The first stop on my winter break trip in 2019 was Vienna, Austria. I arrived in the city the afternoon of December 24th, and found the city completed decorated for the holiday. I took the train into the city from the airport and walked straight to Rathausplatz where a large Christmas market was in full swing.
The market was full of food, handmade gifts and of course, glühwein. The mulled wine came in ceramic mugs that you paid a deposit on, which was returned when you returned the mug. The mugs at the Rathausplatz market were in the shape of a heart.
After exploring the market, we stopped at our hostel, Wombat’s City Hostel Naschmarkt. The location was less than a 30 minute walk from the plaza and closer to the Hofburg. After getting our room set up, we went to a friend’s Airbnb for a Christmas Eve dinner.
On Christmas Day, we explored the parts of the city that we open during the holiday. We went to the Schmetterlinghaus, which hosts a green house and butterfly sanctuary. The building was warm and tropical which was a nice contrast to the December chill outside.
After the Schmetterlinghaus, we went back to Rathausplatz where we got käsespätzle from the Christmas market. We also wandered around downtown Vienna for awhile before returning to our hostel and preparing for the opera, Hansel and Gretel, we had tickets for.
The opera was at Volksoper Opera House. We took an Uber to the location and watched the German opera take place. Although we knew the story and found most of the narrative easy to follow despite not speaking any German, we did get a little lost during the parts that the theatre embellished beyond the traditional storyline.
After our show, we met with some of my roommates from Spain at a Lebanese restaurant, Elissar, that had been recommended to me by an acquaintance who was studying in Vienna. The restaurant was about 20 minutes walking distance from our hostel.
The next morning we walked by the Hofburg on our way to the Spanish Riding School (or Spanische Hofreitschule in German) where we watched a performance on horseback. Note: if you have horse/animal allergies this is probably not for you. I had to leave the arena early due to mine.
After the performance, we explored downtown Vienna, with its high-end shopping streets and Catholic churches. We ended our day at the Natural History Museum which includes numerous exhibits of natural and human history. We spent a few hours wandering the museum and there was still much more we could have seen.
We wove our way through the Christmas market after leaving the museum, until it was time to go to the Vienna Central train station and catch our 6 pm train to Bratislava, Slovakia.