Advent program for children
In the run-up to Christmas, a family visit to the Viennese Christmas Market at City Hall Square is a tradition. Children will be wide-eyed at the sight of the wares and treats offered by the 100 or so market booths. A stone’s throw from the 12-meter-high hand-painted carousel is the Viennese Christmas Market with market stalls that offer products tailored specifically to its youngest visitors. Kids’ punch and hot chocolate will also be served there in smaller cups at child-sized bar tables.
An interactive program playfully shortens the wait for the big day for children between 3 and 12 years: In the Kids Pavilion, the market’s youngest guests can make their own tree decorations, decorate candles and create their own Advent calendars or gift boxes every day in the creative corner. The reading and book corner is full of stories, and the kids can also write a letter to the Christ Child here. There are new games to try out in the games corner, or they can build a winter landscape out of Lego.
The highlights of what is on offer at the Viennese Christmas Market every weekend and on public holidays (from 3 p.m.) include an advent and Christmas quiz, building the biggest gingerbread house in Vienna, a Christmas disco, making animals out of balloons, face painting for children and carol singing.
The Rathauspark is full of attractions, from the reindeer train and nostalgic Giant Ferris Wheel to the oversized XL Advent calendar and the Herzerlbaum, mistletoe pavilion and nativity scene trail. Children can enjoy their first experience of ice skating free of charge on the 150 m² children’s ice rink (skating aids and skates can be hired at the venue). Grown-up ice skaters can get their fill along romantic fairytale paths across the Rathauspark at the Ice Dream at the Christmas Market (overall skating area: 3.000 m²). (Viennese Christmas Market: 11.10. - 12.26.2023; Ice Dream at the Viennese Christmas Market: 10.11.2023 - 7.1.2024)
Other Advent markets with attractions for children
A visit to an Advent market is sure to enchant families – here is a selection of where you can find special attractions for children:
Art Advent on Karlsplatz presents handicrafts and demonstration workshops, and the children can also look forward to an extensive daily offering: the straw landscape, the Draisinen Express, the lost property carousel, barrel organ music from Werkelmann, supervised creative handicrafts in the Star Workshop in the big yurt at the pond area (daily 3.00 pm - 7.00 pm) and storytellers in the Sky Tent (Thu-Sun 3.00 pm). (November 24 – December 23, 2023)
The Prater organizes a winter market on Riesenradplatz. The kids explore the Prater together with the adults – such as on adventure rides on board the winter train, high-flying rides on the chair-o-plane, and at the autodrome. A round on the Giant Ferris Wheel is unforgettable for everyone. Music appeals to everyone: Every Wednesday to Sunday, mostly local artists give live concerts ranging from gospel to pop. (November 18 – January 7, 2023)
At the Advent market in the Remise Transport Museum, the children’s craft room (upcycling of Wiener Linien products), the vintage streetcar, a curling rink and concerts in the historic setting of Wiener Linien’s Tramway Museum will help pass the time spent waiting for Christmas to come around. (12.01. - 12.17.2023, Fri - Sun)
Weekend visitors to the Christmas Village on the University Campus at the Old General Hospital will encounter a range of Christmas characters, including the Christ Child, elves and the star of Bethlehem – some of them walking on stilts. The bakery and rides such as the children’s carousel and the children’s train are popular attractions for the youngest generation. (10.11. - 23.12.2023)
At the small but beautiful Advent Market at the Gartenpalais Liechtenstein, there is a historic horse carousel next to the huge playground. (17.11. - 23.12.2023)
The Christmas Exhibition at the Hirschstetten Botanical Gardens celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2023, presenting Frau Holle, Snow White and Rose Red and many other tales as part of its “Fairy Tales” theme. This includes an advent market with crafts and a carousel for the children. (23.11. – 23.12.2023)
Christmas atmosphere in and around Schönbrunn Palace
There is a lot for young visitors to discover at what is already the 30th annual Cultural and Christmas Market & New Year’s Market at Schönbrunn Palace: the adventure games areas, the Christmas-themed hidden picture game and the life-sized games of four-in-a-row and memory. Shepherds on stilts help young visitors to solve tricky riddles during the hands-on puzzlehunt. The courtyard carousel beckons youngsters to take a ride on it – and the best part is that it’s propelled by the pedal power of the adults who pedal alongside them. Father Christmas will visit the Palace on December 5 and 6. Creative minds will have fun in the sugary-sweet Christmas workshop. (18.11.2023 - 4.1.2024)
Next door in the Schloss Schönbrunn Children’s Museum, Poldi the castle ghost has come up with a number of activities: the “It’s Christmas at the Children’s Museum” themed tour, the winter puzzlehunt, the “Secret Santa” treasure hunt game, and Poldi’s handicrafts workshop. Santa Claus will drop by on December 6, and a hand puppet performance of “Poldi and Martina the Christmas Goose” will take place on December 24 in addition to the main Christmas program.
At the Lilarum, Vienna’s largest children’s theater, Christmas puppet shows will fascinate even the youngest children aged three and up with the story Hase Hoppla und der Weihnachtsbaum (Hoppla Rabbit and the Christmas Tree). Famous theater performers will lend their voices to Hase & the others, including Anne Bennent and Andy Hallwaxx. (2. - 24.12.2023)
The Apfelbaum Fairy Tale Stage presents Die Heilige Nacht (The Holy Night), based on a story by Selma Lagerlöf. (16., 17., 22. - 24.12.2023)
Shepherd’s carols and children’s opera
Opera specially for families: at the Peterskirche (Church of St. Peter), downstairs in the bright, comfortably heated crypt. The Christmas Witch flies to the music of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. In the Italian Christmas story, Befana the witch arrives too late for the birth of baby Jesus. She comes across the Three Wise Men, who are just setting off on their journey home. (December 23, 24, 26, 2023)
Advent concerts, theater, musicals
Family highlights at the Stadtsaal are the concert Wenn es Winter wird (When winter comes) with Mai Cocopelli (December 2 & 3, 2023) and an afternoon with Marko Simsa. He and the Kokosbusserl Band invite everyone to rummage deep in the treasure chest of Christmas songs (December 17, 2023).
Markus Simsa will also host Welcome Christmas, a concert performed by the Wiener Symphoniker and the Singverein for audiences aged 10 and older at the Vienna Music Society. Film music – for example from Frozen and Harry Potter – will also be in the program.
The popular children’s songwriter Bernhard Fibich will delight audiences with Christmas-themed interactive concerts at House of Music (December 17-23, 2023) and Kabarett Niedermair (December 13, 2023).
There is yet more going on at Kabarett Niedermair: a surprise pre-Christmas theatrical experience for the whole family with lots of carols is brought to the stage by Schneck & Co: Herr Holle hört Weihnachten (December 8 & 22, 2023). Winter stories & Christmas carols for everybody aged 5 and up are brought to you by the Danube Pirates from Asagan (12.20.2023). Unusual instruments are used at the Schneck & Co Christmas Concert, ranging from a musical saw to an angklung (December 23, 2023).
Here’s a tip for families with older children: the traditional Christmas in Vienna gala at the Wiener Konzerthaus. In addition to the fantastic ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna, conducted by Claire Levacher, soloists in the program include the Vienna Boys’ Choir, the Vienna Choral Girls and wonderful singers including Patricia Petibon, Joyce DiDonato and Lawrence Brownlee. (December 16; preview December 15, 2023)
Program changes possible.