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Nothing will put you right in the festive spirit more than a visit to the European Christmas Markets. I can’t believe this was something I hadn’t done before! Luckily I put this to rights with my recent trip to the Christmas Markets in Vienna. With Christmas music playing, twinkling lights everywhere, Glühwein at every corner and more Christmas trees than you would believe possible, you can’t fail to get into the Christmas spirit in this historic city.
I have put together this guide to give you all you need to know about the Christmas Markets in Vienna.
Let’s start with the most important shall we? Glühwein. It is very hard to miss the stalls dotted around each of the markets. Usually at the entrance, but you will find more as you wander around. Each of the markets have their own style of Glühwein mug. I loved this idea. Basically you pay for your Glühwein (usually around €3.50) and then also pay a deposit for your mug, around €3. If you don’t want to keep the mug, you can return it to any of the stalls in that market and get your deposit back. If you do want to keep it, then you have yourself a great souvenir.
As the markets each have their own style of mug you can return them to any of the stalls in that market, but not at other markets. The trickiest part is that I ended up wanted to keep far too many of them! I did manage to restrict myself to three.
I loved the fact that it means there isn’t any plastic or additional waste, but that the mugs were re-used! Or taken home in my case. But hey, I need mugs for my glühwein at home right?
When to visit the Christmas Markets in Vienna
Date : The main Christmas Markets in Vienna open around the 17th November, and by the 24th November (roughly, as the date will vary each year) they are all open. But personally I think it was lovely to go in December. I try not to celebrate Christmas until December (I get too excited otherwise) and so it was the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit.
Day : If you go on the weekend, it is going to busy and I mean very busy! It does add the charm and the buzz, but be prepared for a bit of hustle, and a wait for food and drink. If you go on a Monday they are much much quieter.
Time : The markets open around 11am, which is when again they are going to be quietest. But if you want to see them in all their twinkly glory, I would recommend visiting at dusk through to darkness. The markets are then open until either 9pm or 10pm.
Tips for visiting the Christmas Markets in Vienna
Wrap up : It was cold in Vienna. When I arrived there was snow on the ground, which was absolutely beautiful. However, chilly. Remember when you are visiting the markets you are bound to outside for a long period of time. So bring layers!
Leave space in your luggage : With the best will in the world, you won’t be able to leave the Christmas Markets in Vienna without a souvenir and mug or two. Pack light on the way out, something which I fame myself for. It was much much less light on the way home.
Bring cash : Very few of the stalls take card, so make sure you have cash to hand. Some of the larger markets do have ATM’s in them, but I preferred to arrive with cash ready to go.
Visit as many as you can : Each of the markets has their own vibe and wares. You will see a lot of the same items being sold at multiple markets and I was pleased to see they were all the same price. But each has it’s own feel. It was lovely to visit as many as we could and decide which was the favourite.
Arrive hungry : With so much choice for food, you want to make sure you have room for it all! All the walking around means you burn it off, so definitely time to indulge. Washed down with some Glühwein of course.
Which Markets to visit
There are 12 Christmas markets in Vienna. During our long weekend we made it to 7 of them, some of them twice! Each is unique and has it’s own feel and setting. Some I preferred to others, but really that is just personal preference, so as I said before make sure you visit as many as you can!
Here are the Christmas markets in Vienna I visited.
Vienna Christmas Market world on Rathausplatz : Definitely the place to start. The most famous, most popular and the busiest. But what a setting! I would definitely recommend visiting at dusk, and waiting for the sun to set. The market definitely has the most festive spirit when the lights are twinkling in all their glory.
There are hundreds of stalls selling everything you could imagine. Toys, decorations, baking supplies, candles, notebooks and so much more. There is also lots of food options, so take your time and make sure you choose wisely! This market also had the glühwein mugs in the shape of little boots, which I absolutely loved.
It is going to be busy, there was a lot of hustle and bustle and a bit of shoving, particularly when trying to get served glühwein. But the crowds did definitely add to the atmosphere.
Christmas Market on Maria-Theresein-Platz : I wandered upon this market by chance, and it was actually one of my favourites. It was again getting dark as we arrived and had so much charm. It isn’t anywhere as big as Rathaus, so very easy to walk around and see all the stalls, which offer handicrafts and original gift ideas.
This square is in the museum quarter, so if you want to take in a museum or two this market ties in nicely!
Glühwein mug here is a Father Christmas (or Weihnachtsmann, as in Austria!). I had told myself at this point in the trip that I wouldn’t be buying any more mugs, but I couldn’t resist!
Christmas Market on Stephanplatz : Around 40 stalls are set beneath the shadow of the beautiful St Stephens cathedral. And with the the huge Christmas tree around the entrance, it is definitely one of the most dramatic.
What I liked about this market is that the stalls curved around the edge of the cathedral, with shops on the other side. It made wandering around very easy and meant I could cover all the stalls logically.
Altwiener Christkindlmarket on the Freyung : One of the oldest markets in Vienna. It features a lot traditional items to buy and a lovely stall in the middle sold the most beautiful decorations.
They also have a small stage, and a schedule of what is being played during advent. It felt very traditional as I wandered along the cobbled streets.
This market is very busy on the weekend, but when I went back early Monday afternoon for my last glühwein it was very quiet.
Weihnachtsmarkt Am Hof: A short hop away from Altwiener on the Freyung, so two Christmas markets in Vienna for the price of one! Located in one of the oldest squares in Vienna.
This market again has lots of handcrafted items for sale. Lots of wooden items, toys, bowls, trinkets as well as clothes and, of course, decorations.
There was a very lively atmosphere, and it did feel more local than touristy. There are also lots of food stalls, so make sure you arrive hungry!
K.U.K Christmas Market on Michaelerplatz : This is a very small collection of stalls in front of the Hofburg. They are all white, so against such a stunning back drop it makes for incredibly picturesque scenes.
It mainly features wares from Austrian manufacturers and includes sweet treats, pewter figures and of course many Christmas decorations.
This market is worth a quick wander if you are going to see the Hofburg.
Christmas and New Year’s Market at Schloß Schönbrunn : Take the U4 train out of Vienna to get to Schönbrunn Palace. Set underneath is the beautiful Christmas and New Year’s Market.
What could be a more magnificent setting for a Christmas market than a palace? This was definitely one of my favourites. Because it is quite spread out, it definitely didn’t feel as crowded.
We spent a long time in this market browsing all the stalls, drinking hot chocolate and trying food. The food stall are predominantly located in round stalls in the centre of the market. Make sure you try the potatoes with cheese and bacon. So tasty!
Other Wintery things to do in Vienna
While of course if you are visiting Vienna in December your main focus will be visiting the Christmas markets in Vienna. There are, however, a few other activities I wanted to mention as the are surely worth a visit.
St Stephen’s Cathedral : Free to enter, this Gothic looking cathedral is incredibly impressive. There are tours you can book onto, to make the most of what you are seeing.
I decided not however and just enjoyed taking in the lofty heights and stained glass. Be warned though, it is busy!
The best part for me though was heading up to the roof. For €6 you can take a lift up the north tower. The lift is very small, so be warned if you don’t like confined spaces! But when you get to the top, the views are incredible. Make sure you check out the beautiful tiles on the roof of the cathedral and the enormous bell.
Sacher torte : You can’t come to the birth place of the famous Sacher torte and not try some. It originated from Sacher hotel, so if you want the original head here.
But there are so many places to stop and have a slice. I, very indulgently, warmed up with a huge piece and a delicious hot chocolate!
Schönbrunn Palace : If you fancy learning a bit more about the Austrian Monchary, then have a walk around the beautiful rooms of the Summer Palace. The rooms are all resorted across various monarchs across the years.
I’m not going to lie to you, I got a little lost with the timelines and who is who, but it was still lovely to see. Be warned as well, despite the timed ticket, it is very crowded. The walkways through the rooms aren’t large, and you share them with some guided tour groups.
After you’ve taken your time inside, wander around the lovely gardens. When I was there they were covered in snow, it was a little misty but absolutely beautiful. It was absolutely freezing, so we soon retreated to the Christmas Market for a warming hot chocolate.
Hofburg : The Winter Palace of the royals, and right in the heart of Vienna. Even if you decide not to head inside, you can walk through the impressive grounds.
Have you ever been to Vienna or a Christmas Market? I would love to hear about it in the comments!
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