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
- In 2021, the main lights should go on mid-to-late November and stay on until around January 10th, 2022
- Three areas to look for: the pedestrianised centre, around the Ring boulevard, and the Rathauspark
- See also: Christmas in Vienna
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
(Kohlmarkt in the evening)
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.
(Lights on the Graben)
Take a right turn and walk along the Graben beneath its giant chandeliers containing around 200,000 LEDs.
(These create a suitably ballroom-like atmosphere for New Year’s Eve, when open-air waltz lessons take place on the street.)
Once you reach Stephansplatz, look across to the cathedral and the surrounding Christmas market. Then look up to see the Haas Haus and its illuminated façade.
(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 (to red) and style (more modern) awaits.
Wherever you are in the Graben area, always check the side streets for more lights.
2. The Ring lights
(The lights at the Christkindlmarkt)
Take a walk around the Ring after sundown. You’ll pass a couple of market displays, plus many big luxury hotels with their Christmas lights. The road itself has a few lighted areas, too.
You’ll also (eventually) 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 typically 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, explore the surrounding park on either side of the market itself.
Discover illuminated ice skating, light displays in the trees, and much more. You might bump into a carousel or a nativity display. Look for the giant glowing balls on the ground, too.
The tree full of glowing red hearts is probably the local favourite. They even set up a selfie stand for couples wishing to get a photo with the tree as a romantic backdrop.
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.