While Germany garners the majority of the Christmas market-related press this time of year, its next-door neighbor Austria has an equally strong holiday game.
From snowy alpine villages to sparkling urban locales, the hills and cities of Austria come alive each year with festive spirit. And in the country’s grand capital of Vienna, the merry mood gets cranked up with dozens of Christmas markets sprinkled throughout its windy streets and stately plazas.
What makes the markets of Vienna unique? Each and every one has its own distinct vibe, so here’s a quick guide to four of the best:
Schonbrunn Palace Christmas Market
Vienna is known for being an elegant city, and nowhere in town reflects that reputation quite like Schonbrunn Palace.
This former Habsburg residence is the epitome of opulent, and its fabulous facade has become a symbol of the city. Each year, a beautiful Christmas market—complete with a giant Christmas tree—is set up in front of the palace.
Keep an eye out for concerts under the towering tree and also make sure to sample plenty of the delicious freshly made custard-stuffed donuts.
Perfect for: couples, history buffs.
Spittelberg Christmas Market
The atmospheric Spittelberg market takes place on the cobblestoned streets of one of the city’s hippest districts. Just steps from the world-renowned Vienna Museumsquartier, Spittelberg used to be an independent district outside of Vienna. While it has since been swallowed by the metropolis, it’s still very proud of its independent streak.
As a result, the vibe here is the epitome of cool. Expect stalls run by independent traders all surrounded by bars and restaurants serving up delicious Viennese and international delicacies.
Perfect for: Foodies and drinkies.
The Viennese Christmas Market at Rathausplatz
This is Vienna’s signature Christmas market, and it gracefully unfurls directly in front of the city’s gorgeous Neo-gothic town hall. Here you’ll find chalets serving warm mulled wine, sweet candy and toasty gingerbread treats near an enchanting ice skating rink.
If you could only make it to one market in the city, this would definitely be the one if only for the history alone. Even though it has only been at this particular location since the 1970s, it is the longest-running market in the city.
Perfect for: families, travelers pressed for time.
Christmas Village at Altes AKH
This market is hidden away in a quadrangle of a former hospital. They really take the village thing seriously at Altes AKH, blending the Christmas market’s sparkling decorations seamlessly with a thicket of trees, making you feel as though you’ve left the city far behind.
The hospital is now part of a university, so there’s a very youthful vibe to the proceedings here. In other words, don’t be shocked if you’re at the bar getting a drink and you get “snowed” on by a foam machine like this writer did.
Perfect for: Young at heart, hearty partiers.
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