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 to go with your roast chestnuts and mugs of Weihnachtspunsch during the Advent season. For a list of absolutely everything, try the official tourist office events calendar.
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 Strauss and Mozart Christmas concerts* from December 24 to 30.
- 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
- The Vienna Royal Orchestra plays daily from December 24th through to January 1st with its Christmas/New Year concerts
Follow the links for more information.
If you’re in Vienna on December 16, there’s a unique opportunity to see a harp masterclass and evening performance (for free) given by Anneleen Lenaerts of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Details here (you will need to reserve a seat by email).
The Musikverein is probably the world’s most prestigious and best classical music venue. Among their 2018 holiday highlights:
- Kärntner Advent with Grenzlandchor Arnoldstein (December 9)
- “Traditional Christmas” with orchestra, choir and performers from Vienna University (December 11)
- Christmas concert with the Vienna Moonlight Symphony Orchestra (December 12) and the Polish Art Philharmony (December 14 and 16)
- Christmas rocks (pop and jazz) with the university choirs (December 19)
- The Sound of Christmas with Vienna Imperial Philharmonics (December 22)
Another prestigious venue is the Konzerthaus, with a more eclectic advent choice:
- Advent in the Mozart hall with the Wiener Lehrer-a cappella-Choir (December 1)
- Hilarion Alfeyev’s Christmas Oratorio (December 2)
- Nordic Christmas Tour (December 6)
- Swinging Christmas with the Gerhard Aflenzer Broadway Big Band (December 9)
- Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (December 15, 16, and 17)
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. Soloists from the Vienna Chamber Orchestra will be performing works from the likes of Mozart and Bach, as well as Christmas carols, in a series of Advent concerts.
Dates: November 30, December 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23
More info: Website (German). Tickets are normally available from the usual ticketing agencies.
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 concerts nearly every day from late November through to the end of December in 2018.
- Trumpets in Concert – A very special Christmas (December 13, 15, and 19)
- The Original USA Gospel Singers & Band (December 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, and 23)
- Peresvet Russian male-voice choir (December 10)
More info: Website (German & Italian). Tickets are normally available from the usual ticketing agencies. Tickets for the highlights mentioned above 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 and soprano recitals, with a mix of events throughout December, which you can find here (German, with some English). The crypt listings are here (ditto), with the most notable a Baroque Christmas concert on December 22.
More info: Website (mainly German, some English). If tickets are required, they should be available from ticketing agencies.
Vienna Boys’ Choir
The Wiener Sängerknaben are quite busy at the end of the year. Their series of Advent concerts begin with a performance in their own concert hall on November 27. In-house Christmas concerts follow on December 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15. They’re also guesting at the Minoritenkirche (see above) on November 30 and at the Konzerthaus for the “Christmas in Vienna” event (also see above).
Various international choirs tend to make guest appearances each afternoon at the Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz.