In January, most of Vienna usually hides out in a coffee house until it warms up. Seriously…you can while away the hours in the former haunts of folk like Klimt, Mahler and, um, Trotsky. They feed you cake, too.
But you probably want other suggestions for the month. Well, read on, dear visitor…
Top activities in January 2023
How about the world-famous New Year’s Concert in the Musikverein? Though you need to enter the lottery early in the previous year to get a ticket. Still, plenty of other seasonal activities exist for your consideration. For example…
The New Year markets
(A New Year market of the past)
A few New Year markets follow on from the more famous (and more numerous) Christmas equivalents.
Only a couple of the New Year versions opened in the previous 2021/2022 season, but three or four have announced they’ll open in 2022/2023. Most only run for a few days, though.
I’d recommend particularly the market at Schönbrunn Palace (open until January 4th in 2023) thanks to the elegant imperial surrounds and a high standard of arts and crafts.
Exhibitions and culture
(Enjoy the last days of the lovely Idols & Rivals exhibition at the KHM)
Many museums time their top exhibitions for the summer or Christmas visitor peaks. And the exhibitions at Christmas tend to extend into the early part of January to catch people staying in the city for the New Year. So be sure to check what’s on, particularly at the (art) museums.
In January 2023, you have, for example:
- Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Albertina (until January 8th) along with Ruth Baumgarte’s Africa-inspired works and the final days of the lovely exhibition of watercolours by the Alts (until January 29th). January 27th sees the start of Dürer, Munch, Miró – The Great Masters of Printmaking
- The Albertina Modern presents abstract expressionism from the New York school in Ways of Freedom and the drawings of Karl Anton Fleck (both until January 22nd)
- The Kunsthistorisches Museum’s traditional major old masters exhibition (until January 8th), alongside, for example, their ongoing special coins exhibition and a behind-the-scenes look at photographing art in the 19th-century
- An impressive Helmut Newton retrospective at the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien (until January 15th)
- The final month of the lovely George Nuku exhibition at the Weltmuseum (a personal favourite) and a continuing presentation of Chaekgeori painting at the same institution
- The Grow exhibition highlighting the role of the tree in art history draws to a close at Lower Belvedere on January 8th, but you can catch the exhibition on the history of Belvedere at the same location
- The Unseen Places photo exhibition featuring inaccessible architecture and hosted at the Kunst Haus Wien
- The Natural History Museum celebrates 200 years of Austro-Brazilian relations with its Brazil exhibition, while the Technisches Museum’s Bioinspiration exhibition offers an intriguing look at technology inspired by nature
- The 1950s and 1960s come into their own at two exhibitions:
- The Jewish Museum also addresses misconceptions and stereotypes in the exhibition 100 Misunderstandings about and among Jews and offers up James T. Hong’s thought-provoking Apologies video installation
- The Wien Museum MUSA showcases the work and importance of the Bauhaus studio set up by Friedl Dicker and Franz Singer
- The MAK has its big FEST exhibition on the art and design of the celebration, as well as its special look at the worked metal art of the Hagenauer workshop
- Discover the art of the Hagenbund association (contemporaries of Klimt and the Secession) at the Leopold Museum, as well as the life, times, and art around actress Tilla Durieux
- The Theatermuseum continues its look at popular music through the ages in Austria in the Austropop exhibition
- The Literature Museum alerts us to the genius of writer Ingeborg Bachmann
- The standalone Harry Potter exhibition reaches Vienna
- And after a period of restoration work, the fabulous State Hall of the National Library reopens with a special exhibition on the building’s construction and subsequent history (from January 12th)
For more suggestions covering the major museums and art venues, check out the exhibition listings. Now let’s add in a bit of film and music…
- The Konzerthaus hosts its annual Early Music Festival: Resonanzen (January 21st to 29th)
- Last year, January also brought us the Blue Danube Film Festival, held jointly in Budapest and Vienna (2023 dates TBA).
Get your skates on
(The giant ice rink in front of the Rathaus)
Be prepared for a pleasant surprise if you equate ice skating with indoor rinks. January brings two golden open-air skating opportunities:
- Wiener Eistraum (starts January 19th and continues until March 5th): a beautifully-lit set of rinks and trails across the square in front of the Rathaus and through the surrounding park
- Eislauf-Verein: a traditional open-air rink next to the Konzerthaus that’s well over a hundred years old. Usually open daily through January
Both have skates for hire, of course.
A warming coffee
If you’re looking to escape the cold in one of the more traditional coffee houses, then try this list and follow in the footsteps of some of the great intellectuals, artists, and writers of the past.
(Café Frauenhuber might be the city’s oldest coffee house)
Warm yourself with strudel and a melange (a local kind of coffee) as you browse the international papers, discuss Freud and Proust, write poetry on the human condition, post selfies on Instagram, and/or check the football results.
Slap on the skis
You won’t see too many people in Vienna waving ski sticks and buying chair lift tickets (for obvious reasons).
However, the city’s not actually that far from the Alps. So if you do want to take a day trip into snowy mountains, January is a good time.
(Definitely not Vienna)
The Semmering ski resort, for example, is a short bus or train ride away.
An alternative to the coffee house for spending a long, lazy day in the warm is Therme Wien: the city’s hot water baths and spa.
The Therme has numerous thermal pools, both indoors and out, spa treatments, and much more.
Although on the edge of town, an extension to the U1 subway line means a train from the city centre takes you to the front door in about 16 minutes.
And for a little bonus…the spa entrance looks across to one of the finest patisseries and confectioners in Vienna: Konditorei Oberlaa.
Cakes and wellness may seem unexpected companions, but this is Vienna.
Bonus tips for January
Watch the weather
It’s midwinter in Austria. You might be lucky and still enjoy double digit temperatures. Or you might be unlucky and get something with a minus sign in front of it. Be prepared for cold weather and, quite possibly, snow.
Think about the zoo
(The lower entrance to the rainforest house)
It might seem strange to suggest Vienna zoo in January, when many animals do their best to avoid the seasonal chill. But here are two reasons you might visit anyway:
- Fewer people go at this time of year, which makes for an easier and more pleasant viewing experience
- The zoo has several large (and warm) indoor areas, particularly the Rainforest House, Aquarium, and Bird House
Think about other popular places
Once you get past the first week of January, visitor numbers likely plummet. This presents an opportune moment to visit those attractions, events and activities that otherwise get crowded over during busier seasons.
Good examples are:
- The palace tours at the Schönbrunn complex (the zoo actually occupies part of the grounds)
- The tours of the Sisi Museum and other parts of the Hofburg former Habsburg residency in the centre of town
- The top art museums, like the Albertina, Kunsthistorisches Museum or Belvedere, even if the special exhibitions listed earlier don’t grab you
- Tickets to the state opera house, which cost less than you probably think
P.S. Museums, venues, and similar normally stay open all year in Vienna, but January does put paid to some outdoor places and activities. For example, Schönbrunn Palace’s maze and other ticketed outdoor features close for winter.