Christmas in Vienna: Museum Edition

The next stop on our holiday vacation was Vienna. After visiting zero museums in Budapest (and one castle complex), we were excited for the art waiting for us in Vienna.

This past summer we spent just over a week in Berlin and visited a total of eight museums (thank you Museum Pass Berlin!). And while we didn’t think we’d hit quite that many in Vienna, we knew there’d be plenty of paintings, sculptures, and exhibits to keep us occupied.

We arrived in the city the day before Christmas Eve. It was a Sunday, which, apparently in Vienna, means just about everything is closed. Luckily, it was the last night of a pretty incredible Christmas market just steps from our Airbnb.

That may be an odd sentence for you to read, because we definitely weren’t impressed with the Christmas markets in Budapest (and by the end of these holiday posts, you’ll find this was the only market we enjoyed!). But this was the least tourist-y Christmas market we attended during our three weeks in Central Europe.

That’s not to say there weren’t tourists present, obviously, there were. But the goods being sold were so much more practical. There was food and drink galore, like any good Christmas market. But I also got a gorgeous marino wool infinity scarf made by hand in Nepal. As well as some bamboo socks. And if you think Chandler was feeling left out, he wasn’t, as he walked home with some traditional German mustard. There weren’t nearly as many Christmas ornaments or glass figurines or the other (in my opinion) tacky gifts that you usually find.

Also nearby was an organic, vegan grocery. The last grocery that would be open until Thursday, December 27th (thanks St. Stephen’s Day).

With many places closing early on Christmas Eve or altogether on Christmas, we decided to go heavy on the museums our first few days. We also had the misfortune to learn that Budapest may have been colder, but Vienna is the windiest city I’ve been to since Chicago circa 2010. So museums were a natural respite from the wind!

Our first stop ended up being our favorite and I cannot recommend the Albertina enough. Initially we went because I’m obsessed with Impressionist paintings and they had a huge Claude Monet exhibit.

We started in the basement and had a wonderful time at the three exhibits on display: Warhol to Richter; Erwin Wurm; and Walter Schmögner. Sculptures & Objects (not pictured).



While perhaps not the most impressive pieces in the museum, they were easily the most fun. And all are still on display now!

My favorite pieces, however, were all found in their permanent collection: Monet to Picasso. The Batliner Collection. Some paintings I loved for the entirety of their work, like Picasso’s Mediterranean Landscape & Joan Miró’s Woman in Front of the Sun.



While others were more enjoyable for their parts. Like these flamingos in Robert Delaunay’s Nude Bathers and Flamingos.


There were also some seriously enjoyable sculptures : ) Like Max Ernst’s Frog & Constantin Brancusi’s Fish (with another Ernst in the background!).



And while I loved the Monet collection just as much as I thought I would, my favorite painting was found far away from the others (and luckily, away from the crowds!). I scoured the internet to find it’s name and I believe it’s called Hemerocallis or Daylilies.


The area we spent the least amount of time in was the state rooms, but I did fall in love with this chandelier. And a lovely family offered to take this photo of us when they saw us struggling to include the Christmas tree in our selfie. Because, come on guys, sometimes selfies aren’t the best way to take a photograph.



What we assumed would take an hour or two ended up taking four. Which ended up being for the best. Besides museums, not a lot else was open in Vienna…including restaurants! So we found it preferable to maximize our time when we did have somewhere to go.

Because of the lack of open restaurants (and no grocery stores to speak of), our Christmas Eve lunch and Christmas Day lunch took place at the same location. But I can’t say we complained too much, seeing as it was probably the best meal we had Vienna, Budapest, or Prague! A ‘steak’ bowl with pumpkin quinotto, seitan steak, caramelized onions, and avacado & a delight wrap with green spelt patty, rocket salad, tomatoes, guacamole, red onion rings, fresh sprouts, and herb sauce. All thanks to Veggiezz.

Next year’s Christmas request is for one of these to open up in Amman : )


The next day found us at an entirely different type of museum: the Kunst Historisches Muesum aka the largest art museum in Austria. The Bruegel exhibit was sold out until 2019 – no hard feelings there. In fact, most of the museum wasn’t really to our taste. There were only a few exceptions. The first being the museum’s architecture itself. Stunning both inside and out:



Otherwise, the only permanent piece(s) that caught our eyes were The Four Elements by Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Fire was my favorite, however Water (not pictured) was the most visually arresting (and appalling).

We had first seen Arcimboldo’s The Four Seasons at the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City in 2015 and it was a nice reunion.


Right before leaving the museum, we had a wonderful surprise. The last exhibit we entered had been curated by Wes Anderson and his partner, Juman Malouf. In 2012, the museum decided to create a new series of exhibitions that would be curated by “remarkable creative individuals.”

The first was selected and curated by the painter and draughtsman Ed Ruscha. The second by the British ceramicist and writer Edmund de Waal. Third: Wes Anderson and Juman Malouf. Titled Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and other Treasuresthe exhibit contains more than 400 objects gathered from all fourteen of the museum’s historical collections. Particular attention was given to the museum’s storage: more than 350 of the objects were brought from depots, with many of them on public display for the very first time.

Which explains the following painting:


And leaves me dying to know who (if anyone) commissioned it and why. I never buy museum books, I feel like just about everything I could want to learn about art nowadays can be found online, but this is a catalogue I wouldn’t mind having.

The rest of the exhibit was just as interesting and very Wes Anderson in it’s selection as well as layout.


And that was it…the end of our true “museum” visits. We also made it to Schönbrunn Palace and Belvedere Museum/Palace, but I’ll leave those to another blog. The rest of our Christmas was spent wandering in the blustery cold and trying to rest in St. Stephen’s Cathedral. We had planned to attend Midnight Mass there the night before, however, we we found it impossible to stay awake and I’m glad we did.


Stunning as the architecture is, it hardly felt like a place of worship. We arrived shortly before mass and there were more tourists than congregants. And they weren’t the quiet kind of tourists either. You’re only supposed to take photos in the back of the church, but many disregarded that rule or talked loudly throughout the church. We did get to enjoy some carols, but didn’t feel like it was appropriate to stay too long. I can easily say it was the “busiest” church I’ve ever been to – and that’s not exactly a compliment. St. Stephen’s Cathedral with and without tourists:


But since we had made the stop early in the evening, we were able to head to a tasty dinner (pizza on Christmas might just be our newest tradition, thanks to Pizzeria Osteria Da Giovanni), followed by a two euro bottle of Hungarian champagne, given to us by a friend and 100% drinkable : )

I hope everyone’s Christmas (or other) holidays were as enjoyable as ours.

  1. Do you remember when we had pizza for Christmas at Janell’s. Dad said you missed the 2 Thanksgivings we had at home. I thought you were home for the first. We had started with breakfast pizza. Throughout the day we had various pizzas as well as desert pizza. It’s good you’re introducing and continuing the tradition with Brett.

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