Whip up some homemade Glühwein or Punsch, pack yourself some Weihnachtskekse and make an evening of it with some friends or that beautiful person you’re trading bodily fluids with on a regular basis (this tour works brilliantly as a first or second or third – or whatever – date idea).
Plus, check out the handy market map we’ve made for you below!
Starting stop: Christmas market lights in front of the Karlskirche
If the Christmas markets are still closed due to lockdown life, you should skip this stop. If they’re open, you should definitely begin at the Christmas markets set up in front of the Karlskirche and lay those pretty baby blue eyes of yours (if you’ve got brown eyes then – your chocolatey soulful brown seeing balls, and if you’ve got green eyes, well, people will be probably staring at you rather than the lights you gorgeous son of a *****) on the glory that is the lights strung up over the markets. They frame good ol’ Karl’s church in the background beautifully.
Stop 2: The giant lit-up store front at Gerstner K u. K. Hofzuckerbäcker & the heavily-Instagrammed red bow
A little walk and a few sips of your Glühwein later, you’ll be standing in front of the charming Hofzuckerbäcker (translation: maker of all things sweet), Gerstner. This legendary place not only has extravagant lights set up on the outside, however, peering inside here is like peering into a storefront setting featured in a rendition of Charle’s Dicken’s play, A Christmas Carol. It’s got all the warm glow and Christmas-sy feels that will give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
Then, a little way up the road is one of the most photographed bows in the world – the big red Christmas lights bow above the Popp & Kretschmer clothing store. Hopefully, the Punsch or Glühwein is warming up your toes by now, so keep on walking after you’ve snapped a couple of pretty pics of you and the bow.
Stop 3: The lit-up visual wonderland at Museumsquartier
In the evening, the Museumsquartier is one lit-up little visual wonderland at this time of year, with all kinds of artistic light projections on many of the buildings that frame the courtyard. There’s actually a few Punschstands set up there (if lockdown hasn’t forced them to close) and, after you’ve spent some time admiring the lights here – along with the cheery atmosphere that is normally floating off the crowd hanging out here of a night time – then this is also a good spot for a Punsch pee break as it’s one of the few places along this tour where there are public toilets on offer.
Stop 4: The Rathausplatz Christmas lights extravaganza
When lit up, the Rathausplatz is like the Las Vegas of Christmas lights in Vienna. It houses the big-ass tree that the city erects (does this sound dirty, or is it just our childish minds?) each year. Take a stroll between the paths weaving throughout the gardens to take in all the little details of the light installations. Give a glance to the lights set up over the Landtmann coffee house and the Burgtheater, as well, if you haven’t got a Christmas lights overload from the Rathausplatz extravaganza.
Stop 5: The showering blankets of lights at the boulevard, Kohlmarkt
What used to be a street where merchants would sell coal back in the day (hence the name) becomes a gorgeous glittering boulevard, no matter which direction you look, at this time of year. The boutiques that line it often decorate their store windows with lights and decorations, too. However, the real attraction is when you look up and have the showering blankets of lights reflect in your tearing up eyes (you’re tearing up as the kitsch of Christmas has gotten to you and it is all so beautiful – yes, tearing up is obligatory on this tour).
The view towards Michaelerplatz is particular a turn-on for your eyeballs. Plus, if you’re running low on Glühwein or Punsch, the Julius Meinl am Graben store is often selling take away cups of the stuff out of their front window.
Stop 6: The lights and decorations inside the store windows at the K. u. K. Hofzuckerbäckerei Demel
The store window Christmas lights and decorations here are just as sweet as this cafe/ Hofzuckerbäckerei cakes and pastries. A warm glow radiates from the windows of this beloved bakery of sweet things known as Demel, and it’s coming from the Christmas scenes they fill their windows with. You’ll probably also see the bakers making Kaiserschmarrn – you can grab this yummy goodness to go if you’re in need of a sweet bite.
Stop 7: Graben’s chandeliers
We only wish we could fit one of the big and beautiful chandeliers dangling over the Graben boulevard in our apartment, but alas, even our Altbau ceilings are too low. Looking down the Graben with this light setup will make even the biggest Grinch want to grab the closest puppy, dress it up in reindeer antlers and sing it Christmas songs. Make sure that your stroll along this street is in slow motion.
Stop 8: The mighty big Christmas tree at Stephansplatz
With the big Gothic church of Stephansdom in the background and a mighty big Christmas tree, the whole scene at Stephansplatz looks like a whole lot of Christmas. If stores and Christmas markets are open, we highly recommend popping into the little Glühwein and Punsch stand set up in the Hof (courtyard) by the teahouse, Haas & Haas.
You’ll often hear a choir echoing from the church at this time of year, as well. If you’re looking to get in from the cold, you should quietly take a seat in the Stephansdom for a while and enjoy the silence (or the choir), even if you’re somebody that isn’t into praying etc.
Stop 9: The big red balls of Rotenturmstraße
We always try to imagine what it’s like for those living in the apartments that are at the same height on either side of the red balls hanging along Rotenturmstraße.
Whoever you are, we appreciate the sacrifice you make every year (we imagine that you see everything red for months afterwards) so that we can enjoy these big heavy balls of red (stop thinking what you’re thinking you filthy, filthy-minded person – we certainly weren’t thinking it when writing this ;-). We strongly recommend either grabbing a waffle from Waffle Time, or a Baumkuchen (translation: Kürtőskalács – a Spit Cake) from HEFI der Wiener Baumkuchen in between gawking at the pretty lit-up street.