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 2025
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. But expect at least one or two whose dates extend into early January.
I traditionally recommend the market at Schönbrunn Palace, thanks to the elegant imperial surrounds and a historically high standard of arts and crafts. The market has a new operator from 2025, though, so we’ll see what (if anything) changes.
Exhibitions and culture
(Enjoy the last days of the Rembrandt 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.
Although still a while off, January 2025 already includes the following provisional highlights:
- These excellent year-end exhibitions plan to remain open for at least part of January:
- The Marc Chagall exhibition at the Albertina (open all month)
- The Rembrandt exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (until January 12th)
- The Paul Gauguin exhibition at the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien (until January 19th)
- The Albertina also has a solo exhibition for Robert Longo, highlights from the Othmar Huber Collection, and a special exhibition that brings lost Schiele paintings back to life
- A giant of Austrian contemporary art (particularly sculpture) enjoys a solo exhibition at the Albertina Modern: Erwin Wurm
- Catch the last full month of Lower Belvedere’s solo exhibitions for Akseli Gallen-Kallela and (until January 12th) Amoako Boafo
- The Heidi Horten Collection goes multisensory with the innovative Light, Sound and Senses exhibition
- Enjoy a couple of special exhibitions at the Leopold Museum. One features the Backhausen furniture and interior decoration company, known for their artist collaborations. The other presents works by a one-time star of New Objectivity: Rudolf Wacker
- The MAK casts its net over the country and brings us the best of recent Austrian design in the Aut Now exhibition. They bless us with some state of the art fashion photography and dedicate an exhibition to one of the more imaginative turn-of-the-century designers: Dagobert Peche
- And the Wien Museum MUSA also presents highlights, but of recent contemporary art acquisitions by the city of Vienna. The exhibition also reveals the practices and processes behind the purchase, storage and display of a municipal collection in a multimedia art world
- The Wien Museum main site gets creative on the topic of Winter in Vienna, tackling issues such as the climate emergency, winter as promotional motif for tourism, the historical challenges of the cold and dark, and similar
- 2025 is all about Johann Strauss: the Theatre Museum joins in with an exhibition around his life and works…while the National Library waves goodbye to its exhibition on Anton Bruckner (runs until January 26th)
- The Weltmuseum takes a look at the influence of the Qur’an on European thought and culture and continues its exhibition of indigenous art from the Amazon. It also draws its main exhibition to a close (runs until January 26th) on the cultural history and importance of the camel and other domestic relatives
- Finally, the Jewish Museum takes a fresh look at the legacy of the Holocaust, particularly from the perspective of the third post-Shoah generation. And they continue their series of exhibitions exploring single issues and concepts with Angst (fear)
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 typically hosts its annual Resonanzen Early Music Festival in January (2025 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:
- The Wiener Eistraum traditionally starts mid-January (2025 dates TBA) and continues for a few weeks: a beautifully-lit set of rinks and trails across the square in front of the neogothic Rathaus and through the surrounding park landscape
(A mini-version of the Eistraum usually graces the Advent season as part of the Christkindlmarkt event and typically stays open until early January.)
- Eislauf-Verein: a traditional open-air rink next to the Konzerthaus venue. 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 opened in 1824 and might be the city’s oldest coffee house)
Warm yourself with strudel and a melange (a local coffee option) as you browse the international papers, discuss Freud and Proust, write poetry on the human condition, post selfies on Instagram, and/or debate the football.
Vienna spa & Schwerelos
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.
Continuing the wellness theme, a quicker option for relaxing in warm water is the Schwerelos Floating Centre, which has a branch behind Stephansdom cathedral. Float in warm saltwater with ambient lighting (or darkness) and leave the cold and stress of January outside.
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.
The Semmering ski resort, for example, is a short bus or train ride away.
(Definitely not Vienna)
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 in Vienna 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 mentioned above 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: they all have rather fantastic permanent displays, too
- Tickets to the state opera house, which can cost less than you probably think
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.
Watch the weather
January means midwinter in Austria.
You might be lucky and enjoy double digit temperatures (centigrade). Or you might be unlucky and get something with a minus sign in front of it.
Be prepared for cold weather. And, quite possibly, for snow. Mind you, the climate emergency might have something to say about all this…