Where can you go during the winter in Europe for a long, nice, romantic weekend? Which is the best capital that offers amazingly good food, dreamy architecture, romantic restaurants, cozy coffee houses and is famous for it’s Christmas markets? You guessed it right, it’s Vienna!
VISITING VIENNA IN WINTER: THE BASICS
Let’s focus on some key facts that will help you decide if it’s a good idea to visit Vienna during winter or not. I think traveling is a very personal thing, it depends on your hobbies, your expectations, your mood, your companion and many other things. It is possible that you have heard that Vienna is the best winter destination (and I don’t disagree!) but once you find yourself in Stephansplatz you realize that is not what you expected.
- Vienna is expensive: this is the no.1 thing to consider before traveling to Vienna. The accommodation is expensive, the food is not cheap at all, the tickets for the public transport are – compared to other European capitals – expensive. If you love, like I do sightseeing, keep in mind that the entrances to the most attractions are way too pricey.
- It a super clean city and extremely organized. Vienna was voted in 2019 the best city in the world to live in!
- It’s a romantic destination. So, if you are looking for a destination to do a crazy bachelor party, this is not your city. It is better to try do some barhopping in Barcelona!
- Average Vienna winter weather: The average weather in Vienna in winter is cold and windy. It is not rare to Vienna to be covered under heavy snow! I know that a snowy Christmas market is everyone’s dream but the if you are looking for snow, please visit during January or February and not in December. The average February temperatures for example in Vienna are -2°C and +2°C! Another fact to consider: it is almost always cloudy!
BEST THINGS TO SEE & DURING WINTER IN VIENNA
Here are all the things that I did in Vienna during my 4-day visit. I had a very easy-going plan; I didn’t want to rush this time but take it easy, relax and enjoy the city! As you can see there are plenty of things you can do in Vienna during the winter.
#1. Visit the Schönbrunn Palace
It is almost mandatory to visit a palace when you are in Vienna!
The impressive Schönbrunn Palace was used to be from 1700 until 1918 the summer residence of the Habsburg monarchs. Today, this eye-catching ex-royal residence is open to the public and is your perfect chance to learn more about Austria’s history and the glamorous lifestyle of Franz Joseph and Princess Sissi. You can admire the original furniture and all the luxurious decorations; you can even see their original beds!
There are many different types of tickets for the Schönbrunn Palace. These are the most popular ones:
- Imperial tour ticket – 16€: this ticket gives you access to 22 rooms. It is a quite short tour; in half an hour you will be done.
- Grand tour ticket – 20€: this ticket gives you access to 40 rooms and the whole tour lasts around an hour. You will get to see the private room of Franz Ferdinand and Sissi, plus Maria Theresa’s rooms.
You can buy online the tickets for Schönbrunn Palace from its official page so you avoid completely the queue.
If you like guided tours you can buy from here tickets with a guided tour. The tour gives you useful information and helps you understand better what you see. Another plus is the free cancelation: if you are not sure yet or if something comes up you can easily cancel it! These tours are also very interesting:
On the other hand, if you are on a budget or if you don’t have enough time in Vienna you can access the gardens for free. The Schönbrunn gardens are absolutely amazing and many locals come here to relax and jog. Of course, during the winter they are not so colorful and they are barely any flowers, but still, they are offering some very good views of the palace!
Before you leave you can pass by the residence cafe and restaurant that is famous for its sweets and its strudel! It is a bit pricey but since you travelled that far why not try Sissi’s, favorite pastry?
#2. Visit one or more Christmas markets
If you are visiting Vienna around Christmas time, going to one or more Christmas markets is a must. How many Christmas markets Vienna has? Last year had 6 different markets in different parts of the city!
The most central Christmas market in Vienna is the one in Stephansplatz, the square around St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Go there, get some gluhwein (hot wine) and stroll around. You can buy some Christmas decorations, handcrafted toys, cinnamon biscuits or just have a hot dog!
Some people told me that Stephansplatz is the best Christmas market but I have to disagree! Ok, it may be a very central market and is easily accessible by the metro but definitely not the best one!
♦ My Pretty Travels Tip: You can combine your visit to this market with the entrance to St. Stephens’ Cathedral and some shopping. There are many shops and famous brands around the square, so if you are planning to do some shopping in Vienna here is the best time!
The Christmas market in front of the Schönbrunn Palace is very impressive. It is not very close to the city center but you can ride the metro and arrive in no time!
♦ Extra Tip: Combine your visit to the Schönbrunn Palace with your visit to the Schönbrunn Christmas market. The best time to visit the museum is in the afternoon: in this way, you will have a couple of hours to explore the museum, the gardens, the zoo and as soon as you finish with your tour(s) you can enjoy a glass of hot wine from the market.
What is the best Christmas market in Vienna though? Rathausplatz with more than 150 beautiful wooden stalls, a beautiful ice-skating ring, a panoramic wheel, plenty of mulled wine and cheese, is definitely the best Christmas market. The markets start operating from mid-November so you can enjoy this Christmas atmosphere if you travel in November too.
#3. Get a scenic view of the city from the St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom)
You can find St. Stephen’s cathedral in the heart of the city -it is quite impossible to miss that huge, splendid structure-. It was built in 1137 and it 136 meters high: in other words, it is your best chance to get some breathtaking views of Vienna!
The entrance to the cathedral is free but with only 6.5€ you can take the elevator and get up to the north tower.
Of course, if you are going during the winter be ready for some cold wind!
#4. Go to Vienna State Opera
It doesn’t matter if you like this type of entertainment or not: you cannot go to Wien and not visit the most famous opera house in the world. How can you pass by this masterpiece of the 19th century and not notice it? Probably you have heard about the famous Vienna Philarmonic Orchestra, the Ballet Academy and the Vienna Opera Ball that is beeing organized yearly.
If you are looking to glam up your visit to the Austrian capital, this is the perfect way to do it. You can attend a concert here but you have to be prepared: tickets are being sold months ago and they are not cheap at all. Of course, there is a dressing code, you cannot go in shorts and flip flops! To be able to see a concert in Vienna’s Opera House you have to pick up your outfit carefully and be very elegant. On this link, you can find Vienna’s Opera House schedule for 2020.
The alternative is to buy tickets in the standing sections. Many tourists did that and other bloggers wrote about it but I don’t think that this is the case to save some money and torture yourself by standing 2hours in high heels. How can you enjoy a performance in this way?
From the other hand if you are traveling with a hand-luggage and you have no space for your elegant outfit, or if you really don’t want to spend a lot of money to see a classical concert you can choose to get a guided tour.
The guided tour of the Vienna Opera House is amazing! The tickets cost only 9€ and you can find the timetable here..Οur tour guide did an excellent job, guided us around for 40 minutes and managed to present all the important facts without getting boring.
♦ EXTRA TIP: it can get really busy there, so go at least 15-20 minutes earlier to buy a ticket. You cannot buy the tickets for the guided tour online but they have tours in many languages, such as French, Spanish and Italian.
#5. Visit the Hofburg Palace
The Hofburg Palace takes its name from the Habsburg dynasty, was built in the 13th century but still, it is being used as the official residence of the President of Austria. You can admire from outside the palace but the entrance is not free. Hobgurg’s Palace ticket is not cheap either: you have to pay 15€ to see the interior of this unique well-preserved imperial residence.
At this point, if you have already decided to pay and visit one of the biggest palace complexes in the world, consider the option to buy the “Sisi Ticket“. What is the Sisi ticket? It is a combined ticket that with 34€ gives you access to the Hofburg Palace + the Schönbrunn (with the Grand Tour)+ the imperial furniture collection.
VIENNA CITY CARD, or VIENNA PASS ?
If you don’t like walking, if you’re staying a bit far from the city center or even if you planning an easy-going trip to Vienna, don’t worry: the public transport is very good and reliable. It is not so cheap, so if you are planning to take a lot of buses and ride often the metro, buy the Vienna City Card. What is the Vienna City Card? It is a card that you can buy even online and with only 17€ you’ll have unlimited travel on Vienna’s public transport for 24h. If you are staying a bit longer, you change the duration to 48h paying 25€ or to 72h paying 29€. Is the Vienna City Card worth it? Yes, Vienna’s points of interest are not so close to each other and if you are traveling during winter you may have better things to do rather than walking miles in the rain or in the snow. The only thing that I don’t like about the Vienna City Card is that it does not include transportation from the airport to the city center (the reality though is that you can buy a one-way ticket costing 1,80€ for this). On the other side, the Vienna City Card gives you many discounts on museums and other tourist attractions.
WHERE TO STAY IN VIENNA?
What is the best neighborhood in Vienna? According to my opinion, the best accommodation options in the city can be found only in the center. The center of Vienna is absolutely gorgeous; having this in mind, you may consider spending a bit more money on this trip and opt for a central, luxurious hotel. I chose a 4star hotel called “Der Wilhelmshof“: you can easily book it through Booking from this link.
I must admit that it wasn’t very cheap. The staff though was very polite, the breakfast was delicious and the rooms were not only sparkling clean but also soundproof. You can also have a look at these deals from Booking below:
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