Should the thought of another soft-lit wooden hut selling Christmas baubles have you reaching for the vodka, there’s an alternative to the traditional Christmas market. Enter Winter at the MQ, clutching an organic cocktail and wearing an Egon Schiele t-shirt.
- Open-air bars and (
live) music in the huge courtyard of Vienna’s art quarter
- Alternative light displays worth a look in their own right
- Entry is free, reindeer and Santas not included
- 2019 dates: TBA
- See also: Christmas in Vienna
What’s Winter at the MQ?
The Museumsquartier (MQ) is the heartland of contemporary culture in Vienna, with its modern art, innovative architecture and never-ending catalogue of performances, exhibitions, workshops and the like.
And the MQ has its own “Christmas market” in its main courtyard, between the Leopold and MUMOK museums. The quotation marks are important, and not just because its proper title is Winter at the MQ and its theme is entirely secular.
Yes, there are pavilions. Yes, you can buy punch and sausages. Yes, there is music. And yes, there are lights.
But that’s where the similarities end.
One year, for example, the pavilions resembled something you might see at an Arctic research station, each featuring a unique artistic design. In another year, they were LED-lit geometric forms. You could go inside them to better appreciate the modern ambience (and get out of the cold, if necessary).
The pavilions are all essentially bars, so it’s just food and drink for sale. The only souvenirs you can buy here are memories, with two notable exceptions: the MQ shop has plenty of interesting items and, in 2018, there was a (very) small open-air design market for the advent season.
As you might expect, the food and drink have their own twist. A brief tour around the bars back in 2017 revealed such delights as Yeti glühwein, Low-Carb Apple punch, organic beer, Cranberry & Elderflower punch and much more.
The music is also less Silent Night and more Party Night, with live DJs (not sure what other kinds there are, mind you) on selected days, plus the occasional live concerts.
So not a Christmas market at all, really.
The lights! The sports(?)
This being the Museumsquartier, the surprises don’t stop there. A highlight of Winter at the MQ is always the work of the Lichttapete group of artists. They project huge visual images onto the facade of the Leopold Museum and other surfaces, such as the temporary ceiling built over the pavilions.
The projected images change every day, so pop around again for a new experience. The courtyard trees also receive special artistic treatment.
And there are sports to try, which might sound incongruous until you learn more.
There’s curling, for example, which fits the winter theme nicely. And luminous bowling, which seems to sit at the interface of life and art (not something you can often say about bowling alleys). Oh, and car racing during the afternoons on weekends and holidays: try your hand on a “winter” course with remote-controlled cars.
All-in-all, the mix of raw colours, raucous sounds and refreshingly innovative light displays offer a spirited alternative to the gentler yuletide charms of the rest of Vienna. This is where the younger elves would come to wind down once Santa’s left the toy factory.
Opening hours 2019
Dates and opening times are yet to cross my desk, but these were the 2018 details:
- November 8 to December 23
- 4 pm to 11 pm (Mon-Fri)
- 2 pm to 11 pm (Sat, Sun, public holidays)
How to get to Winter at the MQ
The MQ is at the bottom of Vienna’s main shopping street, so well located for some relief from credit card stress.
Subway: take the U2 or U3 lines to “Volkstheater” or the U2 to “Museumsquartier” (the two stations are at either end of the MQ complex)
Tram: line 49 stops at “Volkstheater”
Bus: take the 48A to “Volkstheater” or the 57A to “Museumsquartier”
Address: MuseumsQuartier Wien, Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna | Website