The Best Christmas Markets in Austria
Austria is a magical place at Christmas. From the middle of November until the end of the year, public squares all over the country are transformed by traditional Advent markets. Glistening lights, seasonal treats, colourful gifts, and snow-covered roofs turn architecturally stunning town and city centres into even more romantic settings, while the smell of food and the sound of festive music fill the air. Here’s a guide to our favourite Christmas markets in Austria.
Vienna Christmas markets
Vienna is home to many Christmas markets, but arguably the most popular is the Wiener Christkindlmarkt. With more than 150 stalls, this market takes place in Rathausplatz, the wide square that's home to the spectacular Neo-Gothic City Hall. You'll find clothes and accessories, wooden toys, scented candles, chocolates, roast chestnuts, and much more, while choirs, brass bands, and trumpet fanfares add to the festive atmosphere. Visit the adjacent Rathauspark for even more festive activities and attractions, including a nativity scene trail, a Ferris wheel, an ice rink, and lots of pretty lights.
You can experience traditional customs and atmosphere at the Maria-Theresien-Platz Christmas Village, which takes place between two grand buildings: the Museum of Natural History and the Kunsthistorisches Museum. The square has a centrepiece monument to Empress Maria Theresa, plus some beautifully lit fountains and smart topiary. The market is a good place to buy gifts such as snow globes and wooden models, as well as snack on strudel, sausages, and chocolate-coated fruit.
The Schönbrunn Palace Christmas Market attracts around 60 exhibitors from Austria and neighbouring countries to this famous and beautiful building in the southwest of Vienna. You can shop for handicrafts, hand-made Christmas decorations, and nativity sets. Grab some freshly baked vanillekipferl — crescent-shaped biscuits covered in vanilla sugar — and some hot punch, then wander up to the Gloriette, a grand hilltop building offering views over the palace and its gardens.
Salzburg Christmas markets
Salzburg's largest and oldest Christmas market, Salzburg Christkindlmarkt, has its roots in the 15th century. The market takes place in the Old Town, in locations including Cathedral Square (Domplatz) and Residenzplatz, with their spectacular mix of architecture including Baroque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles. You’ll find toys, leather goods, knitwear, traditional decorations, incense, handmade dolls, and much more among the 100-plus stalls. In addition to traditional craftsmanship, this Christmas market is well known for its gastronomy. Be sure to try some punsch, which is sold in various flavours (an alcohol-free kinderpunsch is also available), or warm up with jagatee (rum-spiked tea), roasted sausages, ofenkartoffel (baked potatoes), and countless other local treats that you can take with you on a stroll around the sights of this compact city centre, which is home to Mozartplatz with its statue of Mozart, as well as the hilltop Hohensalzburg Castle.
Hellbrunn Palace (Schloss Hellbrun), in the south of the city, hosts the Hellbrunner Adventzauber Christmas market. This market takes place in the magnificent garden in front of the impressive 17th-century Renaissance palace, which was built for an archbishop as a holiday home. From mid-November, more than 700 conifers in the grounds are decorated with tens of thousands of lights and red balls, while 24 windows on the palace's façade are transformed into an oversized Advent calendar. Visiting the market is a great experience for all the family, as there's a separate area with animals and events especially for children.
Innsbruck Chistmas markets
Innsbruck’s Old Town is home to the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof), a 500-year-old structure containing more than 2500 gilded copper tiles, that's unsurprisingly one of the most famous landmarks in the city. Every year the area around it, which is full of gorgeous Medieval façades, hosts the Old Town Christmas Market. You can buy a gifts including ornaments and handicrafts, plus traditional dishes such as kiachln (hot doughnuts filled with sauerkraut).
Other markets around Innsbruck include the Christmas Market at Marktplatz (Market Square), which is an ideal destination for families. It features a carousel and a petting zoo among its attractions, plus there are plenty of food and gift stalls. There's also a Christmas market in Maria-Theresien Straße, one of Innsbruck's main shopping streets.
Meanwhile, you can also take the funicular railway up to the Hungerburg Panorama Christmas Market for gifts and culinary delights. The views from this market over the city of Innsbruck, the valley of the Inn River, and the surrounding Alps are breathtaking.
Linz Christmas markets
Situated a short walk from the Danube, Linz’s Hauptplatz (Main Square) is one of the largest enclosed squares in Austria. At its centre is a 20-metre-high marble column dating from 1723, while the square is also full of striking façades such as the Old Town Hall, the University of Arts and Design Linz, and Feichtinger-Haus. The latter houses the famous Glockenspiel, which is made up of 19 bells that play works by Upper Austrian composers and seasonal pieces of music. During the Hauptplatz Christmas Market, the Main Square is particularly atmospheric, and it's a great place to shop for handicrafts, as well as enjoy some warming drinks and gingerbread.
Christmas Market in the Volksgarten, which takes place in a park near Linz’s main station, is a traditional family market. You'll find a wide selection of gifts and local delicacies. Look out for one of Austria's classic desserts, Linzer Torte — considered to be the oldest cake named for a city in the world, it features hazelnuts and a filling of redcurrant, raspberry, or apricot preserve. A highlight of the market is the nativity play, with short performances at regular intervals featuring special effects and classical music.
Graz Christmas markets
Graz has several markets, all within walking distance of each other and equally magical against the backdrop of the city's Christmas lights. The Advent market in front of the City Hall consists of a Christmas village full of stalls in the Hauptplazt (Main Square). It offers traditional handicrafts and other treats, including local festive drink Feuerzangenbowle, a blend of wine and rum that's set on fire. A children's carousel keeps the kids entertained, while at dusk, the City Hall gets transformed into a giant illuminated Advent calendar.
The Glockenspielplatz Christmas Market takes place in the square beneath Graz's famous Glockenspiel. You’ll find stalls where you can pick up handicrafts and foods from the surrounding state of Styria, plus there are handicraft demonstrations for visitors of all ages. The Glockenspiel is situated up on the gable of a building; look out for it coming to life three times a day, when figures of a young man and woman clad in traditional costume come out to pirouette, while the mechanism's 24 bells play different melodies.
The Old Town Traditional Christmas Market, in the Franciscan Quarter, is said to be the oldest Christmas market in Graz. You'll find handicrafts from across Styria, as well as farm produce, punsch, and glühwein. The market takes place around the Franciscan church.
Christmas markets in Klagenfurt
Klagenfurt, capital of Austria's southernmost state of Carinthia, hosts the annual Christkindlmarkt am Neuer Platz, which welcomes 50 stalls to Neuer Platz (New Square), as well as live music on the main stage. At the centre of the square is the Lindwurm Fountain, which dates from the 1500s and features a water-spewing dragon — it's a great photo opportunity.
Klagenfurt is at the eastern end of the Wörthersee, and around the lake you’ll find several more Christmas markets and events if you fancy getting out and exploring. Velden, at the western end of the lake, is known as the Town of Angels, and it gets beautifully decorated with lights during the festive season. You can take boat trips on the Wörthersee, while children can take pony rides in Kurpark and also send their Christmas wish lists straight to Santa attached to a balloon.
A particularly unique Christmas market takes place at the foot of the Pyramidenkogel viewing tower. One hundred metres in height, the structure is the tallest wooden observation tower in the world, and is even more spectacular when it's lit up at night. If you have a head for heights, go up to the observation decks for spectacular views of the Wörthersee and surrounding Eastern Alps, then make a quick descent via the tower's giant slide. The market's stalls offer crafts and local farmers' products, while there's also live music. Kids can visit the specially designed Christmas house, where they can meet animals including llamas, goats, and donkeys.
Keep exploring with our Christmas market blogs: visit the UK's best Christmas markets, our favourite Christmas markets in Europe, the top Christmas markets in Eastern Europe, and Germany's favourite Christmas markets.
Nick Elvin and Nicole Schnell contributed to this post.