Travel Austria. 2023 Guide to Magical Christmas Markets in Vienna

How did you get through the period of long ten months and a few moments for this to happen? Eventually. What a long wait. Christmas markets are back. Vienna, home to glamorous cafés, traditional Fiakers (horse carriages) and home to the very romantic waltz, is dressed in sparkly Christmas lights to welcome visitors. 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. Is there anything more romantic than walking under all these Christmas lights? Even the horses are flirting with each other.
Vienna, the capital of Austria, sits in the east of the country. Known the world over for Mozart and Beethoven, for ballroom dancing and museums, for the Hapsburg monarchy and Art Nouveau architecture and chocolaty Sacher Torte and Apple Strudel. These make it worth to visit but wait till you see all the 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 tastes outstandingly delicious. In Vienna, people are seriously passionate about food. 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.

Two white horses in black harnesses and black eye shields stick their heads together to snuggle.

1. Royal and Imperial Christmas Market Michaelerplatz near the Hofburg Vienna 2023

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

As one stallholder tells me "the Austrians love to drink their punch at Christmas. There are many different Punsch (Punsch called in German), varieties on offer in this city."

Did you know that punch originates from India? English navigators brought the mixed drink to Europe in the 16th century. Its name stems from the Hindu word panch: five. It 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 speciality of this Christmas market is the Sisi Punsch.

Did Sisi, the Empress and her husband, Franz-Joseph, the Emporer of Austria enjoy drinking punch? I later visit a Sisi exhibit and won't find information to what extent and if at all. The stallholder says, “people devotedly order drinks named after the royal couple.” The guy caught me red-handed. Exact the reason I order the Sisi Punsch. I take my time sipping the hot drink so that I can enjoy it thoroughly and see Sisi right before me. The drink tastes as marvellous as I imagined her to be.

One can buy handmade cribs, toys, crafts, classic headwear, and wonderful spice decorations in this market. Farouk sells all things "Spice" with a big smile. He moved from Algeria (People's Democratic Republic of Algeria) to Vienna for love. Married to a “very lovely Viennese lady,” he “loves his life in Austria.”

Information K.u.k. Christmas Market Michaelerplatz, 1010 Vienna.  Hours 10 November till 26 December 2023: 10am to 8pm. 24 December 2023: 10am to 5pm.

A bowl with a group of small brightly smiling felt figurines wearing a light grey knit beanie, a white and grey striped knit scarf, and white felt jumpers with a grey felt heart on its front.

A bowl with a group of small brightly smiling knitted figurines wearing a red beanie, black wooden booties, white trousers, and red jumpers with a white felt heart on its front.

A bowl with five heart-shaped Christmas wreaths made from dried wood, dried cinnamon sticks, dried red berries, and pinecones, sprayed partly with golden glitter.

A Christmas wreath made from dried wood and pinecones sprayed partly with golden glitter stands next to a bowl with small knitted red-coloured figurines with a white felt heart on their jumpers.


2. Christmas Market Stephansplatz Vienna 2023

This is a small Christmas Market right in the centre of town. Stalls run all around the majestic St Stephen’s Cathedral. The Cathedral, completed in 1160, has ever since become the national emblem of Austria. Exhibitors offer quality products, all made in Austria. When the wind howls around the cathedral grounds, the icy cold air adds to the festive atmosphere.

Andrea and her partner, one of the proud stallholders, make diaries from scratch. The two autodidacts from Romania are proper artisans. When they started their business, they dissected vintage books. After a while, they began to understand the art of bookbinding. 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 …”

Information: Christmas Market Stephansplatz. Stephansplatz, 1010 Vienna. 10 November till 26 December 2023, 11am to 9pm. 24 December 2023, 11am to 4pm. 25 December and 26 December 2023, 11am to 7pm.

The model of a tall cathedral with one large spire in front of a grey stone wall.

Three rows of handmade notebooks in light brown leather covers with price tags attached that ask for 20 (without stating the exact currency).

The slightly wavy blank pages of an opened notebook with a yellow and blue patterned fabric cover.

3. Christmas Market Am Hof Vienna 2023

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

The square has always been a place for tournaments and events. The Christmas Market fits right in. Sylvia Praehofer from Franz Tausch Lebkuchen is a living example of how food-obsessed Austrians are. They sell 40 different gingerbread varieties. She can describe them so wonderful to me that as a result, I buy some. My choice gets at first narrowed down 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 until it is clear what I like best. Make your own choice. This stall is Gingerbread heaven. Before I leave, I receive one last piece of advice. “It is best to store the Gingerbread in a tin can. Should they become hard, simply place some fresh apple slices into the box.”

42 artisans. 13 commercial craftsmen. Seven traders. Two Maroni huts (selling sweet chestnuts). Twelve food and drink stalls. Combined they make this a magnificent Christmas Market. Drink a glass of punch at one of the many stalls and look around you. It is easy to imagine how it was in 1280 when the first market was held on this square.

Info Christmas Market Weihnachtsmarkt am Hof. Am Hof, 1010 Vienna. 10 November to 23 December 2023. Monday to Thursday 11am to 9pm, Friday to Sunday 10am to 9pm. Food stalls close at 10pm.

The illuminated facade of a three-storey light yellow elaborately decorated period property.

Crowds of visitors dressed in winter coats, beanies, and scarves stroll between wooden stalls decorated with Christmas ornaments.

A town centre decorated with public golden artworks, two giant stone sculptures, and period properties illuminated by Christmas lights.


4. Christmas Market Town Hall Square Christkindlmarkt Vienna 2023

Building works on the city hall in neo-gothic style finished in 1882. The guy sitting on top of its tower, the city hall man, has without a doubt the best view over this Christmas Market.

Viennese merchants enjoyed the privilege of a "December market" for the first time in 1296. Today three million visitors per year come to check out the 150 stalls. Be prepared it is busy with visitors buying Christmas tree ornaments, handicrafts, traditional delicacies, and hot drinks.

Each year the lights of the massive Christmas tree get switched on to boisterous cheers of the crowds. It is a delight to see people’s eyes shining just as brightly as the lights of the Christmas Tree. Enter through the archway made with candles and be enchanted by a merry-go-round, a reindeer train and all the light installations in the park.

The market located between the famous Burgtheater and the Vienna City Hall is easy to reach on foot. 
Information Rathausplatz Christkindlmarkt Vienna. Rathausplatz, 1010 Vienna. 10 November to 26 December 2023: 10am to 9.30pm. 24 December to 26 December 2023: 10am to 6.30pm. 
Ice-skating Rathausplatz Christkindlmarkt 19 November 2023 to 7 January 2024. Visitors can skate on a 3,000 m² ice rink and numerous paths through the park. Hours 10am to 10pm. 24 December 2023, 10am to 6.30pm. 31st December 2023: closed.

An illuminated period-style palace with two large towers next to an illuminated tall fir tree dressed in Christmas ornament and lights, under a pitch dark sky.

5. Spittelberg Christmas Market Vienna 2023

They call Spittelberg a village in the city and it is obvious why.  Spittelberg was independent until it became a borough of the city of Vienna in 1850.  It is here where you find lots of glorious houses of the Biedermeier period. Walk along narrow cobblestoned lanes and small squares. Hop into cafés and restaurants and browse small shops.  Around mid-November, everything is decorated for Christmas. There is a festive spirit everywhere. Go for a walk to browse the 100 stalls of the Christmas market. You’ll find these all over the village. Drink a glass of punch to stay warm. If you visit in the early evening it becomes very merry and cosy. Hundreds of visitors gather in the cold to have a fun night out.
Information Christmas Market Spittelberg. Spittelberggasse, Stiftgasse, Schrankgasse, Gutenberggasse, 1070 Vienna. 16 November to 23 December 2023. Hours: Monday to Thursday 2pm to 9pm, Friday 2pm to 9.30pm, Saturday 10am to 9.30pm, Sunday 10am to 9 pm.

A female horse-drawn carriage driver with a pixie cut wearing a black bowler hat and a blue puffer coat sits atop her moving black lacquered carriage drawn by one brown and one white horse, both of them dressed in a red and white harness and red and white ear and black eye shields.

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 Vienna airport to check flight connections. Also, think about using the train.

Austria – Currency and how to pay

Austria is a member of the European Union. The official currency in Austria is the Euro. Exchange money on arrival at the airport, or get some cash at an ATM. You can pay in cash still almost everywhere (some shops/restaurants/cafes will only accept cash). Credit cards are widely accepted.

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From Berlin with love

The article has been updated in October 2023 for accuracy.