What says Christmas better than having a mug of glühwein (mulled wine) in one hand and a giant pretzel in another? Every town in Austria has its own Christmas market but perhaps the most famous ones are in Vienna, the city of the waltz. The Christmas markets are scattered around the center of Vienna but there are a few at the outskirts too.
The biggest and the best is the Christmas market (Christkindlmarkt) in front of the City Hall. It celebrates its 30 year anniversary this year. Beware of the crowds though! You should visit it twice. Once during the day so you can see the goods at the different stalls (Christmas decorations, chocolates, gingerbread, candles, ceramic ware, leather notebooks, etc.) and once in the evening so you can admire the Christmas lights and decorations which hang from the trees. If you have got children then you can take them to participate in the Christmas workshops in the City Hall so they can make marzipan cookies or candles or other stuff for a small fee. You can also hear Christmas carols or Christmas stories read by different Austrian celebrities at the stage under the giant Christmas tree. Of course, there’s plenty of choice of food and drinks. You can have hot chocolate, or punch or mulled wine in beautifully decorated Christmassy mugs. The average price of mulled wine is 3.50 euros, but you actually pay it 6 or 7 euros because of the deposit for the mug. If you return the mug you get back 3 euros, but if you decide to keep it ( and it is so nice that you would want to keep it) you actually paid your drink 6.50 euros. But it’s worth it. Trust me, I had the best mulled wine and punch at Vienna’s Christmas markets.
Every Christmas market has got its own style of the mug so you can drink around and decide to keep the one you like the best or collect them all 🙂 You can eat sausages and you can have soup in the bread or baked potatoes or chestnuts or toasted almonds and many other traditonal foods. So, don’t be on a diet when you come to Vienna! Apart from all the gorgeous foods&sweets at the Christmas markets there are so many old fashioned traditional pastry &cake shops that you just can’t say no to a piece or two of cake.
If you love castles and art then you should visit the Christmas markets at the Schönbrunn palace and/or the one at Belvedere palace. Castles make a nice background to Christmas stalls, dont’ you think so? There’s a similar regal feel at the Christmas market in front of the former Hapsburg residence Hofburg (Weihnachtsmarkt Michaelerplatz). I had the most delicious apple&cinnamon punch at the Christmas market at Stephansplatz (St.Stephen’s Cathedral square) on Sunday. And I kept the mug too 🙂 I’ve got three now. One from the Christmas market at the Schönbrunn palace from my first visit to Vienna in 2005 and another one from the City Hall’s market from last year. Sadly, I won’t keep this year’s mug because I plan to give it as a gift. I’ll just pop in a few delicious pralines (Mozartkugeln).
Last year I also visited two Christmas markets that are perhaps less touristy and more frequented by the locals. Those are the Old Viennese market at the Freyung and Weihnachtsmarkt am Hof. The one you should avoid at all cost is the Christmas /New Year village at Maria-Theresien platz because this is where most tourist groups get on/off their buses so it’s almost impossible to walk around this Christmas market. However, two magnificent museums are at this square so if you want to visit them (The Natural History Museum and the Museum of Art History) you will have to bear with the crowds. Just behind this square is the MQ (Museums Quartier) where you can also find a small Christmas market. If you go to Prater to take a ride on the giant romantic Ferris Wheel then you’ll also see another Christmas market. There are two other notable Christmas markets that are a bit further away from the center and those are Christmas Village Former General Hospital and the Christmas Market at Spittelberg.
This year I visited for the first time the Advent market by the Karlskirche (the beautiful baroque St. Charles’s church). It’s less decorated than the City Hall’s market and there are more arts&crafts stalls here. There are a lot of activities for children here too such as hay stacking and rides. All markets cater for children too, so whichever you choose you won’t be disappointed. Naturally, you don’t have to be a child to enjoy the Christmas markets in Vienna. There’s something for everyone in Vienna. Whether you want to try local food or buy handmade Christmas baubles (they’re quite expensive) or just admire the Christmas decorations I’m sure you’ll love the Christmas markets experience.
All the Christmas markets are usually open daily from 10 am to 10 pm but some close earlier (9pm) and some open later on Sundays (11am). They are all held from the middle of November to Christmas but some such as the Christmas market at the Schonbrunn palace and the one at the Maria-Theresien platz are also opened during New Year’s holidays. If you want to avoid the crowds try visiting during the week and not at the weekend.
Here’s my list of the best Christmas markets in Vienna:
- Christkindlmarkt at Rathaus platz (City Hall square)
- Christmas Market at Stephansplatz
- Christmas Market in front of Schönbrunn castle
- Weihnachtsdorf in front of Belvedere castle
- Weihnachtsmarkt Michaelerplatz
- Adventmarkt Am Hof
- Altwiener Christkindlmarkt at the Freyung
- Adventmarkt in front of Karlskirche
- Wintermarkt at Riesenradplatz
- Weihnachtsdorf Maria Theresien-Platz
So have you visited Vienna? What about its Christmas markets? Have you experienced Christmas markets in another country?
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