I’ll be honest. February is probably the quietest month in Vienna, with the fewest annual events and festivals. Think of January and take away the fun bits.
One thing very much in February’s favour is fewer queues and crowds. In 2021, February 1st to 6th is the so-called Semesterferien, when Vienna’s schools are all on holiday. A lot of Viennese take off with the kids for a week (skiing), leaving more space for the rest of us.
Still, here are a few seasonal ideas for you…
Top activities in February 2021
Have a ball
(The Kursalon ball venue)
February’s major claim to fame is that this is probably the busiest month of the ball season. So if you’ve ever dreamed of doing the waltz in the city that invented the dance, then now’s your chance.
There is the Johann Strauss Ball*, for example, at the famous Kursalon, where the man himself performed. And many more, including the famous Opernball (February 11th in 2021), though tickets and tables for the latter are not always easy to come by if you’re a mere mortal.
Popular tours & classical concerts
Given there are fewer people around, February is the time for booking those activities that are often very busy or over subscribed the rest of the year.
I’m thinking here particularly of:
- The Schönbrunn Palace tours (do the Grand tour)
- The Spanish Riding School (book to see the morning training)
- Classical music concerts (especially at the two top venues: the Musikverein and Konzerthaus)
- Opera tickets (particularly for the State Opera house)
- Vienna Zoo (which has various indoor enclosures if you’re worried about the weather)
Enter the Ice World
It always starts in January but hits its peak in February: the Wiener Eistraum (Vienna Ice World) offers a wonderful outdoor ice skating experience right in the middle of the city.
The square in front of the Rathaus turns into a split-level ice rink, with skating trails and other rinks spread among the trees of the Rathaus park. It’s all lit up delightfully at night. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you can refresh yourself at various stalls and outlets selling mostly organic fare.
Oh, and don’t worry if you forgot your skates – simply hire them on site.
Catch an exhibition
Vienna always has numerous exhibitions on at any one time. Quite what will happen in February 2021 is still anyone’s guess since the closures in spring/summer 2020 have led to exhibition schedules shifting. I’m hopeful, though, that the following will go ahead:
- The MAK museum dedicates exhibitions to two design names that left their indelible mark on (and in) Vienna’s buildings: Adolf Loos and Josef Hoffmann
Catch the flowers
Flowers? Ah, yes, and no ordinary flowers, either. The International Orchid Show sets up in Hirschstetten (2021 dates TBA). Some 40 exhibitors add more than a few spots of colour to the Viennese winter.
Of course, you can always do as the Viennese do and flee the city for the slopes.
February is the main month for skiing in Austria, and the Semmering alpine ski resort, for example, is not much more than an hour away, so suited to a day trip.
It’s probably best not to do this in the Semesterferien week, unless you want to spend your day being abused by impatient Viennese as they push their way into the lift queue. Think of Rome’s Colosseum, but with ski sticks instead of gladiatorial swords and you get the idea. I’m only partly exaggerating.
Not outside, I should add. The state-run indoor swimming pools are nice and warm, but your holiday treat is a day or two at Therme Wien, which is the spa baths complex. Hot water from thermal springs feeds its various pools.
The Therme also offers all the usual spa treatments, there’s a restaurant and, incidentally, it sits right next door to one of the city’s more renowned cake and confectionery outlets: the Kurkonditorei Oberlaa. (And it has its own subway stop.)
Tip – Dress up warm
I don’t have the stats, but I’m pretty sure February is our coldest month. Minus temperatures are no surprise.
That’s not all bad, of course. Snow is possible, which makes the city look even more beautiful (at least until it melts). And there is a certain pleasure to be had in entering a coffee house or Konditorei and warming yourself with a hot coffee topped by whipped cream or with a classic dish like a Schnitzel or Kaiserschmarren.