Since Vienna has a certain image to maintain, its Christmas lights tend not to feature too many dancing Santas or reindeer with unexpectedly red noses.
It’s more crystal chains and central European understatement, with a few million LEDs thrown in for effect. The result is breathtaking.
This slideshow should give you a feeling for what to expect from late November (in 2017, the lights went on on November 24th):
If you want to experience the lights for yourself, here are my top three recommendations (see also the map at the bottom of the page):
1. The city centre lights
The pedestrianised zones in the centre sparkle with the lights of nearly a million
diamonds LED lamps. Stroll beneath giant chandeliers or shimmering cascades of light, pausing only for a roast chestnut or three, or a mug of Glühwein.
These are the highlights:
- Start at Michaelerplatz, where you can fortify yourself for the journey ahead at the mini-Christmas market there. Then stroll down Kohlmarkt beneath sheets of white lights to reach the Graben
- Walk along the Graben beneath its giant chandeliers containing around 200,000 LEDs. As you go, check the side streets for more lights
- When you reach Stephansplatz look across to the cathedral and Christmas market. Then look up to see the Haas Haus and its illuminated facade
- From Stephansplatz you can head toward the opera house along Kärntner Straße and its shimmering cascades of lights. Around 550,000 LEDs and 48 km of crystals create the effect
- Alternatively, go the opposite way past Stephansdom to Rotenturmstrasse where a change of colour and style awaits: giant balls of red light
2. The Ring lights
You’ll also catch the Ringturm office block near Schottenring, which features a giant Christmas tree all up one side and snowflakes cascading down the face of the tower.
If you’re going to the Christkindlmarkt at the Rathaus, take some time to explore the surrounding park on either side of the market itself. There is illuminated ice skating, light displays in the trees and more.
P.S. For a more subtle, but truly awe-inspiring display, stand on the south side of the lake at Belvedere Palace at dusk and look across to the Christmas market. More info here.