A Viennese Christmas is about the lights, the sights, the smells, and 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 the popular venues continue their programme through the Advent season. However, here are some Christmas-themed highlights from the major venues and orchestras:
Mozart and 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, for example:
- The famous Kursalon has its daily performances* throughout the Christmas period, but offers a special Christmas concert* on December 24th, galas on both the 24th and 25th, and a New Year’s Eve concert*.
- The Mozart Ensemble shifts to daily performances at the end of December in the refurbished Sala Terrena of the Deutschordenshaus
- The Vienna Hofburg Orchestra has a Christmas Concert in the Hofburg 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 seasonally-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 choir, Grenzlandchor Arnoldstein, perform a Carinthian advent, with songs, stories and poems, though presumably the latter two will be in German (December 8)
- 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)
- The Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich with director, Lorenz Aichner, and soloist, the soprano Sooyeon Lee, perform a New Year’s concert across two evenings (December 28 and 29)
- The Wiener Ring-Ensemble offer New Year’s concerts in the Brahms Hall with a Strauss-dominated programme (December 30 and 31)
- Oh, and if you hang on a bit longer, there’s always the rather excellent New Year’s Concert from the Wiener Philharmoniker.
More info and tickets available at their website.
Another prestigious venue is the Konzerthaus, with a more eclectic advent choice. For example:
- The Balthasar-Neumann ensemble and choir perform various pieces, including the Oratorio de Noël by Saint-Saëns (December 3)
- A Carinthian Advent, with, for example, songs by the Grenzlandchor Arnoldstein choir (December 7)
- 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)
- New Year concerts end the year (obviously):
- The Strauss Festival Orchester Wien, conducted by Peter Guth (December 28 and 29)
- The Wiener Symphoniker, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, perform Beethoven’s 9th symphony, thereby playing in the Beethoven year (December 30 and 31)
- A New Year’s Gala on December 31st with the Musicbanda Franui, Nikolaus Habjan, and Die Strottern
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.
The opera houses
- The Staatsoper has Strauss’s Die Fledermaus as the traditional New Year performance, which you can catch as a livestream or view outside on the streets on a giant screen
- The Volksoper opera house holds its traditional Christmas Concert on Sunday, December 22nd. Alfred Eschwé will conduct. They have the Wizard of Oz musical (in German) on the 18th, 21st, 26th and 29th, and also ring in the New Year with Die Fledermaus (with English subtitles) on the 31st
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 (8.30pm on Saturdays and 10pm on Sunday), with a bonus 8.30pm 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.
- A Gospel Christmas with Dennis Jale & Terry Blackwood & The Imperials (December 8)
- Trumpets in Concert – Christmas Concert (December 12, 14, and 19)
- Gospel concert (December 15)
- Gospels and Spirituals by Rusty Elvis Tribute Artist (Dec 20)
- Gospel concert with Dorretta Carter – “Silent Night, Souly Night” (December 21)
- A Christmas concert with the Wiener KammerOrchester (December 25)
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 and two advent concerts on the 10th and 15th.
Ticket info: Website (mainly German, some English). If tickets are required, they should be available from ticketing agencies.
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Advent, the Wiener Kaiserquartett & Friends perform a selection of seasonal music and songs in the Capuchin Church, the home of the Imperial Crypt.
Vienna Boys’ Choir
The Wiener Sängerknaben are usually quite busy at the end of the year. They will perform their Christmas concert, The Good Shepherds, daily from December 10-14 at their MuTh concert hall.
Various choirs sing at the Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz from 6.30pm to 7pm, December 1-23.
Still not found something?
For a list of absolutely everything, try the official tourist office events calendar.