Vienna is very conservative when it comes to celebrating Christmas. It’s a holiday spent with family. As such, most of the city shuts down around 14h00 on Christmas Eve. All the supermarkets and the majority of shops are closed on Christmas day, so be sure to stock up on snacks and drinks on the 24th of December. But don’t worry, you won’t go hungry on Christmas day. The coffee shops and a couple of restaurants remain open. Here’s how I celebrated Christmas day in Vienna last year.
View the city from the Wiener Riesenrad
The rides, including the Ferris wheel, and food stalls at Prater are open on Christmas Day. What better way to start the day than by getting a fantastic view of Vienna from above? A ticket for the Wiener Riesenrad will cost €10 for adults and €4.50 for children. It wasn’t too crowded and the queue was fairly short.
At the base of the wheel is a small but interesting exhibition about significant events in the history of Vienna.
Once you reach the top of the wheel, you have a panoramic view of the city. This is a fun activity for Christmas Day and a unique way to get a glimpse of Vienna.
Christmas markets at Stephansplatz
The area around St. Stephen’s Cathedral was quite busy. The markets and the church remain open on Christmas day. There’s a lot of people walking around, I’m guessing mostly tourists. Why not browse around the Christmas markets that Vienna is famous for?
Eat something sweet at Demel
As I mentioned above, the famous Vienna coffee shops are open on Christmas day. As you can imagine, they are packed! I suggest you make a reservation ahead of time, or you can take a chance and simply show up. I was lucky enough to only wait 20 minutes to be seated at Demel. By the time I left, the queue was three times longer.
So what did I order at Demel? I selected a classic dessert: apple strudel with vanilla sauce and a hot chocolate with whipped cream. Yum! The food was delicious and the service was great.
Take a stroll around the palace grounds
Stroll around the palace grounds as the sun is setting. During winter, the sun already starts to set at 16h00. If at all possible, the imperial buildings look even more impressive at dusk. I was surprised to see that even the library was open.
Ride around the city on the Ring Road
After sunset, take tram nr 1 or 2 around the city centre. It’s a great and affordable way to see all the Christmas lights around the centre of Vienna. It’s also a great way to relax after a long day of walking.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what you do, but rather who you do it with. Spend Christmas day with somebody you love and who loves you. That’s my best advice!