Travel Austria. 2018 Guide to Magical Christmas Markets in Vienna

How did you get through the period of long 10 month and a few moments for this to happen? Eventually. What a wait. Christmas markets are back. Vienna, home to glamorous caf├ęs, traditional Fiakers (horse carriages) and to the very romantic waltz, is dressed in sparkly Christmas lights to welcome visitors. It seems like millions of lights are lavishly sprinkled all over the city, they are a real feast for the eyes … for all, who are hungry for Christmas. It is a magical time of the year, and is there anything more romantic than walking under all these Christmas lights? Even the horses are flirting with each other.

Travel Austria. 2018 Guide to Magical Christmas Markets in Vienna

Vienna, Austria’s capital in the east of the country is known the world over for Mozart and Beethoven, for ballroom dancing and museums, for the Hapsburg monarchy and Art Nouveau architecture and for chocolaty Sacher Torte and Apple Strudel. These make it worth to visit but wait till you see all the magical Christmas Markets. The atmosphere in Vienna during Christmas time is wonderful.

The more I speak to people on the Christmas markets, the more I understand why everything I eat tasted outstandingly delicious. In Vienna people are seriously passionate about food, and they have a true sense for cooking, traditional craftsmanship and details. Come and follow me on a visit to five of the loveliest Christmas Markets you might have ever seen. You can easily walk from one market to the other.

Royal and Imperial Christmas Market Michaelerplatz near the Hofburg Horses

1. Royal and Imperial Christmas Market Michaelerplatz near the Hofburg

The Michaelerplatz, a baroque style square is directly next the famous Hofburg of Vienna. It has been designed in 1725, albeit finished only at the end of the 19th century. In the centre of the square and right next to the Christmas Market you have the chance to marvel at archaeological excavations. The square is illuminated and has only a few selected stalls, and there are horse carriages parked everywhere. Can a Christmas Market be more enchanting?

As one stall holder tells me, the Austrians love to drink their Punsch at Christmas, and there are many different Punsch varieties on offer in this city. Did you know that Punsch was native to India? English navigators brought the mixed drink to Europe in the 16th century. Its name stems from the Hindu word panch, five, and refers to its original five ingredients: water, wine, lemon juice, fruits and spices. Today star anise, vanilla beans, orange zest, ginger, and often rum is added to the drink. A specialty of this Christmas market is the Sisi punch. To what extent Sisi, the empress and her husband, Franz-Joseph, the emporer of Austria enjoyed drinking Punsch, we will probably never find out. The stall holder tells me, that “people love to order drinks named after them.” And boy, he is right, that is exactly the reason I ordered the Sisi Punsch. While I sip the warm drink carefully, so that I can enjoy it thoroughly, I see Sisi right before me, and it tastes just as lovely as I always imagined her to be.

You can buy handmade cribs, toys, crafts, classic head-wear, and wonderful spice decoration at this market. Farouk sells all things spice with a big smile. He is originally from Algeria (People's Democratic Republic of Algeria) and moved to Vienna for love. He is married to a very lovely Viennese lady, and loves his life in Austria.

Travel Austria. Christmas Decoration. Magical Christmas Markets in Vienna

Travel Austria. Christmas Decoration. Magical Christmas Markets

Travel Austria. Christmas Decoration. Magical Christmas Markets

Travel Austria. Christmas Decoration. Magical Christmas Markets

Info Christmas Market Michaelerplatz, 1010 Vienna. Hours till 1st January 2019: 10am to 8pm. 24th December 2018: 10am to 5pm. 31st December 2018: 10am to 2am. 1st January 2019, 1pm to 8pm.

2. Christmas Market Stephanplatz

This is a small Christmas Market right in the center of town, and stalls run all around the St Stephen’s Cathedral. Exhibitors offer quality products, all made in Austria. The wind howls around the cathedral grounds and the icy cold air indeed adds to the Christmassy atmosphere. The Cathedral has been completed in 1160 and ever since became the national emblem of Austria.

Andrea and her partner, one of the proud stall holders, make diaries from scratch. The two autodidacts from Romania are proper artisans. When they started their business, they dissected vintage books, to truly understand the art of book binding. They use a secret mixture to alter the thick paper and achieve these well-worn haptic only old books have. Andrea tells me with a cheeky smile that “one ingredient is cinnamon, but I won’t tell you more …”

Stephansdom. Travel Austria. Vienna. Sculpture

Travel Austria. 2018 Guide to Magical Christmas Markets in Vienna

Travel Austria. 2018 Guide to Magical Christmas Markets in Vienna

Info Christmas Market Stephanplatz. Stephanplatz, Churhausgasse. Open till 26th December 2018. Hours till 23rd December 2018 daily: 11am to 9pm. 24th December 2018, 11am to 4pm. 25th December and 26th December 2018, 11am to 7pm.

3. Christmas Market Am Hof

The “Platz am Hof” is one of the oldest squares of the city and is located right in the historic centre. On the square are the former armoury and the "House of the Golden Ball." In the middle of the square is a tall column where Maria prays to the Gothic "Kirche am Hof," a church with a Baroque style facade. Everyone knows that the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is Austrian. It was at the Collalto Palais at this very square where in 1762 the then six-year old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart together with his sister Nannerl gave their first public concert.

The square has always been a place for tournaments and events and the Christmas Market fits right in. Sylvia Praehofer from Franz Tausch Lebkuchen is a living example of how food obsessed (in the most positive sense) Austrians are. They sell 40 different gingerbread varieties and she was able to describe them so beautifully to me, that I couldn’t help but to buy some. She narrowed down my decision with a few questions: “Do you love your gingerbread to be fruity?” … “Do you like it fruity and soft, or spicier and more delicate?” She keeps asking me till we find out what I like best. Make your own choice, this stall is Gingerbread heaven. When I leave Ms Sylvia Praehofer explains that it is “best to store the Gingerbread in a tin can, and should they become hard, simply place some fresh apple slices into the box.”

42 artisans, 13 commercial craftsmen, 7 traders, 2 Maroni huts and 12 food/drink stalls make this a truly magical Christmas Market. Drink a glass of Punsch at one of the many stalls and look around you. It is not too hard to imagine how it was in 1280, when the first market was held on this square.

Travel Austria. 2018 Guide to Magical Christmas Markets in Vienna

Travel Austria. 2018 Guide to Magical Christmas Markets in Vienna

Travel Austria. 2018 Guide to Magical Christmas Markets in Vienna

Info Christmas Market Weihnachtsmarkt am Hof. Open till 23rd December 2018. Hours: Monday to Thursday 11am to 9pm, Friday to Sunday 10am to 9pm, food stalls close at 10pm.

4. Christmas Market Town Hall Square Christkindlmarkt

The city hall in neo gothic style has been finished in 1882. There is a guy sitting on top of its tower, the city hall man, and he has probably the best view of the Christmas Market at the foot of this property. The massive Christmas tree was switched on to boisterous cheers of the crowds on the eve of 15th November, and people’s eyes were shining just as brightly as the lights of the Christmas Tree. The location of the market between the famous Burgtheater and the Vienna City Hall is simply fantastic. The market opened for the first time in 1296 (initially at a different location) as Viennese merchants were given the privilege of a "December market". Today there are 3 million visitors per year who come to see what’s on offer at the 140 stalls at this largest Christmas Market in Vienna.

Travel Austria. 2018 Guide to Magical Christmas  Markets in Vienna Rathaus

Info Rathausplatz Christkindlmarkt. Rathausplatz, 1010 Vienna. Hours till 23rd December 2018: Sunday to Thursday 10am to 9.30pm, Friday to Saturday 10am to 10pm. 24th December 2018, 10am to 6pm. 25th December and 26th December 2018, 11am to 9.30pm. Ice-skating until 6th January 2019, 10am to 10pm, 24th December 2018: 10am to 6pm.

5. Spittelberg Christmas Market

They call Spittelberg a village in the city and it is obvious why. The area with lots of glorious houses of the Biedermeier period was independent before it became a borough of the city of Vienna in 1850. There are narrow cobblestoned lanes with restaurants and small stores, and lots of small squares where you can relax and take in the atmosphere. Right now, everything is decorated for Christmas, and there is festive spirit everywhere. Go for a walk to browse the 100 stalls, which you’ll find all over the village, and drink a glass of Punsch to warm up. If you go there in the early evening it becomes very merry and cosy. Hundreds of visitors gather in the cold and have a fun night out.

Info Christmas Market Spittelberg. Spittelberggasse. Open till 23rd December 2018. Hours: Monday to Thursday 2pm – 9pm, Friday 2pm – 9.30pm, Saturday 10am – 9.30pm, Sunday 10am – 9 pm.

Travel Austria. Vienna. Fiaker. Horses

How to get to Vienna

By car from Bratislava approx. 80 kilometres.
By car from Budapest approx. 250 kilometres.
By car from Maribor in Slovenia approx. 250 kilometres.
By car from Munich in Germany approx. 435 kilometres.

By plane. Visit the website of the airport to check flight connections.

More about Christmas Markets? Read

From Berlin with love

Editor's note: This post has been updated for accuracy in November 2018.