Since the city has a certain image to maintain, Vienna’s Christmas lights tend not to feature too many dancing Santas or reindeer with biologically-inaccurate red noses.
Expect crystal chains and central European understatement…with a few million LEDs thrown in for effect. The result is rather pretty.
- Stylish light displays with a classic, timeless feel to them
- The main lights typically first appear in late November
- See also: Christmas in Vienna
I’m hoping they don’t downsize the Vienna lights in 2020 on account of Corona-related economic and travel issues. Assuming they don’t, then here are my top three recommendations for experiencing the usual annual displays (see also the map at the bottom of the page).
1. The city centre lights
The pedestrianised zones in the centre sparkle with the glitter of nearly a million
diamonds LED lamps. Stroll beneath giant chandeliers or shimmering cascades of light, pausing only for a roast chestnut or three (or a mug of Glühwein). The lights normally go on between 4pm and 10pm.
These are the highlights:
Start at Michaelerplatz and fortify yourself for the journey ahead at the mini-Christmas market there. Then stroll down Kohlmarkt beneath sheets of white lights to reach the Graben.
(Kohlmarkt in the evening)
Walk along the Graben beneath its giant chandeliers containing around 200,000 LEDs.
(Lights on the Graben)
When you reach Stephansplatz look across to the cathedral and the surrounding Christmas market. Then look up to see the Haas Haus and its illuminated facade.
(The Haas Haus)
From Stephansplatz, head toward the opera house along Kärntner Straße and its hanging chains of lights. Around 550,000 LEDs and 48km of crystals create the effect.
(The Kärntner Straße displays)
Alternatively, go the opposite way past Stephansdom to Rotenturmstrasse where a change of colour and style awaits.
Wherever you are, always check the side streets for more lights (in 2019, a few extra old town shopping streets signed up to participate in the display).
2. The Ring lights
Take a walk around the Ring after sundown. You’ll pass a couple of market displays, plus many big five-star hotels with their Christmas lights. The road itself has a few lighted areas, too.
You’ll also catch the Ringturm office block near Schottenring, which normally features a giant Christmas tree all up one side and snowflakes cascading down the face of the tower:
Walking the whole route might be quite an ask, especially since most of the better displays are in the southern and eastern portion of the Ring. Consider one of the special tram rides that operate at Christmas and take the latest possible ride:
- The Ring tram (year-round sightseeing tram)
- The Ströck Weihnachtsbim (seasonal tram raising money for charity)
- The Manner tram (a pink-flavoured seasonal tram)
If you’re going to the Christkindlmarkt at the Rathaus, make some time to explore the surrounding park on either side of the market itself.
There’s illuminated ice skating, light displays in the trees, and more. The tree full of glowing hearts is probably the local favourite. Look for the giant glowing balls on the ground, too.
P.S. For a more subtle, but truly awe-inspiring display, stand on the south side of the lake at Belvedere Palace at dusk and look across to the Christmas market. More info here.