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.
Classical concerts for 2023
Goodness, Vienna has so many. All the popular venues continue their concert schedules through late November and December. However, here are some Christmas-themed highlights from the major concert & church venues, as well as details of some smaller and seasonal venues.
Note that these are mostly general tips together with some specific suggestions based on individual concerts already scheduled at the time of writing.
Mozart and friends for visitors
(The Kursalon venue at Christmas)
Various orchestras and ensembles perform the music of Mozart, Strauss and/or other famous composers with visitors in mind, usually at historical sites and sometimes in period costume.
I’ve listed many options here, but seasonal changes to the usual routine are common, even if just increased concert frequency.
For example, the historical Kursalon (Strauss played at its opening concert) typically offers daily performances through the holiday period, and the concerts in the Schönbrunn palace orangery even have a special cooperation with the neighbouring Christmas market.
(The façade above the front entrance)
The Musikverein ranks as probably the world’s most prestigious and best classical music venue. They have daily “normal” performances, but seasonal events and concerts always make an appearance.
Christmas 2023 schedules are firming up as I write. So far, at the time of writing, options include…
- The Wiener Symphoniker and the in-house choir give us a Welcome Christmas concert on December 10th, where you have the likes of Tchaikovsky, John Williams and Danny Elfman on one programme
- Christmas im Wiener Musikverein: the Cappella Istropolitana orchestra and soloists present works by Tchaikovsky, Humperdinck and Liszt on December 14th
- The cathedral orchestra and choir play Christmas concerts on December 16th and 17th featuring pieces by Nicolai, Mendelssohn and Haydn
- The orchestra and choir of the University of Vienna offer up two seasonal concerts on December 18th and 19th; the first features the likes of Brahms and Bruckner, the second is billed as Christmas pop and gospel
- The Imperial Philharmonic and solists offer The Sound of Christmas on December 22nd
If we stretch out the concept of the Christmas period a little, then one reliable annual constant is the rather excellent New Year’s Concert from the Wiener Philharmoniker, which traditionally takes place on December 30th and 31st, as well as January 1st.
More info and tickets on Musikverein events available at their website.
Another prestigious venue is the Konzerthaus, which usually has a more eclectic advent choice.
The venue always hosts Christmas in Vienna: the rather-apt title of a traditional gala music event held every (normal) year. The 2023 dates are December 15th (preview edition) and December 16th (the main event).
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).
(The Konzerthaus main entrance)
Other Christmas-themed performances scheduled for 2023 at the Konzerthaus at the time of writing include:
- Works around “Noël” by the Company of Music on December 10th
- A Swinging Christmas with the Gerhard Aflenzer Broadway Big Band on December 16th
- One of Austria’s more successful bands (Die Seer) plays a special Christmas concert on December 17th
- The Philharmonic Five offer advent tunes on December 18th, billed as a meeting of classic with “pop, waltzes & Christmas songs”
- The L’Orfeo Barockorchester and Collegium Vocale Salzburg perform the first three parts of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on December 20th
More info and tickets for Konzerthaus events available at their website.
The opera houses
- The Staatsoper performs Strauss’s Die Fledermaus on New Year’s Eve (and again on January 1st) as an established tradition
- The Volksoper has its traditional Christmas concert (twice) on December 17th
Concerts in churches
Various churches hold advent concerts and choral recitals through advent. Here are the more popular ones…
(The dome mirrors that of its Vatican namesake)
A beautiful Baroque church in the centre, which hosts concerts in the church itself and also in the crypt. Notable for regular performances by the Classic Ensemble Vienna (which I’ve attended with friends and thoroughly enjoyed).
(The entrance is actually on the right hand side)
The mighty baroque church on Karlsplatz normally has a fair few concerts in the advent season programme. In 2023, for example, the Ensemble 1756 has regular evening performances of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.
(This Viennese landmark dominates the centre of town)
The grand cathedral is the heart of the city and obviously worth visiting in its own right.
Advent concerts are scheduled on several days through December, with additional one-off concerts as a bonus.
For example, December 7th has the annual advent concert given by the world-famous Wiener Symphoniker orchestra.
(This ancient bastion dates back to the 1300s)
Home to the Italian congregation in Vienna, this large gothic church also sits in the city centre.
Unlike many similar locations, the Christmas concerts tend to be an eclectic mix of different performers and works (gospel choirs and gospel music typically dominate, though). They usually have concerts pretty much every day through December.
(Home to many former Emperors and Empresses)
In past years, the Wiener Kaiserquartett & Friends performed a selection of seasonal music and songs in the Capuchin Church on various dates through Advent. The church sits above the Imperial Crypt.
And another church in the old town with concerts typically focusing on the peak era of Viennese classical music (think Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, etc.).
The previous Advent also had festive tunes performed, for example, on trumpets. And it looks like the trumpets are returning in 2023.
(Impressive, but not as old as it looks!)
This neo-gothic giant has, for example, a Christmas concert by the Bolschoi Don Kosaken, one by Monika Ballwein, and performances by Stella Jones & The American Christmas Gospel in 2022.
Bonus Concerts in Museums etc.
One intriguing option is the Fever candlelight concerts, which typically feature classical interpretations of more popular or modern music. Among the Vienna venues last Christmas: the Albertina, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, and Palais Coburg.
The amateur tradition
A special bonus mention for planned concerts on December 2nd and 3rd in the Veranstaltungszentrum Rudolfsheim as they uphold the Viennese tradition of amateur orchestras and musicians.
The Concentus21 orchestra brings us a concert performance of Verdi’s Nabucco with the Chor Allegro Vivace and guest soloists.
This is where Mozart once lived and the location of the main museum dedicated to the composer. Keep an eye out for concerts in its basement hall. Frankly, it’s rather cool listening to, for example, Mozart’s music in the same house he composed it in.
The Christmas markets
(The entrance to the Christkindlmarkt)
Keep an ear open when visiting the various Christmas markets, as several may have public music performances. Strong possibilities include:
- Christkindlmarkt: the main market in front of city hall typically has brass ensembles performing most days in the evening
- Schönbrunn: the market outside the gorgeous summer Habsburg palace usually has choirs, brass bands, and similar in the late afternoon or early evening each day
Vienna Boys’ Choir
The Wiener Sängerknaben tend to be quite busy at the end of the year.
More info and tickets from the website of their venue for in-house events. The choir’s website has a calendar of all their performances, with appearances in the Hofburg palace chapel typical for advent.
Various choirs traditionally sing each year at the Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz. Sadly, this did not happen in recent years but perhaps the tradition returns in 2023?
Still not found something?
For a list of absolutely everything, try the official tourist office events calendar. Or simply keep your eyes open for flyers and posters as you wander through the city centre.