Should the thought of another soft-lit wooden hut selling Christmas baubles have you reaching for the vodka, there is an alternative to the traditional Christmas market. Try the winter event at the MQ while clutching an organic cocktail and wearing an Egon Schiele t-shirt.
- Open-air bars and (
live) music in the huge courtyard of Vienna’s museum quarter
- Alternative light displays worth a look in their own right
- Entry is free
- No reindeer, Santas or similar
- 2020 dates: TBA (was Nov 7 – Dec 23 in 2019)
- See also: Christmas in Vienna
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 Wintererwachen im MQ.
Wintererwachen translates roughly as “winter awakening”; tinsel and santa hats are noticeable for their absence.
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 to a Christmas market end.
One year, for example, the pavilions resembled something you might see at an Arctic research station, each featuring a unique artistic design. These days, we have geometric forms you can go inside 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 to buy here are memories, with two notable exceptions: the MQ shop has plenty of interesting items and, in December, a small open-air design market opens.
As you might expect, the food and drink have their own twist. A brief tour around the bars one year 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. For example, live DJs (not sure what other kinds there are, mind you) enliven selected days, with regular full-blown concerts.
So not a Christmas market at all, really.
The lights! The sports(?)
This being the Museumsquartier, the surprises don’t stop there. For example, the Lichttapete group of artists usually project huge visual images onto the facade of the Leopold Museum and other surfaces.
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 typically curling, for example, which fits the winter theme nicely. And the last event had a luminous giant marble run, which seemed to sit at the interface of life and art. Oh, and car racing during the afternoons on weekends and holidays: you could 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 2020
Dates and opening times for 2020 are not yet available, but here are the details from the 2019 winter event by way of comparison:
- November 7 to December 23
- 4pm to 11pm (weekdays)
- 1pm to 11pm (weekends)
How to get to the Wintererwachen
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. You can also catch lines 1, 2, D, 71, 46 and 49 to Ring/Volkstheater and walk up to the MQ
Bus: take the 48A to Volkstheater or the 57A to Museumsquartier
Address: MuseumsQuartier Wien, Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna | Website