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.
- See also: December in Vienna
NB: Events, markets, etc. will continue to be subject to public health restrictions in late 2020 (and possibly beyond) so be prepared for changes. Check with official sites.
Note that these are mostly general tips with some suggestions based on specific concert schedules at various popular venues. The current public health situation may also play havoc with schedules.
Goodness, there are so many. All the popular venues normally continue their programme through the Advent season. However, here are some Christmas-themed highlights from the major venues and orchestras:
Mozart and Strauss performances
(The Kursalon venue at Christmas)
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 usual performances* throughout the Christmas period, but typically offers a special Christmas concert* on December 24th (sells out fast), galas on both the 24th and 25th, and a New Year’s Eve concert*.
- The Vienna Hofburg Orchestra has an annual Christmas Concert in the Hofburg on December 25th and again on the 26th
- The Mozart Ensemble shifts to daily performances in the second half of December in the refurbished Sala Terrena of the Deutschordenshaus
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.
Last year saw an advent concert and an evening of spiritual songs interpreted through contemporary jazz.
(Musikverein ticket office)
The Musikverein is probably the world’s most prestigious and best classical music venue. Here’s what the provisional 2020 Christmas programme has to offer at the moment (note there are daily “normal” performances – I’m highlighting specifically seasonally-themed concerts):
- The Wiener Domorchester and Domchor present the “Music of the Masters” Christmas concert on December 6th, with pieces by Bruch and Mozart
- The Donauphilharmonie orchestra and singers present Christmas in the Musikverein on December 18th
- The Vienna Imperial Philharmonics present their 2020 Christmas concert on December 22nd
- 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 the website.
Another prestigious venue is the Konzerthaus, which usually has a more eclectic advent choice. Provisional details for 2020 at the time of writing:
- The Wiener Symphoniker and Wiener Singakademie perform Handel’s Messiah in a Christmas concert on December 11th and 13th
- Les Musiciens du Louvre perform Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on December 13th
- The Gerhard Aflenzer Broadway Big Band presents a Swinging Christmas concert on the 18th
The Konzerthaus also hosts Christmas in Vienna. This is the rather-apt title of a traditional gala music event held on December 19th (with a preview on December 18th).
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 the Konzerthaus website.
The opera houses
- The Staatsoper performs Strauss’s Die Fledermaus at New Year (an established tradition), which you can usually catch as a livestream or view outside on the streets on a giant screen
- The Volksoper opera house holds a traditional Christmas Concert on December 20th
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. Provisional plans for Advent include evening performances on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from November 26th to December 20th (with an extra concert on December 23rd).
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.
For example, provisional highlights include:
- Trumpets in Concert perform A very special Christmas on three days (December 16th, 18th and 19th)
- Dennis Jale & Terry Blackwood & The Imperials perform a Gospel Christmas on December 20th
- The Wiener KammerOrchester has two Christmas concerts on the 25th and 26th
Ticket info: Website (German & Italian)
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 2020, which you can find here (German, with some English). These include Christmas organ recitals by Mario Eritreo.
The crypt listings are here.
Ticket info: Website (mainly German, some English). If tickets are required, they may be available from ticketing agencies.
The mighty baroque church on Karlsplatz already has a fair few concerts in the 2020 advent season programme. The Orchestra 1756 and Ensemble 1756 will perform Mozart’s Requiem and The Four Seasons (all through the year, actually).
Ticket info: Website (for the orchestra)
(The Capuchin Church)
The Wiener Kaiserquartett & Friends perform a selection of seasonal music and songs in the Capuchin Church every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Advent. The church sits above the Imperial Crypt.
And another church venue in the old town with concerts focusing on the peak era of Viennese classical music (think Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, etc.).
Ticket info: Website (for the orchestra)
Vienna Boys’ Choir
The Wiener Sängerknaben are usually quite busy at the end of the year.
Various choirs usually sing at the Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz from 6.30pm to 7pm, December 1-23. This year may prove an exception.
Still not found something?
For a list of absolutely everything, try the official tourist office events calendar.