Many Europeans come to Vienna (Wien) to shop for the Christmas holiday, so the city enjoys a boost in tourism during the dark days of December, where the sun rises around 7:30 and sets around 4 p.m. late in the month.
Bring warm clothes, as it's not uncommon to get snow or freezing rain, though a cup of mulled wine, strong coffee or hot cocoa can take the edge off.
Vienna is a walkable city with an easy-to-figure-out network of public transit that includes buses, trains, rail trams and subways.
Many Viennese speak English, but it never hurts to learn to say "guten tag" (good day) or "Grüß Gott" (a common greeting, meaning literally, "Greet God") when you enter a restaurant or shop. During the holidays, you can also try out, "Fröhliche Weihnachten!" (Merry Christmas!).
There's plenty of good eating, and a strong locavore attitude that emphasizes organic food and sustainable farming. Wine taverns, or heuringers, sell their own wine on premises along with traditional meals such as the ever-present wienerschnitzel. Look for the green branch or wreath on the door. Beislns, or beer houses, serve on large, communal wooden tables. Many coffeehouses, kaffeehäuser, are casual meeting spots that also sell food and wine. And if you're really on the go, grab a chicken kebab at a döner stand; they often are open until the wee hours.
While visiting the place where many legendary classical composers lived -- among them Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Strauss -- find a way to attend a live performance. Options range from expensive tickets to opera halls to more low-key shows catering to those less-erudite. We attended a populist concert with fold-up chairs in a medieval church, where casual attire and squirmy children weren't frowned upon.
Museums and public art
There's no shortage of museums boasting works from the earliest days of the Austrian Empire right up to the ultra-hip contemporary scene. See the world's largest collection of Gustav Klimt's work, including his legendary art nouveau painting "The Kiss," at the Belvedere. Stroll around the MuseumsQuartier, and stop into the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Leopold.
The contrast of ancient and modern abounds in building architecture and with statues and street art. The Holocaust Memorial is one of the more stark examples. A stack of books in stone represents a library of untold stories, to honor the 65,000 Austrian Jews who died. The names of Austrian concentration camps are listed at the bottom.