The Vienna Christmas Markets are among the most enchanting in Europe. There are so many of them, and all in beautiful settings, from grand palaces to splendid Baroque churches and picturesque squares to side streets – and even the former Imperial Stables. Read on to find out – and see – just why Vienna is such a special city at Christmas.
Christmas is all about the magic, and the Christmas Markets in Vienna have it in spades. As well as the atmospheric settings, they all give you a full-on immersion of the senses, from the smell of sizzling sausages and potato spirals to the warmth of a glug of glühwein fortifying you against the winter cold. The wooden huts are adorned with fairy lights, while the sounds of choirs or brass bands make it uniquely Vienna.
Vienna is one of the best Christmas cities in Europe because it has so many great Markets to choose from, with much of the city taken over in the run-up to the festive season. Here’s our run-down of the best Vienna Christmas markets, with full descriptions, photos and special tips.
- 1 10 Best Vienna Christmas Markets
- 1.1 1. Rathaus Vienna Christmas Market
- 1.2 2. Altwiener Christkindlmarkt – Freyung Christmas Market
- 1.3 3. Am Hof Christmas Market
- 1.4 4. Karlsplatz Christmas Market
- 1.5 5. Maria-Theresien-Platz Christmas Market
- 1.6 6. Michaelerplatz Christmas Market
- 1.7 7. Stephansplatz Christmas Market
- 1.8 8. Schönbrunn Christmas Market
- 1.9 9. Stallburg Vienna Riding School Christmas Market
- 1.10 10. Spittelberg Christmas Market
10 Best Vienna Christmas Markets
1. Rathaus Vienna Christmas Market
The Rathausplatz Christkindlmarkt is by far the most popular Christmas Market in Vienna. It’s also the most photographed, with the archway of lights framing the spire of the City Hall (Rathaus) with the words ’Frohe Weihnachten’ – Merry Christmas – in lights above. It’s beautiful at any time of day, but best of all in the twilight ‘blue hour’ when the lights first come on.
We took our five-year-old along in the hope it would be one of the best Christmas markets in Vienna for kids, and our hunch was proved right. The Rathausplatz Market has plenty to occupy anyone, with around 150 stalls selling a huge range of food and drink and some high-quality arts and crafts (glassware, carved wood, ceramics – much of it Christmas-themed, of course).
The Market had some of the better food stalls around the Vienna Xmas markets, with great choices of giant pretzels, astronomically calorific (but very good) cream cakes and my son’s favourite, krapfen, or jam doughnuts. Add in the ubiquitous aroma of mulled wine and punch and the sausage grills, look around you and savour one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
The Park either side of the Market has even more Vienna Christmas attractions to explore. On one side, there’s an ice rink and skating course you can follow. Our Little Man was far more interested in the other side of the Park, which has a lovely old carousel and traditional ferris wheel, which he thought were wonderful. His eyes also lit up when we spotted the Tree of Hearts, a tree hung with hundreds of lit red hearts.
If you’re on a fleeting trip to the city, and you’re pushed for time, this is probably the Christmas Market Vienna has that you absolutely should not miss, so do whatever you can to get here.
Getting there: Trams 1, 71 and D stop right outside the main entrance to the Market on Universitätsring. Alternatively, the U2 Metro line stops at Rathaus, just behind the City Hall on Landesgerichtstraße.
Best for: overall spectacle with lights, also one of the best Christmas Markets for families
Close To: Burgtheater (right across the street), and the adjacent Volksgarten park. The early medieval Minoritenkirche is a couple of minutes’ walk around the corner from the Burgtheater, and two of the top cafes in Vienna, Café Landtmann and Café Central. Tip: you’re far more likely to get a table at Café Landtmann.
2. Altwiener Christkindlmarkt – Freyung Christmas Market
This delightful Market takes you back, as its name suggests, to traditional Christmas in Vienna. It’s one of the most intimate of the Vienna Christmas Markets, with rows of wooden stalls huddled together in a triangular section of the Freyung square, surrounded by several Viennese palaces and the Baroque Schottenkirche. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric Market and if the weekend crowds at the nearby Rathaus Christmas Market are too much, this is only a few minutes’ walk away.
Although it’s one of the smaller Viennese Christmas Markets, its stalls are greatly varied. There are some fantastic Christmas decoration stalls, and also some selling winter clothes, spirits and luxury chocolates. You can also get some excellent beer, glühwein or schnapps here. The oompah-style brass band playing the first time I visited really added to the ambience.
Just across the street, you’ll also find a row of farmers’ market stalls selling some excellent produce, especially sausages and cheeses. The site of the Christmas Market across the square is usually occupied by the Freyung Organic Farmers Market, which runs on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the rest of the year.
Getting there: It’s a three-minute walk from Schottentor U-Bahn station (line U2) to the Christmas Market at Freyung. Numerous trams and buses also stop at Schottentor. The 1A bus also drops you right next to the Freyung Market.
Best for: traditional atmosphere, ideal if you’re looking for somewhere not too crowded, and some of the best Christmas shopping we found anywhere in Vienna.
Close to: It’s next to the Schottenkirche (Scots Church), named after Scottish and Irish missionaries who helped spread Christianity through Central Europe. The 17th century Baroque church is well worth a look, and film buffs may well want to take a look inside (as I did) to see where the great Austrian-German film director Fritz Lang was baptized. The adjacent Schottenstift (Scots Monastery) dates back to the 12th century and houses a museum of religious art.
3. Am Hof Christmas Market
Am Hof – meaning ‘at court’ – is the epicentre of Vienna Innere Stadt, the city’s historic core. Over the centuries it has grown into one of the loveliest squares in Vienna, with some gorgeous buildings, from the Baroque façade of the older Kirche am Hof to the Zentralfeuerwache, surely the most fanciful fire station you will ever see, topped with extravagant Baroque statues.
The square, with lights emanating from the Mariensäule column, makes for one of the most enjoyable Vienna Christmas Markets. It’s one of the best Vienna markets for food, with some excellent cheeses, a very good baked potato stall and another selling baumkuchen, the sugary spiral chimney cakes familiar to anyone who has visited the Prague Christmas Markets (where they are known as trdelnik).
Location: Am Hof
Getting there: It’s in the heart of old Vienna’s Innere Stadt, and the closest U-Bahn stop is Herrengasse, on the U3 line.
Best for: Its setting in one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, some excellent food and drink stalls and the walk-in craft stalls, which you rarely see in European Christmas Markets.
Close to: Freyung’s Christmas Market is a 200-metre walk away. Judenplatz, the hub of Jewish Vienna, is even closer, and houses Rachel Whiteread’s moving, impressive Memorial to Victims of the Holocaust. The Stephansdom, Graben and the eternal queues outside Café Central are all within a five-minute radius of the square.
4. Karlsplatz Christmas Market
We all loved the Christmas Market in Karlsplatz, set outside the elegant Karlskirche Baroque church, and made a couple of return visits.
Our five-year-old was particularly enamoured with the whole experience, and reckons it’s the best Vienna Christmas market for kids. This is largely down to the huge area of hay where he and various other kids ran and rolled amok for a while, before he got to cover me head to toe in it. There are also farm animals – goats and alpacas – which the kids can pat and pet.
Our son also loved the quirky merry-go-round with seats made out of bathtubs, barrels and all kinds of recycled metal. We ended up buying a pile of tokens for him so he could ride on several of the seats.
The official name of the Christmas Market at Karlsplatz is Art Advent, and most of the stalls are given over to Austrian arts and crafts. The goods – including some gorgeous Christmas decorations and ceramics – are all high quality, and produced by the stallholders themselves.
The food stalls at the Market all seemed to be organic, and we saw a few ‘no palm oil’ signs, which is heartening.
Getting there: Karlsplatz Metro station on the U2 line is 200 metres from the Market. Tram 2 stops 300 metres away on the Kärntner Ring.
Best For: Kids, families and craft stalls.
Close To: Staatsoper, Musikverein Concert Hall and Café Museum (each no more than a 5-minute walk)
5. Maria-Theresien-Platz Christmas Market
The Vienna Christmas overload (which I mean in the best possible way!) continues at the Maria-Theresien-Platz Christmas Market. The square and Market are located between two near-identical palaces, one housing the splendid Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (Vienna Historical Art Museum), the other the utterly outstanding Natural History Museum Vienna (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien).
This was the first Vienna Christmas Market I visited, and its location is stupendous. I went on a bone-chillingly-cold sunny afternoon, so there was only one thing for it, a mug of piping hot glühwein (mulled wine) in my Christmas stocking-shaped mug. There was plenty of other food on offer, the best of which was the delicious wild boar slab (for want of a better word) which I thoroughly enjoyed.
As with the other main Vienna Christmas markets, there are many great Christmas gifts to be found, from hand-woven scarves and winter hats to painted glass lamps and hand-carved wooden toys.
Location: Maria-Theresien-Platz is on the Burgring, which (with several name changes) runs around the Innere Stadt, or city centre.
Getting there: Volkstheater U-Bahn U2 and U3 is a two-minute walk away, as are the 1, 2, 71, 46, 49 and D tram stops around the corner.
Best For: Great location, ideal for tying in with a visit to one or more Vienna museums.
Close to: You couldn’t really ask for more. The Hofburg Palace and its museums (including the Weltmuseum Wien and Haus der Geschichte Österreich (Museum Of Austrian History) are just across the Burgring, while the MuseumsQuartier, featuring the excellent MUMOK (Museum of Modern Art) and Leopold Museum, is two minutes’ walk away in the opposite direction. It’s also very close to the Spittelberg and Rathausplatz Christmas Markets.
6. Michaelerplatz Christmas Market
The Michaelerplatz is a small junction dominated by part of the Hofburg Palace and the elegant spire of the Gothic St Michael’s Church. It’s also the start and end point of many fiaker (horse-drawn carriage) rides, which adds to the atmosphere.
Each of the Vienna Christmas Markets has its own unique angle, and the Michaelerplatz market is branded ‘KUK’, standing for ‘kaiserliche und königlich’- imperial and royal. And why not? It’s right next to the Imperial Apartments and Treasury.
The Market may well have gained the Kaiser’s seal of approval. We visited twice at night, when the illuminated stalls and buildings looked magnificent. The stalls differ from the other Viennese Christmas Markets in that they are all white with gold lettering, but the fare on offer is familiar, with some high-quality gifts, including winter clothing, jewellery and some beautiful traditional toys. There is also beer, punsch, glühwein and sausages. I must say that the bread roll that came with my sausage was distinctly un-imperial, with every last vestige of moisture and freshness long departed from it. It made me chuckle, but old Franz Josef wouldn’t have been too pleased.
Location: Michaelerplatz, Innere Stadt
Getting there: Herrengasse U-Bahn – through which the U3 line runs – is no more than. 100 metres from the square. Otherwise buses 1A and 2A stop within a few steps
Close to: The Stallburg Christmas Market is barely a minute away on Reitschulgasse, and the Spanish Riding School is across the street from there. Kohlmarkt, one of the main upmarket shopping streets in Vienna, runs off the square to Graben – both these streets have lovely Christmas lights. In the opposite direction, the Volksgarten park is a two-minute walk away, with the Rathausplatz and Maria-Theresien-Platz Christmas Markets also close by.
7. Stephansplatz Christmas Market
One thing all the best European Christmas markets have in common is an amazing setting. The Stephansplatz Market stalls are huddled beneath the Gothic windows of the vast, imposing Stephansdom, the largest church in Vienna and, indeed, Austria. They are tightly packed together around the narrow square, with a bit of everything, from some great handicraft stalls to mulled wine, beer, grilled sausages, gingerbread – all you could ever want from an Austrian Christmas Market.
It’s one of the smaller Vienna Christmas markets, but very close to several (Michaelerplatz, Stallburg) others, so you could visit this and a few others in a day without rushing at all. While you’re there, it’s worth a climb up the Stephansdom tower for impressive views over the Cathedral’s superb tiled roof and the Vienna skyline – it’s just a pity that you can only see out of series of windows rather than fresh air. I strongly suggest laying off the mulled wine until after you get back downstairs.
Location: Stephansplatz, around the side and back of Stephansdom (St Stephen’s Cathedral)
Getting there: The U1 and U3 both stop at Stephansplatz station, and buses 1A, 2A and 3A also stop very close by.
Best for: Its magnificent setting below the walls of the impressive Gothic Cathedral
Close to: The famous Ankeruhr clock is a couple of minutes’ walk away in one direction, and Graben, one of the main Vienna shopping streets, is a few metres away in another. The Vienna Jewish Museum and Kaisergruft – the resting place of the Habsburgs – are also a short walk away.
8. Schönbrunn Christmas Market
The courtyard of the Schönbrunn Palace is the stage for one of the outlying Vienna Christmas Markets, in suburbs a few miles west of Vienna city centre. It’s one of the best-known Austria Christmas markets, and it’s one of the most popular, packed even when I visited on a supposedly quiet weekday night.
Vienna is one of the best Christmas destinations in Europe because it has places like this and the Belvedere (see below). The Palace – the summer home of the Habsburg Imperial dynasty – makes for an amazing backdrop, with stalls selling some wonderful crafts (glassware, ceramics, some exquisite hand-made toys) and an endless array of food and drink. After a Debreziner spicy sausage, a krapfen and beer I stood in line waiting at the kartoffelnspiral (spiral potato) stall, listening to a Viennese choir entertaining the throng.
I was so lost in my Christmas reverie that I realised I had been standing in the queue for almost 25 minutes, with my spiral spuds still a very distant prospect. The same thing happened when I returned with my wife and son a few days later. But bah humbug, what a wonderful place to experience the Christmas magic.
Location: The forecourt of Schönbrunn Palace, around 500 metres from Wien-Westbahnhof.
Getting there: Schönbrunn station is on U-Bahn line U4 and is also easily reached by tram (numbers 10, 49 and 52 pass very close by).
Best for: the palatial backdrop, food and also a great way to end a family day out in the area
Close to: The Schönbrunn Palace is one of the main Vienna attractions, and you can follow several guided tour routes through the complex. You can also take a free walk in the gorgeous Schlosspark, up to the Gloriette with its commanding view of the Palace. We also had a great time dressing up as Habsburg aristocrats in the Children’s Museum, located at the west end of the Palace (entrance via the courtyard).
The adjacent Tiergarten is home to Vienna Zoo, a good ten-minute walk from the entrance to Schloss Schönbrunn. Trams 10, 49, 52 and 60 will save you much of the hike. The same trams run up the hill to the north one stop to the Vienna Technical Museum (Wien Technisches Museum) – alight at Penzinger Straße.
9. Stallburg Vienna Riding School Christmas Market
It’s one of the most striking Christmas Markets in Austria, in an incomparable setting. The Stallburg is Renaissance-era stables complex for the handsome white Lipizzaner horses of the famous Vienna Spanish Riding School. The arcades on the upper floors and the temporary ceiling are lit red and orange, while a flying Pegasus casts an eye over the scene below.
We visited this Market when it first opened in December 2019, and it’s due to open again in 2021. There’s a large central bar area, with a small number of Christmas market stalls around the edge of the courtyard selling luxury food and drink. The Lipizzaner residents cast the occasional glance out of their quarters – sorry, stables – adding a serene and stately presence to proceedings. You won’t spend very long in the newest Christmas Market in Vienna, but it’s well worth dropping by for a little while.
Location: Reitschulgasse 2
Getting there: The U3 stops at Herrengasse station, less that 200 metres away the other side of Michaelerplatz. The 1A and 2A buses also stop next to Michaelerplatz.
Best for: the stunning setting
Close to: The Hofburg Palace, Imperial Treasury, the rest of the Spanish Riding School and superb Austrian National Library are all within 100 metres of the Stallburg. If shopping is your thing, there are plenty of upmarket boutiques along Kohlmarkt and around the corner on Graben.
10. Spittelberg Christmas Market
Vienna is far and away one of the best cities for Christmas Markets, and most of them do follow a tried-and-tested formula. Setting with grand palace or church – tick. High quality handicrafts selected by a jury – tick. This is all great, but it’s a pleasure to be whisked away to something a little different sometimes. And that’s just what the Spittelberg Christmas Market has to offer.
Spittelberg is a small residential area a few minutes’ walk from the MuseumsQuartier. It’s completely different in feel to the other Vienna Christmas Markets, with no grand stage or vista. Spittelberg is a cluster of narrow streets with three- and four-storey Biedermeier (early 19th century) apartment houses, with the Weihnachtsmarkt spread over several streets, alleyways and courtyards.
There’s more of an emphasis on food and drink at the Christmas Market in Spittelberg than at the other Markets in the city. The local bars, cafes and shops tend to blend into the Market, so it’s somewhere you could end up lingering for quite some time, as we did. Most of the craft stalls were selling clothing when we visited (in December 2019), but we did manage to find some beautiful wooden toys for Our Little Man.
Location: The Market is spread across three main streets – Schrankgasse, Spittelberggsasse and Gutenberggasse. These are located between Burggasse to the north and Siebensterngasse to the south, and between Stiftgasse to the west and Breitegasse to the east.
Getting there: Tram 49 is the closest you can get by public transport, and the Stiftgasse is right next to the Spittelberg Market area. Otherwise, the U2 U-Bahn line stops at Volstheater and MuseumsQuartier, and the U3 calls at Volkstheater and Neubaugasse. These are all around five minutes’ walk from Spittelberg.
Best for: after all the palatial and imperial grandeur, a lovely homely neighbourhood Christmas Market.
Close to: The MuseumsQuartier is two minutes away, and the Natural History Museum and Kunsthistorisches Museum are a few minutes further on. The Volkstheater is also just to the north.