Vienna is a fantastic city break whatever time of the year, even for budget conscious travellers. It can be tempting to shy away from visiting European cities in winter. But Vienna, is not such a city. Vienna in Winter, it really is magical. Temperatures may drop, but the cocoon of Vienna’s beauty and hospitality will keep you warm. If you’re planning to visit, here are the top ten things to do in Vienna in the winter.
Ice skating in Rathausplatz
Whether you are travelling to Vienna in the winter with your significant other, your family or your friends – ice skating is always a good idea. We’ve seen a lot of ice rinks, but the ice rink in Rathausplatz is very special.
It pops up over the winter months and transforms the town hall square (Rathausplatz) into a winter wonderland. The rink itself is large with interesting winding paths to skate along until your heart is content. Follow this with a hot dog and a glass of gluwhein for the ultimate winter in Vienna experience.
As of 2023, it costs 8 Euros to enjoy the rink and an additional 8 Euros to hire skates.
Cosy up in a cafe
I don’t know about you, but when I think Vienna, I immediately think cafe. There is little better on a cold winter’s day than finding a comfortable seat in one of Vienna’s decadent cafes.
Two of the most popular cafes are Cafe Landtmann and Cafe Central. The latter of which is probably the most grand, but the former is more comfortable. Both cafes are stalwarts of Vienna and have been popular with locals and tourists alike for well over 100 years.
Our top tip, if you want a more genuine experience, is to go for breakfast early in the morning. If you arrive to either cafe early, you’re less likely to be seated amongst fellow tourists and more likely to see a local and regular crowd pouring in. Enjoy coffee, breakfast, or a slice of famous Sachertorte with a bit of people watching, or devouring a newspaper.
Find a comfy Beisl in Vienna in the winter
Beisls are a fantastic Vienna institution. These are small restaurants that are popular with locals and tourists. They tend to be quite basic, but super cosy inside. Think wooden tables and an alpine feeling. On a cold winter day, you can walk into a Beisl, take your coat and hat off and find a seat quickly.
Start with a schnitzel and a beer to wash it down and finish with a giant slab of apple strudel covered in cream. Perhaps not what you would want to eat every day, but my what at treat when it’s cold outside! Beisls offer a little rest bite from the cold and also inexpensive.
The best beisls that we enjoyed are Reinthaler and Stadtgraben. But, we also enjoyed a few beer halls too – Centimetere and Seven Stern Braü were our favourites. Seven Stern also brews it’s own beer, including a spicy larger infused with chilli. Perfect on a cold day!
Spend hours in a museum
Museum fans will be spoilt for choice in Vienna. There are museums and then there are top class museums. Vienna has plenty of the latter! Our two favourites in Vienna were the Leopold Museum, which is in the Museum Quartier. And, the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
If you only pick one museum to go to in Vienna, we highly recommend the Kunsthistorisches Museum. We spent half a day there and could easily have taken more time to view everything. The building itself is spectacular and it is packed full of historic treasures, from Roman to Egyptian and more. Plus it has an extensive Rubens collection. The cafe here is also beautiful and a delightful way to spend an hour or so.
For our review on whether the Vienna pass is worth buying, you can click here.
Visit the Austrian National Library in Vienna in the winter
For book lovers, the Austrian National Library is the perfect place to explore when its cold outside in Vienna. Tickets are a little overpriced at 10 Euros, considering this is quite a small building. But, if you love books, you will want to visit this attraction. The Austrian National Library is thought to be one of the top ten libraries in the world.
Take in a classical concert
Vienna has long been the centre of European classical music. Of course, the pinnacle is the Vienna State Opera House. Most nights there will be events at the opera house and you can normally get tickets in advance, or standing tickets on the day. Whether an opera or a classical concert, in our view it is worth it to enter the Vienna State Opera House and be part of an event for one night.
If you can’t get Opera House tickets, or you’d prefer a classical concert, there are lots of options in Vienna on a daily basis. They tend to be in stunning buildings across the city. Perfect to enjoy in Vienna in the winter. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a popular concert for tourists (book here) or the regular Mozart concerts also have great reviews (book here).
Follow in the footsteps of Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud may be one of Vienna’s most famous exports and he called Vienna home for 78 years. If you’re interested to learn more about Freud, Vienna is the perfect place to do it. We would recommend visiting Cafe Landtmann, where Freud used to frequent. Exploring the University of Vienna, where he studied and of course visiting Leopoldstadt where he grew up.
Apparently Freud called Vienna “oppressive” and “disgusting”, it certainly didn’t feel that way when we travelled to Vienna in winter.
If you want to find out even more about Freud, you can visit the Freud museum. We chose not to visit because the reviews are a little mixed and we were short of time, but if you have a keen interest in psychology, we think that you’ll enjoy it. Tickets for this popular museum, can be booked here.
Visit Belvedere Palace in Vienna in the winter
Belvedere Palace in Vienna is actually three different buildings and you may not have time to visit all of them. The Upper Belvedere is the one we would recommend the most. For art lovers, the Upper Belvedere houses a permanent exhibition with the largest collection of Gustav Klimt works to be found anywhere in the world. This includes his famous painting “The Kiss.”
Lower Belvedere has temporary exhibitions, so it’s worth checking whether this has anything of interest for you when you are visiting Vienna.
Stroll through Naschmarkt with a coffee
Naschmarkt in Vienna is the most popular food market in the city. In the summer, there are tables and numerous places to sit and enjoy a drink or a snack from one of the stalls. In the winter, the market has a smaller presence, but nevertheless is a great place to take a stroll. Grab a coffee or a tea and meander through the stalls of Naschmarkt.
In truth, you can walk pretty much anywhere in Vienna in the winter and enjoy marvelling at the stunning buildings.
Wrap up warm and ride the Ferris Wheel
Wiener Riesenrad Giant Ferris Wheel in the Prater Amusement Park is probably one of the most romantic activities you could do in winter in Vienna. Yes, it may be a little chilly, but if you wrap up warm and grab a hot drink, you can board the Ferris Wheel. Offering unparalleled views across Vienna, in particular the Belvedere Palace and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, this is the perfect way to see Vienna from above.
Tickets for the Ferris Wheel can be booked here.