Vienna, Christmas markets and Klimt’s year

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

A visit to one of Vienna’s many Christmas markets, is a great way to get into the festive spirit. Frederic has the low-down on the Austrian capital’s most magical markets as well as where you can get to grips with Gustav Klimt, creator of The Kiss, who was born 150 years ago

Vienna Christmas markets
Vienna is a city of traditions. Each year a different province of Austria offers a giant Christmas tree to Vienna to show the strong links that connect the provinces with the capital city. This Christmas, the spruce tree comes from Lower Austria. It is 120 years old and 32 metres high. The tradition introduces the annual period of feasts and markets. Christmas is coming.

Already begun is another very old tradition, the Christmas markets with their aroma of hot punches and Christmas baking. The oldest market is, as its name shows, is the ‘0ld Viennese Christmas Market’ on Freyung. It was held here for the first time 240 years ago in 1772 and, today, is a place to buy at the traditional cribs, Christmas decorations and pretty handicrafts. But every Christmas market has to provide hot drinks and sweets as well.

Just a few steps away the ‘Am Hof Advent Market’ is also a Christmas market, this one selling top quality handicrafts.

Rathausplatz ©Wien Tourismus/Peter Rigaud

The largest Viennese Christmas market is the ‘Vienna Magic of Advent’ on Rathausplatz and here, around 150 stands are to be found in front of the city hall (Rathaus). This is the place for hundreds and thousands of Viennese children to be brought by their parents. Thousands of lights illuminate the trees of the city hall park as well as the Rathaus, which helps transport the children into a fairy land. The stands are full of offers for children, but adults always find something that appeals to them. And to help ward off the cold and it wouldn’t be Christmas time without that crispness, a glass of glugwein will help. If you can visit only one Viennese market this is the one!

There are many more Christmas markets in central Vienna. Don’t try to visit them all, unless you work for Santa Claus and don’t only focus on them. Vienna is so rich in attractions, museums, churches, palaces, Art Deco buildings… Just visit the city, and you’ll stumble over the Christmas markets.

Schoenbrunn Palace ©Wien Tourismus/Maxum

Pay a visit to the Schoenbrunn Palace.  Here, the ‘Cultural and Christmas Market’ awaits you which, after Christmas Eve, is converted into a ‘New Year’s Market’.

If you visit the Belvedere, the ‘Advent Market’ is set in the garden right in front of the castle. That gives the market an Imperial ambiance. On the Ring, between the Natural History museum and the museum of Fine Arts, on Maria-Theresien Platz, you will find a ‘Christmas Village’. Another Christmas market is set on Karl Platz. This is close to the Vienna Secession, a must-see for Art Deco lovers. Wherever you go in Vienna during December your path will surely cross a Christmas market.

Klimt’s year
2012, in Vienna, is the year of Klimt. To celebrate the most famous Austrian painter who was born 150 years ago, on 14th July 1862, the city has run various exhibitions highlighting all the aspects of Klimt’s artworks as well as understandings of his life in private and at work. Klimt was one of the main artists who gave rise to Modernism in Vienna with the creation of the Secession movement and the two main exhibitions are still open to public.

Gustav Klimt "Beethoven Frieze" detail ©Belvedere, Wien

“Masterpieces in Focus: 150 years of Gustav Klimt” at the upper Belvedere is still open until January 27. The museum’s entire collection – and it is one of the largest held anywhere in the world – of his paintings are on show including the world-famous painting “The Kiss.” and Judith I.

The second exhibition is set in the Vienna Secession. For the very first time and only until April 7th, Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze can be viewed at eye-level. The frieze is on top of the walls of a narrow room bout five metres high. So an artist, Gerwald Rockenschaub, has imagined a platform that allows visitors to stand at the frieze level and to look at it from a metre away. All the details of this fabulous work can be appreciated. But as so many people have come to see it, wardens have had to remind visitors that others want to see it and to move on.

Gustav Klimt "The Kiss"©Belvedere, Wien

How to visit Vienna
Despite its size, Vienna is a pedestrian city. Nearly everything is inside the Ring, the five kilometre circular boulevard that limits the old town. And for those who tire buses, trams and the underground are available. There is even a tram that runs all along the Ring.

If you buy in advance a Vienna Card, (around 20€ for three days) public transport is easy to use. It allows you to travel freely and, in addition, it offers discount prices at more than 200 museums, sites and restaurants. A word about travelling on the underground: entrance or exit controls don’t exist. Austrians expect people to be honest and are rarely disappointed. Don’t try to cheat! There are some sudden and unexpected controls and fines are heavy.

With a street map and a good guidebook Vienna is an easy city to visit. And if you feel lost, don’t worry, English is quite the second language of Austrians, and they are happy to help.

Gustav Klimt "Judith I" ©Belvedere, Wien

Accommodation and food in Vienna
Like any European big city, Vienna offers all types of accommodation from budget to luxury, inside the Ring or nearby. Over 500 different ones are available from which to choose. Here are just two that seem a bit different.

The Alstadt Vienna is a boutique hotel with character, close to the Ring and the Museums quarter. All the 42 rooms and suites are different. They are spread in a Patrician house. You feel more at home than in an ordinary hotel. No big lobby, but a cosy salon with a fireplace. Art and design are mixed with the traditional aspects of the architecture of a Viennese building. A charming and resting place to stay in Vienna. Everyday at four o’clock cups of tea and homemade cake are offered freely to all the guests. http://www.altstadt.at/en

Not far, the Rathaus Wine and Design, is another boutique hotel, also hidden inside a traditional building. The designer rooms offer all modern comforts and are well appointed, even if they are slightly anonymous and not too big. The wine bar offers a large selection of Austrian wines (only), and is a nice opportunity to try a glass of wine before going out. Breakfast buffet presents a wonderful array of Austrian foods, but the price is not included in the room rate. http://www.hotel-rathaus-wien.at/en

Food is a problem in Vienna; there’s just so much. How do you choose? You will find restaurants, cafes, bars and pastry shops everywhere. But if you want to be a real Viennese, you have to try the Sacher Torte, the world’s most famous chocolate cake from the Sacher Hotel. The receipe of the Sacher Torte has been kept secret since 1832. http://www.sacher.com/en

For more information on Vienna, visit www.wien.info/en

 

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