One great thing about living only an hour from Vienna was being able to enjoy the famous Christmas market scene in its entirety. To step away from the big markets and happen upon some hidden festive delights.
Does Vienna have Christmas markets?
In Austria like many central European countries, the Christmas market tradition is strong. They have markets in all major cities and towns and in Vienna, this tradition goes as far back as 1298. Albrecht, I granted Vienna’s citizens the privilege of holding a December Market or “Krippenmarkt”. Nowadays it has over 20 markets to choose from, generally referred to as ‘Advent Markets’ selling handmade craft goods and delicious treats.
Only an hour from Vienna is the Slovak capital of Bratislava and here you’ll find a different style of Christmas market with local specialities like hot currant wine. They fill their trees with handmade wooden decorations and fruit and a Slovak Christmas market in the capital city is a much cosier affair. You can experience in one trip two different Christmas traditions, with different foods, drinks and handcrafted wares.
Firstly, let us give you a guide to Vienna at Christmas!
How does Vienna celebrate Christmas?
Austria has a day on December 6th called St. Nicholas’ day where children get a gift from St Nicholas or a telling off from Krampus – a good day to time your visit especially if you have kids! You’ll find there is also an emphasis on Christmas Eve being the more important day than Christmas Day. This means there are still things open in Vienna on Christmas Day. Traditionally carp, often breaded is eaten as the main meal and Christkind is the traditional gift-bringer, which is Jesus as a child or an angel.
What to do in Vienna on Christmas Eve and Day
Trying to sightsee on these days is fine but most smaller museums are shut, while some of the larger museums are open. This year (2019) the Belvedere stays open, Albertina closes early on Christmas Eve, Schönbrunn Palace outside attractions close but the main palace, the zoo and park are open, Kunsthistorisches Museum (main art history museum) – closes early (at 3 pm) on the 24th and Hofburg Palace, The Leopold, MUMOK, and Kunsthalle museums in the Museumsquartier are all open during Christmas. There are others but always check first.
Vienna at Christmas is also a wonderful time to catch a concert! In Minorite Church in the city centre, you can watch the marvellous Vienna Chamber Orchestra play a Christmas concert on the 25th and 26th December.
You will also find that the Christmas markets do tend to close by Christmas Eve but the markets in front of Vienna City Hall and Schönbrunn Palace are still open.
Where to eat in Vienna on Christmas Day
Christmas day in Vienna is quieter and many restaurants are closed but you can enjoy Christmas dinner at the amazing Restaurant Plachutta at Wollzeile and Walfischgasse in the city centre, Freud’s old hangout Café Landtmann or Schick with its panoramic view, both on Ringstrasse and Brasserie at The Guesthouse Vienna on central Albertinaplatz who has an award-winning wood stove bakery!
Vienna Christmas Market FAQ’s
When do Vienna Christmas markets start?
The Vienna Christmas market 2019 dates are varied depending on the market, but generally, they start around the 15th-20th of November.
How late are Vienna Christmas markets open?
All markets have different operating times, but you will find markets that shut at 9 pm and some that shut as late as 11 pm where you can keep toasty warm with a hot mulled drink.
When do Vienna Christmas markets close?
Most markets run until at least December 26th, but this does depend on the individual market. We’ll pop dates and times for each market under the description.
Best time to visit Vienna Christmas market?
The Christmas markets in Vienna are incredibly busy and the streets are packed with shoppers and tourists. Visiting Vienna in the first week of the market’s opening it will be a little bit quieter but expect the markets to be packed throughout, particularly in the evenings.
Are Vienna Christmas markets good?
Vienna is the city that invented the snow globe, and it’s fitting considering the city itself looks like a real-life snow globe throughout the Christmas period with trees that sparkle, buildings wrapped up in lights and quaint market scenes. In a word, Vienna at Christmas is MAGIC.
Where is the Vienna Christmas market?
It’s not just one market, there are around 20 Christmas markets in Vienna with the main one being the first on our list. When visiting Vienna, it’s hard not to have an impressive step count by the end of the day. There are cheerful Christmas trams with decorations, but most markets are within an easy walking distance from each other in the city centre.
The Top 6 Vienna Christmas Markets
With so much choice, it’s hard to know which markets to go-to for the best possible Christmas experience! Here are a combination of bigger and smaller alternative Vienna Christmas markets, from the experience of locals.
Vienna Christmas World – Rathausplatz
This is the grandest of them all, but also the most commercial. In front of the illuminated City Hall are over 150 stalls, trees draped in twinkly lights, and an ice rink that follows a rather picturesque route around the park. You’ll also find shows for the children, including a little Ferris wheel and Christmas choirs at weekends. A delight for the senses, this market will bring out your inner child. Honestly don’t bother with gifts here, it’s all plastic toys and not much of quality but worth coming to see the park.
Dates and Times:
November 15 – December 26, 2019
Su-Th 10.00 am – 9.30 pm, Fr-Sa 10.00 am – 10.00 pm
December 24, 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
December 25+26, 11.00 am – 9.30 pm
Spittelberg Christmas Market
Just round from the MuseumsQuartier, the Spittelberg Christmas market snakes its way around a typical Vienna neighbourhood. Away from the grandeur of palaces and city halls is this local friendly market. It’s also a fantastic neighbourhood for independent shops and places to eat in the idyllic alleyways of the Biedermeier district. Find here good quality handicrafts and organic food. For those who love off the beaten path finds, this is the best market for that. Check out the MuseumsQuartier on your way for art installations and a modern take on the Christmas market.
Dates and Times:
November 14 – December 23, 2019
Mo-Th 2.00 pm – 9.00 pm, Fr 2.00 pm – 9.30 pm
Sa 10.00 am – 9.30 pm, Su & hols. 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Spittelberggasse, Stiftgasse, Schrankgasse, Gutenberggasse, 1070 Vienna
Christmas Market in front of Schönbrunn Palace
The opulence of Schönbrunn Palace is impressive at any time of year, but at Christmas, there’s a certain magical atmosphere to be had celebrating the festivities here. This is a great market for live music, Christmas workshops, a nativity scene and finally, hot punch! Easily reached by public transport, this is a great option just outside of the main city centre and the market continues into New Year’s.
Dates and Times:
November 23 – December 26, 2019
Daily from 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
December 24, 10.00 am – 4.00 pm, December 25+26, 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
New Year’s Market December 27, 2019 – January 5, 2020
Daily from 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Schönbrunn Palace, 1130 Vienna
Art Advent – Art & Crafts on Karlsplatz
Organic and bio-friendly Art Advent on Karlsplatz is a wonderful market for all the family and focuses on being sustainable and encouraging recycling. Not that you want to come to see recycling! The main attraction is the farm animals which kids can interact with and listening to live music. Each stallholder must make their own wares, so everything here is guaranteed to be of high quality. Moreover, buying food and goods from here is giving back to the local community.
Dates and Times:
November 22 – December 23, 2019
Daily from 12.00 noon – 8.00 pm, food until 9.00 pm
Karlsplatz, 1040 Vienna
Christmas Village in the Former General Hospital
The Christmas Village at the University (Former General Hospital) is popular with the student demographic and boasts curling lanes and children’s railway. It’s a great alternative to the bigger Christmas markets and far less commercialised. It has a wonderfully cosy atmosphere with Alpine log cabins, and you can watch local craftsmen make candles while you sip on a mulled wine.
Dates and Times:
16th November – 23rd December 2019
Daily from Mon to Wed from 2.00 pm to 10.00 pm, Thursday and Friday 2.00 pm to 11.00 pm; Saturday from 11.00 am to 11.00 pm; Sunday from 11.00 am to 9.00 pm
Alser Strasse / corner of Spitalgasse, Court 1; 1080 Vienna
Christmas Market at Freyung
This is the most traditional of all the Vienna Christmas markets and it is a favourite with locals. Find roasted chestnuts and gingerbread amongst a selection of beautiful stalls filled with vintage offerings, handmade wooden toys and glass decorations – absolutely zero tat here. Freyung market is focused on tradition, it has farmer’s market stalls selling organic products such as Bergkäse mountain cheese and there are lots of arts and crafts demonstrations as well as music from local musicians. You can also combine this market trip with the famous Am Hof Christmas market.
Dates and Times:
November 16 – December 23, 2019
Daily from 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Freyung, 1010 Vienna
Things to do at Vienna’s Christmas markets
What to buy in Vienna Christmas markets?
Your shopping will be inspired by the Baroque beauty of this dazzling city at Christmas. Handmade decorations are in abundance at all Christmas markets, as is beautiful glassware at the less commercial offerings. Beeswax candles are popular in markets like Freyung. You can always invest in a snow globe from the home of them! Traditional wooden toys are wonderful for children. You’ll also find all kinds of handmade crafts and jewellery or go to Spittelberg for a good cosy jumper.
What to eat at a Vienna Christmas market?
Coming away from the Vienna Christmas markets without adding an inch is very difficult. Roasted chestnuts can be found along the streets of Vienna and in the markets at Christmas. There are various types of strudel which are also a moreish dessert choice. Try some kartoffelpuffer, a potato pancake in a garlic sauce, giant pretzels or sausages. Mountain cheeses and cured meats are also popular foodstuffs on offer at the markets. You can’t escape the biscuits and baked goods on offer. Vanillekipferl (almond and vanilla flavoured biscuits) are Austria’s most famous Christmas bake. Linzer Augen is a jam-filled cookie. Zimtsterne cinnamon stars and Lebkuchen gingerbread are also sweet offerings to be found.
What to drink at a Vienna Christmas market?
An Austrian Christmas market equates to drinking lots of hot mulled beverages. To really get the most out of your experience you can’t spend December in Vienna without having at least one Punsch (punch) or Glühwein (mulled wine) at a Christmas market. Glühwein is a typical Austrian beverage consisting of heated red wine and spices. Punsch is a drink made of fruit juice, spices and alcohol like wine or liquor. The Punsch will blow your top off, it’s stronger than it looks! The Apfelpunsch option is our favourite, but you can enjoy a variety of flavours. This includes a ‘turbo’ version which honestly, we have no idea what it consists of!
5 Unique Things to do in Vienna at Christmas
As well as Christmas markets, it’s also a fabulous time to enjoy all the city has to offer.
- Look at the city’s pretty lights, like the lake outside of the Belvedere building and along the Graben and Kärntner Straße.
- Visit the nativity scenes in the beautiful St. Peter’s Church, a baroque masterpiece!
- Marvel at Vienna’s shop fronts with their elaborate decorations.
- Visit Sacher Hotel – outside are cute Nutcracker statues and inside is the delicious chocolate torte that they are famous for.
- See an Advent concert including the “Christmas in Vienna” musical gala in the Konzerthaus, with special performances in the major concert halls, city centre churches and cathedrals.
Daytrips from Vienna at Christmas
Another option might be to head out of Vienna for the day and visit more Christmas markets! Only an hour away is the Slovak capital city of Bratislava, we have a guide on all the food on offer but it’s also just a magical city to experience at this time of year with a glass of their famous hot currant wine in hand!
Graz in the Styria region of Austria is another option, it’s a gorgeous city with a Mediterranean feel and amazing wines. Or head to Brno in the Czech Republic, the city comes to life at Christmas and unlike Prague, most of the stands sell actual Czech, handmade products plus the prices are very cheap, and you’re not bombarded by tourists.
Where to stay in Vienna at Christmas?
As people who lived just an hour from Vienna, we don’t want to recommend hotels we haven’t stayed in ourselves. We can say that friends of ours have both had lovely stays at the quirky 25 Hours Wien Hotel in the vibrant 7th district next to MuseumsQuartier and Hotel Daniel next to the main train station where you can actually stay in a sleek trailer or a room with a hammock.
It might sound odd, but another option for cheaper accommodation might just be to get an apartment in Bratislava and travel through (the bus is 10 € pp return) or a hostel in Vienna – one that we have been to is Wombats City Hostel next to Naschmarkt which is lively and fun!
Hopefully, this guide to Vienna at Christmas satisfies all your queries, but if you want to know anything about the city drop us a comment below!
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