I’m not exactly sure how many Christmas markets Vienna has– depending on your definition of a market, I visited nearly a dozen last week.
You don’t really need a guidebook or a map to find Vienna’s Christmas markets, as you are pretty much guaranteed to stumble across them as you walk around the city. Proof: I only set out to find four specific Christmas markets and ended up discovering five more markets purely by chance.
If you google Vienna Christmas markets, you will find many “top ten Christmas markets” type articles that include a Viennese market (usually recommending the biggest, most commercial market at City Hall). The article will typically sum up the market in sentence or two (using descriptive words like “magical”, “breathtaking”, “beautiful”), and be accompanied by a professional photograph showing a bird’s eye view of the twinkling stalls.
I was tired of reading these boring lists that made every market sound exactly the same, so I present to you my own (unfiltered) Guide to Vienna’s Top 7 Christmas Markets:
Quick Content Guide
- 1. Best Vienna Christmas market for hanging out with well-lubricated fur-clad locals:
- 3. Best Vienna Christmas Market to Drink Gluwein before Noon
- 4. Best Vienna Christmas Market to Buy Plastic Junk Made in China
- 5. Best Vienna Christmas Market for Museum-Hopping
- 6. Best Off-the-Beaten Path Vienna Christmas market (sort of)
- 7. My Favorite Overall Vienna Christmas Market (but the worst market for running into annoying tourists)
1. Best Vienna Christmas market for hanging out with well-lubricated fur-clad locals:
The Advent Market and the Old Viennese Market at Freyung
These two Christmas markets, sitting across from each other in the same square, share the same festive vibe. You can dart back and forth like we did, and share small tables and conversations with the locals. We had so much fun here our first night that we came back again the next night.
What makes these Christmas markets such a friendly spot that even a tourist can join in the fun? Maybe it’s the 17th century buildings in this square, one of the oldest in all of Vienna.
Or the heavy-handed pour with the punsch– these drinks tasted like orange-y deliciousness but were deceptively strong.
We had no problem slipping into conversations with the locals here– like the friendly, elderly gentleman who in perfect English (but for the slur) asked us three times if it was our first time in Vienna. His fur-clad wife looked on, amused.
The cheerful vendor behind Plenk Thatsonee was among our favorites. We picked up a few pieces of her pretty jewelry and hair pins, all handwoven from bamboo.
More photos of the Freyung and Advent Markets, our pick for one of the best Vienna Christmas markets:
2. Best Vienna Christmas Market to see Farm Animals (maybe)
Karlsplatz Christmas Market
We tried the Karlsplatz Christmas market on the advice of a local who promised “exciting farm animals” like llamas as the distinguishing feature of this market. We were doubtful about “farm animals” and “exciting,” but didn’t want to dampen his enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, the Karlsplatz market’s star attractions never really materialized– perhaps they were already tucked in for the night. I did see one goat, faintly, in the background.
We made our best efforts to hang out here, but after being disappointed by the missing llamas, the meh crafts, and the weak punsch (served in a mug leftover from the 2012 market), we decided it was time to move on.
3. Best Vienna Christmas Market to Drink Gluwein before Noon
Stephansplatz Christmas Market
Stephansplatz is a square in the dead center of Vienna, dominated by the dramatic church looming over it, the Stephansdom. I had no idea there was a Christmas market here, but it was pretty much impossible to miss. Just in the course of touring Vienna, you are likely to pass Stephansplatz several times a day.
It’s hard not to walk by the Stephanplatz Christmas market without stopping for a tipple– even if it is only 11 a.m.
The Stephanplatz market had a nice food selection too– all the locals seemed to be getting this yummy looking pumpkin soup in a bread bowl. If I hadn’t just had my breakfast cake (my plan to try as many Viennese cakes as possible required eating cake for breakfast), I definitely would have sampled some.
4. Best Vienna Christmas Market to Buy Plastic Junk Made in China
Rathaus, “Wiener Christkindlmarkt”
“Plastic junk made in China” he warned with a clipped Viennese accent.
But our group had heard that the Rathaus Christmas market had other redeeming qualities– it’s widely regarded as the must-see market for its spectacular Christmas decor and light displays– so we stopped by for a quick walk through.There is no doubt that the City Hall backdrop of the Rathaus Christmas market was impressive– even more so I’m sure when lit up at night.
More photos from Vienna’s Rathaus Christmas market:
5. Best Vienna Christmas Market for Museum-Hopping
Maria Theresa Christmas Market
I don’t have much to say about this Vienna Christmas market, other than it was a nice balance of interesting crafts, a great setting smack in the middle of the museum district, and a laid back vibe. I recommend it if you’re in the area. We enjoyed our first gluwein of the day here.
6. Best Off-the-Beaten Path Vienna Christmas market (sort of)
Spittelberg Christmas Market
For those of who insist on getting off the beaten path to see the “real Vienna,” Spittelberg is an easy detour. Just outside the center (it’s actually walking distance from the center, just behind the MuseumsQuartier), the Spittelberg Christmas market weaves through a real neighborhood, with stalls lining the streets.
The backdrop here isn’t a church or 17th century building– it’s the pace of everyday life.
I would love to have a Vienna Christmas market like this in my neighborhood. But is it worth it to visit the Spittelberg market if you’re on a tight timeline?
Probably not. I didn’t find the locals quite as friendly as in Vienna’s inner city Christmas markets. The crafts were a mixed bag too– while there were some traditional Christmas items, there were also random goods from Nepal. But it’s a nice Christmas market for a change of pace, or if you are in the Spittelberg neighborhood anyway for the great restaurants and independent shops.
7. My Favorite Overall Vienna Christmas Market (but the worst market for running into annoying tourists)
Schonbrunn Palace Christmas Market
I wrote all about my love for Schonbrunn palace Christmas market here, it really is the most transporting Vienna Christmas market, you can almost imagine yourself lost in the world of Mozart, Sisi and Marie Antoinette (in the good years, pre-beheading of course).
The one thing that might wake you from your reverie though is the sound of an American voice,
“We’re from California/Ohio/Massachusetts”.
Note: the busy vendor did not ask where they were from. Sigh.
Schonbrunn Palace is a tourist attraction, so you can’t help but expect to run into other tourists there– even the occasional loud, self-important ones. But go early and you can avoid not only the tour bus groups, but also the school children groups, and just maybe, feel like you have the palace all to yourself.
Have you been to any of Vienna’s Christmas Markets? Share in the comments below!
Want to read about more Vienna Christmas markets?
Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace Christmas market
Read about a Real Life Swedish fairy tale at the Swedish market in Stockholm
Check out the Budapest Christmas Market here for the shopping
And here for the Budapest Market’s mouth watering-eats
Munich, Germany’s Medieval Christmas Market: Corny or Cool?
Or if you’re heading to Prague’s Christmas market next, read about them over on Tripping Blonde’s site!
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