This post is also available in: Ελληνικά

Christmas markets, lavish palaces, impressive architecture, historic cafés and delicious cakes: this is Vienna, Austria at Christmas!

Festive Christmas decorations in Vienna

Vienna is famous for its many beautiful Christmas markets (among else). And they’re not just a tourist attraction! The Christmas markets (here called Advent markets”) are popular with locals too, many of them dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. You’ll often see people of all ages queueing for the ice skating ring at Rathausplatz market or having a post-work drink of warm sweetened wine at any of the many Vienna Christmas markets.

Graben pedestrian street, one of the most famous places for luxury shopping in Vienna

In addition, the capital of Austria is also one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. So, it’s no wonder Vienna is one of the top winter destinations to visit in Europe. After all, Lonely Planet readers have voted it one of the “top 10 places for Christmas markets

Moreover, Vienna is a city of contrasts. It is the city of the waltz and Johann Strauss, but it is also the city of Beethoven and Schubert. It’s a city where you can just as easily find yourself in a museum or a beer garden with friends.

Delicious desserts at Café Central

Vienna is also a sweet-tooth’s heaven. For the Viennese, dessert is the most important meal of the day! Café culture is big in Vienna and it’s part of the city’s soul. Of course, there are many local savoury specialties like the Vienna schnitzel that you should try. However, no trip to Vienna is complete without enjoying coffee and a cake at one of the famous historic cafés.

Rathausplatz Christmas Market

In winter, Vienna has so many things to offer: cosy Christmas markets, festive concerts, excellent sightseeing and more. So, let’s start with the 10 best Christmas Markets in Vienna.

Vienna’s Top 10 Christmas Markets

Am Hof Christmas Market

Vienna’s Christmas markets are famous the world over, and there are many to choose from. Here are the 10 best and most popular with both locals and visitors:

  1. Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz: The Rathausplatz hosts the biggest and most popular Christmas Market. It is located in front of Vienna’s City Hall and also has a big ice skating ring.
  2. Art Advent Market at Karlsplatz. You’ll find it at Karlsplatz, in front of Karlskirche (St Charles’ Church). In particular, a panel of expert judges from the “divina art” association approve the merchants who’ll sell their products here. As a result, you’ll find very good quality handmade gifts.
  3. Altwiener Christkindlmarkt am Freyung: “Altwiener” means “old Viennese” and this market is the oldest, dating back to 1772. It is one of the most authentic, traditional Christmas markets in Vienna, surrounded by beautiful historical buildings.
  4. Weihnachts Markt Am Hof: this cute little market is just a few steps away from Altwiener Christkindlemarkt. Just like in the Karlsplatz market, judges here approve who’s going to sell their products here.
  5. Spittelberg. By far the locals’ favourite, this market, dating back to the 1800s, features merchants selling handmade items in picturesque narrow cobblestone streets.
  6. Maria Theresian Platz. Between the Art History and Natural History museums, this market has a beautiful backdrop with the statue of Empress Maria Theresia in the middle.
  7. Upper Belvedere. One of the smaller markets and a bit outside the historic centre, but very charming, with the beautiful backdrop of Upper Belvedere Palace.
  8. Schönbrunn Palace: probably the market with the best location, in front of the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace.
  9. Stephensplatz: small but beautifully decorated market, nestled in the streets surrounding St Stephen’s Cathedral.
  10. Wintermarkt at Riesenradplatz. This one is a bit different from the others, more of a fun and food fair than a traditional market. It is located in Prater park, in front of Vienna’s giant Ferris wheel.

Best Food & Drink at Vienna’s Christmas Markets

Fried potato skewers, one of the many snacks you can enjoy at a Vienna Christmas Market

Vienna’s Christmas Markets are a great way to experience the holiday spirit and indulge in all the delicious food and drinks. Here are some of the most popular!

  • Kaiserschmarrn: This is a traditional Viennese dish that is made of fried, sweetened pancakes. It is topped with powdered sugar, applesauce or stewed plums, and vanilla sauce. It’s usually served with coffee or hot chocolate.
  • Hot mulled wine: One of the most popular drinks at Vienna’s Christmas markets is the hot mulled wine or glühwein. You can find it at many stands around the city. It tastes best when it’s served in a small cup with a cinnamon stick and clove that you can stir into your drink to release the flavour of those spices.
  • Langos: this tasty snack will be familiar to anyone who’s visited Budapest, but you’ll also find it in every Christmas market in Vienna. It is a kind of fried round and flat potato bread. The Viennese version is thinner than the Hungarian and they prefer it plain or with garlic paste on top.
  • Christmas punch: this can either be warm wine with spices like glühwein, or a blend of tea, sugar and spices. Non-alcoholic versions with orange juice are also available (called Kinderpunsch or “kids’ punsch”)
  • Potato spirals and potato skewers: two different market snacks based on potatoes, they are cheap, simple but delicious
  • Sausages: these are very popular, either served in a sandwich or in puff pastry
  • Raclette: a very popular treat, there’s almost always a queue for it. It’s essentially a tangy Swiss cheese, served melted on bread with your choice of additional toppings. Best eaten hot!
  • Baurernkrapfen: an oversized version of krapfen, the traditional Austrian doughnut, served dusted with icing sugar and raspberry jam
  • Schinkenfleckerl: pasta gratin with melted cheese, bacon and crispy onion bits
  • Roast chestnuts: the staple Christmas market snack all over Europe, they are cheap, tasty and filling
Schinkenfleckerl: pasta gratin with melted cheese, bacon and crispy onion bits

Vienna Christmas Market Shopping Tips

The best time to visit Vienna for a shopping trip is during these festive winter markets. Here are some tips to make your shopping experience more enjoyable:

  • Make sure you have either a map on hand or online with all the locations marked on it so you can plan your route before you leave home. Vienna is a big city and there are many markets!
  • Include extra time for possible traffic jams if you travel around in your own car or surface public transport (e.g. tram, bus)
  • There’s plenty of food to snack on at the markets, but since it’s quite cold in December, plan to include time for a coffee & cake break at one of the city’s lovely cafés.
  • Each market has its own decorated mug (for glühwein, punsch, etc). When you buy your hot drink, you also pay a “deposit” for the mug. If you want, you can keep the mug, but if you don’t like it, simply return it and get your deposit back. But don’t buy the first pretty mug you see, because you might like the ones at other markets better. Unless you don’t mind ending up with a whole collection of Christmas mugs!
  • Unfortunately, many of the Christmas Markets close early, some even before Christmas, on the 23rd of December. So make sure you’ve checked the opening dates before making any travel plans.
  • Although credit and debit cards are accepted almost everywhere in Vienna, a number of Christmas market sellers only accept cash, so make sure you have some, just in case.

Top 10 Attractions in Vienna during Christmas Season

Vienna is a city that is famous for its culture, museums and attractions. These 10 places will make your Christmas memories last forever.

  1. Vienna’s Christmas Market at Rathausplatz – if you can go to only one market, then this is it
  2. The Art History Museum: an impressive museum with an even more impressive café (don’t forget to go to the second floor to see it from above).
  3. St Stephan’s Cathedral: the most famous church in Vienna, it is quite busy with tourists but also has a Christmas Market outside
  4. Stadtpark: a public park in Vienna where you can enjoy some fresh air and take a break from all the shopping
  5. Schönbrunn Palace: home to the Habsburg family for over 300 years, if you only go to one palace then this is a must-see
  6. Hofburg Imperial Palace: it was once home to the Habsburg dynasty, who ruled Austria for centuries, with lots of Sissi memorabilia
  7. Belvedere Palace: it served as a summer residence for the Habsburgs, today it is home to the famous Klimt painting “The Kiss”. In December, there is another Christmas Market here too.
  8. See an opera or listen to a Vienna Philarmonic concert – music is the soul of Vienna and the holidays are a great opportunity to celebrate in style at the opera.
  9. Enjoy coffee and cake or delicious Viennese schnitzel at one of the city’s famous historic cafés. In Vienna, visiting a café is an experience in itself!
  10. Albertina Museum – the largest art museum in Vienna. It features paintings by famous artists like Tiepolo, Lotto, and Rubens, with occasional temporary expositions.
The incredible café inside the Kunsthistoriches Museum

Tips for an Enjoyable Trip to Vienna this Christmas Season

What to pack and weather in Vienna in December

Pack warm clothes and accessories! The weather in Vienna in December is cold and often rains. Some snow isn’t out of the question either, especially later in the month.

I travelled in late November and temperatures ranged from 0o C during the night to 4-6o C at midday. Most of the time it was dry but with occasional light rain too.

Belvedere Palace Christmas Market

This is my packing list for a 4-day trip in Vienna (for women);

  • Rainproof down jacket with hood
  • Thermal underwear
  • Thermal tights
  • Woollen socks
  • UGG-style ankle boots (I ended up wearing these ALL the time)
  • Classic black ankle boots that can be worn with a dressier skirt or pair of pants
  • Fleece-lined leggings
  • Pair of jeans (I only wore them on the plane)
  • Three sweaters (jumpers, if you’re reading this from the UK)
  • A pretty blouse for the occasional evening at a restaurant
  • A black (smart-casual) skirt
  • Warm beanie (mine was faux-fur lined)
  • Pair of gloves
  • Blanket scarf
  • Umbrella
Karlsplatz Art Advent Market

Vienna Christmas Travel tips

  • How to get around town: Vienna has a vast public transport network of underground/metro, trams and buses, as well as taxis. Most of the trams are modern and you can buy tickets at the automatic vendor on board, either with cash or credit/debit card. However, a few trams (especially in the evening during rush hour) are older and their ticket vending machines only accept coins, which is inconvenient. In addition, there are three taxi calling apps operating in Vienna: FreeNow, Bolt and Uber.
  • Language: almost everyone speaks English but most will speak to you in German first, so don’t be surprised. Just smile apologetically and politely say “Ich nicht verstehe, sprechen Sie English?” (i.e. I don’t understand, do you speak English?). They usually switch to English then, unless you have stumbled on someone who just doesn’t speak it.
  • How much should you tip?: When tipping, anything between 5% and 15% is acceptable and about 10% is a safe option. Usually, you try to add enough to get the bill to a nice round number.
  • Dining hours: Austrians eat their midday meal between 12 and 2 p.m., whereas dinner is around 6 and 8 p.m. That said, one (cold and rainy) day we were on our way back to the hotel at around half past four in the afternoon, hungry and tired, and found a lovely Italian restaurant nearby that was serving dinner already. So, it depends.
  • Restaurants at Christmas: Austrians consider Christmas a family celebration, so most restaurants are closed around Christmas, with Christmas Eve being the biggest holiday. So do check ahead with any restaurants you plan to visit.
Maria-Theresien Christmas Market

Summing things up: Why You Should Visit Vienna during December’s Festive Season

In conclusion, Vienna is a beautiful place to visit during the festive season. After all, it is one of the most beautiful European cities all year round. Moreover, in Vienna, Christmas markets are not just a tourist attraction but are popular with locals too, many of them established centuries ago. Vienna has much to offer, from beautiful architecture and museums to cosy historic cafés. No wonder it is one of the best Christmas destinations!

Sign up to get new posts straight to your inbox!

* indicates required

Eleanna is the founder of A Curious Compass and has been blogging since 2013. Her mixed ethnic background has made her curious about the world from a young age. Since her first solo trip at 18, she has visited and lived in many places, like London, Sao Paulo, Paris, and Toronto. Her mission is to inspire people to travel the world in style and get to know the soul of each destination.

Write A Comment