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The best winter activities to do in Vienna this year

Julia Hjelm Jakobsson
Julia Hjelm Jakobsson - [email protected]
The best winter activities to do in Vienna this year
Photo by Markos Mant on Unsplash

From hidden Christmas markets to organised winter swims, spa visits and skiing, Vienna offers something for everyone during the colder months.

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Visit hidden punch booths

November marks the opening of the Christmas markets where you can gather with your friends, enjoy traditional food and Glühwein (mulled wine), and buy unique handicrafts to bring home. However, what many people may not know is that the city also offers some more secretive spots to enjoy the Christmas spirit.

Private organisers often run their own punch booths, known as “Punschstands” in German, where people can grab a glass of punch. The Ritz hotel and IKEA at Westbahnhof typically organise their own Punschstands, providing a more intimate atmosphere.

Additionally, many of Vienna’s districts organise their own smaller stands, such as the 9th district with its smaller Christmas market in Liechtenstein Park, or the 10th district, with its smaller market at Franz-Jonas-Platz. Most districts communicate information about their smaller events through their online platforms including social media.

READ ALSO: Vienna Christmas markets - the dates and locations for 2023

Go skiing close to the city

Vienna might be further away from the slopes than many other Austrian cities, but it still offers great opportunities for spontaneous getaways. The town of Semmering is only one hour away from Vienna and has its own ski resort, offering different slopes with great views of its surroundings.

If you want to go on a ski tour, walking up the mountains with your special shoe bindings and skins, there are even more opportunities nearby, such as Schneeberg, the highest mountain near Vienna, which offers great routes for people going on ski tours.

Photo by Markos Mant on Unsplash

Enjoy the café culture

Vienna is famous for its café culture, and on cold winter days, a visit to a café might be a great idea.

The city's coffee culture provides visitors with insights into its rich history and traditions.

Typical features of a Viennese coffeehouse include small marble-topped tables where coffee is served, thonet chairs and newspaper tables. The coffeehouse is a place meant for people to spend a longer amount of time in, while reading, just relaxing or having conversations.

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READ ALSO: Caffeine, war and Freud - a history of Vienna's iconic coffee houses 

Experience ice skating in the city centre

It is possible to go ice skating in many places around the city during winter. The most popular spot is the ice-skating scene at Rathausplatz, known as Vienna Ice World. It spans around 9,000 sqm and holds three large ice rinks connected by pathways, offering great views of the city.

For a more budget-friendly option, the Vienna Ice Skating Club (Wiener Eislaufverein) in the third district, close to Stadtpark, has a huge ice rink with a tradition dating back to 1867.

People ice skating Photo by Krzysztof Kowalik on Unsplash

Visit a spa and learn about the sauna culture

Visiting a spa (Therme in German) during winter is a popular activity in Austria. The most famous one in Vienna is Therme Wien, the largest spa in the city located in Oberlaa, in the 10th district. It consists of around 4,000 square meters of water surface, 3,000 square meters of sauna area, and a 6,000 square meter of health therapeutic area.

The health sector offers a wide range of treatments and therapies. At Therme Wien, you can experience Austrian and German sauna culture with “Aufguss”, a tradition involving pouring essential-oil-infused water onto the sauna's hot stones and using towel movements to circulate the fragrant air.

Other spas nearby worth a visit include Vöslauer Thermalbad and Römertherme Baden, both approximately 30 minutes outside of Vienna.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Do I have to be naked in Austrian saunas?

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Check out the museums

Vienna has a wide range of different museums which are perfect to visit on a cold winter day. Among the most famous ones, are the Art History Museum, Leopoldmuseum, Albertina, and Belvedere for art. The Natural History Museum and Weltmuseum cover world history, while Hofburg, Sisi Museum, and Schönbrunn Palace exhibits the history of the Austrian Empire and important figures from its time.

Climb to the top of the most important cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the most famous cathedral in Vienna, located in the heart of the city centre. If you're seeking an alternative hike with a view in the centre of the city, this might be your choice. The cathedral offers the opportunity to climb 343 steps to its top, where you will be rewarded with great views of the city. On a clear day, you can even see mountains in the distance, such as the nearby peak, Schneeberg. The cathedral is over 700 years old and considered one of the most important landmarks in the country.

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Enjoy winter swimming

Ice swimming is an activity growing in popularity and believed to have great health benefits. In Vienna, you can participate in this activity with the guidance of professional instructors. The Badeschiff, a boat restaurant with a pool located at Franz-Josephs-Kai, is open daily, with an entry fee of €3.50. Their outdoor pool offers water as cold as 1C and instructors provide various swimming programs to participate in.

If you prefer a more natural setting, Donau Insel, the long, narrow artificial island in central Vienna, also offers a cold bath, with a nearby subway station for a quick return to your hot shower. It is not uncommon to see people taking dips on the island in the city during the coldest winter days.

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