Romantic Vienna has plenty of appeal at any time of year with its Biedermeier architecture, famous choir and exceptional galleries, but it really lights up over the festive season with enticing Christmas markets in its most photogenic corners. With around 20 to choose from, the scent of glühwein and fresh baking hangs over the city between mid-November and Christmas. Here are some of the most appealing.
1) Wiener Christkindlmarkt, Rathausplatz
Among the lavish decorations and strings of light in Vienna’s massive main square, over 150 stalls sell hand-blown Christmas decorations and wooden toys in one of Vienna’s largest – and classiest – markets. Food vendors offer roast chestnuts, spicy punch, smoked sausages and elegant patisserie. By night celebrities read the Christmas story and there are carols and concerts around the Christmas fire. The neighboring Rathauspark offers rides on the Christkindl Express. To get there, take trams 1 or D.
Quirky handmade presents and plenty of spicy punch, Christmas games and workshops for kids, concerts and brass bands are all in the courtyard of a glorious Habsburg palace. Take the metro U4 to Schönbrunn.
3) Altwiener Christkindlmarkt, Freyung
A traditional Christmas market dating back to 1772, the emphasis here is on quality. Beeswax candles, slabs of soap and handmade nativity scenes can be bought to a backdrop of carols and classical music in one of Vienna’s prettiest squares. Take the metro U2 to Schottentor.
4) Wintermarkt, Riesenradplatz
Squatting below the giant Ferris wheel in Prater Amusement Park, this Christmas market has a fun fair thrown in. It’s small and cozy, with a scattering of brightly painted stalls offering Christmas decorations, candles and shots of schnapps to ward off the chill. Take the metro U1 to Praterstern.
Other great Viennese Christmas markets are found at Spittelberg, Maria Theresien-Platz on the Ringstrasse, Am Hof and Mahlerstrasse.
- Sasha Heseltine