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, Stalin. They feed you cake, too.
But you probably want other suggestions for January. Well, read on, dear visitor…
Top activities in January 2021
Well, 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, there are plenty of other seasonal activities to consider. For example…
[Note that all the below might change due to public health requirements should we still be facing Coronavirus issues. Check with official sites.]
The New Year markets
Some New Year markets close their doors on January 1st, but one or two stay open a touch longer
Another good one is the Silvesterdorf at Maria-Theresien-Platz, which provisionally opens until 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 opens from January 20th in 2021
- 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 2021 Vienna Coffee Festival take places January 15-17. It’s not a staid industry event, but a three-day caffeine-fueled celebration of the bean, with music, competitions, tastings, demonstrations, and more.
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.
Unfortunately, it seems like that few (if any) balls will be able to take place in 2021 due to public health regulations and event restrictions.
Bonus tips for January
Go early for the best exhibitions
(Exhibition view: Hundertwasser – Schiele. Imagine Tomorrow © Leopold Museum, Wien, Photo: Lisa Rastl)
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 tumultuos events of 2020 have played havoc with event scheduling, so I’m loath to make suggestions. But so far, these are looking good bets:
- The last days of the three Warhol exhibitions at the MUMOK museum
- The last days of the Beethoven exhibition at the National Library: view the astonishing documents until January 10th
- An exhibition on a giant of Vienna modernism (Loos) at the MAK museum
- The rather wonderful Hundertwasser -Schiele exhibition at the Leopold Museum (recently extended until January 10, 2021)
- The Gerhard Richter exhibition at the Kunstforum Wien, which focuses on this contemporary giant’s landscapes
- A little different, but very illuminating: the Aztecs exhibition at the Weltmuseum Wien
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 stay open all year, 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.
Oh, and did I mention you can hang out in the coffee houses?