…Christmas in Vienna!
A few years ago I bought a “Where to go when” travel book, which turned out to be a gem for travel recommendations, with a Viennese Christmas being no exception! Our little book described all the Viennese Christmas traditions and festivities and we didn’t need much more convincing, so for our first Christmas in Europe we decided to head to Vienna. We had very high hopes for a ‘white Christmas’ when it started to snow a couple of days before Christmas, but alas, it was just too ‘warm’ (ie maximum daily temperature of 1 degree) and it all melted by Christmas day itself. But not to worry, despite this we got right into the Christmas spirit, visited about 10 of the 16 Christmas markets around the city (which was a mission), including sampling our fair share of gluhwein and collecting a number of other Christmas market mugs to add to the growing collection, and a highlight of the trip was experiencing a real Austrian Christmas with family living in Vienna – including Tim taking on the role of ‘Christkind’ for a night (aka Santa Claus), which made one very excited 7 year old’s evening!
By far the most spectacular Christmas market was the Christkindlmarkt with the beautiful Town Hall as the backdrop.
Inside the Town Hall, there were craft stalls for kids to make Christmas decorations and gifts, and you could walk through to see each of the workshops in progress, which was cute.
With a bit of a modern twist on the standard Christmas market, the Museums Quartier (MQ) markets offered a handful of bars, which I’d take a stab at describing but it’s probably just easier for everyone to check out the photos as they were kind of a fancy fleuro twist on an eskimo tent (??). The bars were set up in the square adjoined by the three main art museums, with a cool light show, ‘Winter Sounds’, decorating the whole area including each of the art museums.
The newest edition to the Christmas mug collection (although the least Christmas looking)
Gingerbread-look lighting display on the Leopold museum (excuse the nudity!)
This is actually us although the intention wasn’t to make ‘scary hands’ 🙂
Another of the more traditional Christmas markets was set on the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace, which is a short trip outside the city centre, and is a former imperial summer palace with 1400 rooms!
A street performer entertaining the kids (and parents).
In the gardens (or what would be gardens!) of the Palace.
At another of the Christmas markets in the city centre: Tim ordering the ‘Frauen Traum’ (Ladies’ dream) and the ‘Manner Traum’ (Mens’ dream) made with gluhwein + rasberries (+ a shot of rasberry schnapps for the guys) = on our merry way…
Best deal ever – a plate of Christmas cookies for 2 euros extra with any purchase of gluhwein.
We also visited the Vienna Hofburg, which used to be the residence of the Austrian sovereigns, covering 240,000 m² and consisting of 18 wings, 19 courtyards and 2,600 rooms, only 50 of which the tour covered. Just to cover the 50 rooms took 2 hours! The tour took us through the main living areas and explained how the Habsburg monarchs use to live.
We were also shown the Imperial Silver Collection used for lavish imperial banquets. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly my taste 🙂 but imagine sitting up to this on a regular basis, and all the work that must have been involved in keeping it clean and looking shiny after every meal – pretty unbelievable!
Apparently it was pretty routine for each table setting to include an intricately folded cloth napkin – so much so, that it was someone’s job to continually fold napkins. It was also someone’s full-time job to continuously polish the silver collection!
As we wandered the city centre, every so often a horse and coach would casually pass us by…
There were many beautiful Christmas lighting displays around the city, and many lining streets in the central city area.
Vienna is famous for its beautiful coffee houses with decadent cakes (which could almost double as a main meal they’re so rich).
We made numerous trips to these coffee houses to escape from the cold and recharge ready for the next instalment of sightseeing. And look, the Australian Pub right next door!
In Austria, the big Christmas celebration is on 24 December, when Christkind visits (the Santa equivalent – but is actually a Christ angel child instead of a man in a red suit). Christkind actually brings the Xmas tree and decorates it with candles and sparklers and leaves the presents underneath. Tim played Christkind for the night which was a bit of fun – he had to light all of the candles and sparklers on the tree and ring a bell to signal the tree was ready, and hide in a back room. We then entered and Leon (who is 7 years old) was so excited he was running around the christmas tree screaming “Christkind, Christkind!” and he practically fell over with excitement as he took it all in: the tree, the sparklers and then of course all the presents. It was so great to be involved in their Christmas traditions and celebrations, and was a fantastic way to spend Christmas, particularly as we weren’t able to spend Christmas with everyone back home.
On Christmas day we went to a restaurant in the city and had a set Christmas menu which was great. We went to see the Nutcracker at the Opera House in the evening which was fantastic, even from the nosebleed section 🙂 I’ll let the photos do the talking on just how stunning the building is. It was a bit of a different Christmas though! We did a lot of Skyping with the family which was nice, but of course we missed everyone.
When we arrived home, we had some Christmas presents from back home to open, including some king size packs of TimTams and Mint Slices from my Aunty and Uncle (thanks again!). A package of goodies from my God Mother was also waiting, including (as a bit of fun) some very fluffy white ear warmers, which caused Customs some heart palpatations but they cleared them in the end…so what do you think?