WHY GO THERE?
Vienna is a beautiful city at any time of the year with its lavish palaces and ornate architecture. But in the run up to Christmas, the Austrian capital is particularly magical. Every year, the city’s most picturesque squares play host to Christmas markets (many open from mid-November) where you can take in the lovely aromas of scented candles, roasted chestnuts, spiced biscuits (spekulatius) and mulled wine (weihnachtspunsch). Throw in a good chance of a light dusting of snow and some seasonal ice rinks and it’s like walking inside a Christmas card.
WHAT MUST I DO?
The city’s biggest festive market is the Christkindlmarkt, with 200 stalls in a stunning setting in front of the Town Hall on Rathausplatz. As well as shopping, you can also glide around the ice skating rink bordered by trees festooned with fairy lights. The festive market on Stephansplatz, with the city’s cathedral as its backdrop, is also worth a visit. A favourite with both locals and visitors is the picture-perfect market located in front of the magni cent Schönbrunn Palace, with its traditional handicrafts, decorations and inviting food and drink wooden chalets. On a smaller scale is the Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace. Whet your appetite for festive food at the Opera House’s advent market, where you can pick up all kinds of delicious foodie gifts. For a change of scenery, head to the Prater, the city’s most famous park, and take a ride on the 65-metre high Ferris wheel for panoramic vistas of the city. Go after dark when it’s lit up and the city is looking at its most magical!
WHERE TO STAY
OK! stayed at the Imperial Riding School Renaissance Vienna Hotel. Back in the 19th Century, the building housed a military riding school, but it has now been transformed into a stylish 369-room hotel. The city’s sights are on the doorstep and there’s a tube and railway station that links to the airport close by. There’s a gym and indoor pool if you’ve overdone the Viennese pastries or you can just relax in the sauna – but do remember that the Austrians enjoy their saunas naked!
WHERE TO DINE AND BE SEEN
‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ – coffee and cake – is the most civilised of Viennese rituals. You can’t come to Vienna without trying Sachertorte, the divine chocolate cake that was invented in the city. Order a slice of the Original Sacher-Torte at the lavish Sacher Eck café within the ve-star Hotel Sacher. Also native to the city is apple strudel and you can enjoy a slice in the majestic surroundings of Café Gloriette, where you can also view the beauty of the Schönbrunn Palace gardens through the oor-to-ceiling window. Enjoy another bite of history at Griechenbeisl, the city’s oldest restaurant, founded in 1447. OK! recommends the mouth-watering goulashwithpotatorosti,orthewienerschnitzel. ok!
HOW DO I GET THERE?
easyJet (www.easyJet.com) flies from london Gatwick, luton, edinburGh, bristol and manchester to Vienna. a niGht’s stay at the luxury imperial ridinG school renaissance Vienna hotel costs from £124 for a double room and includes breakfast. for more tourism details Visit the austrian tourist board website at www.austria.info/uk.
FEATURE: ZOE HILL
EDITED BY OK! TRAVEL EDITOR ANNABEL MACKIE