A Viennese Christmas is about the lights, the sights, and the smells, but also the sounds. Expect fewer sleigh bells and more violins, though – you’re in the concert capital of classical music, after all.
Here are my tips for finding the best classical concerts, church recitations, choir performances and more during the Advent season.
Goodness, there are so many. All of the popular venues continue their programme through the Advent season. However, here are some Christmas-themed highlights from the major venues and orchestras:
Mozart & Strauss performances
Various orchestras and ensembles perform the music of Mozart and Strauss with visitors in mind, usually at historic sites and often in period costume. I’ve listed them here, but some seasonal changes to the usual routine are:
- The Kursalon has its daily performances* throughout the Christmas period, but offers a special Christmas gala on December 24th and 25th.
- The Mozart Ensemble shifts to daily performances throughout December in the refurbished Sala Terrena of the Deutschordenshaus
- The Vienna Hofburg Orchestra has a Christmas Concert in the Hofburg Palace on December 25th and again on the 26th
- The Vienna Royal Orchestra plays daily from December 24th through to January 1st with its Christmas/New Year concerts
This is where Mozart lived and the location of the main museum dedicated to the composer. Keep an eye out for concerts in the Bösendorfer Saal in the basement. Frankly, it’s pretty cool listening to, for example, Mozart’s music in the same house he composed it in.
The Musikverein is probably the world’s most prestigious and best classical music venue. Here’s what the 2019 Christmas programme has to offer at the moment (note there are daily “normal” performances – I’m highlighting specifically Christmas-themed concerts):
- The ALMA ensemble introduce the Advent season with “Cherubim” (December 4)
- The Wiener Symphoniker, conducted by Johannes Wildner and accompanied by a choir, perform choral and orchestral works for Advent, ranging from Haydn to Humperdinck (December 7)
- The Vienna Imperial Philharmonics present the “Sound of Christmas” with carols and more (December 21)
- The Christmas concert of the Austria Sound Philharmonic, conducted by Markus Landerer, with music by Eybler, Mozart and Haydn (December 21)
Another prestigious venue is the Konzerthaus, with a more eclectic advent choice:
- The Balthasar-Neumann ensemble and choir perform various pieces, including the Oratorio de Noël by Saint-Saëns (December 3)
- Bach’s Christmas oratorio with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir (parts 1-3 on December 10, parts 4-6 on December 11)
- Viennese Advent Sounds from the Philharmonic Five (December 10)
- A Christmas singalong (December 14)
- Swinging Christmas with the Gerhard Aflenzer Broadway Big Band (December 20)
The Konzerthaus also hosts Christmas in Vienna. This is the rather-apt title of a traditional gala music event held on December 21 (with a preview on December 20). International singers accompany the Vienna Boys’ Choir, the Konzerthaus’s own choir (the Wiener Singakademie), and the ORF radio symphony orchestra for a seasonal sing-song and feel-good evening of entertainment.
The program can range from traditional carols and songs to pop classics, opera arias, and orchestral compositions. If you miss out on tickets, the national broadcaster (ORF) usually shows it on TV (as do many other countries, I believe).
More info and tickets available at their website.
Various churches hold advent concerts and choral recitals through advent. Here are the more popular ones:
The grand cathedral is the heart of the city and worth visiting in its own right. Each weekend during the 2019 Advent sees an evening concert (8.30 pm on Saturdays and 10 pm on Sunday), with a bonus 8.30 pm concert on Monday, December 23rd.
Dates: November 30, December 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23
Ticket info: Website
Home to the Italian congregation in Vienna, this large gothic church also sits in the city centre. Unlike Stephansdom, the Advent concerts are a mix of different performers and works, with regular concerts from late November through to the end of December in 2019.
- Trumpets in Concert – Christmas Concert (December 12, 14, and 19)
- Gospel concert (December 15)
- Gospel concert with Dorretta Carter – “Silent Night, Souly Night” (December 21)
Ticket info: Website (German & Italian). Tickets for Trumpets in Concert can be bought from the church vestry during opening hours.
Another beautiful church in the centre and the traditional host for an exhibition of nativity scenes. There are two venues there. Concerts in the church itself are “free” (a donation is usually requested), those in the crypt tend not to be.
The church mainly hosts organ recitals, with a mix of performances throughout December 2019, which you can find here (German, with some English). These include Christmas organ recitals by Mario Eritreo.
The crypt listings are here (ditto), which includes a Persian Christmas concert on December 5th.
Ticket info: Website (mainly German, some English). If tickets are required, they should be available from ticketing agencies.
Vienna Boys’ Choir
The Wiener Sängerknaben are usually quite busy at the end of the year. Their series of Advent concerts typically begin with a performance in their own concert hall. I’ll post details for 2019 as soon as I have them.
Various international choirs tend to make guest appearances each afternoon at the Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz.
Still not found something?
For a list of absolutely everything, try the official tourist office events calendar.