The Christmas Markets (Christkindlmarkt) are a definite must (!) and highlight to see in Vienna if you are in town in the holiday season. Today we live in a fast paced, often sarcastic world. The old fashioned way of celebrating Christmas in all its romance, peace and quiet is rarely found anymore. One big exception are the Christmas Markets in Vienna. Here you will really find an unique event, exactly as you would have imagined and expected it years ago. Each one is filled with a charismatic atmosphere - just what Christmas should be all about!
What exactly can you expect? A Christmas market (German: Weihnachtsmarkt or Christkindlmarkt) consists of many small, wooden stalls placed on a square or open space. The month leading up to the 24th of December is called "Advent" in Austria - basically you count the days until Christmas Eve. This time is used by locals to get into the Christmas mood, search for tree decorations, bake Christmas cookies and do Christmas handcrafts. One can also find all of that at the numerous stands selling their products at the beautiful Christmas markets all over Vienna. Some stands sell traditional Christmas food, others tree decorations, others offer their own Christmas art and crafts, handmade toys, delicious seasonal delicacies and so much more! Some of the favorite snacks you can munch on are pastries, pretzels, cold cut meats and cheeses on thick bread. There are also huge fried hashbrowns (shaved and fried potato), roasted chestnuts, potato crisps and the list just goes on and on!
What a charming atmosphere! Imagine the cold winter air, snow falling, incredibly romantic lighting (they keep it very subtle here), warmly dressed people strolling around and stopping at one of the stalls for the odd mug of mulled wine (German: "Punsch" or "Glühwein") or tea, kids' play and laugh, and the scent of countless candles and pastries...this will be an experience of a lifetime, honestly - you will not forget it! Religious or not, this is a wonderful way to spend a cold evening in the city.
A note on Glühwein - if you haven't had it before, be prepared to fall in love! There are a lot of different types out there, but you can find the traditional red version at any of the markets. Some of the more trendier ones (Museumsquartier or Spittelberg for example) have teas and delicious creations with ginger that are equally as delicious and warming down to the bones!
We have to thank Vienna authorities for this exceptional experience - they have worked very hard in the past decades to ensure an almost complete absence of tackiness from proceedings. Today's Christmas markets are a truly tasteful affair - they're worth visiting...not just for the atmosphere (go when it's dark - it is really special!), the markets also are excellent shopping areas during the Christmas season! If you're looking for something special for anyone, you should look in these markets first!
There are dozens of markets around Vienna, all varying in size and location (the biggest is the Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz - this one being really busy and impressive). In any case, the MyDestination Vienna team suggests to check the Christmas Market Event Section, and especially not to miss out on the more "local" and cozy markets, like the ones in Schönbrunn, and the one in the old AKH square, and on the Spittelberg area - check our map for the best ones!