Visiting the Christmas markets of Vienna left me with two big questions; would I see Santa? Or can dinosaurs drink gluwhein? Sadly, the answer to both was no. Instead the Christmas markets had unique surprises waiting for me. Vienna is a city which knows how to celebrate Christmas in style; fairy tale-esque Christmas market stalls are hidden among imperial palaces. Christmas lights line the streets which are filled with the aroma of freshly baked gingerbread, without a tacky Christmas decoration in sight. Vienna is a lot bigger than I envisioned when planning for this trip, luckily the majority of markets are within easy walking distance of each other. I traveled to Austria under the impression the Christmas Markets would all be very similar. With hot chestnuts, sausages, mulled wine and tree decorations being the main selling points; each Christmas market is different, though carnivores can get their fill of sausages at each market.
Each human I have spoke to has a different preference when visiting the markets; often the Viennese will visit the same stalls and markets each year (a lovely tradition). I didn’t have time to visit all of the Christmas Markets, although I tried, I had planned to visit 5 but ended up visiting more.
St Stephens Cathedral is in the centre of Vienna, near the main shopping streets. There are a few stalls selling punch, but the majority are filled with handmade crafts. From 4pm the market becomes very busy due to the central location below such such an iconic building. When the crowds get too much there is the option to hide in a tea shop or escape to the top of the cathedral for some beautiful views of the city.
The baroque Palace is a little bit of a walk from the centre but is a magical Christmas market. It is pretty small and quiet, I didn’t find the stalls to be anything special. I did enjoy the landscape gardens and the sledge tree. The view of the upper Belvedere Palace is beautiful with Christmas stars scattered across the lake. It is more romantic than other markets and I imagine it looks very beautiful lit up at night.
Kaiserlich and Koniglich Weihnachtsmarkt is the most elegant and aesthetically pleasing market. Sitting on the crossroads of Kohlmarkt and Herrengassein the shadows of Hofburg Palace. This small market has to be the only place where you can visit roman ruins, a Palace and shop for baubles at the same time. A great time to visit is sunset to see the lights twinkling. The only downside is the smell of the horses.
I found this market purely be chance whilst trying to escape the crowds of Mariahilfe Strasse (a huge shopping street). I liked this market because it felt more christmassy than some of the other markets I visited. It is also bigger and nestled in between two very grand old buildings; the museum of art and the museum of natural history (a must visit because it is filled with dinosaurs!). So you can fill yourself full of art, culture and pretzels. Before saying Hallo! To some of my prehistoric friends. The best time to visit is mid afternoon, so you can experience the lights before the after work crowds appear.
This is the Viennese Christmas market Instagram shows you. This is where the most stalls are found, along with a nativity walk and rides for smaller humans. Though it is totally aimed at tourists, I will admit Rathaus turned out to be one of my favourite Christmas markets. Early in the day it was nice to see the stalls. But I loved seeing all of the Christmas lights and the tree of hearts.
Many of my Viennese friends told me about Spittleberg Christmas market because it is unlike any other market in Vienna. Hidden in a few back streets being the museumsquartier are some very unique stalls.
I am sad I didn’t enjoy it here as much as I thought I would but the crowds proved too much. I can only describe this as traditional Viennese and it is in an area with beautiful buildings and graffiti. Two stalls I found and really loved seeing were the coloured cheeses and of course the dinosaur stall!
This small market was located really close to my hotel and turned into my favourite market, I bought some gingerbread here and it is the best I have ever eaten. There is also a champagne bar here. The stalls also have an inside where you can hide from bad weather.
A stones throw from this market is Freyung.
This was also my favourite market because it was a lot more traditional and more relaxed. I just loved the band playing music and the narrow spaces between huts, it created such a jolly atmosphere. The back of the huts also plays host to the largest nativity scene in Austria, 46 metres long, though I will admit I walked past it three times before realising what it was.
It is set in a simply beautiful setting, making it the ideal market for a keen photographer to visit (the one I travel with loved it!). Karlskirche is an imposing figure forming the backdrop of Artadvent. The goods differ here because they are required to be hand made by the seller and approved by a jury. Making some of the finds here totally unique. I really enjoyed watching the artists sitting and drawing in their huts.
The best part is, once your all shopped out, some friendly locals are on show in the centre. I met some baby goats and piglets who were feeling energetic and inquisitive.
Vienna has so many Christmas markets, there really is something for everyone. How much you enjoy your visit to the Christmas Market also depends on the time of day you go. I visited many twice just to get a real feel of the place when it was quiet and once the Christmas lights were on.
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