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My Unfiltered Guide to the Best (and Worst) of Vienna’s Christmas Markets

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.

vienna christmas market stalls

These wooden huts were lined up on a street next to my hotel, the Bristol. Does this count as a Christmas market?

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No need to actually visit a market for a drink– you can find these pop up punsch stalls all over Vienna.

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:

1.  Best Vienna Christmas market for hanging out with well-lubricated fur-clad locals:

The Advent Market and the Old Viennese Market at Freyung

DSC05246These 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.

DSC05257Or the talented local musicians playing classic holiday songs like O Tannenbaum.

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Our favorite punsch pourer.

Or the heavy-handed pour with the punsch– these drinks tasted like orange-y deliciousness but were deceptively strong.

DSC05185We 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.

DSC06197The Freyung and Advent Markets were also great for browsing fun, craftsy gifts– we did quite a bit of shopping here.

freyung advent christmas market vienna austria freyung christmas market vienna austria

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:

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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.

karlsplatz christmas market vienna

Do you see any farm animals here?

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.

DSC05846The Karlsplatz Christmas market is also known for its artisan crafts.

DSC05850These crafts were undoubtedly well-made, but veered a little too far into “non-traditional” for my taste.

DSC05853We 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

DSC04941Stephansplatz 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.

DSC04965Helpfully, the Stephansplatz Christmas market’s punsch bar (which is also one of the few market stalls that serves beer) is right up front.

christmas mug best vienna christmas market stephansplatz

I loved the Tiffany blue mugs at Stephansplatz, one of my favorite Vienna Christmas markets.

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”

DSC05557On my first visit to Vienna, my excellent concierge advised me not to bother with the famous Vienna Christmas Market at the Rathaus (the old City Hall).

“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.DSC05560There 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.

DSC05592 Less impressive was the “plastic junk” pervading the market.

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The perfect Vienna souvenir: a mass-produced bear made in China? At Vienna’s Rathaus Christmas market.

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Fresh off a red-eye from New York, we plied our friend Lori with gluwein and convinced her to model these hats.

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Thanks for being a sport, Lori!

More photos from Vienna’s Rathaus Christmas market:

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5.  Best Vienna Christmas Market for Museum-Hopping

Maria Theresa Christmas Market

DSC05500Vienna’s Christmas Market at Maria Theresa Square is located right in front of my favorite Viennese museum, the Kunsthalle.

DSC05475I 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.

gingerbread hearts vienna christmas market

Classic gingerbread hearts, a Christmas market staple.

handmade wreaths at the Vienna Christmas market. vendor stall craft

I loved the handmade wreaths at the Vienna Christmas market.

DSC05496Want to see more photos of Vienna’s Maria Theresa Christmas Market? Click on the slideshow below:

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6.  Best Off-the-Beaten Path Vienna Christmas market (sort of)

Spittelberg Christmas Market

spittelberg christmas market vienna austriaFor 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?

DSC06578 DSC06580 DSC06584Probably 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

DSC05385I 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!

All photos Copyright 2013 by Souvenir Finder, all rights reserved. No photos may be used in any way without express permission of Souvenir Finder.

17 Responses to My Unfiltered Guide to the Best (and Worst) of Vienna’s Christmas Markets

  1. gingerway 12/21/2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Wow! Great information! More then welcome to my post about Christmas market in Prague!

  2. Kristin Francis 12/21/2013 at 7:11 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by and your nice comment!

  3. sueslaght 12/21/2013 at 9:04 pm #

    A dozen markets? My feet hurt one your behalf. No wonder it was Gluwein before noon! 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 12/21/2013 at 9:13 pm #

      They were all so close together it actually wasn’t much walking. I think as an official marathoner now, you could handle it! : ) Now if they could line a marathon route with Xmas markets, maybe I could be persuaded!

      • sueslaght 12/21/2013 at 9:31 pm #

        Imagine instead of stopping at water stations you could stop at Christmas markets!

  4. fingknitcoolgal 12/22/2013 at 7:02 pm #

    A great Vienna Christmas market guide! So the Austrians are very big on Christmas? Christmas all over the city must be magical, especially for kids! (^-^)

  5. Rolling Harbour 12/22/2013 at 8:40 pm #

    VG! RH

  6. Erica Grey Mineau 01/06/2014 at 3:15 pm #

    We just returned from a week in Vienna over Christmas and the Christmas markets really were magical! The first one we stumbled upon was the Maria-thiessenplatz after a very long and delayed flight. It was amazing to drink some gluwein and walk around! We visited many others during our week stay and will definitely go back some year. Next year…Budapest!! Vienna is a lovely city. Thanks for your post…it was great to relive a wonderful week!

    • Kristin Francis 01/06/2014 at 3:20 pm #

      Erica,
      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment! I totally agree– Vienna really does have magical markets– it’s funny that you also “stumbled” across the markets– it’s impossible not to! I’m missing them already. You’ll love Budapest too– also a very friendly vibe.

  7. wanderingeducators 04/16/2014 at 11:47 am #

    Why, oh why, all that cheap stuff? Thanks for the great guide – and what to avoid!

    • Kristin Francis 04/20/2014 at 11:10 am #

      Seriously, I was so happy to have an excellent concierge with strong opinions to guide me– so rare these days when many concierges are no more than middleman for restaurants and attractions they promote for a cut.

  8. Anonymous 11/01/2015 at 10:03 am #

    Hi, I’m from Vienna and I find your descriptions very accurate. Most people I know avoid the Market at the Rathausplatz. To see the the impressive lighting, it is sufficient to look at it from inside the tramway when you pass by, really. And about the Spittelberg market, the people there are not especially unfriendly. They are just like most Viennese people really are. 😀

  9. 314maker 01/30/2016 at 5:27 pm #

    I think that you mean the Kunsthistoriches, not Kunsthalle? It is the Kunsthistoriches that is in your photo and it is the museum that is right on the Maria-Theresien Platz.

    • Kristin Francis 02/18/2016 at 9:14 pm #

      I did I noticed the typo earlier forgot to correct, thx for the reminder!

  10. Roxi 08/01/2017 at 8:17 pm #

    This is a good summary of the Vienna markets. I spent 5 years of my childhood living in Vienna and exploring the Cristkindle Markets. Those were the best memories, so much so that I wanted my own children to see Vienna at Christmas time. Candy apples seemed to be very scarce the year we went. I ran the family to nearly every market in Vienna to find candy apples. I wish I could post the pic of when we did find this special treat!

    • Kristin Francis 10/24/2017 at 6:50 pm #

      Roxi, thanks so much for sharing! It sounds magical!

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  1. 2015 Christmas Markets in Central Europe - 08/31/2015

    […] For the full low-down on which of the many markets to go to, Souvenir Finder’s article about the best and worst of Vienna’s Christmas Markets is essential […]

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