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Austria over Christmas/holiday break

Hello! My daughter applied for a study abroad at a university in Linz. She won't hear for up to a month on whether she is accepted, but I've been already looking at options for us to visit her :) Austria has been on our long list of places we really want to visit, so we've made the commitment to go if she's accepted, over our two week winter break (Dec 20-Jan 2). I know that's the best/worst time to go, so I'm just looking for advice now on Austria in the winter. This is what I'm thinking so far:

*I'd LOVE to be in Salzburg over Christmas- Dec 24, 25, and maybe 26
*Thinking about flying into Munich on Dec 20 and doing some markets before Christmas
*End the trip in Vienna and do as much Mozart history/orchestra concerts as we can (my son is a violin student with aspirations to be a music teacher someday).
*Of course, I'd love to explore her (hopefully) temporary home, so at least a couple of days in Linz
*We'd like to respectfully visit one concentration camp. There's one outside of Linz and one outside of Munich.
*I understand things are closed on Sundays and I'm expecting a lot to be closed on Christmas eve/day- so advice for the "closed" days would be great.
*Our main focus is seeing our daughter, and with the short days, we don't need to see everything.

Also, how far out should we book hotels, etc. We can't do anything until at least March.
Thanks for any input!

Posted by
12040 posts

**I understand things are closed on Sundays and I'm expecting a lot to be closed on Christmas eve/day- so advice for the "closed" days would be great*. Stores, including grocery, are closed on Sundays. Restaurants, museums, gas stations, monuments, leisure and tourist attractions, etc. remain open.

I can't comment on the specifics of Austria during Christmas, however.

Posted by
1464 posts

Christmas in Austria is mainly a family matter, so don't expect too much being a tourist.

On December 24 shops start closing around 2pm, December 25 and 26 are public holidays, December 27 is a Sunday, i.e. a long weekend with nearly everything closed. You need to check on restaurants and museums regarding their opening hours.

Posted by
5697 posts

We were in Salzburg Dec. 23-26 last year -- Christmas markets were still open (!) on the 25th, and we just walked along the river. Spent the 26th on a Bob's Hallstatt / Sound of Music tour because we expected other stuff to be closed.
Than Vienna for New Year's celebrations ( Sylvester markets, waltzing in the streets.)

Posted by
96 posts

Laura, I'm hoping to end our trip in Vienna, so we should be there over New Year's Eve. Sounds like it's a lot of fun!

Posted by
351 posts

Our son is studying in Austria and we have visited him over the holidays and loved it. Book your Vienna hotel for New Years as soon as you get the news that you will be going. We booked late and there are 5 in our family. We ended up taking two rooms at the Hilton on the river, which is not central to walk to everything, but had an easy walk to a u bahn station and a very easy bus to the airport at the end of our trip. We were very happy with that since we only used it to sleep at night and we had an early, early flight on New Year's morning after being out quite late. They also have a good breakfast buffet.

If you want to do a party or concert on New Years Eve, that should probably also be booked early.

I think your plans are very easy and manageable for that length of trip.

Posted by
4645 posts

Everything will be basically shut down on Dec. 24, 25, 26 and 27 (a Sunday). Those will be very quiet days, but you will find places to eat and things to do, I'm sure. Just don't expect everything to be open as this is a time when Austrians are with family.

The farther out you book, the more choices you will have.

The New Year's celebrations are quite crazy and can be slightly dangerous for children. It is best to enjoy the festivities in the early evening and then go somewhere quiet if you have kids.

Posted by
96 posts

Thanks for the replies! I looked up some hotels in Vienna and some are already booked-- we don't have any plane tickets yet, but I'm thinking if we go, we'll move it to Dec 19-Jan 1. I found a hotel within walking distance of the airport, so now thinking of spending our last night (which would be New Year's Eve) by the airport. That seemed to open some more hotel options (the problem seemed to be more with Dec 31 than the 29th or 30th). It's still theoretical at this point, but it's good to get input on what that time period would be like. Thanks!

What university is your son at?

Posted by
1767 posts

Europe's most powerful concentration camp is Mauthausen, located 30m from Linz (Auschwitz was a death camp). There's also Dachau that's located 15m by train outside of Munich. However, Dachau has more of a museum feel and Mauthausen puts you in the prisoners shoes.
I would also buy RSEs Munich & Salzburg plus Vienna guidebooks which you can download from his app. You can take his self-guided walking tours the days when everything is closed.
There are two things you want to purchase as far out as possible and that's lodging and insurance.

Posted by
6 posts

We did a holidays tour back in 2000 and it was great! Caution that some hotels will require a three night stay over those holidays. But it's a very festive time to visit. Munich has a lot of good Christmas markets. Salzburg has a big one as well around Mozart Platz and the Dom. It snowed one night in Salzburg and it was magical! I don't remember having any problem finding places to eat. I agree with the suggestion of Augustinerbraü ... it's a wonderful beer hall with food vendors in the lower hallway of the church. Great atmosphere and one of the cheapest places to eat in Salzburg. I go there every time I go to Salzburg. The Marionette Theater may be doing a Christmas show and it's well worth going to ... wonderful to see a professional puppet theater. The churches may have services on those days and just going and listening to the music can be quite relaxing. Walk the passages in Salzburg ... they're wonderful. One has a great flower shop that I love and have taken photos of over the years. Take the Bahn up to the castle and walk down. Walk along the Salzach River ... pathways on both sides. Salzkammergut is a wonderful day trip but driving would be optimum.
Do a lot of research on hotels, including how close they are to public transport. Sometimes you can find a really reasonable room right on a tram line that will take you into the old town in minutes. Watch for free cancellations, just in case your plans change closer to trip date. No subways in Salzburg but the transit system is very good.
Munich subways are great if you want to go distances. They also have the hop on hop off buses. I went out to the palace on one, checked it out and got back on another later to finish the trip.
In one airport and out another is a good way to save time as well ... I do it almost every trip. No backtracking.
Best of all ... enjoy ... it's a wonderful time to travel and Salzburg, especially, is magical at Christmas, and I'm sure Vienna is as well.

Posted by
96 posts

Thank you so much! Your information is very helpful!!!!

I'm sad to report that my daughter is postponing her study abroad until fall 2021 :( That means this trip won't happen until Dec 2021... but I have saved all your information to a Word document, so I will be able to use it all in a year. Thanks so much!