December is the perfect time to visit Vienna if you love to enjoy the Christmas spirit at its fullest! Bright and elegant lights, delicious food, Christmas carols, mulled wine and many handmade crafts make the most out of the former imperial capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. We had a lovely time there, trying to see as much as we could in the 5 days spent in Vienna. Although we’ve been several times in this wonderful city, it was for the first time we’ve seen Vienna all dressed up for Christmas.
I don’t know about you, but for me, Christmas is so much more than a holiday. Christmas is a feeling that lasts the entire winter. Christmas is about love, family, friends, lovely dinners, joy, giving and forgiving, it’s about being a better version of yourself, changing your mind set, seeing the good side of things and spreading positive vibes everywhere you go. I started to hear the Christmas bells ringing since the end of November and I just knew I had to go some place where the winter magic had cast its spell. What better place than Vienna – not far from home and with a stunning reputation regarding the Christmas season. But less poetry (although it’s soooo hard…you will see why I was so mesmerized with Vienna’s magic winter in the photos below) and more useful facts. So, if you plan a trip to Vienna for New Years Eve (you can still find some last minute deals) or maybe for next year, you should continue reading this post and find out more about Vienna’s most beautiful Christmas Markets. Keep in mind that most of them transform into New Year’s Markets by the end of the month.
It may sound like a cliché, but when it comes to Christmas magic, I could not start with any other market than the one in front of the City Hall. By far the most entertaining and wonderfully decorated Christmas Market in Vienna, this place is the main attraction during the season (to be jolly haha). A perfect choice for both adults and children, it has many surprises such as an ice rink, many Christmas trees trimmed with cute little lights, a lovely carousel, a ferris wheel, a giant frame perfect to take photos with a great background, wooden chalets filled with delicious treats, drinks and souvenirs. I must warn you it is very crowded, especially in the evening when all the lights are lit up transforming the market into a giant winter wonderland.
You can get there using the metro, the tram or in a better way…strolling down the Ring and admiring the Viennese beauty such as…
The Maria Theresien Platz is a large public square in Vienna, that joins the Ringstraße with the Museumsquartier, a museum of modern arts located in the former Imperial Stables. Facing each other from the sides of the square are two near identical buildings, the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum). If you are passionate about culture and history, this place is a must see because you will get to explore the Christmas/New Year’s Eve Village in an imperial scenery! You can take a tour holding a cute cup of mulled wine and don’t forget to stop at the wooden house in front of the Kunsthistorisches Museum because you’ll find there the best sausages in Vienna – absolutely delicious and a perfect choice for a cold day (aka a typical winter day) in Vienna. There is no escaping the Christmas atmosphere with festively decorated market stalls and a vast array of culinary delights.
After seeing the Maria-Theresien-Platz, if you are still in the mood for walking down the elegant streets in the city center, the Hofburg Christmas Market is just a few steps away in Michaelerplatz. White wooden cabin are waiting for its visitors with handmade candles, warm hat, fresh baked gingerbread and many horse-drawn carriages beautifully decorated ready to take you back in time on a private tour through the cobbled streets of Vienna (old town). Near Michaelerplatz you can find various attractions such as museums (Sisi Museum, the Imperial Apartaments, the National Library), cafes and restaurants (Café Central, Café Demel), shops (what is a vacation without a little bit of shopping?), churches (Am Hof Church, St. Peter’s Church) and many other gorgeous architectural details that will catch your eye on the way.
You have to make time to visit the area both at day time and during the evening because it is an experience itself just to stroll down Kohlmarkt beneath sheets of white lights to reach the Graben.
A hidden place in the area is the Am Hof square which hosts (of course) another enchanting Christmas Market. Located between Freyung market and the pedestrian area of Kohlmarkt and Graben the Weihnachtsmarkt Am Hof (known for the locals) presents a natural stop. By all means, reserve some space if you love beautiful Christmas decoration and hearty Austrian snacks. This year, you’ll be able to relax in style at the new champagne bar where you can taste different bubbly drinks. As for music, expect regular live gospel choirs as well as local hits from Radio Wien, which sponsors the market and runs a charity show each Thursday. I found Am Hof market to be very authentic, les touristic and with a certain charm – making it so unique. Drink up the champagne and follow the pedestrian street Bognergasse (you can’t miss it because the elegant windows from Prada and Louis Vuitton won’t go unnoticed) and you’ll reach Graben – by far my favorite place in Vienna regardless the season. This street is so elegant and charming that I could drink my coffee there each morning (I could really get used to that view!). I think the authorities have the same feeling about Graben because they have installed here the most impressive Christmas decorations. The giant chandeliers containing around 200,000 LEDs fit perfectly and offer a unique holiday vibe. As you go, check out the side streets as well and pay attention to details – you will discover Christmassy corners all around that area.
I hope you’re not tired yet because there are plenty of places to see. Just when you thought Vienna could not get any more beautiful you reach Stephansplatz. The Christmas here focuses on contemplation and tradition, with around 40 booths at the foot of St. Stephen’s Cathedral offering high-quality products from Austria. We spent the evenings here, listening to music, admiring the lights, drinking schnapps and blending in with the locals. The market is a great start line for some shopping with easy access to Kartner street and Graben and the perfect spot to decide which Viennese area has the best decorations.
Don’t miss the Rotenturm and Wollzeile streets where you’re going to be amazed by the giant red globes above you and also look up to see the Haas Haus with its illuminated façade. Continue your stroll along Kartner street until you reach the Popp&Kretschmer luxury store wrapped up with a wonderful red bow made out of lights. You can find this lovely Instagram spot just across from the State Opera and the Sacher Hotel. The store is a must see during the winter holidays due to its simple but elegant decoration that steals hearts around the world throughout the lovely photos on the social media.
Not far from Kartner, you can go and explore Karlsplatz – which hosts an artsy Christmas Market just in front of the beautiful Karlskirsche. Loved the urban magic there: Christmas trees everywhere, wooden bridges (perfect for taking pictures), vintage garlands of lights, pony rides and of course cool places to hang out, eat traditional dishes and drink something to warm you up, while listening to local bands. The aroma of Christmas baking and hot punch sets the mood in the run-up to Christmas. The unique backdrop gives this market a charm of its own, and the delicious aromas are sure to bring the seasonal joy into the hearts of all visitors.
A bit far from Vienna’s city center, but very much worth the visit is the Schönbrunn Palace – the former imperial summer residence, a place full of history, beauty and charm. The Christmas Market Schloß Schönbrunn offers an extraordinary Christmas season experience because there is a lot to discover in the 80 lovingly decorated booths. Exhibitors from Austria and the near countries create a unique atmosphere on the splendidly illuminated Parade court of the palace. The exclusive product offer included traditional handicrafts, nostalgic toys and lovingly designed Christmas decorations made of glass, wood, ceramics, paper and tin. The culinary menu offered plenty of punch and mulled wine variations as well as Austrian delicacies such as “Bauerngröstl”, “Kaiserschmarrn”, sweet chestnuts or gingerbread. The unique setting makes out of this market an excellent choice to feel the Christmas vibes and relax. The seasonal market offers romance in front of an imperial backdrop, and is converted into a New Year’s market after Christmas. You can find traditional handicrafts, hand-made Christmas decorations, Christmas concerts and an extensive children’s program, including Christmas workshops. During the entire holiday season, Schönbrunn is a magical getaway so you must not miss it if you’re staying in Vienna.
Another must visit place outside the Ringstrasse is the Belvedere Christmas Village – seasonal joy with an impressive Baroque background. The gardens provide an ideal site for a tranquil Christmas market with elegant handicrafts and culinary delights. For me, the highlights were the stars set up in the big fountain right when you enter the domain. The wooden cabin were beautifully decorated creating a jolly Christmassy atmosphere. Hot cocoa and a pie are the best companions for a December day. Also, if you want to warm up and to be really amazed…buy a ticket and visit the museum inside…every painting has its story and every room is full of magic.
I could go on and on about Vienna and its wonder during the winter holidays but I’m sure I’ve made you curious enough to search for some last minute offers to Austria or to write down on your travel list the name of the former imperial capital. Really hope you’ve enjoyed my photos and maybe watching them will make you feel the Christmas spirit a bit more. Christmas is my favorite holiday of all since I was a baby and despite many unfortunate events I still love to decorate, to host parties and to enjoy at its fullest the most wonderful time of the year.
I had a great time in Austria (I’ll soon post all the details about Salzburg and Hallstatt too) and, for me, Vienna will always be a good idea. This city is a seasonal carnival of urban magic from mid November to the end of December that will fill your eyes with beauty, your heart with love and your soul with joy. It is so amazing to see how all the decorations – chandeliers, globes, stars, angels, hearts and many others -put people into good moods and lift their spirits. The sparkling streets and markets are so dreamy and you really have to experience the atmosphere yourself to understand. Vienna knows how to do Christmas. You won’t see dancing Santas or reindeer with unexpectedly red noses, or anything kitsch, but you will admire the crystal lights with a few million LEDs thrown in for effect. All I can say after witnessing such a magical place in Europe is “Let it glow! Let it glow! Let it glow!”
Hope you had jolly holidays together with your loved ones!