Christmas in Vienna

A Christmas in Vienna is one not to be missed. It’s worthy of “bucket list” inclusion and one you will always remember. The Christmas markets in Vienna are truly something magical. 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.

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.

Christmas Markets in 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.

A short walk away is the Christmas Market on Maria-Theresien-Platz, between the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna and the Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna. Over 70 booths offer traditional Christmas handicrafts and original gifts throughout the season of Advent. There are regular visits by Gospel choirs and music groups to amplify the festive mood. The Christmas Village then transitions seamlessly into the New Year’s Eve Village.

Christmas in Vienna

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.

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The best time to head to the markets are weekdays and early evening when the lights come on and the day turns into evening. Weekend days are very busy.

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).

Christmas in Vienna - The Graben

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”.

Christmas in Vienna

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.

Christmas in Vienna - Roasted Chestnuts

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 a little food energy and 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 (trust me- I’ve eaten a lot of Leberkäse).

The Austrian capital is the perfect destination for a holiday hiatus. Vienna combines history, traditions and culture into the world’s most livable city.

Your Christmas spirit will come alive in this fairytale setting. Vienna is really the perfect destination for Christmas – this is Christmas in Vienna.

The Past and Present Come Together in Shanghai

A visit to Shanghai is an absolute must and belongs on your bucket list without question. Where else can you blend real history with the present while getting a glimpse into the future as an added bonus?

Shanghai is China’s largest city and the most populous city proper in the world. Its roots date back to the fifth century, and over many years, it has developed itself into a strong economic, financial, and international trade center. Shanghai is also well known for its influence on culture, science, and technology. Shanghai blends traditional culture with today while also blending east with west. It has something for everyone including hotel accommodations, dining, shopping, nightlife, attractions, and more.

Where to Stay 

Image via Flickr by Gokurakuzukan

There is a great choice of Shanghai hotels within the city proper. Hotels blend familiar brand names with modern conveniences as well as old-world service and charm.

Location is everything. Stay in central and downtown Shanghai for easy access to all the city has to offer including restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and clubs; or stay on the outskirts for access to central Shanghai and the entire city.

Dining

Image via Flickr by SteFou!

If you like Asian food, you’ve come to the right place. If you really like Asian food, you’ve definitely come to the right place. Shanghai’s food and restaurants focus on the culinary traditions of Beijing, Sichuan, Hunan, Guangzhou, and Benbang and are among the finest in China. There are so many dining choices — the list is endless. If by some chance you must have Western food, you’ll find a number of Western restaurants in the central downtown area to please your palate.

Shopping 

Image via Flickr by IceNineJon

Shopping in Shanghai is a must-do activity. There are many commercial streets and shopping centers including the must-visit Nanjing Road. The world’s first Barbie Flagship Store has opened in Shanghai, occupying an entire five-story pink building along the shopping mecca of Huaihai Middle Road. Huaihai Road has many upscale and leading fashion designers, while North Sichuan Road meets the demands of more ordinary folk. Jiali Sleepless City, Xujiahui Shopping Center, and Yuyuan Shopping City are busy and popular with tourists and locals.

Nightlife

Image via Flickr by trioptikmal

Shanghai’s decadent nightlife dates back to the 1930s and has become a modern and dynamic party en masse. As the world’s fastest growing city, Shanghai nightlife is fast paced and has many hot spots, clubs, and pubs to party the night away. The Bund is an absolute must stroll for visitors along its promenade. At night, sparkling colored lights are everywhere along the fast-moving Huangpu River, the landmark buildings on the West bank, and the ultramodern skyscrapers on the East bank. An evening cruise on the Huangpu River is a great way to see the city.

Hengshan Road and Xin Tian Di also offer a variety of nightclubs, discos, and bars at a more relaxing pace. For art lovers wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of these spots, the Grand Theater and Oriental Art Center are must-visit places.

Shanghai is really in a class all its own with its rich history and modern world conveniences. It is one of the world’s great cities and a must visit for any world traveler.