The Christmas market season is already here – the very first markets opened last weekend in Museums Quartier and across the city this weekend (17th November) the rest will follow, and I for one am so here for it.
Christmas markets mean that drinking cosy gluwein (like mulled wine but better) on a street corner becomes socially acceptable and huddling around wooden huts that serve cookies and baked treats is an adult thing to do.
How could you not get excited by that?
Vienna is known for its big flashy Christmas markets out the front of Rathaus platz and Schönbrunn palace which are full of Christmassy cheer, and while they are beautiful, those markets are definitely designed for tourists. Always busy and overpriced – they are fun once or twice, but you want to head to a real Vienna Christmas market.
There’s a whole world of other beautiful Christmas markets that you should be visiting this year, and to be on the safe side, you should probably visit all of them to compare which is the most festive.
Far and away the prettiest of the Christmas markets, Karlskirchke has the advantage of the dramatic church backdrop for maximum Christmas joy. With lights tinkling and sprawling pathways filled with stalls selling local arts and crafts this market is as popular with locals as it is for travellers.
What makes this market special is the unique and high quality arts and crafts for sale that are curated carefully each year.
To join the market, artists have to submit their hand made crafts to an appointed jury for approval to participate. Once approved, stallholders can sell directly to you – so shopping here means you are supporting local artists and businesses, rather than getting crap gifts made in China. I’ll take the sustainable thoughtful gift over the cheap plastic one! You’ll find hand carved woodwork, modern art prints, cosy knitted winter wear, organic regionally sourced food and yes, wine, from Austrian suppliers who have passed the test.
Another beloved element of this market is the ‘open field’ play area for kids and families – they fill the summertime fountain with hay bales and a small animal farm for kids to play in and adults to relax upon while clutching deliciously warm punsch. It’s the picture perfect chillout spot for groups of friends with young kids, or families to have a Christmassy night out.
2017 Dates: 17th November until 23rd December.
Opening Hours: Midday until 8pm
Ok, granted these can be quite touristy too, but there is always a good mix of locals enjoying Gluwein and punsch amongst the throngs of shuffling tourists.
Spitellberg markets wind through the historic streets in the 7th district, sandwiched between Siebensterngasse and Burgasse, and up and down the alleys, courtyards and cobbled streets between Stiftgasse and Kirchbergasse. They are the most adorable and cosy of Vienna’s Christmas markets.
There’s a mix of Christmas decoration stalls and food stands, but notably the punsch and gluwein stands spread into the restaurants surrounding the cobbled streets. Really this is the perfect afternoon into evening Christmas market, where many locals will come to get some festive spirit after work or on weekends.
What I like about these markets is you can pop into the indie stores and cafes that surround it if it gets too cold outside or you want something more than standard Christmas market gifts. A good all rounder!
2017 Dates: 16th November – 23rd December
Opening Hours: 2pm – 9pm most nights, open until 9:30pm Friday & Saturday
3 Wilhelminenburg Weinachtsmarkt
If you want to get out of the city, this downsized version of a Christmas market is the way to go, with stunning views over Vienna if you make it up there during daylight hours.
They change the setup slightly every year – one year we were lucky enough to ice skate out the front of the palace, another year we saw Chistkindl deliver gifts and last year even managed to visit when Santa was doing photo shoots.
It’s definitely a more local Chistmas market, with a small number of stalls, plenty of kids running around and a more community, homemade feeling to the stalls and food on offer.
It doesn’t get more quintessentially Viennese than standing outside a palace, overlooking the city below sparkling in Christmas lights while holding a warm punsch in one hand and a giant krapfen in the other. Definitely reccommend this as a low key Christmas market!
2017 Dates: 17th November – 23rd December
Opening Times: Weekdays 4pm – 9pm, Fridays 3pm – 9pm, Weekends 11am – 9pm
Stepping into the Altes AKH is like walking into a winter fairyland of Christmas cheer. Because the market is hidden within the courtyard innenhof of the university campus, the sparkling lights, brightly coloured huts and Christmas trees feel like a secret world of festivity.
The market is built in the centre of the large courtyard and has 2 on site restaurants, a miniature ferris wheel, plenty of cute huts serving up meats, cheese and pastry treats, alongside the regular Christmas market gifts and goodies. The punsch and Gluwein stands here are grouped together so there’s a lovely central point with multiple bar tables that groups can gather around. It’s one of my most beloved markets for the magical atmosphere.
2017 Dates: 18th November – 23rd December
Opening Times: Weekdays 3pm – 10pm, Saturdays 12pm – 10pm, Sundays 12pm – 9pm
If you want to combine your Christmas market visit with a leisurely walk through a beautiful park, this is your best option. Türkenschanzpark Christmas market is nestled in the gardens of Türkenschanzpark in the 18th district, so another small-scale market for locals and family activities. They focus on handicrafts in their stalls, with food and a carousel also available.
While it may not be big and bustling, this a lovely option on a weekend afternoon to stroll through and enjoy the Christmassy spirit without the hustle and bustle of the bigger markets. Normally they host events for Perchtenlauf on the 6th of December and a visit from Christkind (the angel of Christmas in Austria) towards the end of December.
2017 Dates: 17th November – 24th December
Opening Times: Weekdays 3pm – 10pm, Weekends Midday – 9pm
Naturally, Museums Quartier has to have the coolest Christmas Markets. Here is where the artists, hipsters, students and savvy travellers converge to get into the Christmas spirit without being too ‘kitsch’.
MQ has a collection of large, LED lit, igloo huts clustered in the centre of their expansive courtyard, where DJ’s play and you can sip gluwein surrounded by cool kids. It’s an excellent option for after work drinks or strolling through on the weekends to get your party night started early.
While it’s not a Christmas market in the traditional sense, I love coming here for a bit of a modern twist on Christmas spirit – the drinks are always tasty, you can try different cuisine from the different huts, and inevitably you will run into someone you know after about 15 minutes!
MQ is a go to option if you’ve had enough of sickly sweet Christmas cheer and just want to boogie a bit and celebrate without hearing jingle bells on repeat for hours.
2017 Dates: 9th November – 23rd December
Opening Times: Mon- Fri 4pm – 11pm, Weekends 2pm – 11pm
The central location amongst tourists might put you off, but don’t be deceived, Freyung Platz is a locals favourite too.
On one side they have handicraft stalls that are more than cheapo snowglobes – think big chunky candles and handmade Christmas tree decorations. On the other, there’s a delicious aisle full of local meats, cheeses and produce from farmers in the region. Here’s where you can try all the sausages and dairy products your heart desires before indulging in the sweet Christmas cookies and krapfen donuts.
Freyung is good fun because it feels nestled away, surrounded by the historic churches and 18th century buildings, with space enough to dart between punsch stands while enjoying the live music and performances. You can get chatting with locals here too which makes it a bit more ‘real’ than nearby Rathaus platz or Am Hof markets. A fun one to swing by and get tipsy and chatty when it’s not too crowded!
2017 Dates: 18th November – 23rd December
Opening Times: 10am – 9pm daily
8 Your local punsch stand
The beauty of Christmas time in Vienna is, you don’t have to go to a big fancy Christmas market to enjoy the festive spirit. Some of my favourite Christmas memories are from huddling around 1 or 2 punsch stands that pop up randomly on streets all around the city.
Often selling warm chestnuts and attracting the local community who stop by on the way home, if you spot a courtyard or corner of your local area with a Punsch stand on it, definitely go and try it! The real spirit of Christmas is in the unplanned visits
In writing this article I cam across a new contender for cool Christmas market, being hosted at CREAU in the second district.
Having been to a few events here throughout the year, I can say it’s a very interesting, edgy location that reminds me a lot of Melbourne in the grungey pop-up feel it has. This year they are hosting CREAU Advent, which is promising to have a world-record breaking life size Advent Kalendar, designed by 24 different artists.
While there’s not a whole lot of info about the market there yet, I’m sure there’ll be punsch, glüwein and food and probably a lot of interesting art and fun people, so I’ll be taking a gamble to check it out!
What are your plans for this years Christmas Markets season? If there’s any favourite markets I’ve missed let us know in the comments – and may we all enjoy a Christmas season without a care for how many calories in Christmas cookies or punsch!
Want to keep up with the latest from Austrian Adaptation? Join 5,000+ travel fans and subscribe to our fortnightly newsletter for a wrap up of good reads and recommendations to make your time in Austria awesome.
Hold Up! There's more…
We all know pop ups suck. But hey, you want to know what happens next, right?
Stay in the know on all things Austria by subscribing below.
There'll be brunch, books and travel updates too…