is more than just a means to an end when getting around the city. This is where you go to sample the delicacies at Demel, shop (or stare at) Tiffany’s, and try on some high fashion at Burburys, Ferragamo, and Christian Dior. 

Goldenes Quartier

Austria - Vienna

 

Vienna is not short on Luxury shopping opportunities, and the Goldenes Quartier, while “newer” by Viennese standards, is the city’s home to Luis Vuitton, Prada, and Saint Laurent. Located off the Kohlmarkt in the 1st District, you know a city is fancy when they need to extend their posh shopping streets because they just can’t accomodate every store dying to be here. 

Ringstrasse

The Austrian Parliament Building in Vienna, Austria, located on The Ring Road. The Athena Fountain with a mythical goddess statue in front.

If you’re looking for a fun street to explore but you aren’t as keen on luxury shopping, head out on the Ringstrasse! With some of the city’s most beautiful architecture and important historic sites located along it, you can cover a lot of ground by just staying on this one street! You can also hack a cheap city tour by simply riding the public tram along the Ringstrasse and seeing it all from your [warm] seat.

See also
What to Pack for Austria: the Ultimate Austria Packing List for All Seasons

Museums Quarter

More than just a home to the city’s great museums, there are sixty separate cultural institutions to enjoy here, as well as winter pop-ups like this fun Christmas-themed bar. 

The Graben

Running from the Stock-im-Eisen-Platz to the intersection of Kohlmarkt and Tuchlauben, the Graben is the most famous street in Vienna after the Ringstrasse. The street might be home today to one of the world’s ancient H&Ms, but historically its origins are in the ancient Roman Empire. 

Its pedestrian-only status actually dates back to the eighteenth century, when it was a fancy urban promenade for the city’s elite. Today you can enjoy walking and shopping here, even if you’re not a member of Vienna’s upper echelon.

Mariahilfer Strasse

Church of Mariahilf, in Vienna, Austria.

This nineteenth-century shopping boulevard is lined with boutiques and cozy cafes. Recently Mariahilfer Strasse was transformed from a busy, traffic-riddled thoroughfare to a pedestrian-only paradise complete with tons of seating and fountains. While it might be too cold in winter to enjoy the outdoor lounges, the warm cafes and great shopping are perfect for anyone looking for a fun shopping day in Vienna without haute couture budgets. 

Neubaugasse

If you find yourself on Mariahilfer Strasse, 

Palaces and Royal Residences

Schoenbrunn Palace

 

Hofburg Palace

 

 

Belvedere

The Belvedere palace of Vienna in winter time with snow covered park in front

Historic & Religious Buildings

 

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna in Christmas time, Austria

Plague Column

Pestsaule on Graben, famous pedestrian street of Vienna with a Memorial Plague Column. old town main street, autumn travel. Blue skyline. DEO FILIO REDEMPTORI translate as God the Son, the Redeemer

Karlskirche

 

City Hall

City Tours

See the City by Bus

Woman sitting a back to the camera in a touristic bus and looking to sightseeing in Vienna

Walking Tour

art christmas advent market in Vienna at the Karsplatz with many people

Boat Tour

Tour ship on the Donaukanal Danube Canal Vienna Austria

Museums

Leopold Museum

 

mumok

Cucumber in a museum, Vienna

Albertina

Austria, Vienna, Albrechtsplatz: Front view of world famous Albertina museum palais palace with Albrecht statue in the city center of the Austrian capital with blue sky - concept travel history art

Food & Nightlife

Sip in a Coffee House

 

Food Tour

 

Brewery Visit

Vienna culture, Food & Drink in Vienna, Budweiser beer mug with Schweizerhaus as a background

Eat a Chimney Cake

Trdelnik or spit cake sweet dessert as served on an open air food market in Vienna, Austria.Hand holding a Chimney Cake pastry, served with melted chocolate inside and caramelised sugar topping.

 

Try a Sacher Torte

Chocolate sauce being poured over a homemade gluten-free Sachertorte chocolate cake. Served elegantly on a gold and white plate in the dining room of an upscale American home.

 

Demel’s

Austria - Vienna -Demel

 

Cooking Class

Trdelnik or spit cake sweet dessert as served on an open air food market in Vienna, Austria.Hand holding a Chimney Cake pastry, served with melted chocolate inside and caramelised sugar topping.

Nighttime Walking Tour

night in vienna

Opera

enna state opera in the winter night with long exposure shot while cars passing by. Austria, Europe, January 2017

Concert

Elegant string quartet performing at wedding reception in restaurant, handsome man in suits playing violin and cello at theatre play orchestra close-up, music concept

Parks & Outdoor Spaces

Maria-Theresien-Platz

Maria Theresa statue in central Vienna Austria at night

Palmenhaus

 

 

Imperial Butterfly House (Schmetterlinghaus)

Imperial Butterfly House (Schmetterlinghaus, a famous Art Noveau building) in Vienna, Austria, in winter

 

The Spanish Riding School

lipizzaner horse looking out of the stable in Vienna

 

Go Ice Skating

Ice Skating in front of Vienna City Hall (Christmas Time/ Holiday Celebrations) on a Cold December Night - Vienna, Austria

The Best Day Trips from Vienna in Winter

Salzburg

Classic view of famous Mirabell Gardens with historic Hohensalzburg Fortress in the background in scenic golden evening light at sunset on a beautiful cold sunny day in winter, Salzburg, Austria

Bratislava

View on main square and Christmas market in historical center of Bratislava city, Slovakia.

 

Wachau and Danube Valley

Romantic Village In The Snow, Durnstein, Danube Valley, Lower Austria

Hallstatt

Classic postcard view of famous Hallstatt lakeside town in the Alps with traditional passenger ship on a beautiful cold sunny day with blue sky and clouds in winter, Salzkammergut region, Austria

What to Wear in Vienna in Winter

Senior couple shopping in centre of the city. Winter in Vienna Austriia

I have an entire Austria packing list, but make sure to bring these items so you can enjoy your time walking around the city.

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Women’s Vienna Winter Attire

Here’s what women should bring:

A Winter Coat: You need that can handle the cold like this North Face parka

Thermal Layers: This ultra-lightweight down layer is my new #packinggoals. I don’t own one, but my friend Allison does and she wore hers while we were stuck at a Serbian bus stop in the cold early morning. I was so jealous, and this is on my future packing lists for anywhere I go that’s cold. It’s great because you can wear it on its own when you need a quick layer of warmth, but you can also wear it under your coat when it’s really cold outside.

Shoes: Upgrade your regular city boots to a waterproof version.

Socks: Upgrade your socks to thick, warm wool socks.

Gloves: In Vienna, you’ll be doing a lot of navigating on your smartphone, especially when you need to use public transit. I found it incredibly annoying to have to take my gloves off every few minutes, so I upgraded to tech-friendly gloves like these. They’re also clutch for using your phone to take pictures.

Winter Scarf: You want a thick knit scarf that you can pull up and cover your face when necessary.

Leggings: You’ll want to be covered from head to toe when you’re outside. Regular leggings are great for late autumn, but for winter swap them for leggings that are lined with fleece for extra warmth. You can wear them under dresses or even slip them under your jeans.

Hat: A fleece-lined knit cap will keep you warm, and you’ll fit right in with the locals.

 
 

Men’s Vienna Winter Attire

Here is what I suggest men wear in winter:

A Winter Coat: You need that can handle the cold like this North Face parka.

Wool Baselayer: You’ll want an extra boost of warmth under your shirt as a wool baselayer.

See also
Schoenbrunn Palace Tour in Winter, Vienna's UNESCO World Heritage Site

Shoes: Upgrade your regular city boots to a waterproof version.

Socks: Upgrade your socks to thick, warm wool socks.

Gloves:  Upgrade to tech-friendly gloves like these so you can use your smartphone for pics and to help navigate.

Winter Scarf: You want a thick knit scarf that you can pull up and cover your face when necessary

Hat: A fleece-lined knit cap will keep you warm, and you’ll fit right in with the locals.

Austria Travel Resources

Austria - Vienna- Stephanie Selfie at the Vienna Opera
Vienna Opera Mirror Selfie…because why not?

Headed to Austria? Here is my Austria packing list, plus the best quotes about Austria and Austria puns that you can use for photo captions. 

Here are tips for visiting Schoenbrunn in winter. You can check out our Vienna episode of Rick Steves Over Brunch for more Vienna travel tips!

Are you still trying to decide where to go? Here’s how to pick between Berlin or Vienna and Bratislava or Vienna.

5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to Austria

Germany - Berlin - Suitcase and Day Bag packing to leave

The Lonely Planet Austria guidebook for your trip. It can be hard to find big, international guidebooks once you land (or they’ll be way overpriced). Get yours ahead of time, either a hard copy or on a Kindle.

An Unlocked Cell Phone so that you can use an Austrian sim card while here to help navigate public transportation and when you’re on the road.

 

Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS, and general travel genie.

A Camera since Austria is super photogenic. I use a mix of my Nikon D810 and my  Samsung8 smartphone these days.

 

A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for Austrian cities because it has many anti-theft features designed to deter pickpockets. It also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day. 

See also
27 Stunning Places to Visit in September in Europe for a Late Summer Getaway

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

Before you leave for Austria make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging enjoying time in big cities like Vienna where travelers can attract pickpockets or participating in winter sports.

 

I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for three years, and I happily recommend them.  If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.

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the best things to do in Vienna in Winter

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