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 2024
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 beyond the usual tours, sights, and museums. For example…
The New Year markets
(A New Year market of the past)
The Christmas markets tend to repeat each year, but the New Year ones can come and go. However, three notably good ones at Belvedere, Maria-Theresien-Platz and Schönbrunn have announced 2023/2024 opening dates. (Most only run for a few days, though.)
I’d recommend particularly the market at Schönbrunn Palace (open until January 4th in 2024), thanks to the elegant imperial surrounds and a high standard of arts and crafts.
Exhibitions and culture
(Enjoy the last days of Renaissance tapestries 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.
Schedules for January 2024 include the following highlights, for example:
- These excellent year-end exhibitions remain open for part of January:
- The Albertina’s Michelangelo & Beyond exhibition, looking at his command of the human form and other examples of this genre from across subsequent centuries (until January 14th)
- Raphael and monumental Renaissance tapestries at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (until January 14th)
- Robert Motherwell’s paintings at the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien (until January 14th)
- Early paintings by Louise Bourgeois in dialogue with her later works at Lower Belvedere (until January 28th)
- The Albertina also has solo exhibitions running for Joel Sternfeld (until January 21st), Gottfried Helnwein, and Katharina Grosse
- A dialogue in paint between Germany and Austria at the Albertina Modern draws to a close (until January 21st)
- Catch the last full month of Lower Belvedere’s presentation of the 300-year history of the wider Belvedere institution and its prestigious art collection. And continue enjoying Belvedere21’s major retrospective for Renate Bertlmann and her avant garde art.
- The Heidi Horten Collection brings back a sequel to the exhibition that started it all. WOW2 presents highlights from this prestigious private collection of modern and contemporary art
- Enjoy a couple of solo exhibitions at the Leopold Museum for the pioneering expressionists Max Oppenheimer and Gabriele Münter
- The MAK presents textiles and ceramics in contemporary art, drawing on a variety of perspectives and viewpoints in the Fabric of Community exhibition
- The Weltmuseum’s artistic look at Science Fiction(s) ends provisionally on January 9th, as does its presentation of modern Japanese calligraphy. The solo exhibition by Maximilian Prüfer runs for a few more months
- The Jewish Museum brings two exhibitions to a close (both available until January 14th): their look at the work of Maria Austria and their presentation of aspects of Jewish fan culture and heritage at selected European football clubs. But the Frieden (peace) exhibition continues
- The long-running special coin exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum finally closes on January 28th
- And another ending sees the Furniture Museum packing away its special exhibition on post-WWII German design (see it until January 14th)
- Fall back into some art from times past at the Wien Museum MUSA. Not too far in the past, mind you: the exhibition covers the noughties (the first decade of this century)
For more suggestions covering the major museums and art venues, check out the exhibition listings.
Now let’s add in a bit of music: the Konzerthaus hosts its annual Early Music Festival (Resonanzen) from January 20th to 28th.
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:
- The Wiener Eistraum starts provisionally on January 19th and plans to continue until March 3rd: a beautifully-lit set of rinks and trails across the square in front of the neogothic Rathaus and through the surrounding park
(A mini-version of the Eistraum starts early in the Advent season as part of the Christkindlmarkt event and stays open until January 7th.)
- 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. No need to pack them.
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, authors and (ahem) travel blog writers of the past and present.
(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.
Cakes and wellness may seem unusual 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. Though the climate emergency might have something to say about all this.
Think about the zoo
(The lower entrance to the rainforest house)
It perhaps seems strange to suggest Vienna zoo in January, when many animals do their best to avoid the seasonal chill by hiding in straw-filled huts and houses. 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 plummet. This presents the perfect moment to visit those attractions, events and activities that get crowded 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 can 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.