In an ever-changing world, one thing remains constant:
taxes the huge Christmas tree in front of the Rathaus (city hall), an annual gift to Vienna from the surrounding provinces.
- Giant Christmas tree that sits at the heart of the Christkindlmarkt
- Supplied by a different province each year
- The 2019 tree comes from Salzburg province
- Went up on Nov 5th, illuminated from Nov 16th
- See also: Christmas in Vienna
A tree of friendship
As the capital and the biggest city by far, Vienna has a sometimes tense relationship with the eight provinces that form the rest of Austria.
But not at Christmas: each year, a different province sends Vienna a tree for the festive season.
Not just any tree, but a giant of a specimen…a tree fit to tower over the square in front of the city’s Rathaus and form the glorious centrepiece of the biggest Christmas market in the country. Its arrival marks the unofficial start of the Viennese advent season, with all the Christmas markets opening soon after.
(The Vienna Xmas tree)
As you might imagine, felling, loading, transporting, and erecting the Rathaus tree is a challenge.
Two cranes fixed our Salzburg spruce in place during the harvesting process, for example, so that it retained its pristine shape for the Christmas market visitors. And 150 extra branches travelled with it as insurance for any lost limbs. Another two cranes put up the tree in Vienna, where it (and its around 2000 LED lights) stay in place until early January.
The tradition began back in 1959. In 2018, the honour fell (see what I did there?) to Carinthia and in 2017 to Vorarlberg, Austria’s smallest province. In 2016, it was Lower Austria, though the tree itself came from land actually owned by Vienna to protect the city’s water supplies. Next year, it’s the turn of Upper Austria.
How to get to the Christmas tree
Follow the lights. Well, not exactly. Simply wend your way to the Rathaus and it’s hard to miss the tree, it being rather tall and tree-shaped. There’s usually a little nativity scene at the base. The 2019 tree went up on November 5th, though the official “opening” was November 16th, when Vienna and Salzburg’s mayors switched on the lights.
Subway: The Rathaus has its own subway station – the appropriately-titled Rathaus stop on the U2 line
Trams: Lines 1, 71 and D all stop at Rathausplatz/Burgtheater, which is opposite the entrance to the Christmas market. Line 2 also stops at Rathaus
Address: Rathausplatz, 1010 Vienna