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09 December 2012

In Search of Christmas: The Austrian Christmas Markets

The Neo-Gothic Viennese City Hall building provides a magnificent backdrop for the Vienna Christmas Market.
Photo: © Austrian Tourist Office. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
The Neo-Gothic Viennese City Hall building provides a magnificent backdrop for the Vienna Christmas Market. Photo: © Austrian Tourist Office. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Updated for 2016


Fröhliche Weihnachten

Continuing my pilgrimage in search of European Christmas traditions, I am drawn to the splendor of Austria—where the hills are alive with "The Sounds of Music" and concert halls echo with the melodic symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven—among many other historical and splendid places to visit in this Alpine country. But at this time of the year, it's the enchanting Austrian Christmas markets or Advent Markets I am after for a chance to see how the Austrians herald in the season of Advent. For nearly 800 years, the Austrian Christkindlmarkts have drawn residents and visitors to picturesque town squares and magnificent palace grounds with their vibrant Christmas lights, Alpine chalets and let's not forget the wafting tantalizing aromas that promise to send your taste buds 'a reelin' during this magical holiday season! Stroll along the lanes—a visual feast of savory bites, handcrafted gifts and ornaments, and those sweet confections of course. If you're in Austria during the holidays, set out in search of your Christmas—seek out one of the Austrian Christmas markets and I guarantee you'll be donning your Christmas spirit the moment you arrive.

Our tour takes us to four Austrian cities to explore the Christmas markets and while these cities offer more than one market, we will see one or two in each lest this article become a book. Come along for a stroll down many a Santa Claus lane rich in Austrian customs and holiday traditions.

Salzburg: Nov. 17—Dec. 26


The Salzburg Christmas market at the Domplatz or Church Square twinkles beneath the imposing Hohensalzburg Castle. Photo: Courtesy of Christkindlmarkt.co.at. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
The Salzburg Christmas market at the Domplatz or Church Square twinkles beneath the imposing Hohensalzburg Castle. Photo: Courtesy of Christkindlmarkt.co.at. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Located in the Baroque town squares of the Domplatz and Residenzplatz (the 17th-century Baroque cathedral and the 12-century Residenz art gallery) at the base of the towering Hohensalzburg castle, the Salzburg Christmas market is brilliantly decorated and brimming with all of the trimmings including gifts and souvenirs, Nativity sets and Advent wreaths not to mention those mouth-watering sausages, fresh-baked pastries, cinnamon toasted nuts and sweet gingerbread. Oh, of course there's mulled wine or glüwein in these parts! Plus, every Saturday between 3:30 and 6:30, you and your families can meet the Christkind and its angels greeting guests as they stroll through the Christmas market!

Welcome to Salzburg Christmas Market. Photo: EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Welcome to Salzburg Christmas Market. Photo: EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Some of the wonderfully vibrant Christmas gifts at the Salzburg market Photo: EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Some of the wonderfully vibrant Christmas gifts at the Salzburg market Photo: EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

An enchanting Christmas glows lights up this alley at the Salzburg Christmas Market.
An enchanting Christmas glows lights up this alley at the Salzburg Christmas Market.

Alpine chalets are brimming with handcrafted holiday gifts.
Alpine chalets are brimming with handcrafted holiday gifts.

Operating hours:

  • Mon.—Thurs. from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Fri. from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Sat. from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Sun. from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Christmas Eve from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Christmas Day and Boxing Day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Hellbrunn: Nov. 17—Dec. 24


Christmas Market in front of Hellbrunn Palace near Salzburg. Photo: © Hellbrunn Adventzauber. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Christmas Market in front of Hellbrunn Palace near Salzburg. Photo: © Hellbrunn Adventzauber. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Nearby Hellbrunn, approximately 5 miles south, beckons a visit to the Hellbrunn Palace and its Christmas market—a must see if you're visiting Salzburg. Filling the the courtyard outside the Hellbrun Palace, which transforms into a giant Advent calendar during the season, the Hellbrunner Adventzauber or Advent Magic in Hellbrunn is gaining in popularity with the locals and Christmas market missionaries like myself. Not only is the picturesque setting worth the detour from Salzburg, your kids will love the petting zoo, a Christmas storyteller and the fairy tale train!

Operating hours:

  • Mon.—Fri. from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sat.—Sun. from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Christmas Eve from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Innsbruck: Nov. 15—Jan. 6


The Alpine mountains provide a stunning backdrop to the Innsbruck Christmas market in Alstadt or Old Town. Here, the Golden Roof shimmers in the warm Christmas light of the market. Photo: © Christof Lackner. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
The Alpine mountains provide a stunning backdrop to the Innsbruck Christmas market in Alstadt or Old Town. Here, the Golden Roof shimmers in the warm Christmas light of the market. Photo: © Christof Lackner. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Located in the Innsbruck Old Town centre or Alstadt, against the dramatic backdrop of the majestic Alpine Mountains, the Innsbruck Christmas market transforms the medieval town square into a Christmas wonderland just outside its renowned Golden Roof landmark edifice built for Archduke Friedrich IV in the early 15th century to serve as the residence for the Tirolean royalty.

With more than 70 Alpine chalets lining its square, you're sure to find that special something for that special someone plus indulge in some of the delicious treats and glüwein along the way including Kiachln (piping hot doughnuts laced with sauerkaut). Don’t miss the "Fairy Tale Lane" for kids of all ages where storybook characters from tales of the Brothers Grimm come to life to meander among the Christmas visitors.

Innsbruck's Christkindlmarkt with another shot of the Golden Roof to the right. Photo: © Christof-Lackner. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Innsbruck's Christkindlmarkt with another shot of the Golden Roof to the right. Photo: © Christof-Lackner. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Operating hours vary by location but most are open every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Visit Innsbruck Christmas in the Mountains for more details about each location.

Vienna: Nov. 12—Dec. 24


The Viennese City Hall is stunning in this image of the Vienna Christmas Market.
Photo: © Austrian Tourist Office. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
The Viennese City Hall is stunning in this image of the Vienna Christmas Market. Photo: © Austrian Tourist Office. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Home to many a favorite composer of mine including Johann Strauss and Beethoven, not to mention the Golden Hall of the Musikverein and Belvedere Palace, Vienna's Christmas markets have been a tradition since 1298 and fills the square in front of the magnificent and unmistakable Neo-Gothic Town Hall with a warm Christmas light on many a cold December night. Stroll along more than 140 chalets brimming with your traditional Christmas market wares and fares of savory bites. Highlights include the International Advent Sing every Fri.—Sun. from 3:30 to 7 p.m. (4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve.) where European and American choirs take center stage. Also, every Fri.—Sun. from 1:30—2 p.m. and 2:30—3 p.m., your children will love the Puppet Theatre performances while they wait to greet the Christ Child who makes her appearance at 4 p.m. followed by the Christmas Story reading at 5 at the Celestial Stage.

City Hall: Nov. 12 - Dec. 24

  • Daily: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Christmas Eve from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Belvedere Palace: Nov. 18 - Dec. 23

  • Sun. - Sat. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The Belvedere Palace in Vienna is home to Gustav Klimt's
The Belvedere Palace in Vienna is home to Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss."

The Belvedere Palace and neighboring Christmas market in Vienna, Austria.
The Belvedere Palace and neighboring Christmas market in Vienna, Austria.

Sizzling scrumptious bites await at the Belvedere's Christmas Market!
Sizzling scrumptious bites await at the Belvedere's Christmas Market! 

After an amazing tour through the galleries and seeing Klimt, I needed nourishment of another kind. Indulging in a bratwurst outside the Belvedere Palace in Vienna.
After an amazing tour through the galleries and seeing Klimt, I needed nourishment of another kind. Indulging in a bratwurst outside the Belvedere Palace in Vienna.

Schönbrunn Palace: Nov. 19 - Jan. 1, 2017


Austria's exquisite Schönbrunn Palace aglow under the Christmas market light. Photo: Courtesy of Austria Tourism. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Austria's exquisite Schönbrunn Palace aglow under the Christmas market light. Photo: Courtesy of Austria Tourism. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Located outside this exquisite Imperial Palace that is Schönbrunn, the Christmas market sparkles with more than 80 Alpine chalets. Take your family along on the weekends when the kids activities are open from the games at Parade Court, crafting at Poldis Christmas workshop and inside the Imperial bakery, kids bake their own Christmas cookies.

Operating hours:

  • Daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Christmas Eve from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Christmas Day: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Dec. 26 - Jan. 1, 2017: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Graz: Nov. 18—Dec. 24


It's Christmastime in the enchanting city of Graz. Photo: © Graz Tourismus. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
It's Christmastime in the enchanting city of Graz. Photo: © Graz Tourismus. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Nestled in the medieval town square, the Graz Christkindmarkt glitters with all of the usual trimmings of Christkindlmarkts but this one features a few highlights not often seen at other markets such as the ice-sculpted Nativity scene that glows with the light of the world which opens at the Landhaushof November 28. The Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony also takes place on the 28th from 4:30-5:30 at the Hauptplatz. In addition, the Graz Town Hall transforms into a giant illuminated Advent calendar every night and there's an Advent Train that runs daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Christmas Eve from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) to transport visitors between the city's Christmas markets—an enchanting ride for all those tired shoppers with their kids.

Operating hours:

  • Daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Food chalets open to 10 p.m.)
  • Christmas Eve from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas makes an appearance at the Schönbrunn Palace Christmas Market. Photo: Courtesy of Austria Tourism-©Gerhard Fally. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas makes an appearance at the Schönbrunn Palace Christmas Market. Photo: Courtesy of Austria Tourism-©Gerhard Fally. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Truly a festive feast for your eyes and palates, a visit to these or other European Christmas markets reawakens the Christmas spirit within all of us. Full of twinkling lights, Christmas trees, larger-than-life Advent calendars, Christmas gifts and delectables, it's hard to ignore all the festivity and cheer of the Christmas season in Europe.

I hope you enjoyed your tour of some of the best Austrian Christmas markets.

Fröhliche Weihnachten!


Traditional Christmas ornaments and baubles of every size, shape and color can be found in any number of the Alpine Chalets lining all of the Christmas market squares. Photo: Courtesy of Austria Tourism © Gerhard Fally. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Traditional Christmas ornaments and baubles of every size, shape and color can be found in any number of the Alpine Chalets lining all of the Christmas market squares. Photo: Courtesy of Austria Tourism © Gerhard Fally. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Additional Reading:

24 comments:

  1. Just visited the markets in Salzburg the past few days and now in Vienna. The settings are spectacular!

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    1. Hi there Cathy!

      Wow, I am so happy that you are in Vienna right now. How wonderful for you! Can't wait to read all of your coverage! Thanks so much for stopping by to share your experiences!

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  2. OMG! if these pictures don't put you in the right Christmas spirit, I don't know what will. They are simply gorgeous and each one captures the charm of Christmas markets, anywhere, with or without snow. *sigh*

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    1. Hi there Marlys!

      I couldn't agree with you more, especially the Vienna Christmas market photo...OMG!!! How magnificently beautiful!! Thx so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  3. From the sparkling trees set against handsome architecture, adorable wooden toys, the imposing snow-tipped peaks - where'd you find actual pictures of heaven, Jeff?? Simply too, too beautiful!

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    1. Oh Lesley, I couldn't agree with you more especially the Vienna pic. Absolutely exquisite!! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your comments!

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  4. WOW! I thought the pictures from the German Christkindlmarkts were amazing - these truly took my breath away! They really help bring in the holiday spirit, especially when reading from warm, sunny Dallas, Texas! ;)

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    1. Hey there Rob! Thanks again my friend for stopping by and for all of your kind words! I couldn't agree with you more especially the Vienna pic...that took my breath away too!! Thank you for sharing your comments with my readers!

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  5. Your set of photos makes me think I should visit the Xmas market of Innsbruck soon. Thanks for sharing, Jeff!

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    1. Thank you so much Andreas for stopping by and sharing your comments. I agree with you...Innsbruck beckons but it is Vienna that is calling my name...just look at that picture!! Stunning!

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  6. Oh goodness Jeff, these all look amazing but that picture of Vienna is absolutely stunning! I would love to visit all these cities during the holidays. When I actually get a chance to visit Christmas markets I think I'll 3 extra suitcases just to bring home ALL the things I'd buy :)

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    1. Hi Debbie...this made me chuckle. I can totally relate and am already thinking of shipping alternatives...LOL. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with this kindred spirit!

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  7. More Christmas markets to add to my list. There's something magical about them. I just returned from a Rhine River Christmas cruise but didn't get to see any of the markets at night when they are the most splendid.

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    1. Hi there Donna and thanks so much for stopping by! Yes, these are definite add-ons to your Christmas Market bucket list for sure! I would love to do a Rhine River cruise someday, must have been wonderful!

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  8. See how the lights make Christmas holiday so special? I can’t imagine the world on a Christmas day without Christmas lights, maybe if that happens no one will appreciate Christmas for it will become dull.

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    1. Thanks Steven for your comment but while Christmas lights certainly add magic to the holiday, there is so much more as you know...family, friends, time-honored traditions and the Birth of Christ. None of these have lights associated with them but they evoke the Christmas spirit, don't they? Thanks for stopping by.

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  9. Leaving for Vienna and Bratislava markets in two days. . . will report back.

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    1. How wonderful for you my anonymous friend!! Please report back and let me know how much you enjoyed all of the markets! Have an enchanting time!

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  10. I haven't visited the Salzburg Christmas markets, but was in Vienna one year at Christmas and thought it spectacular. Great photo's.

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    1. Hi there Lyn! Isn't Vienna lovely at Christmastime? I am so happy you got to enjoy some of these markets. Now, you'll just need to return to Salzburg. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your experiences and be sure to come back as soon as you do make it to Salzburg. ;)

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  11. Replies
    1. Thank you so much Tina! They really are magical!!

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  12. On the off chance that you are among the individuals who,amid Christmas time,love to lose between stands,Christmas decorations and smell of gingerbread,you need to thank Albert I.Because he did it.The Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire,in 1296 granted the first authorization for a Christmas market in Vienna.From that point forward,the magic of the Christkindlmarkt has never faded away.@Jessica Glenn.

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    1. What a wonderful lesson in history! Thank you so much for sharing that, I really appreciate it! And my readers will learn something too! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your story!

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Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!