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Vienna at Christmas - Art, architecture & music in the Habsburg Capital

Comprehensive overview of Vienna’s art and architecture, including a day dedicated to the Secession movement.

Perfectly located 5-star heritage hotel.

Attend La Bohème at the Vienna State Opera on Christmas Day.

  • Vienna, Karlskirche.
    Vienna, Karlskirche.
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Vienna was once the seat of the Habsburgs, the centre of the Holy Roman Empire and capital of a multinational agglomeration of territories which encompassed much of Central and Eastern Europe. Today she is an imperial city without an empire. She is a relic, but a glorious relic, and one of the world’s foremost centres of art, architecture and music.

The Kunsthistorisches Museum ranks with the best of Europe’s art collections, and the Court Treasury is without peer for its display of historic regalia and objets d’art. The great Gothic cathedral bears witness to the city’s status in the Middle Ages as the most important city in Danubian Europe; the Church of St Charles and numerous Baroque palaces demonstrate that by the beginning of the 18th century Austria had become one of the great powers.

During the 19th century, when the Empire reached a peak of extent and prestige, a splendid range of historicist buildings was added, notably on the Ringstrasse, the grand boulevard which encircles the medieval core. Around the turn of the century there was an explosion of artistic and intellectual activity which placed Vienna in the forefront of Art Nouveau – here known as Secession – and the development of modernism.

Not all is on a grand scale. Tucked behind the imposing palaces and public buildings are narrow alleys and ancient courtyards which survive from the medieval and Renaissance city. In Vienna the magnificent mixes with the unpretentiously charming, imperial display with the Gemütlichkeit of the coffee houses.

As with all our tours, careful planning to take account of seasonal closures enables us to provide a full programme of visits. There will be some special arrangements to see places not generally accessible.

Day 1

Fly at c.12.40pm from London Heathrow to Vienna (British Airways). Drinks and an introductory lecture before dinner in the hotel.

Day 2

Visit the Stephansdom, the magnificent Gothic cathedral adorned with fine paintings and sculpture. The lecturer leads an afternoon walk in and around the Hofburg, the Habsburg winter palace, a vast agglomeration from six centuries of building activity. Within the complex are the Great Hall of the library, one of the greatest of Baroque secular interiors, and the collection of precious regalia in the Treasury. Adjacent is the court church of St Augustine.

Day 3

Visit the Church of St Charles (Karlskirche), the Baroque masterpiece of Fischer von Erlach. See the palace and garden of Schloss Belvedere, built on sloping ground overlooking Vienna for Prince Eugene of Savoy, which constitutes one of the finest residential complexes of the 18th century. It now houses the Museum of Austrian Art with paintings by Klimt and Schiele.

Day 4, Christmas Eve

Walk passing the decommissioned railway station pavilions by Wagner and Olbrich and visit of the Secession building, built in 1898 as an exhibition hall for avant-garde artists, with Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze.The Museum of Applied Arts has international and Viennese collections, which are strikingly displayed. After lunch, drive to the outskirts to visit the hospital church ‘Am Steinhof’ (Otto Wagner), the most beautiful example of Secessionist art and architecture. Christmas dinner. There are several musically embellished midnight masses

Day 5, Christmas Day

The morning is free, though Mass at St Augustine’s is recommended, and some museums are open. After lunch, return to the hotel on foot with the lecturer, passing some of Vienna’s architectural sights: Palais Coburg, Palais Archduke Wilhelm, Stadtgarten, Kursalon. Evening opera at the Vienna State Opera: La Bohème (Puccini), with Marco Armiliato (conductor), Saimir Pirgu (Rodolfo), Anita Hartig (Mimì), Marco Caria (Marcello), Mariam Battistelli (Musetta).

Day 6

Spend the morning in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, one of the world’s most important art collections, particularly rich in Italian, Flemish and Dutch pictures. An afternoon walk through some of the loveliest of Vienna’s streets and squares passes various imposing palaces and, on the Ringstrasse, the Gothic Revival Town Hall and the Neo-Classical Parliament.

Day 7

Private visit to the magnificent Liechtenstein Palace which was built at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries by the richest family in the Habsburg Empire and houses the princely art collection. Time for a leisurely lunch before driving to the airport for the flight to London Heathrow, arriving c. 6.20pm.

Price – per person

Two sharing: £3,340 or £2,990 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,810 or £3,460 without flights.


Air travel (economy class) on scheduled Lufthansa flights (Airbus A321)­; some coach travel and some travel by taxi; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 2 lunches and 4 dinners with wine; all admission charges; all tips for waiters, drivers; all taxes; the services of the lecturer. 


A ticket to 1 performance is included, costing c. £210. Tickets are confirmed in October 2019.


Hotel Bristol, Vienna: 5-star hotel in a superb location on the Ringstrasse near the opera house, traditionally furnished and decorated. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.

How strenuous?

There is quite a lot of walking and standing around in museums, and navigation of the tram system one occasion. Average distance by coach per day: 6 miles.

Are you fit enough to join the tour?

Group size

Between 10 and 22 participants.

Travel advice

Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting:

'A most enjoyable and successful tour.'

'This was a wonderful tour which I thoroughly enjoyed. I learnt so much that I would love to return to Vienna as soon as possible in order to deepen my knowledge of this fascinating city.'

'We had been on the Connoisseur's Vienna trip a few years ago and were so impressed with the lecturer's astonishing breadth of knowledge that we wanted to come again!'