In an ever-changing world, one thing remains constant:
taxes the huge Christmas tree in front of the Rathaus (city hall), an annual gift to Vienna from one of the other Austrian provinces.
- Giant Christmas tree that sits at the heart of the Christkindlmarkt
- Supplied by a different province each year
- The 2021 spruce tree came from Burgenland
- The lights usually go on in mid-November
- See also: Christmas in Vienna
A tree of friendship
(The Vienna Xmas tree back in 2019)
As the capital and the biggest city by far, Vienna can have a tense relationship with the eight other provinces that form the rest of Austria.
But it’s all sweetness and light at Christmas: each year, a different province sends Vienna a tree for the festive season.
Not just any tree, of course, but a giant of a specimen…a tree to tower over the square in front of the city’s Rathaus and form the centrepiece of the biggest Christmas market in the country. Its arrival marks the unofficial start of the Viennese advent season, with all the Christmas markets opening around then (or soon after).
The 2021 tree came from the easternmost part of Austria: Burgenland. Foresters harvested the 30m spruce from woodland belonging to the Esterházy family in the Wiesen area of the province.
That tree went up on November 3rd. Vienna’s mayor (Michael Ludwig) and Burgenland’s premier (Hans Peter Doskozil) then switched on the 2000 or so LED lights on November 13th at an official ceremony.
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In 2020, a 200-year-old spruce from the forests of the Schlägl Abbey in the district of Klaffer am Hochficht had the honour of gracing the square and market. Originally some 40m in length (131 feet), around 33m of the tree went up.
Remarkably, the rest of the lower trunk served a rather resonant purpose as tonewood. This forest area in Upper Austria often provides high altitude-grown timber that, for example, the Bösendorfer company uses in producing their famous pianos.
The tree tradition began back in 1959. In 2019, the honour fell (see what I did there?) to Salzburg, in 2018 to Carinthia, and in 2017 to Vorarlberg, Austria’s smallest province. In 2016, it was Lower Austria, though the tree itself came from land actually owned by Vienna to protect the city’s water supplies.
How to get to the Christmas tree
Follow the lights. Well, not exactly. Simply wend your way to the Rathaus and it’s hard to miss the tree, it being rather tall and tree-shaped. A little seasonal scene usually decorates the base.
Subway: The Rathaus has its own subway station: the appropriately-titled Rathaus stop on the U2 line
Trams: Lines 1, 71 and D all stop at Rathausplatz/Burgtheater, which is opposite the entrance to the Christmas market. Line 2 also stops at Rathaus
Address: Rathausplatz, 1010 Vienna