Between The Years

From “Fa la la la la” to “Auld Lang Syne”: a user’s manual for surviving the holidays

Top Stories | Catherine M. Hooker | December 2013 / January 2014

Hosting the holidays is Vienna’s strong suit. But for locals, this near "state of emergency" means navigating countless first-world problems like finding an open shop after 17:00 on Saturday, a restaurant on Christmas day, or simply a place to re-fill that Glühwein mug. 

The official holidays in Austria are 24 through 26 Dec., New Years Eve, New Years Day, and Epiphany on 6 Jan..  The usual hours are stretched before Heiligabend (Christmas Eve) as from 24 Dec. to 7 Jan., Vienna insists you enjoy yourself! So for late shoppers and holiday revellers, here is a guide to the days "zwischen den Jahren" (between the years).


Shop till you drop

As before, Mariahilferstraße will be closed to traffic each Saturday in December.  So savvy shoppers use a delivery service such as Go-Botendienst to send bags home in shifts. Just make sure someone is home. (Mon. to Fri., for prices see:

After a long gift search, relax at the cosy Vollpension, a pop-up café in the studio of jeans designers Gebrüder Stitch (inner courtyard,  Mariahilferstraße 101).

Starting 22 Nov., grandmas and grandpas prepapre their best recipes to help connect the generations. (Fri.-Sun. through 31 Dec.,

As the holidays begin, there are still a few markets for hand-made treasures and steaming Punsch open after 23 Dec.

The Weihnachtsdorf at Maria-Theresien-Platz is open from 11:00 to 19:00 on 25 and 26 Dec. (, the Christmas and New Year’s Market (Weihnachtsmarkt and Neujahrsmarkt) at Schönbrunn from 10:00 to 19:00 from 25 Dec. to New Year’s Day (, and the Wintermarkt on Riesenradplatz is open through 6 Jan.  (


Urban festivities

For those making a home-away-from-home in Vienna, there are plenty of ways to join in on local festivities for Christmas and New Year’s Day. Midnight mass at St. Stephens Cathedral begins at 23:00 on 24 Dec. Come early for a seat.  (

On New Year’s Eve, Silvester, Vienna becomes pleasingly unhinged, with wild parties and myriad public events. Among them is the Silvesterpfad or "New Year’s Path" ( There will be 13 stages with music and entertainment from two in the afternoon until two in the morning. This is not for the faint of heart, as the Inner City is jam-packed – last year the path saw 790,000 guests. Check the Events Calendar (page 17) for more to-dos. Outside the Ring, the new Wintermarkt on Riesenradplatz promises to "Rock the Prater" and offer unforgettable "musical fireworks" to ring in the New Year .

On New Year’s Day, enjoy the live stream of the Vienna Philharmonic New Year Concert on Rathausplatz. This global tradition, which in 2012 was broadcast to 50 million people in 73 countries, has featured on many a bucket list.

Many restaurants keep special holiday hours and offer Christmas and New Year’s dinners. But reserve early.

See for a full list.


Our holiday dining picks

ma creperie is a cosy Lebanese-French place, best known for its bouillabaisse and crêpes. With a fireplace in the dining room, it’s warm and romantic.  (open Christmas and New Year’s; 1., Grünangergasse 10; (01) 512 56 87)

borromäus, located in the Imperial Riding School Hotel, offers seafood so fresh that you can choose your meal from the tank. This hotel restaurant is an unexpected and tempting option.  (open Christmas and New Year’s; 3., Ungargasse 60; (01) 711 75 0;

vestibül, in the Emperor Franz Josef and Sisi’s private entrance to the Burgtheater, is affordably chic, with top-notch Viennese cuisine, and nearly all ingredients are regional and organic.  (open on New Year’s; 1., Dr. Karl Lueger-Ring 2; (01) 532 49 99;

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