Heading to Austria in December? Read on for my guide to the best Vienna Christmas markets!
Vienna is an incredibly beautiful city any time of year – the palaces, operas, and beautiful architecture left over from its imperial past leaving a lasting mark on the city.
However, Vienna transforms into magical winter wonderland as the holiday season approaches. Imagine walking through streets lined with Baroque architecture, each building telling its own centuries-old story, now illuminated by the gentle glow of Christmas lights.
I’ve visited well over 15 Christmas markets in 10 countries now, and Vienna is seriously in my top 4 favorite Christmas markets I have ever visited. The city goes all out at Christmastime, putting on over 20 different markets in the city center and outlying suburbs.
These markets are full of lights, decorations, charming stalls, holiday music playing overhead, fun activities, and delicious food and drink to enjoy, set in gorgeous squares, palace courtyards, or near soaring churches.
It’s easy to lose track of time, immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of a Viennese Christmas, where history and holiday cheer intertwine seamlessly.
Of course, 20 Christmas markets is a lot, and frankly, some of them are must-visits and others you can skip. So, in this guide, I’m sharing what it’s like to visit the Vienna Christmas Markets, which 10 markets are must-visits, plus what to eat, buy, see, and do at the different Christmas markets in this gorgeous Austrian capital.
2024 Dates for the Vienna Christmas Market
Dates for the 2024 Christmas market season in Vienna haven’t been announced yet, but they are likely to be very similar to the dates for 2023. Each market in Vienna has slightly different opening dates and hours, with a few markets opening on November 10, while others not opening until Nov 17 or 18 (and one – the ArtAdvent – not opening until Nov 24).
Most markets close on December 26, though a few close on December 23. And while some of the Christmas markets officially end on December 26, the New Year’s Market at the same spot is open from Dec 27-Jan 4.
Opening hours for the markets also vary by location, but generally markets open between 10am-12pm, and close between 9pm-11pm.
I’ll keep this post updated as soon as dates for 2024 have been announced (which is usually in early fall).
An Overview of All the Markets in Vienna
There are 8 main markets in the city center, plus another 10+ located outside farther outside the center of Vienna.
To be honest, most of the markets outside of the city center are not worth visiting. Many of them are pretty small and basic, are more designed for locals to go enjoy some drinks together, and actually take a decent bit of time and effort to get to. However, there were two markets that I thought were fantastic and worth visiting, which will be included on this list.
I’m usually an “I want to see and do everything!” type of person, especially with the Christmas markets, but for Vienna, I’d really just focus on the 10 markets on this list!
Drinks at the Vienna Christmas Market
Hot drinks are an integral part of any European Christmas market, and Vienna is no exception.
All over the city, you can find drink stands where you can buy gluhwein (hot, mulled wine), other alcoholic drinks, non-alcoholic hot cider, or hot chocolate. When you buy your drink, you also pay a small deposit for the mug it is served in. In Vienna, the deposit was usually 4-5 euro.
Each Christmas market in Vienna has its own unique mug, and let me tell you, it is extremely festive strolling around the market as you sip a hot drink from an adorable boot-shaped mug.
When you’re done with your drink, you can return the mug and get your deposit back, or you can keep the mug as a souvenir. We collected mugs from Christmas markets all over Europe, and it’s seriously the funniest souvenir and one of my favorite aspects of the markets.
Pro Tip: If you are going to keep your mug, you can still go up and exchange your dirty one for a clean one – this is very common.
Stephensplatz and Belvedere Palace were the main Christmas markets where you could get these cute boot mugs, but I also saw some at Maria-Theresien-Platz as well.
A Breakdown of the 10 Top Vienna Christkindlmarkts
No post about Vienna’s Christmas festivities can start without discussing the biggest market in the city, found at Rathausplatz, aka City Hall Square.
A large lit archway welcomes you to the incredible Christmas festivities going on at the square, where, in addition to dozens of booths selling gifts, food, and drink, you can participate in many Christmas activities and admire the huge variety of decorations. Trees all around the square are heavily strung with lights, and the whole square just glows.
For example, there is an ornate and beautiful carousel and Ferris wheel here, which are popular for rides for children and adults. Many other markets have kiddie-sized rides; Rathausplatz is the only one in Vienna with “full-sized” rides.
Another extremely popular activity here is the ice skating rink, one of the funnest rinks I think I’ve ever seen. Instead of just a big circle rink to skate on, Rathausplatz’s rink is many interconnecting passageways that you can “explore” as you skate through. The ice paths merge and intersect, so you can do a lot of different paths as you skate around.
Tickets are €10 for adults (less for seniors and children), and €9 for ice skate rentals. It’s highly recommended to buy your entrance tickets online (as time slots do sell out)
On the far side of the square is a walkway lined with lighted trees, archways, and decorations, such as a lit reindeer and an advent wreath. In the far corner, you’ll find a series of small nativities from around the world displayed.
And of course, you can’t help but spend a few minutes admiring the incredible Town Hall and massive Christmas tree that create the most beautiful backdrop for the market. Don’t miss the little nativity right underneath the tree!
Plan for a couple of hours to enjoy the Christmas markets at Rathausplatz – you’ll definitely need it! I’d also recommend coming here at nighttime, as the light displays are fantastic.
2. Am Hof
The Am Hof Christmas market is a delightful market on a little square in the heart of Vienna. This market specializes in handicrafts, with stalls full of unique, handmade gifts, decor, art, and useful products for your home. It was fascinating strolling around the market and admiring people’s creativity and ingenuity.
I stopped by this market twice – once during the day and once at night. Daytime was much quieter and it was easier to peruse the stalls and admire the different things for sale. But I also loved stopping by at night, when a canopy of lights was visible above overhead.
3. ArtAdvent at Karlsplatz
The ArtAdvent Christmas Market on Karlsplatz was a delightful surprise. First off, the Karlskirche (St. Charles Church) which is adjacent to the square is incredible, with its stately pillars and dome! This architecturally remarkable church is a definite highlight of the market.
Besides the church backdrop, the ArtAdvent market is a cross between artisanal displays and organic food offerings, and fun children’s areas. There are multiple kid’s rides, and the fountain in the square is dried up and filled with hay for kids to play in during the holidays, with a small farm area with sheep and goats to watch.
This was another market that really shone in the unique and handmade goods for sale. A lot of cute or pretty things caught my eye, like handmade and hand-painted ceramics tableware, pitchers, and serving ware, these cute skinny candles all twisted up in a little package, or these hand-carved and hand-painted wooden animals.
Besides the Rathausplatz Market, the Stephansplatz Christmas Market felt like the most “traditional” and central Christmas Market in Vienna. Why? Well, it’s in a very central area of Vienna and surrounds perhaps the most prominent cathedral in the city.
And the St. Stephan’s Cathedral is truly stunning; it’s a gorgeous, tall cathedral with a colorful tiled roof. Forty market stalls surround the perimeter of the cathedral, and all the stands have a cute lit flower decoration on the top. At nighttime, the cathedral shines with a purple glow!
This is one of the markets in Vienna that serves drinks in adorable red boot mugs. You can buy many of the traditional Christmas goods here, but what really stood out were these intricate shapes made out of chocolate, and these colorful and intricate metal ornaments:
Maria-Theresien-Platz is an incredibly grand square surrounded by the gorgeous buildings that hold the Natural History Museum and the Art History Museum of Vienna. In the middle of the square is a massive statue honoring Archduchess Maria Theresa, a powerful ruler during the Habsburg Empire.
Over 70 stalls surround and radiate out from the square, filled with a fun variety of treats, toys and stuffed animals, ornaments, and winter gear.
The Spittleberg market is very unique in that it is set up along narrow streets and alleyways of a small neighborhood in Vienna (the Spittelberg neighborhood), giving it a very homey and cozy feel.
Spittelberg actually goes up and down several streets, with paper stars being a prominent decoration. A few unique products for sale here included a knife display, a stall selling candles made by dipping hot wax in water, and a maplewood nativity display with a vast array of pieces to create a whole nativity village scene – a popular tradition in Europe.
The market goes up and down at least 4 parallel streets in the neighborhood, including Stiffgasse, Schrankgasse, Spittelberggasse, and Gutenbergasse. I’ve pinned the location of the market on the Market Map towards the bottom of this post, and it’ll be clear all the streets that the market is on once you get to the general area.
7. Altweiner Market
The Altwiener Market is the oldest Christmas market in Vienna, having originated as early as 1772! This market is held on Freyungplatz, in the shadow of the Schottenkirche church, and is the smallest market in central Vienna.
This market does have a large Christmas tree at the far end, and a stage with a set program. Most nights in December and half the nights in November have live music, so it’d be a really fun spot to come when there are performances.
I had a really lovely interaction with a lady selling paper stars in this market. I love these beautiful, colorful paper stars common in European Christmas markets, and there weren’t a lot of people at her stand for a few minutes, so she unfolded a bunch of stars to show me and we talked about how pretty they all were.
Despite this fun moment, the Altwiener was probably my least favorite market – if you are running out of time, this would be first one I’d skip.
8. University Campus Altes-AKH Market
The AKH Market was so happy, quirky, and delightful. Located in the courtyard of an old hospital, the market entrance greets you with a funky, modern-art-esque Christmas tree (that you could actually go inside and sit on benches in the middle!)
There were a lot of big gathering areas with tables for eating, drinking, and hanging out, as well as several different activities to enjoy. For example, there was a small area with three different kiddie rides, as well as an area to play curling.
The far back corner had a large firepit, which felt fantastic in the cold night air. Colorful strands of lights were strung above the walkways and there were colorful projections on the trees, creating a vibrant and jolly atmosphere.
The whole area just felt extremely fun – I liked this market a lot!
9. Schonnbraun Palace
The final two markets on this list are the two outside the city center, and are both at gorgeous palaces, as only seems right in Vienna.
Schonnbraun Palace is an enormous, and I mean enormous palace, chock full of Imperial grandeur. The Christmas market is in the courtyard of the palace as you walk up to the entrance, and the stalls are arranged in a very large circle, creating a lot of open space in the middle of the market.
It was stunning to see the massive palace as the backdrop to the market. The large Christmas tree in front of the palace is very pretty, and there’s a small nativity display right at the base of the tree. This picture frame in the middle of the market was also a fun touch!
This market is pretty far outside the city, but I think it’s worth it to come down. While there were some people here just for the market, a lot of people came to visit the palace itself and just stopped by the market as they were coming or going.
10. Belvedere Palace
Belvedere Palace is a lot smaller than Schonnbraun, but I think this palace was just a little bit prettier, as the Baroque design of the palace led to more embellishments, sculptures, and designs on the exterior of the palace walls.
The market here was also quite a bit smaller than the market at Schonnbraun, and there was no central Christmas tree.
However, the vibe was fun and lively, there were some cute rides for kids, and this market was one of the few with the adorable red boot mugs (the picture from the Christmas Market Drinks section, above, was taken here).
Other City Lights and Decorations
Besides the plethora of fun, exciting, and unique markets, one final reason that Vienna truly shines (ahem) at Christmastime are the insanely gorgeous light displays on streets in the city center.
These streets are all adjacent to or just around the corner from Stephansplatz – here are a few noteworthy streets you must stop by at nighttime:
Streets off of Graben Street
Multiple streets that intersected with Graben Street also had incredible decorations:
My Favorite of the Markets (+ How Long Do You Need)
I really enjoyed all the markets. But if I had to choose my favorites, I’d say Belvedere, Rathuasplatz, AKH, Artadvent, and Stephensplatz were top of the list (which I realize is half of them – ha!).
If you only have one day in Vienna, these are the markets I’d go to first. Start with Stephansplatz, swing down to ArtAdvent and Belvedere, then cross the city to the AKH market, and finish up at Rathausplatz.
Vienna is a big city and there are a lot of Christmas markets and decorations to enjoy. I spent 2 full days in Vienna and spent all my time on Christmas markets. You could maybe fit one or two visits to attractions between the markets, but you could also easily spend all your time on the markets as well. One day is not enough to see all the markets, and you’ll need several days if you want to do markets + sightseeing.
This was my first time in Vienna, and I absolutely will be back as soon as I can. I adored Vienna, it was so insanely beautiful and everything was so grand, and the city goes all out at Christmastime. This is a top bucket list spot for Christmas markets in Europe, for sure!
Map of Christmas Markets in Vienna
What to Eat at the Vienna Christmas Market
There are a lot of delicious food options in Vienna, and while there are different novelties and specialties at individual markets, these are the most common foods you’ll see all over the different Vienna markets:
Spaetzle: Chewy egg pasta, almost like small dumplings. In Vienna, they were also topped with crunchy bacon.
Soup in a Breadbowl: There were three different soups available at soup stands in Vienna: Goulash (pictured here), garlic soup, and creamy pumpkin. They were all really good, but goulash was my favorite.
Fried Potato Wedges With Garlic Cream Sauce: These were SO fantastic
Sausages and Bratwurst: There was a large variety of sausages available at the different markets, and were often served in a crusty bun.
Potatoes with Raclette: Raclette (a type of cheese that is melted under a broiler and then scraped onto your plate) was very common in Vienna, and served with small potatoes or a large baked potato. This one was also topped with garlic sauce – amazing.
Chocolate Covered Fruit on a Stick: A delicious sweet treat very common at Christmas markets around Europe.
Langos: This Hungarian dish was fairly common in Vienna. A circle of dough is fried and served plain, or topped with a creamy sauce, cheese, and chopped onions (there are other topping combinations you can get, too).
Baumkuchen: Another popular Hungarian treat is baumkuchen (known as chimney cake in English), which is dough cooked around a hot iron. It can be eaten plain, or the interior can be lined with nutella.
- One thing I somehow never ended up trying and getting a picture of in Vienna is schnitzel. This classic German dish is a thinly pounded slice of meat that is breaded and fried. It can be served with applesauce or potatoes.
Goods for Sale at the Christmas Markets in Vienna
There are so many interesting and pretty things to admire and buy in Vienna at Christmastime. Many of the markets have more artisanal goods or unique stands, which I’ve somewhat highlighted in their sections.
The following are some of the most common and typical goods you can find throughout Vienna, and variations are usually found in more than one market in the city.
Vienna really has some of the biggest selection and variety of goods of any Christmas market I’ve visited.
- There are no entrance fees for the market.
- Austria is part of the EU and the Schengen Zone, and uses the euro as currency.
- Cards are accepted at some stands, but most stands only take cash. You definitely need to have a good supply of euros with you as you explore the markets.
- The local language is German, but most locals working in the markets generally speak very good English.
How to Fit Vienna Into Your Europe December Itinerary
Vienna’s location in central Europe makes it a great addition to a Central Europe December trip. While Germany, France, and Switzerland are home to the most well-known Christmas markets, this part of the continent also serves up some fantastic holiday markets and events.
On this trip, I started in Budapest and visited the Budapest Christmas Markets, then took a train 2.5 hours north to the Bratislava Christmas Market in Slovakia, then took a train 1 hour west to Vienna, then went 2 hours south to the Graz Christmas Markets, then another 2.5 hours south to the Ljubljana Christmas Market and the Lake Bled Christmas Market in Slovenia , before ending the trip at the amazing Zagreb Christmas Market.
This was a fantastic route and I loved the Christmas markets and cities that I visited – I’d highly recommend it!
And if you really want to jump over to Western Europe (which truly is incredible), I can also highly recommend the Cologne Christmas Market in Germany, the Strasbourg Christmas Market and Colmar Christmas Market in France, the Basel Christmas Market in Switzerland, and the Luxembourg Christmas Market in Luxembourg.