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Christmas and New Years in Austria - Trip Report

Christmas and New Years in Austria - Trip Report

Old Feb 7th, 2008, 03:51 AM
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Sorry this isn't completed. We've had a tragic death in my family and I've been away. Here's a bit more.

Friday, December 28

A good selection of breakfast food was offered, and a delightful woman from Croatia was working in the breakfast room. She was fun to talk with since we were in Croatia last summer.

Karntner Strasse is Vienna’s main pedestrian street, connecting the Opera with St. Stephan’s Cathedral. As we walked it we saw the Christmas market stalls being removed and the Silvester ones going up. They’re triangular in shape. Huge chandeliers were hanging over Graben Street! Demel’s window, on Kohlmarkt was lavishly decorated. We went in to see the shop, but decided not to stay and eat again! The Cathedral was interesting but we didn’t stay for the guided tour of the crypt. It was so, so cold outside, it was time to go indoors!

The Kunsthistorische Museum and it’s Bruegel room was our next destination. It houses an outstanding collection of art. We spent about 1 ½ hrs here with the Bruegel room being our favorite.

Buying the Sisi Ticket at the Imperial Apartments, we braved the crowd here. Maybe it’s best to start here earlier. It was quite crowded, but not as crowded as it was the next day, the weekend. The city swelled on Saturday. The Sisi ticket includes Schonbrunn Palace where you won’t need to wait in line. I thought the apartments and the Sisi museum were quite interesting. The Imperial Silver Collection is included which was extensive. Much more interesting than I expected.

The parking areas around Hofburg Palace were full of campers. So many Italians come to Austria for New Years/Silvester in their campers. Salzburg and Vienna are more crowded for New Years than for Christmas.

Tired and hungry it was time for a real meal. We walked over to the Palmenhaus which overlooks the Burggarten. It was damaged during wartime bombings, but was restored in 1998. The café served excellent food. It was only 4:00 but we ordered a full meal. I ordered Lamb chops with artichoke risotto and my husband ordered the choucroute, the best he’s had. Our server was very friendly and wondered where we were from. Yes, the U.S., not England. She was impressed with the amount of time we were spending in Vienna. She noted that most Americans only stay for 2 days, then move on.

We needed some rest after our late lunch because tonight we have tickets to Der Nussknacker Ballet at the Opera House!

Sitting in boxes along the side of the Opera house, our view wasn’t great, but we could see ½ of the stage. These aren’t great seats, but they were all that were available, and were cheap! I still loved the performance although it seemed quite different than the performance I remember here. I found somewhat of an explanation here:

“Gyula Harangozo, the star dancer of the Hungarian National Ballet who became artistic director in Budapest from 1995 to 2005 before being appointed general director in Vienna 2 years ago. This is only my third season and I'm still getting to know my audience", he continued, "and so for the Christmas season, we're programming The Nutcracker, but in a new version of my own which keeps very close to Petipa's libretto. The novelty lies in the fact that we are using pupils from the school in many of the main roles. The ballet opens on a celebration of Christmas today before leading into Petipa and Tchaikovsky's fantasy world. “

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Old Feb 7th, 2008, 07:56 AM
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Saturday, December 29

The Naschmarkt, Vienna’s produce market along Wienzeile Street was an easy walk from Pension Suzanne. The market is outside, but there are two rows of permanent enclosed shops but many were closed. We love walking through these markets, and buying some of the produce, nuts, cheese, bread etc. Huge Jackfruit caught my attention, but I have no idea what it is! Marzipan pigs, brioche pigs, pigs, pigs, and more pigs. This is the main symbol of New Years here. They represent prosperity. 4 leaf clovers, chimney sweeps, ladybugs, gold coins, more symbols for the new year. Trinket stands abound selling little gifts for your friends and family.

After shopping here we noticed the flea market that was also set up. There’s a great variety of items here, from fur coats, crystal chandeliers, old books, junk. I found a very old book in good condition, Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, with pages of cardboard. I had to buy this book with all the little Austrian touches inside. The gingerbread heart cookie is given to the infant Jesus, angels are buying gifts at a advent market booth, the trees are decorated with candles, and angel is walking down a path with the same lantern which decorates this whole area!

We stopped at the Monument against War and Fascism, which remembers victims of the Nazi rule of Austria. Rick Steves book explains the monument well. It stands on the spot where several hundred people died in a WWII bombing attack.

At 11:30 we walked by the Spanish riding school and went inside to see if they had any last minute tickets. For €6 we could go watch the end of the practice session. Hurrying upstairs, we saw the last 30 minutes of practice of the beautiful horses. It was just enough time for us. The riding hall is beautiful also! We stopped by the chapel where the Vienna Boy’s Choir sings, but it was locked up tight.

Touring the Treasury next, which wasn’t crowded, we decided we’d seen enough treasuries over the years. It didn’t hold our interest, had a very steep admission of €10 + €3 for the audio guide. You can also buy an English paper guide for .80. I did like seeing the royal cradle, Napoleon’s son’s, who was born in 1811.

Nearby is the Neue Burg, or New Palace. I was very interested in seeing the Ephesus collections. There was so much to see here, we decided to wait, and come back tomorrow.

Instead we decided to take a break at Café Central. Walking through the Volksgarten, hundreds of plants are covered in burlap, wrapped up like packages, awaiting spring! Café Central is beautiful, if you sit in the front dining area. We spent a very relaxing hour here, reading the papers and enjoying yet another slice of cake!

There are some great hat shops in Vienna. Basque hats, artistic berets, fur hats, expensive, but artistic. Window shopping is all I did, although I do need a warm hat!

Walking along, we came to an area where we saw the Spanish riding horse stables. We saw several of the horses, between scaffolding. They are working on restoring the area of the stables. I think these are at the end of Kohlmarkt around Michaelerplatz.

Finding the Kaisergruft, where the remains of the Hapsburgs are located, we bought the .50 guide with a Hapsburg family tree and a chart with the coffins locations. This wasn’t to helpful. The vault lies below the Capuchin Church. Hundreds of ornate coffins are inside. It’s very interesting. The tomb belonging to Elisabeth or “Sissy” is here alongside Franz Josef as well as their son Rudolf who committed suicide. We spent at least an hour here.

Time to find a Heuriger, which is a rustic local wine producer, on the edge of town. Thanks to others on this board with their suggestions. We took tram D to its end point of Nussdorf. It was so dark, there were few people in the area. Humm, it didn’t look like anything was open. This might not be the best area in the winter, but we walked down a long narrow walkway to Steinschaden, at Kahlenbergerstrasse 18 (open daily 3-11p.m.) It was dark, we had no idea what we’d find. We opened a large wooden door, and were surprised to find a lovely, long, narrow room, decorated with Christmas greens, filled with wooden tables and local families enjoying the new wine and eating dinner! It was so authentic! Red and white wines were available, food from a menu and also food you could go look at and make choices. We had fried cheese with sauce and fruit toppings, vegetable tarts and lots of wine! This is a very friendly atmosphere, and a lot of fun.

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Old Feb 7th, 2008, 10:56 AM
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Sunday, December 30

Our original plan was to take the train to Melk today. Maybe we should of done this, using the Einfach-Raus ticket which was €28 for 2 people and is good all day on regional trains. English tours of the abbey are limited to 2 a day on Sunday’s in the winter so we needed to leave on the 9:04 train for the 11:00 tour. We were lazy, so decided not to go but this was my proposed schedule, it might be of help.

Leave for Melk on the 9:04 train for the 11:00 tour
9:04- 10:16 train Vienna Westbahnhof to Melk
11:00 English tour of Abbey
1:00-1:45 Bus to Spitz /Train to Durnstein
1:45 – 3:11 See Durnstein
3:11 – 3:24 Train to Krems
3:30 – 5:00 Tour Krems
5:00- 6:04 train to Vienna

I noticed Melk’s abbey when we were on the train between Salzburg and Vienna. It’s huge and would be a wonderful place to see. We’ll just have to return in the summer some year and visit this area!

Hoping we could hear the Vienna Boys Choir in Vienna, we walked to the Imperial Chapel of the Hofburg. We had no seat reservation, but easily found room in the standing room area inside the room just outside of the chapel. One of the chapel doors was open, but only a couple of people at the front could see inside. There is a very old, small TV monitor which shows the service and the boy’s as they sing with the adults. It was difficult to hear them. I think the Chapel could invest in a better monitor for all of us who can’t sit inside. I enjoyed the choir, but was very thankful they had actually been to Northern Kentucky just a couple of weeks earlier, where we were fortunate to attend their Christmas program.

We visited the Neue Burg with it’s 3 museums, Armory, Music and Ancient Greek Statues, or Ephesus museum, instead. This is really excellent, and on a Sunday morning, almost empty of visitors. Admission to all 3 is with one ticket and the audio guide, which is excellent, is included. I’ve never seen such an large collection of armory and medieval weapons. My grandson would love to see this! The audio for the music area lets you listen to what the instruments sound like. The section on Ephesus is also superb, and I enjoyed it more, since we’ve been to Ephesus. This museum is worth at least 2 hours.

Walking back through the area around St. Stephan’s Cathedral we saw the plague monument at Brauner Strasse, the Mozarthaus, which we didn’t pay to enter, and explored the back streets. We then decided to walk to the Danube river and to the Prater, walking through the Stadt Park with statues of musicians. First we came along the Danube Canal, thinking it was the river. We were quite disappointed! Thankfully we figured out after a short walk along the canal, that this wasn’t the great Danube river! Walking to the Prater isn’t that smart. It’s a long, long walk. We must not have had a good map, because we kept trying to sight the ferris wheel to lead us in the right direction. It began to snow.

At last, we found the giant ferris wheel. Many were riding in it’s cabins, then going into the gift shop which was so crowded you couldn’t walk inside. The amusement park/roller coaster area looked poor. We decided to see the small Prater museum described as having a collection of old posters, photos, including curious circus photos, old signs and merry go round items. It’s really a poor museum, don’t waste your time or money on it. I was happy to see the ferris wheel, but I think this park would be much nicer in the summer!

There is a brand new train terminal area at the Vienna North station. It just opened December 19 so there isn’t much there yet, but the office was an easy place to pick up our return tickets to Munich which we reserved and purchased ahead of time for a lower price. The ticket is a 29€ Sparshiere ticket, from Vienna to Munich and we had to buy it over the phone. These are very limited, and we were only able to purchase one. The other ticket was €59.

Church Franz von Assisi near Mexikoplatz, is striking and borders the Danube river. We looked around this area then walked along the Danube river. The walkway provides wonderful views, and the riverfront is quite nice with river boats lining it for cruises. There is also a long, wide walking path along the river. In the middle of the Danube is a large park area, where the metro stop Donauinsel is located. We returned by metro!

Dinner tonight was at an excellent Italian restaurant, Vecchia Genova in the Spittelberg quarter. There are only a few streets here, Spittelberggasse, Schrankgasse, and Gutenberggasse, but they are charming and filled with restaurants. They were setting up their own booths for New Years Eve here. The mushroom ravioli was excellent and ½ liter of Barbara d’Alba was 12€. They were taking reservations for New Years Eve dinner for €42 per person. The owners are from Genova and drive home to buy wine from Liguria.

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Old Feb 7th, 2008, 12:03 PM
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Images2, My condolences for the death in your family. thanks so much for sharing your trip report anyway.

I leave on Tues the 12th for Munich, Salzburg and Vienna so I am reading avidly, especially about all cafe and restuarant suggestions. I will be 2 days in Salzburg and 1 week in Vienna.

what sort of coat did you take? I'm still debating. I won't have a lavendar fur however!! lynda
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Old Feb 7th, 2008, 01:17 PM
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Thanks lyndash, it's actually helping some to think about something else today, after the last week of such sorrow.

We really enjoyed some of our meals in Austria. I've just finished the report, so I'm about to post the remainder. Palmenhaus and Restaurant Kutschker 44 in Vienna are wonderful! Have a great trip!
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Old Feb 7th, 2008, 01:24 PM
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Oh, as to my coat, it was just a wool coat, but I layered alot with a down vest and sweaters.

Monday, December 31 New Year’s Eve

I’m not to sure many are following this, so here’s a quick finish.

Belvedere Gardens and Palace was open this a.m. We took tram D there to see their collection of Gustav Klimt. Very nice area.

Zentralfriedhof, Central Cemetery on Tram 71 to see Beethoven’s grave, along with other musicians. The cemetery is huge. The grave is easy to find, it’s to the left of the central lane which leads to the Karl Lueger church. Beethoven is buried next to Schubert. There is also a tribute to Mozart here, but he’s not buried here. The tram stops at another entrance to this cemetery. Make sure you get off at the right exit.

Around 2 p.m. the festivities for Silvester begin. Programs were distributed from a central booth. It was snowing, and beautiful as we walked under the huge crystal chandeliers hanging above Graben street. We bought street food and drink and enjoyed the bands. The route begins at Rathausplatz, where we enjoyed waltz lessons with a large group of others in front of the large stage. It continues along the following locations: Lowelstrasse,(karaoke, tunes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and disco fever), Freyung,(international folk music) Am Hof, (the best hits of 2007, video clips and pyro show) Hoher Markt,( Kids area early then Radio Wien Band with rock and roll, and hits and oldies) Friedmannplatz,(future telling with ask the stars and cards) Lugeck, (boogie and rock and roll dance courses then voices of America, Elvis Presley, the Ratpack and Bruce Springsteen hits) Graben, (large ballroom under chandeliers , waltzes and classical) Neuer Markt,(karoke, then classic New Year’s hits, rock and roll show, and best hits of the last 40 years) Karntner Strasse, (salsa groove, disco beats and fine dance music) and ends at Haus der Musik (danse the salsa, samba, and waltz.

After much consideration we had dinner at Restaurant Kutschker 44 address: Kutschkergasse 44 Telefon 01/47 020 47 eMail [email protected] Web www.kutschker44.at Dinner was around €50 each. The menu was 7 courses, and was excellent. We highly recommend it! Their regular dinner menu is quite a bit less expensive and said to be excellent. The New Year's Eve dinner was actually the courses that their customers most liked during the year.

Sparkling wine & Viennesse sushi, 2. Jelly of soured boiled rump, roast beef & consommee with sherry 3. Clear soup of halibut with safflower, fennel & prawn ravioli, 4. Salmon stuffed sea bass with braised cucumbers and lemon jelly, 5. Braised and roasted lamb with parsley risotto, ham & horseradish, 6. variation of cheese with Kutschker 44 chutney, 7. a taste of: sour milk, yogurt & quark with pomegranate – mint, mango – chili & passion fruit, chocolate. This is the only course we didn’t care for.

Marzipan pigs were on the table, along with little chocolates and new year’s charms. This was an excellent choice for us. Kutschker 44 is just outside the ring, easily accessable by tram.

After coffee, around 11:15, we took the tram back to the Rathaus, where a large crowd was gathered. The live brass band was playing beautifully and excitement building for the arrival of 2008. We waltzed along with others, and at midnight champagne was flowing throughout the crowd. The only fireworks were from individuals, but there were many of those. Officials came outside on the balconies of the Rathaus.

January 1, 2008

Schonbrunn Palace on the U4 metro. Open in the a.m. with no crowds. We used our Sissy Card for entrance and the Grand Tour so wouldn’t have had to stand in line if there was one. When we left, hours later, there was a decent length line for entrance. The audio guide was fairly interesting and included. After touring the interior we hiked up to the Gloriette. It was a nice walk, but snowy and icy. We couldn’t go up the zig zag pathway, which was very icy and slippery. The side pathways were open and acceptable. We had a nice lunch and hot chocolat in the cafe of the gloriette.

Christmarket stalls set up around the Schonbrunn Palace were of course closed.

The grounds of the palace would be an excellent area to go just to walk, like Versailles in France.

We returned to the Rathaus and enjoyed more outdoor waltzing and the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Concert which was shown on the large, outdoor screen. It was excellent!

This evening we attended the Opera Die Fledermaus at the Opera House. Again, our seats weren’t excellent, but we could see the whole stage. This is a very, very long opera, with 2 intermissions. An excellent way to end our time in Vienna.

January 2 Wednesday

Vienna had emptied out. There was nothing going on. If you’d like to see Vienna without crowds, come on the evening of January 1!!

We took the train to Munich today using a 29€ Sparshiere ticket and a €59 ticket. Sparshiere tickets are very limited, and we were only able to purchase one. We had to buy the tickets over the phone weeks earlier, since we tried to get the discounted sparshiere tickets. The train was direct and took 4 hours.

Upon arrival in Munich we walked to the Mercure Hotel, Munich City Center. Our room was reserved earlier on line at the rate of €94. I mapped out the location before we arrived so we didn’t have a problem locating it. It’s only about a 5 minute walk from the station, the neighborhood is fine. The rooms are excellent, modern, with a flat screen TV, very comfortable beds, excellent bathroom. We enjoyed lunch at Augustiner Keller, a beer hall (with excellent pretzels!) then enjoyed walking through the pedestrian areas. The huge ice skating rink and area around it are wonderful!

I finally found a hat I loved and could afford in Munich. The shop Breiter, close to Marienplatz. I think this is the location and it has a wonderful selection:

Breiter Filiale Kaufingerstraße am Dom | Tel.: 089-599 884 12 + 13 | Mo – Sa: 9.30 – 20.00 Uhr

At the end of a wonderful day we had dinner at Ayingers, across from the Hofbräuhaus. The food is excellent and portions very large.

We flew home on Lufthansa, after the plane was thoroughly deiced. The flight was fine, but full of kids.

Thanks so much for your patience. If you have any questions, I’ll try and answer them. We’re taking our grandson to France and Italy in March for Spring break, and I have a lot more planning to do for that trip, only 6 weeks from now!

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Old Feb 7th, 2008, 01:56 PM
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Images2, you'd probably be surprised how many are silently following your report (and of course future people researching their trips!)

I'm also sorry to hear of your loss, and have said a quick prayer for your family's peace of mind.

Your report is great to read. I've spent one New Year's in Salzburg and one in Vienna (and Christmas both times in Regensburg). It's a wonderful part of the world to be at that time of year.

We always go to the Kunsthistorisches museum when we are in Vienna - and I always have to visit the Breugels and the Altdorfers and Cranachs as well. Sisi was a bit too crowded for me, but interesting, although I'm really not a palace person. I did get some earrings that were replicas of some of her jewelry, and I get compliments every time I wear them.

Thanks for all the details in your report, and I hope that you will find comfort in this difficult time.
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Old Feb 7th, 2008, 03:55 PM
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Images, So sorry about your family's loss. Thank you for taking time to share with us. I absolutely WILL make this trip at some point in my life. Don't know how or when, but it will happen one day. Thanks, again, for your report.

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Old Feb 7th, 2008, 10:53 PM
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Thanks so much for taking the time to finish during this difficult time. Your report is full of fantastic information and is greatly appreciated. Even though we hope to go to Germany/Austria in May 2009 I am soaking up all the information.

Kind regards.
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Old Feb 8th, 2008, 05:04 AM
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Images - I thoroughly enjoyed your report. It put me in the holiday spirit all over again. We are hoping to take this same trip for Christmas this year. Right now flights are around $1,000, though, so we're hoping they come down a bit over the next few months.
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Old Feb 8th, 2008, 12:36 PM
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Thanks so much everyone for your prayers and thoughts. It strengthens us.

To those of you planning this trip, I hope the flights and details will work out for you. Austria is such a wonderful country to spend Christmas in. We will never forget the time we spent there, and maybe will return before Christmas again. I don't think our family will let us be gone on Christmas day again, but this once was perfect.

I bought our tickets on March 22,2007 if it's of any help. Salzburg was easy to get low priced accomadations, at B&B's but Vienna didn't have any I could find. The B&B's there were still around €95-100. I was very happy we stayed inside the ring, and Pension Suzanne rooms were great. I think they may fill up quickly since so many of their guests return each year.

Enjoy your travel planning and have a wonderful year!
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Old Apr 11th, 2008, 05:28 AM
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Great Info thanks!
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Old May 6th, 2008, 02:31 PM
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Images2, I hope to spend Christmas 2010 in Austria. Thanks for this report, I know it will be a great help.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2008, 10:14 AM
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We are headed to Salzburg, Vienna and Munich on Thanksgiving day and found a wonderful pension in Vienna for bargain prices. Aviano, My Secret Home. Great reviews, very responsive on email and in a perfect location.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2008, 10:23 AM
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Kfusto - we will be in those towns around the same time as you. Munich 11/25-11/28, Vienna 11/30-12/3, and Salzburg just for one night 12/4.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2008, 12:48 PM
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Old Nov 4th, 2008, 11:27 AM
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Bookmarking - great trip report, Images2!
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Old Nov 6th, 2008, 04:14 AM
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Thanks so much. It was a wonderful trip, one I wish we could take every few years around Christmas!
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Old Jul 15th, 2009, 04:12 PM
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Old May 19th, 2011, 03:02 AM
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Just want to say what a wonderfully organised and energetic pair you are! We live in the UK and have been to Munich, Salzburg and Vienna many, many times over the last 15 years or so, but have never managed to fit in as much as you did. We also learned so much from this report too. Thank you for taking the time to write it. We are going again in December 2011 with our 2 young boys (really looking forward to it)and I found that this has helped us to plan so much.

Take care, and please keep on posting!
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