When I think of European Christmas Markets, the glittering city of Vienna locale has always been on the top of the list. Hearing travelers stories and seeing pictures on social media has always made me want to spend Christmas in Vienna. We finally made the dream a reality and spent 5 amazing days in Vienna last year – which sounds strange to say, as it was only 3 weeks ago! Starting mid-November, Vienna’s squares transform into charming Christmas markets. Throughout the city you’ll find 22 markets with over 1,000 stalls. Now, that is a lot of holiday spirit!
Adding to our enchanting experience was the white powder that blanketed the city not long after our arrival. The city was ablaze with Christmas lights that danced off the snow covered streets. With that magic backdrop, visitors can’t help but see, taste, smell and feel the holidays approaching!
Christmas Market Vienna Features:
The biggest Christmas Market in Vienna was located at City Hall. The market contained 150 colorful stalls with handmade goods, gifts, food, mulled wine and the largest skating rink we had ever seen- 4,500m² (4848 sq ft) . It was huge, wrapping around the trees and stretching seemingly on forever. And a great feature for kids was the workshop set up in the Great Hall with free arts and crafts activities.
Located in the square between the Kunsthistorische Museum and the Natural History Museum, this Christmas Market is filled with illuminated Christmas trees and featured jewelry, oil paintings, ornaments and many other gift ideas. The kids also had their first Kinderpunsch here. It also happened to be their favorite punch of all the markets – punches are not created equal!
Located on the University of Vienna campus, was the Altes AKH Christmas Market. While it’s a smaller market than some of the others, the size just adds to the cozy ambiance. Mingle with Viennese locals and enjoy shopping and eating from the 50 stall market. The market also boasted 2 curling lanes (imagine sliding large Sorry game pieces on the ice), a Ferris Wheel and Christmas train. The Altes AKH Christmas Market was where we also had our Vienna Food Tour. Read all about how we ate our way through the Christmas Market and see some of our favorite Viennese market cuisine.
I fell in love with Belvedere Palace following my first glimpse of it’s extensive snow covered gardens and picturesque views over Viennese roofs. I would have loved to have seen inside the Palace, but our tight schedule wouldn’t allow for a tour. I can imagine how pretty the area must be in spring. It’s easy to see why the Baroque palace was built here as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy.
The 40 decorated Christmas stalls were situated in front of the Belvedere Palace. The kids warmed up with Kinderpunsch and fresh cut potato crisps. The crisps aren’t really a traditional food but the salty treat goes well with the punch. At this market you’ll find contemporary gifts from Austria’s federal provinces and neighboring countries. You’ll also find a mini carousel and railway for younger kids.
Another of my favorite Christmas markets in Vienna was Karlsplatz, due in large part because the Karlsplatz or St. Charles Church is located there. There were countless gorgeous buildings in Vienna, but the Karlsplatz was one of my favorites. The market is full of artisan stalls – perfect for picking up a unique gift. You’ll find 70 designer stalls with stained glass, musical instruments, silk paintings and more. All the kids were laughing and carrying on in the huge hay bales in the middle of the market.
Right outside St. Stephen’s Cathedral was the first market we actually visited. We stopped here upon first arriving in Vienna. The decorated stalls housed high quality arts and crafts as well as traditional food and drinks.
*Unless you’re already in the area or planning to go into St. Stephen’s Cathedral, I’d skip this one and hit up other markets.
Just before touring Schönbrunn Palace, we stopped to enjoy kinderpunsch, hot wine and a bread bowl of tasty potato soup. The 80 stalls of the Schönbrunn Palace Christmas Market housed a lot of goodies from nearby countries. We even spotted cheeses, sausage and sauces from Italy. With the cold weather, I would have been more than happy to stand around and eat right next to the outdoor heaters all day.
Conveniently located outside of Hofburg Palace, this white stalled market carries mostly Austrian goods such as candies, tin figures and ornaments. There were only a handful of stalls here, but it’s well worth walking through before or after your visit to Hofburg Palace.
Located in Prater Park (Wurstelprater Amusement Park), was a lovely little Christmas village. The adorable stalls blended in with the amusement park perfectly. Visitors will find tasty snacks and let kids ride on the Ferris Wheel, swings or play carnival games.
More Vienna Christmas Markets
My wish list also included:
- Old Viennese Christmas Market at Freyoung
- Am Hof Christmas Market
- Spittelberg Christmas Market
These three are also popular markets in Vienna and should be on your list if you have time. There are still more markets around the city but the markets listed above are some of the best. See the Vienna website for more Christmas Market options.
When getting your warm drinks, you can keep the decorative mugs as a souvenir. Or return the mug to get your deposit back. Each market has unique mugs, so you can pick your favorite to bring home. I may have gone a little overboard with my souvenir mugs. Our favorites are the ones that look like a shoe!
Christmas Market Vienna Tips:
- Bring small bills and coins to pay for your market purchases.
- Visit the Christmas Markets during the day to do your shopping. The markets are lovely at night and should be part of your travel plan, but they are crowded in the evening, making shopping more difficult.
- Dress warm – it’s cold outside!
- Make a plan in advance, so you can see as many Christmas markets as possible. We mapped ours on the Pocket Earth App.
- Watch the Christmas Punch – it’s stronger than you think!
- Get the Vienna Pass – It includes FREE access into 60+ attractions, fast track access to popular attractions and the hop-on-hop-off bus. It doesn’t include public transport. Some of the included attractions include: Wiener Riesenrad (Ferris Wheel), Schloss Schönbrunn Kindermuseum (children’s museum), Schloß) Schönbrunn (palace), Hofburg Palace, and more
Vienna is COLD during the winter. The temperatures during our visit were -2ºC or 27ºF!! It’s important to pack appropriately and remember to dress in layers.
Gloves – Do NOT arrive in Vienna without a warm pair of gloves. It may be wise to bring the kids ski gloves. My kids were trying to play in the snow, but their mittens were getting soaked.
Scarf – A nice warm scarf that can be pulled up over your nose to help block the wind.
Warm Hat – Don’t let the heat escape from your head. Bring along a cute beanie to keep your head and ears warm. If you forget, there are plenty of Christmas Market stalls that sell them, but I put my hat on the moment we arrived in Vienna.
Winter Coat – You’ll want your winter coat here, bonus if it has a hood. I had my everyday coat and it just wasn’t enough for this weather.
Boots – I only had my leather boots and they were not ideal for Vienna at christmas. A few times I couldn’t even feel my toes! Next time I want winter boots from Columbia. I also saw a lot of people wearing Uggs. I was tempted to find a store and buy myself a pair right then and there.
Extra socks – Depending on your shoes, you might not need extra socks. I layered 3 pairs and my feet where still cold.
Long Johns – I was the only one in the family without a pair of long johns to help keep me warm. Leggings and an extra long sleeved shirt worked okay, but I wasn’t as warm as Derrick and the kids.
Reusable shopping bag – If you plan to do any grocery shopping, you need to bring your own bag. I find that easier than having to purchase a plastic bag at the store each time. It was also handy for my Christmas market finds. I actually keep a bag in my purse at all times in Europe.
The remarkable Christmas Markets in Vienna will delight visitors, young and old. Each market offers a unique array of gifts, festive food and sparkling decorations. We didn’t make it to all the Vienna Christmas Markets, but we visited enough to develop a deep fondness for Vienna and their advent traditions. Maybe next year I can talk Derrick into visiting a few more….
Have you spent Christmas time in vienna? Share your favorite Christmas Market Vienna tips.