Christmas in Vienna

By: Sarah P.

I always thought there were two kinds of Christmas. There’s the warm and fuzzy Christmas we enjoy with family and friends, where we look forward to participating in long held traditions, gatherings, etc. And there’s the commercialized Christmas that starts…around October, which bombards us with bright colors, lots of plastic blow up Santas and endless advertisements. Then I moved to Vienna.

My first Christmas season in Vienna felt like I’d stepped back into a Dickens novel. The weather turned colder, and it seemed like the sun disappeared, but then twinkle light chandeliers were hung through the streets of the city center, roasted chestnut stands popped up on almost every corner, and the Christmas markets opened.

The Christmas market tradition in Europe has been around since medieval times. I don’t think the tradition goes quite that far back for Vienna – maybe the Renaissance. But every year by the end of November, about 20 different markets across the city open. There are booths selling everything from kitsch Christmas ornaments to beautiful hand-painted pottery. Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and glühwein (hot spiced wine) are also market staples. The commercialism is still there,but the magic of the Christmas markets more than makes up for it.

While this American isn’t quite ready for Christmas to start – you’ll be able to find me at a market next Saturday.


The market at Stephansdom is my favorite. (the church is impossible to capture in one photo)

Karlsplatzhas the best arts and crafts and marillen punsch (apricot schnapps punch)

TheMaria-Theresien-Platz market is another favorite.

There’s usually live music at this market (in front of Schönbrunn Palace) and the best hot chocolate.

And finally, another favorite Viennese tradition: ice skating at the Rathaus (courthouse). Every year they flood the pavilion, so people can ice skate.

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