A Christmas in Vienna is one not to be missed. It’s worthy of “bucket list” inclusion and one you will remember for a very long time. Soft sparkling lights, gently falling snow, the smell of freshly roasted chestnuts, and musicians marching through the streets. It sounds and feels like a fairytale, but Christmas in Vienna is very real. The Christmas markets in Vienna are truly something magical.
From mid-November until the end of December, Austria is the place to enjoy traditional Christmas markets. Festive lights, seasonal treats and snow-covered roofs make for a special experience that only Austria can provide. Austrians often refer to the Advent period as the country’s “fifth season”. Vienna always shines, but during the Advent season, it dazzles. Festivities take place in historic squares and pedestrian areas, making long walks from cafés to museums and shops even more enjoyable.
The Christmas Markets of Vienna
In Vienna, the markets are an age-old tradition that put a smile on everyone’s face and provide an overwhelming spirit of Christmas. The forerunners of the present-day markets date back to 1298 in the Middle Ages when the Duke of Austria granted Vienna’s citizens the privilege of holding a “Krippenmarkt” or December Market. The character and prevalence of these markets has naturally changed considerably over the centuries.
Vienna itself says that there are 20 official Christmas Markets. There are in fact many more smaller ones. As you walk through the central old city, you’ll come across small squares (or platz) where small markets and vendor booths are open and waiting for you.
The most well-known and largest market is at Rathausplatz and known as Vienna Christmas World. The market sits right in front of the Rathaus (Town Hall) with some 150 booths. The adjacent City Hall Park has an ice rink, ice paths through the park, and a children’s area with nativity path, reindeer train, ferris wheel and carousel. The unique arts and crafts blend perfectly with baked goods and sausage stands.
The Imperial and Royal Christmas Market on Michaelerplatz, in front of the Imperial Palace features Austrian products, sweets, pewter figures, hand-made crafts and more in its white huts. The Christmas Market on Stephansplatz focuses more on tradition, with some 40 booths and huts beside St. Stephen’s Cathedral offering high-quality Austrian products. The Advent market at the Opera House has gingerbread, cheese, meats, punch and wine from regional producers in Austria.
Enjoy the Lights Above The Graben And Kärntner Strasse
The Christmas lights of Vienna shine with a magical beauty. Thousands of crystals and giant chandeliers make you feel like you are in a large imperial ballroom as you walk along the main pedestrian areas in the old city center. Start an early evening walk from the State Opera House building, down Kärntner Straße to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, then along the Graben and up Kohlmarkt to the Hofburg Palace. Walk through the Palace grounds and you’ll end up back at Ring Strasse (and just a few blocks from your starting point).
Walk the Ringstrasse
The Ringstrasse is the grand boulevard that circles the historic Innere Stadt (Inner Town) where ancient fortifications once stood. Along the “Ring” you’ll see museums, parks, restaurants, five-star hotels, luxury stores and Christmas markets. Ringstrasse is decked out with lights and many Christmas displays to highlight Vienna’s impressive architecture. You can walk the “Ring”, get on a public bus or tram, or take a scheduled sightseeing tram with guide.
Weihnachtspunsch Or Glühwein?
Most street corners feature a mulled wine or punch stand where locals and visitors gather for a warm drink and conversation. The local Lions Club has a number of drink stands along with a slightly lower price and a Styrofoam cup. The markets serve their punch in collectable mugs with a unique design for each market. You’ll pay a deposit when you order your drink, so you can keep the mug (or just buy the mugs separately). The slightly more popular steaming mug of warmth is Weihnachtspunsch (Christmas punch). It comes in dozens of flavours across the old city. The more traditional drink is a mug of hot Glühwein (mulled wine). You can’t go wrong with either and should try both. Either choice will take the chill away on a cold winter’s evening. Multiple drinks into the evening may have you singing songs from the “Sound of Music”.
Try Maronis (Roasted Chestnuts)
You’ll find at least one “Maroni Stand” at every market and at many major street corners in the winter months. They are selling roast chestnuts from one steaming steel barrel and roasted potato snacks from another barrel. It’s a Christmas experience that goes back to the Middle Ages. You can almost imagine children blowing on a hot, freshly peeled chestnut to cool it down. Now you can follow in their footsteps.
Eat Sausage or Leberkäse? (or both)
Sausage stands are year-round in Vienna, but they seem more inviting in winter. Austrians love their meat and the roadside stands don’t disappoint for taste. If you need some food energy and a break from exploring, try a Käsekrainer or Bratwurst. The other must try Viennese snack is Leberkäse. It is a kind of rectangular sausage cut as a thick slice of meat on a fresh bread roll with mustard. It is an Austrian staple, cheap and delicious. It’s my personal favourite- I’ve eaten a lot of Leberkäse.
Your Christmas spirit will come alive in this fairytale setting. Vienna is really the perfect destination for Christmas – this is Christmas in Vienna.
Vienna sounds like such a wonderful place to visit, especially during Christmas time. I really hope that one day I will be able to visit this amazing city.
Jordan | Myflourishingretrospect.blogspot.com
I hope you do get to Vienna someday, you’ll love it! Thanks for the comment.
I have visited Christmas markers already in Prague and Berlin and next year I want to visit Vienna! I have heard so many beautiful stories and things, that I can’t imagine another Christmas time destination! Thanks for this post!
Vienna is the very best. Thanks for the comment.
It looks so festive! I’d love to see Vienna at Christmas, the Christmas market looks especially incredible, those gingerbread cookies look amazing!
Everything about a Vienna was amazing, especially the cookies. Thanks for your comments.
This post gave me such wintery cozy vibes. Roasted Chestnuts are my favorite winter snack, these and roasted sugary nuts in NYC means holiday season for me:) Vienna is one winter destination I have yet to get too and I can’t wait. Yu makes it sound lovely, and all those Christmas markets… I really crave mulled wine and some chestnuts right now.
It really is incredible, the holiday feeling there is special. I hope you get there, I’ll certainly be back. Thanks for your comments.
I went to Vienna earlier this month and I fell in love with the city.
I did get the change to eat Leberkäse and I loveeeeed it. I am going back in summer to try to visit all the castles 🙂
Vienna and Austria are at the top of my places to visit again as well. I’ve been eating Leberkase since I was a kid and never get enough. Thanks for the comments.
Roasted chestnuts? Yes, please. Love reading about Vienna as it brings back great memories.
You are right Mike, Vienna is very memorable. Thanks for the comments!
Oh Vienna sounds lovely at Christmastime! We visited some European Christmas markets last year for the first time and I’m already plotting when we can go back to see more. Vienna will definitely be on the list so we can sip some glühwein under all those sparkling lights.
I read so many great posts about Christmas Markets these last weeks that I’ll just have to make a tour next year. With your post, Vienna will definitely be included.
Sounds amazing! I have never been to Europe, so I’m always adding cities to my travel goals list
I’ve seen a few posts about Christmas in Vienna this year and it looks absolutely incredible. I’ve never been to a Christmas market outside of the UK before but there seems to be so many amazing ones on the continent x
Vienna is at the top for Christmas markets for sure. Thanks for the comment.
Now I’m convinced that I need to travel for the Christmas holiday. Roasted chestnuts? Yes please! And I love the holiday lights on the street! I’m bookmarking this post for future reference. Thank you for the inspiration!
Vienna was/is amazing at Christmas. You’ll love it! Thanks for the comment
I have never been to Vienna. You took some really great pics and the roasted chestnuts look so good!
Thanks very much and thanks for the comment!
I would love to do this! I’m tucking this away for reference later!
I can’t even begin to explain how much I would LOVE to visit Vienna at Christmas! I definitely want to do a Christmas market city break there either this year or next. This post was fantastic and has only confirmed my reasons for wanting to go – many thanks for sharing and wonderful pictures.
Thank you Holly. Vienna at Christmas is a must visit for sure.
I tend to prefer neighbouring Bratislava, a lot more cozy 🙂
Just sad that both Vienna and Bratislava is off limit this year 😦
Yes, I’m looking forward to next year…
That is probably all we can do at this stage, to look forward and dream of new travel opportunities 🙂
Absolutely, here’s to 2021 and post covid!
Christmas markets are so much fun! I have always enjoyed going to markets where the majority of the booths are manned by artists selling their handmade creations. Making connections with people as well as finding an amazing gift means so much to me.
Thank you for sharing Christmas in your part of the world. 🙂
Thank you for the comments
I’ve seen a few posts about Vienna lately, its definitely somewhere I’d like to go. Maybe next year….
Vienna is great, especially at Christmas. I’m ready for next year too.
Sounds an amazing experience would love to go
It really is something special. I highly recommend it.