At the heart of the city, the Christmas markets are gathered within a stone’s throw of each other. It’s as though the whole of Vienna is lit by the glow of the markets – both literally and metaphorically. For the atmosphere and Christmas cheer generated by the collection of markets is quite magical.
Our first market of the night is to be the Altwiener Christkindlmarkt. This is one of the most traditional of the markets in Vienna, showcasing a range of original gifts, crafts and cuisine. It is situated on one of the most beautiful squares in Vienna, The Freyung, and at the heart of it is a stunning hut packed with baubles, wooden craftwork and trinkets. Along either side of this centre point are a string of stalls, each offering something different. In terms of location, with elegant buildings providing a back-drop to this charming market, it’s a tough one to beat.
Moving on, as the chill of the evening begins to pinch at our faces, we head down the Freyung which is adorned by a number of shimmering lights hanging down over the road.
Ahead, we see our next market, Weihnachts Markt Am Hof. Located in one of the oldest squares in Vienna, there has been a Christmas market running at this site since 1842. This market comes in two parts. The first part is an arts and crafts market, where each exhibitor has to pass a jury-led selection process, ensuring a high-quality of product. The rest of the market is packed with traditional food products, candles, ceramics and Christmas decorations.
Aside from the market, this square has so much to marvel at. At its heart lies ‘A Column of Mary’, a huge statue built by Emperor Ferdinand III. A huge Baroque church dominates the square, illuminated to provide an exquisite background to this historic market place.
The stalls here are packed tightly together, as the crowds stream through the aisles that run at all angles away from the statue. There are wooden tables and chairs laid out for those who wish to enjoy an alcoholic tipple.
A look above adds to the magic. A trail of lights shimmer above the market, almost like a tent draping over the whole square. These markets truly come alive at night. The lights, the atmosphere and the buzz is everything that you picture from a European Christmas market. Am Hof is a spectacular setting and this traditional market gets almost everything spot on to create a fantastic experience.
But, almost unbelievably, there’s more market magic to fit in before the night is out, and, arguably, the king of Vienna’s Christmas scene is next on the list.
The Christkindl Markt Am Rathausplatz, in front of the most majestic town hall you could ever wish to see, is simply extraordinary. We walk through the city centre and as we pass behind the Burgtheater, the Rathausplatz appears like a glowing world ahead of us.
An enormous, illuminated sign reading ‘Frohe Weihnachten’ or Merry Christmas in English, stands above the entrance to the market. A long stall is the first you arrive at, packed top to bottom in glittering gold and silver baubles which shimmer in the light of the market.
This is without doubt the busiest market we have visited, as the crowds bustle in all directions. It is an enormous market, with a bit of something for everyone, but the photogenic nature of this spot takes my attention.
The Rathaus dominates the night sky, with what feels like the whole of Vienna whirring around at its feet. Christmas has come alive, with the even the trees adorned with light-up snowmen, Santa Claus’, and baubles.
There aren’t enough times in life where you can stand back and simply say, ‘wow’, but this was certainly one of them. Imagine the perfect picture in your mind of a Christmas market, and you will find it in reality right here.
As the night draws to a close, we choose to sample another of Vienna’s must-do’s, a traditional Wiener Schnitzel. Off a side street is the Café im Schottenstift, where a thoroughly enjoyable meal can be found.
It was a hectic second day in Vienna, from the tourist attractions we ticked off during the day to the markets at night, but every single part of it was simply brilliant.
To read part two of the Christmas guide to Vienna, click here.