Everything that changes in Austria in December 2023

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
Everything that changes in Austria in December 2023
The Christmas market just by one of the symbols of Vienna: Stephansdom. (Photo: MAGMAG Events & Promotion GmbH.)

As you might expect given it's Christmas time, December is a busy month in Austria with everything from public holidays to changing train timetables as the country gets ready for the new year. Here's an overview of what to expect.


Holidays and celebrations galore!

Christmas Day (December 25th) is obviously a holiday in Austria, but contrary to tradition in many English-speaking countries in particular, Boxing Day is not marked in Austria, but is celebrated as St. Stephen's Day (December 26th) - which is another public holiday when shops are closed.

But Austrians also mark another public holiday at this time of year. December 8th, when Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfängnis), is also an Austrian public holiday.

There's plenty of other important dates to mark too. For example, every Sunday until Christmas is an Advent Sunday, when Austrian families might light candles or attend special church services in commemoration.

December 4th marks Barbaratag, Krampus pays his visit to Austrian villages and cities on December 5th. Krampus punishes misbehaving children around Christmastime. On the next day, December 6th, it's time for St. Nikolaus to bring chocolate and tangerines to children who were nice during the year.

Christmas Eve (the 24th) is often when Austrian families have their main family meal, rather than the Anglo tradition of the 25th. Shops and Christmas markets are often open on Christmas Eve, but will likely close early - typically between 14:00 and 16:00.



New night trains take to tracks

Austria's state rail company ÖBB will start operating their eagerly anticipated new timetable on December 10th, complete with 'ultra modern' night trains. 

First up, a new night train will start up between Vienna and Berlin, running via Innsbruck three nights a week, before being extended to Hamburg in 2024.

Daytime routes are getting a boost as well, with Vienna-Berlin going five times a day in both directions. A now twice-weekly route between Innsbruck and Berlin running through Munich, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt will also become a daily route.

Beds inside the compartment of a sleeping car of a train of the new generation of the Nightjet sleeper trains. Photo: Alex HALADA/AFP.

Domestic connections are increasing too, with more direct services to the capital from places like Villach and a new evening service between Vienna and Salzburg.

EXPLAINED: How Austria will expand train services in new timetable


Austria launches new digital ID

On December 5th, the new ID Austria will completely replace the Handy-Signatur or "cellphone signature" in Austria.

ID Austria can be used as a way to sign contracts digitally and even as a mobile driving licence.

Check out our primer on ID Austria below.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Austria's new digital ID

Ski season ramps up

Although many legendary Austrian ski resorts, including the famous Kitzbühel resort, are already open - a large chunk of Austrian skiing is to open only in December.

HochZeiger and Hochfügen in Tyrol start the December offerings off by starting up the chair lifts on December 1st and 2nd.

"Geil!" might be a great word to use on an idyllic day of skiing in the Austrian Alps. (Photo by Volker Meyer / Pexels)

Dozens of ski hills then follow suit in December, but for a small handful, you'll have to wait much later in the month. These include Erpfendorf and Kirchdorf in Tyrol, with opening days on December 26th.

You can find a full list of opening days for Austrian ski hills here.

Avalanches in Austria: What you should know to stay safe in the mountains


Christmas markets

Most Christmas markets in Austria open already in November, but December really sees them get into full swing, especially after advent starts.

Many, however, will either close completely before Christmas, or reduce their hours between Christmas and New Year's. Check out our full rundown in the articles below.


New Year celebrations

Expect lots of fireworks on New Year’s Eve (Silvester) in Austria – no matter where you are in the country.

Most major cities have a large fireworks display planned for midnight on December 31st. But if you want to see them, particularly in a place like Salzburg, be aware that hotels will book out quickly. 

St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna will ring in the New Year, with a fireworks display that you can also catch from the comfort of home, since it is also broadcast on national television. 

READ ALSO : Weird Austria New Year traditions


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