[Austria remains in full lockdown throughout January 2021, so I’m writing this from the perspective of 2022.]
In January, most of us usually hide 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 2022
There’s always the world-famous New Year’s Concert in the Musikverein. Though you need to enter the lottery the previous February to get a ticket. Still, plenty of other seasonal activities exist for your consideration. For example…
The New Year markets
Some New Year markets close their doors on January 1st, but one or two normally stay open a touch longer
Another good one is the Silvesterdorf at Maria-Theresien-Platz, which traditionally opens until around January 6th.
Get your skates on
Be prepared for a pleasant surprise if you equate ice skating with indoor rinks. January brings two golden open-air skating opportunities:
- Wiener Eistraum: a beautifully-lit set of rinks and trails across the square in front of the Rathaus and through the surrounding park. This typically opens towards the end of January
- 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.
The Vienna Coffee Festival (2022 dates TBA) is not a staid industry event, but a three-day caffeine-fueled celebration of the bean, with music, competitions, tastings, demonstrations, and more. The 2021 event was postponed to April and May.
The venue is the home of Vienna’s big brewery (Ottakringer). So it takes you away from the picturesque centre to see another side of the city.
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.
An alternative to the coffee house for spending a long, lazy day in the warm is Therme Wien, the 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, the recently-opened 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 is opposite one of the finest patisseries and confectioners in Vienna: Konditorei Oberlaa.
Yep, just as we’ve all finished clearing away the tinsel and leftover turkey, the ball season heats up. This leads to cries of despair as trousers and gowns stubbornly refuse to fit after an Advent season of eating and drinking
Most balls (and there are hundreds) are organised by a particular group, such as the “Doctors’ ball”, but typically also make tickets available to the public.
Bonus tips for January
Go early for the best exhibitions
Many museums time their top exhibitions for the summer or Christmas visitor peaks. The exhibitions at Christmas may extend into the early part of January to catch tourists staying in the city for the New Year celebrations. So be sure to check what’s on, particularly at the (art) museums.
The tumultuous events of 2020 and early 2021 have played havoc with event scheduling, so I’m loath to make suggestions. But so far, these are looking good bets for January 2022 (more to come as schedules firm up):
- The Modigliani – Picasso exhibition at the Albertina (until Jan 10th)
- The Titian exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (until Jan 16th)
- The Treasures from the Forbidden City exhibition at the Weltmuseum Wien (all January)
Watch the weather
It’s midwinter in Austria. You might be lucky and still enjoy
Think about the zoo
(The lower entrance to the rainforest house)
It might seem strange to suggest Vienna zoo in January, when many animals are doing their best to avoid the seasonal chill. But there are two reasons you might go anyway:
- There are fewer people around, which makes for an easier and m
orepleasant viewing experience
- The zoo has several large (and warm) indoor areas, particularly the Rainforest House, Aquarium, and Bird House
Museums, venues, and similar normally stay open all year in Vienna, but January does put paid to some outdoor places and activities. And I’m not talking about just the obvious ones, like open-air swimming pools. The Giant Ferris wheel, for example, tends to close for almost two weeks mid-January. And Schönbrunn Palace’s maze and other ticketed outdoor features close for winter.