In case you were wondering: yes, Vienna is the right place for christmas market lovers.
The other day I was walking by one of the many, many christmas markets which dominate the city during christmas season and I was slightly surprised. Because, other than in previous years when you could hardly walk through the crowds of people gathering around Glühwein stands, this year Vienna´s christmas markets have notably been a little less crowded so far. Probably partly due to the not-so-wintery weather, partly because of recent events around the world which might make some people feel more wary of huge crowds.
I realize this is not exactly the best introduction to a „places you absolutely have to visit“ kind of blog post, but nevermind, nothing a mug of mulled wine and the overall beauty of Vienna during christmas time can´t fix. Because, let´s face it, Vienna IS such a beauty at this time of year. Christmas lights illuminating the streets, chestnut vendors on every second corner, the smell of hot punch and congregations of drunk christmas market visitors on the streets, well, you just gotta love the season. Since I am currently living in the „bermuda triangle“ of christmas markets, I do get my fair share of christmas market atmosphere (with all its perks and all its cons) and therefore deem myself an expert in the christmas market department. So if you want to get yourself in the right christmas spirit, follow my lead:
My favourite christmas market by far! Not only because it is situated in front of the breathtaking canvas of the baroque Karlskirche, but also because it has a very homey atmosphere to it. The market stands are usually not as kitschy and trashy as for example at Vienna´s main christmas market in front of the city hall and there are usually all kinds of animals (like ponys or dromedaries) for kids to ride on. Plus: the food is great, I love the Raclette bread stand!
The little cobblestone streets of Vienna´s Spittelberg are picturesque all year long, but especially during christmas season when this village-like part of town is filled with christmas stands selling all kinds of handmade memorabilia, fancy foods and handicraft. Oh, and in case you see a rather long queue in front of a delicious smelling booth selling pyramid cake: that´s probably me right at the front of the line.
The Altwiener Christkindlmarkt is one of the tiniest, but most authentic christmas markets in Vienna. On weekends advent singers gather on stage to fill the market with lovely christmas tunes and the smell of roasted sweet almonds will add to the feeling of being in a christmas movie. What´s also great about this one: you have at least two other christmas markets (Am Hof, Rathausplatz) just around the corner.
A castle and a christmas market – could you possibly go wrong with this combination? Exactly, that´s why the christmas market in front of Schloss Schönbrunn is always on my list even though it isn´t situated on the usual christmas market paths in the city center, but a little further to the west (still just a short subway ride away). The huge illuminated christmas tree in front of the castle will make for a perfect christmas card photo.
Ok, I´ll have to admit that Vienna´s biggest christmas market right in front of our city hall does not exactly rank among my favourites when it comes to its market stands and the quality of goods sold. Still, I usually come here at least once because of what makes this particular market really special: its fabulous lights. The trees in the park surrounding the city hall are hung with different kinds of christmas lights (the „heart“ tree has always been and will always be a favourite with all you lovebirds out there), the Rathaus itself is brightly illuminated and every single ounce of this market screams CHRISTMAS! By the way, you´ll get the best view of the Rathausplatz from the Burgtheater right across the street. And if you´re lucky and get a little snow with all that shimmering and brightness, you will never be at risk of becoming a grinch, it´s just too beautiful.
Oh, and don´t worry if your need for christmas markets might not be satisfied yet, there are loads of equally lovely markets all over town, so go ahead, explore.