If you’re in Vienna and looking for something to do, head down to the Rathausplatz square in front of the Rathaus (city hall). The city’s most popular site for open-air festivals usually has something going on, especially in summer and winter.
- Home to several of Vienna’s biggest events, including the Christkindlmarkt, Rathaus Film Festival, and Vienna Ice World
- See also:
The square ticks a lot of the boxes that make an excellent outdoor location: roomy, central, and easily reached by public transport. The giant 19th-century Rathaus building and surrounding city park also ensure a suitably picturesque setting.
No surprise, then, to find the Rathausplatz hosting many of Vienna’s top annual events. For example…
(The new market entrance)
In late November and December, the Christkindlmarkt forms Vienna’s largest Christmas market and part of the wider Christmas landscape that sees the Rathaus park fill with bright lights and other wintry treats.
Dozens of stalls sell arts, crafts, decorations, toys and a range of seasonal refreshments, such as roast chestnuts and Christmas punch.
Don’t pass up the chance to visit, since the combination of market ambiance and seasonal lighting is rather fine.
Vienna Ice World
(Lighted skating trails)
From mid-January to early March, the Rathausplatz often turns into a huge ice rink for the so-called Eistraum or Vienna Ice World.
“Ice rink” undersells it, really. You can slide your way around several rinks, for starters, and swathes of iced paths take you through the lights and trees of the park. So get your skates on (see what I did there?).
Accompanying stalls also sell food and drink to keep the cold at bay (just about every event on the Rathausplatz has a big gastronomic section).
The Rathaus Film Festival
(On-screen entertainment, off-screen gastronomy)
Then in July and August we have the Rathaus Film Festival.
A huge screen shows films with a musical theme. You might come across a great opera or ballet, but also concert performances in more contemporary genres.
So one night you might enjoy Carmen reminding us that L’amour est un oiseau rebelle, another night Clapton tearing through a blues riff. All free to view, too.
International food stalls enhance the attractions of the screen with a range of culinary delights…everything from waffles to wok dishes.
Other Rathausplatz events
Other shorter events on the Rathausplatz include:
- GAME CITY: a three-day gaming festival in October with a cosplay parade and free entry
- The Silvesterpfad: the Rathausplatz is often the biggest stop on Vienna’s New Year’s Eve celebration trail (though not in 2022). At midnight, thousands dance a waltz to welcome in the New Year in the light of a thousand fireworks (or something like that)
- Steiermark Frühling: a gourmet and travel festival in spring, centered around the province of Styria. Notable for its regional food and drink, traditional music, and suitably-dressed participants
- The Argus bike festival: on another weekend in spring, Vienna celebrates two wheels with various displays and info stands
- Waldviertelpur: another regional festival (usually in May), this time introducing you to the sights, sounds and (mostly) flavours of the Waldviertel, one of the colder, flatter and more mystical parts of Austria
Should you turn up and find an empty expanse bereft of entertainment, can I recommend two nearby locations to console yourself? Both will happily exchange cash for fine cake and coffee.
- Conditorei Sluka sits off to the left of the town hall as you face it
- Café Landtmann occupies its own spot opposite the square and next to the big theatre building.
How to get to the Rathausplatz
Subway: the square has its own station on the U2 subway line, appropriately titled, “Rathaus”.
Tram/bus: since the Rathausplatz adjoins the the ring road that encircles the historic city center, any of the so-called Ring trams get you there. Take the 1, 71 or D trams to Rathausplatz/Burgtheater or the 2 tram to Stadiongasse/Parlament.
Address: Rathausplatz, 1010 Vienna, Austria.