Travel Austria - 5 Dreamy Christmas Markets in Vienna you have to visit in 2017

Once upon a time, in late medieval times, people organized fairs and markets at the beginning of winter as an opportunity to stock up on products. In the 14th century, artisans like toy makers or confectioners began to build stalls, from where they sold their wares. This was the perfect opportunity for parents who bought the goods as Christmas presents for their loved ones. And then there were stalls with roasted chestnuts, nuts and almonds. That was the moment the tradition was born: Christmas markets.

It is November, and the long wait for the Christmas markets to open is (as good as) over. We can start planning again. Put Vienna, the capital city of Austria, on your Christmas market wish list. No doubt about it, Vienna, home to illustrious Caf├ęs, traditional horse carriages and to the very romantic waltz, is worth a trip at any time of the year, but especially so when dressed in sparkly Christmas lights. For Christmas season lights get sprinkled all over town lavishly.

The Viennese are passionate about food. They bend over backwards, with panache and a smile, to hold on to traditional craftsmanship and details. It shows, the goods are made with love, and everything you eat at the Christmas markets tastes outstandingly well.

If you only try two things while in Vienna, make it fruity and soft or spicy and delicate gingerbread and punch. The Austrians love to drink punch at Christmas, and there are many different varieties you can try in Vienna. The punch, called punsch in German speaking countries, is 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 also star anise, vanilla beans, orange zest, ginger, and often rum are added to the hot drink.

1. Spittelberg Christmas Market in Vienna

Spittelberg, an area with lots of sumptuous houses of the Biedermeier period, was independent, until it became a borough of the city of Vienna, in 1850. To this day it still feels like a village within the city. The narrow cobblestoned lanes with restaurants and small shops, and the squares in the area are all decked out with Christmas decoration, and the spirit couldn't be more festive. Go for a walk to browse the 100 stalls, and drink punch to keep warm. Visit in the early evening for an especially dreamy experience (expect it to be busy though). Hundreds of visitors gather in the cold and have a merry night out.

Info Christmas Market Spittelberg Spittelberggasse, Stiftgasse, Schrankgasse, Gutenberggasse, 1070 Vienna. 16th November till 23rd December 2017. Hours: Monday till Thursday 2pm – 9pm, Friday 2pm – 9.30pm, Saturday 10am – 9.30pm, Sunday (and on bank holidays) 10am – 9pm.

2. Weihnachtsmarkt am Stephansplatz in Vienna

This is a sweet Christmas market right in the centre of town, with stalls that run all around the St Stephen’s Cathedral. Here you find quality products which are all made in Austria. The wind howls around the cathedral grounds and, hard to believe, the icy cold air adds to the Christmassy flair. While you are here: The Cathedral which was completed in 1160 is one of the most important Gothic buildings in Austria.

Info Christmas Market Stephansplatz. Stephansplatz, Vienna. 17th November till 26th December 2017. Hours daily: 11am to 9pm. 24th December 2017 11am to 9pm. 25th and 26th December 2017 11am to 7pm. Stephansplatz, Churhausgasse.

3. Christmas Market Michaelerplatz, Hofburg in Vienna

The baroque style square, Michaelerplatz, finished only at the end of the 19th century albeit already planned and designed in 1725, is right next door to the 'one and only' Hofburg of Vienna. You can buy handmade cribs, toys, crafts, classic headwear and wonderful spice decoration at this market that has only a few select stalls. The square, illuminated, horse carriages park everywhere, the smell of hot punch in the air. Can a Christmas market enchant its visitors more? A speciality of this Christmas market is the Sisi punch. To what extent Sisi, the empress and her husband, Franz-Joseph, the emperor of Austria, enjoyed drinking punch, we will probably never find out. One of the stall holders reveals that “people love to order drinks named after the couple”.

While you are here: In the centre of the square and right next to the Christmas market, you have the chance to look at archaeological excavations.

Info Christmas Market Michaelerplatz Michaelerplatz, 1010 Vienna. 11th November till 26th December 2017. Hours: 10 am – 8pm. 24th December: 10 am – 5pm.

4. Weihnachtsmarkt am Hof in Vienna

The square has always been a place for tournaments and events and during Christmas time this Christmas market with its 76 stalls is one of it. The environment plays a big role here. The organisers and stall holders loved the idea of ceramic cups for punch and mulled wine so much that they developed a mobile washing system for ceramic cups, an innovation at the time. More and more attention has been paid to high-quality goods, and attempts to stop selling mass-produced goods were successful. Today the art and delicacies on offer are handmade in Austria. The artisans, commercial craftsmen, traders, food- and drink stalls make this Christmas market what it is. Drink a glass of punch 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.

While you are here: The Platz am Hof, located right in the historic centre, is one of Vienna's oldest squares. On the square are the former armoury and the House of the Golden Ball. In the middle of the square is a column that shows Maria praying to the Gothic Kirche am Hof and its Baroque style facade. The composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is Austrian, and it was at the Collalto Palais at this very square, where the six-year-old and his sister Nannerl gave their first public concert in 1762.

Info Christmas Market Weihnachtsmarkt am Hof Open 17th November till 23rd December 2017. Hours: Monday to Thursday. 11am to 9pm. Friday, Saturday and Sunday and on 8th December 10am to 9pm. Food stalls open until 10pm.

5. Rathausplatz Christkindlmarkt Vienna

The city hall in neo-gothic style has been on this square ever since 1882, and the guy sitting on top of its tower, the city hall man, has certainly the best 360 view of the Christmas market and its surrounding area. Every year the tall Christmas tree gets switched on, on the eve of the 15th November. Try to be here, on the market between the famous Burgtheater and the Vienna City Hall, to experience the moment when people’s eyes shine just as bright as the lights of the Christmas tree. The roaring cheers of the crowds are infectious. The market opened, initially at a different location, when Viennese merchants were given the privilege of a December market in 1296. Be prepared, you are not going to be the only one who wants to see what’s on offer at the 140 stalls on Vienna's largest Christmas Market, there are usually three million visitors per year. If it is getting too cold, go inside the town hall to write a letter to Father Christmas or decorate gingerbread.

Info Christkindlmarkt Rathausplatz, Vienna 1010. Christkindlmarkt Christmas market 17th November to 26th December 2017. Sunday to Thursday 10am to 9.30pm. Friday to Sautrday 10am to10pm. 24th December 10am to 6pm. 25th and 26th December 11am to 9.30pm.

How to get to Vienna

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.

Do you like Christmas markets? Which one can I add to the list? Looking forward to hear from you.

From Berlin with love

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Greetings stranger. I always try to be myself and to be a tourist as often as I can. I would love to get in contact with lots of hard travelling tourists who love to be out and about as much as I do. I am looking forward to all your comments. Thanks so much in advance.