The German expression "Es weihnachtet sehr" (It's getting very Christmassy) fits the mood in Vienna as Austria's capital decks itself out in style for the holiday season.
The centre of the old Habsburg empire treats locals and visitors to quaint Christmas markets featuring crafts and decorations, hot punch and baked goods in all the city's main squares.
Consistently voted the world's most liveable city, Vienna goes all out for the season. Christmas markets are open daily from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They close on December 24 at 5 p.m.
BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER
The Ottoman Turkish sieges of Vienna in the 16th and 17th centuries never managed to overwhelm the city but did leave behind a cafe culture that still thrives. Every Viennese has their own favorite for coffee and a leisurely klatsch about the day's events.
Try the Landtmann across from City Hall - once Sigmund Freud's regular haunt - or the Cafe Central, and watch the heads of society-conscious locals snap up to see who has just walked in with whom.
A stroll through the Naschmarkt, the 1.5-km-long (1-mile) open-air market with food stalls that first opened in the 16th century, offers more international variety.
Cheese fans shouldn't not miss Poehl's.
Restaurants don't offer just meat and potatoes, exemplified by the renowned breaded and fried veal dish known as Wienerschnitzel.
Steiereck in Stadtpark (City Park) is a foodie magnet that often books out weeks in advance. Figlmueller is known for Wienerschnitzels too big for the average plate to hold.
For people ready for a jaunt on Vienna's excellent public transport, head out to the 19th District to a heuriger, the often rustic taverns featuring local wines.
ARTS & CULTURE
Austria is filled with grandiose castles and palaces, and three of the best are in Vienna. The Hofburg, inside the elegant ring road that encircles the city centre, used to be the imperial residence and was built up with ever more majestic additions by a series of emperors from the 14th to the 20th centuries, each striving to outdo his or her predecessors. Today, it's the official residence of the Austrian president but most sections are open to visitors. The complex includes the Spanish Riding School, where the famous Lippizan horses are put through their paces in balletic displays. For a double dose of schmaltz, the Spanish Riding School is teaming up on a few selected dates until June 2014 with the Vienna Boys' Choir.
The baroque Belvedere palace, just outside the city centre with sweeping views over Vienna, houses an impressive art collection from Vienna in its fin-de-siecle heyday. It includes the famed Gustav Klimt painting The Kiss, which you can also see reproduced on countless scarves, packs of cards and lighters in souvenir shops around the city.
A 15-minute taxi ride from the centre, or a cheaper tram, brings you to the Schoenbrunn Palace estate. Originally planned as a palatial hunting lodge in the 17th century, the site includes extensive gardens and Europe's oldest zoo. In December, it also hosts - you guessed it - a Christmas market.
Back in the city centre, the MuseumsQuartier is a complex of mostly modern art museums built around the former imperial stables. Cafes spill out into the large outdoor courtyard and the area has a lively yet laid-back feel - think Pompidou Centre minus the street artists.
Among the plethora of museums in the city, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, with its extensive Habsburg painting collections of Venetian, Flemish, Dutch and German masterpieces stands out. Until January 12, it is also home to an exhibition of 141 paintings by the late British figurative painter Lucian Freud, many of them on rare loan from private collections. It is the first time Sigmund Freud's grandson has had a show in Vienna and it is likely to be the last time for several years that such a collection is brought