Without a doubt, Vienna is one of the most majestic and impressive European capitals. I visited this city of culture and music twice, both the times in winter. Travelling on a budget in winter can be quite exhausting, because the weather is usually cold, raining or snowing, and days are too short. Here are some of my ideas for spending winter days in Vienna, the capital city of Austria.
Museums and palaces
One of the best ways to hide from the bitter cold weather is to find shelter inside museums and palaces. Vienna offers so many interesting and inspiring museums and galleries, it should not be difficult to find one or two for every type of person. My favourite is of course the Natural History Museum, located in the MuseumsQuartier district along with many other art galleries and historical buildings. Vienna is also well known for its Schönbrunn palace, where you can spend few hours exploring the lavish baroque rooms. Don’t miss the smaller but just as impressive Belvedere palace with many beautiful art collections and a lovely garden.
Gardens and Parks
My favourite places while visiting big cities are the parks and small gardens where I can find some peace and escape from the hustle and noise of the city centre. Also, there’s no entrance fee to pay! Although in winter, parks are less colourful and without blooming flowers and green trees, I still love walking around and watching locals and tourists relax and enjoy recreational activities. One of the biggest and most visited parks is the Wiener Prater near the Danube River, which ends with the famous Prater amusement park with the Farris Wheel. I also loved visiting the Butterfly house (Schmetterlinghous) in the Burggarten Park (known for the Mozart statue). Oh, I almost forgot the most impressive Schönbrunn garden, which also includes a zoo.
Vienna Central Cemetery
Another great place I found is the Central Cemetery (Wiener Zentralfriedhof), which is located in the outskirts of the city. When I visited the cemetery, it was almost completely empty, with only few old people wandering around. This place is so vast, it took me more than an hour of fast walking to cover most of the interesting parts, and still I missed out few nice corners and tombs. That day the weather was mostly rainy, so the ground was full of puddles in which I found beautiful reflections to photograph, including the beautiful church in the middle of the park.
Christmas markets of Vienna
If you’re visiting Vienna in December, you will be amazed by the magical transformation of the city. I absolutely loved exploring the small and big, more and less known Christmas markets, which are located on almost every square of the city centre. I got tips from a local about the most interesting ones to visit, as I only had two evenings to explore them.
City Hall Square Christmas Village
You can find the biggest Christmas Market area at the City Hall Square, where besides the countless shops and booths, there is also a big ice skating area, designed like a maze of icy paths through the park and around the trees. This market is also most touristic, I heard a variety of languages spoken in the crowds of happy people, eager to buy best Christmas gifts and eat as much as they could.
Art Advent on Karlsplatz
A beautiful park full of Christmas decorations and stands selling all kinds of sweets, decorations, art products and warm clothes. And in the middle of it, beautifully lighted Karlskirche. While walking through the decorated park I also noticed a small stage where young girls performed some nice musical acts, which I enjoyed listening despite not understanding German.
Freyung and Am Hof Old Viennese Markets
While walking along the streets that lead towards the very central parts of the city, I found two Christmas markets that had a more traditional mood. The decorations were simple and lovely, and the booths were selling mostly handicrafts and traditional foods. Both markets had a warm and festive vibe, with groups of mostly local people enjoying the foods and drinks.
Stephansplatz Traditional Market
This is also a very traditional market, set up all around the St. Stephan’s Church and the narrow pedestrian-only streets in the vicinity. You can also climb up to the rooftop of the church and enjoy the city views and markets below.
A day trip to Klosteneuburg
During my December 2016 trip to Vienna, I also wanted to explore some less known places outside of Vienna. So after some research I decided to try to walk across the Leopoldsberg Hill and towards a small town Klosteneuburg. I had no idea how much time it will take me, but I was optimistic and not afraid of the distance and cold weather.
Nussdorf to Kahlenberg
I woke up early, took the tram that took me to the suburban area called Nussdorf, and from there I started walking towards the hills. I found a lovely local road with no traffic that lead me exactly where I wanted to go, and while walking uphill it also offered incredible views over the whole Vienna city area.
Kahlenberg to Leopoldsberg
After walking uphill for an hour, I figured that the road I was on will not lead me directly to Leopoldsberg, but to another hilltop nearby called Kahlenberg. I was happy as long as I knew where I was going, with the help of Google maps. After another hour I finally reached the top, and was surprised to find a big University building hidden in the forest area, what a nice location to study! I did not have time to stop so I continued walking along the main road connecting the two hills. After a while, I reached the Leopoldsberg hilltop, and breathless as I was, enjoyed the breath-taking views. I quickly started feeling cold, so I found a less windy spot to eat some snacks and then tried to find my way down the other side of the hill.
Leopoldsberg to Klosteneuburg
I started walking down the first trail I found, but after few minutes I had a feeling I’m walking in the wrong direction. I asked the first local that passed by and he told me where to find the right trail. I was glad I asked, otherwise I would probably never reach my destination. The trail towards Klosteneburg was really nice, leading through a dense forest and with no people to be found. It took me another hour of walking to reach this town, known for a really tall monastery building, which is easy to find. I decided to visit and see the monastery from inside, for which I had to pay a guided tour. It was definitely worth it, but after finishing the tour, I was so tired I decided to take the first bus back to Vienna, which only took 30 minutes. It was the best solo walking trip I ever made, and I’m quite proud of it!
I’m sure visiting Vienna in any season is a lovely experience, but winter has its own charms. Despite the cold weather, it’s worth enjoying the perks of travelling in the off season, and experience the city without too many tourists that crowd the streets in summer season.