Another month that feels like the young child staring forlornly through the sweet shop window while December and August get to buy all the nice things. But November in Vienna has its own pleasures.
In particular, you get to enjoy the Christmas flair, but without so many crowds.
Activities for November 2023
The darkening nights create a suitable ambience for evening concerts. The Classic Ensemble Vienna has a short programme of classical music that’s easy on the ear and comes with the atmospheric bonus of the rather magnificent Baroque Peterskirche church.
Christmas markets and lights
(The Rathauspark before we had an energy crisis))
Call me old fashioned, but the Christmas season seems like it really ought to happen in December. However, the preparations and celebrations inevitably start much earlier in Vienna.
On the positive side, this means November offers seasonal spirit with fewer crowds than you get later.
Those responsible tend to switch on the Christmas lights sometime in the second half of the month, though the date rarely gets confirmed too far in advance. (The big date was November 18th in 2022 for most of the major displays.)
The lights tend to take a more upmarket approach, especially the white chandeliers in the very centre of town.
Lights are fine, of course, but the real fun starts with the Christmas markets.
(The market at Belvedere)
The markets begin opening from the middle of the month and continue through to at least December 23rd.
In 2023, three of the major markets already start on November 10th, with the big Christkindlmarkt uncorking the seasonal punch at around the same time.
Although the full advent atmosphere does indeed come in December, it’s not a bad idea to pop into a market before then.
The markets get much busier close to Christmas, so a November visit means you have more space to enjoy the cooked and crafted delights (of which there are many).
Look out, also, for little bonus markets. For example, the Vinyl & Music X-Mas Market (November 25th and 26th) adds the flavour of its main festival to the wider Weihnachtszauber event at Ottakringer brewery. And a Medieval Advent market runs briefly from November 30th to December 3rd.
Exhibitions in November 2023
(The gorgeous Kunsthistorisches Museum usually has a major exhibition in November)
Highlights for November 2023 include:
- The Albertina has a Michelangelo-centered bonanza of drawings, prints and sculptures, as well as solo exhibitions for the remarkable Gottfried Helnwein, Joel Sternfeld, and Katharina Grosse
- Admire the designs of Raphael and colleagues in monumental tapestries of the Renaissance at the Kunsthistorisches Museum’s Gold and Silk exhibition. Also enjoy, for example, the special coins exhibition
- The paintings of Robert Motherwell feature at the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien
- Lower Belvedere presents early works by Louise Bourgeois in dialogue with her later art and continues its detailed look at the palace complex and art venue’s 300 year history
- Works by modern and contemporary Austrian and German greats enter a dialogue at the Albertina Modern
- Belvedere 21 gives Renate Bertlmann a deserved retrospective as one of Austria’s most renowned contemporary artists
- More solo exhibitions, this time over at the Leopold Museum: for Max Oppenheimer and Gabriele Münter
- Enjoy some highlights from one of the world’s most prestigious private art archives at the Heidi Horten Collection’s WOW2 exhibition (from November 24th)
- We have the final days of the Literature Museum’s homage to Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann and the National Library’s Of Gardens and People exhibition (both until November 5th)
- The National Library then begins its special photo exhibition (from November 23rd), documenting life and rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of WWII: the Image Power Politics exhibition features the work of US photographer Yoichi Okamoto
- Take a trip back in time to the far off (?) days of the noughties (this century’s first decade): the Wien Museum MUSA has contemporary art from the era
- Or take a journey to a colder part of the planet in the Naturhistorisches Museum’s special Arctic exhibition (from November 8th)
- The Weltmuseum explores our potential futures through contemporary art (with a focus on indigenous voices) in its Science Fiction(s) exhibition. It also, for example, presents a solo exhibition for Maximilian Prüfer and introduces us to some modern Japanese calligraphy
- Pop into the Jewish Museum to contemplate the works of photographer Maria Austria and to gain a glimpse into Jewish heritage and identities at five European football clubs. The Frieden (peace) exhibition also starts up this month (from the 7th)
- The Furniture Museum presents German design in the decades following WWII and compares east with west
Bonus: the Photo+Adventure fair and festival (November 11th and 12th) is big on travel photography, for example, which means lots of photo exhibitions from top photographers covering various locations and/or themes.
Watch the stars
November offers a big opportunity for those who favour the geekier side of cinema, comics and/or cosplay: Vienna Comic Con is my favourite event of the year (November 18th and 19th).
Jack Gleeson, for example, appeared last time out, along with the likes of Clive Standen, Kevin McNally, Anna Shaffer, Nikola Djuricko, and Luka Peroš. Read about my 2022 Comic Con experience.
So far this year, we already have several top guests announced, including:
- Jonathan Frakes: director and actor (Riker!)
- Andrzej Sapkowski: author of The Witcher books that also spawned an incredibly successful games franchise and Netflix series
- John Ross Bowie: musician and actor (Kripke!)
- Sam J. Jones: actor (FLASH!!)
- David Anders: actor in such popular series as Heroes, Alias and iZombie
- Ben Aaronovitch: author of the The Rivers of London book series
(Ottakringer brewery, host of Fesch’Markt Wien)
The Christmas markets include a great deal of unique craft items, and the theme of crafted beauty continues at other events:
- The Art&Antique fair at the Hofburg palace (November 9th to 13th) brings together numerous Austrian and international art dealers and galleries. A chance to view (and acquire) everything from the latest contemporary designs to works from antiquity
- Fesch means handsome or pretty in German, and the Fesch’Markt Wien (November 10th to 12th) at the city’s largest brewery showcases the creations of dozens of independent design talents across a host of categories: from food to fashion and furniture
- The “Presse”-SCHAU fair (November 10th to 12th) typically covers design and lifestyle themes including watches and jewelry, travel, mobility, crafts, and more
Music with a difference
Vienna is the home of classical music, with concerts everywhere. But among the pieces by Beethoven, Mozart and their ilk is a thriving modern and alternative scene.
- The Wien Modern festival (throughout November) highlights the work of contemporary composers and performers with some of the world’s top orchestras participating
- The KlezMORE festival (November 4th to 19th) celebrates this traditional form of Jewish music with performances, readings, films, and more. This year is the 20th edition.
Food & beer
(Roast chestnuts and more)
As the temperatures fall so the Maronistands rise up like mushrooms, peppering the city with their little huts and heated ovens.
This is your chance to travel back in time for some original fast food: roasted chestnuts. (And potato-based snacks the medieval Europeans missed out on.)
On the fair & festival front:
- The GENUSSWELTEN gourmet festival rolls into the MAK (November 10th and 11th)
- A week later at the same location we have the Vegan Planet fair (November 18th and 19th)
- Beer lovers should find their way to the Craft Beer Festival (November 10th to 11th), when various breweries offer up their wares for the discerning consumer of the amber nectar.
Bon Appetit, as they don’t say in Vienna (try Mahlzeit or Guten Appetit).