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Austria's most magical Christmas markets

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Austria's most magical Christmas markets
Freyung Christmas market in Vienna. Photo: Johann Werfring/Wikimedia
09:46 CET+01:00
The Christmas season has officially begun - with a 27 metre high spruce tree installed on Vienna's Rathausplatz, in front of City Hall.

The magnificent tree comes from protected forests in the Rax-Schneeberg area and is about 130 years old. It will be decorated with LED lamps, in time for the opening of Vienna's biggest Christmas market on November 11th.

Here's our pick of the Christkindl markets you shouldn't miss, both in Vienna and outside of the capital.

Christkindlmarkt Rathausplatz

Vienna's most popular Christmas market scores top points for liveliness. Dozens of booths offer both traditional and contemporary Christmas gifts and decorations. This year, a new attraction will be an area for ice skating set up in the Rathaus park. Classic Viennese cuisine, mulled wine and hot chestnuts are on sale at various stands. Every evening live trumpet concerts are performed from the Rathaus balcony.

From 11th November to 26th December

Location: Square in front of Vienna City Hall

Altwiener Christkindlmarkt, Freyung

For many Viennese, Freyung is their top pick of the best local Christmas markets, and for good reason - located in one of Vienna's most picturesque squares, it has managed to maintain a traditional feel and avoided becoming tacky. Seasonal decorations and gifts bear the hallmarks of local and regional craftspeople. Food has a strong regional touch, whether it's Erdäpfelpuffer, Rösti, gingerbread, or traditionally roasted hot chestnuts. Locals like to meet at their favourite mulled wine stands for after-work drinks. For spiced tea and a great, not-too-sweet mulled wine, try Demmer's Teehaus. Enjoy seasonal music from bugles and violins, as well as carol singing on most afternoons.

From 18th November to 23rd December

Location: Freyung, 1010 Vienna

Christmas Village, Altes AKH

A lovely, traditional Christmas market located on the university campus of the old Vienna hospital. A highlight is the 'craftsmen's mile', where traditional craftsmen demonstrate their skills such as candle making, sewing bags, and printing artwork. You can sign up for ice curling at one of two rinks. The children's programme includes a merry-go-round and live Punch and Judy (Kasperl) every Saturday afternoon.

From 12th November to 23rd December

Location: Altes AKH, university campus, Alser Strasse/Spitalgasse, 1090 Vienna

Spittelberg Christmas Market

Although Spittelberg market has become more commercial in recent years, it still retains a romantic atmosphere, with a focus on local arts and crafts. Located in the historic Biedermeier quarter of Spittelberg, the two main streets to roam are Spittelberggasse and Gutenberggasse. There's usually a great selection of local gourmet food on offer. Children will enjoy Punch and Judy, and visits from St. Nicholas and Santa Claus.

From 12th November to 23rd December

Location: Spittelberggasse, Gutenberggasse, 1070 Vienna

Photo: stadtwien.at

Schloss Schönbrunn Christmas Market

If you love elegance, this Christmas market has it in spades with the imposing backdrop of Schönbrunn Palace and a spectacular Christmas tree. Most of the Christmas decorations and gifts on sale are handmade from natural materials. The market's food and drink selection includes mulled wine, Christmas cookies and warm Viennese snacks. Highlights for children are the marzipan workshop each Wednesday, St. Nicholas's appearance (on 5th and 6th December) and the historic marionette theatre next door. You can donate the deposit for your mulled wine mug to support children's charity SOS Kinderdorf. Schönbrunn is the only major Christmas market to open on Christmas Day. And remember to dress warmly, this place can get windy!

From 19th November to 26th December

Location: Entrance to Schönbrunn Palace, 1130 Vienna

Weihnachtsmarkt Am Hof

This Christmas market right next to Freyung is probably the best for quality artisan gift shopping. You can choose from ceramics, glassware, delicate jewellery, hats, leather items, Trachten for children, kitchen accessories and cosmetics. As for food, this market excels in all things ham and sausage, as well as baked potatoes, gingerbread and waffles. Every Thursday, the Radio Vienna mulled wine booth donates proceeds from their mulled wine sales to support the Austrian broadcaster ORF's annual charity event 'Licht ins Dunkel'.

From 11th November to 23rd December

Location: Am Hof, 1010 Wien

Karlsplatz Adventmarkt

More than 70 booths from local arts and craftsmen line up in front of the imposing baroque church of St. Charles Borromeo. The market also features regular live concerts, from gospel and harp solos to electronic pop music. Highlights are definitely the spectacular fire shows and the demonstrations at the arts and crafts booths that teach you everything from pottery, ceramics, and felt work to making glass beads and Tiffany glasses.

From 18th November to 23rd December

Location: Karlsplatz and Resselpark, 1040 Vienna

Outside of Vienna:

Adventmarkt Grafenegg

Set in the grounds, yard and riding school of the 19th century Grafenegg castle, you can roam through a quality arts and crafts market, listen to a brass band, Christmas carols and trumpet fanfares, and sample fresh Lower Austrian snacks and Christmas cookies. Children love this market because of its baking workshops, sing-along event and not least a St. Nikolaus marching alongside a lama. Make sure you book in advance for the evening's annual Christmas concert.

Date: 8th-11th December 2016

Location: Grafenegg 10, 3485 Grafenegg

Christmas Village, Schloss Hof

As the seasonal whirl of decorating, buying and baking hits you with full force, why not retreat to Schloss Hof during the weekends in the run up to Christmas. Prince Eugene of Savoy's fabulously renovated baroque castle stages a beautiful Christmas village packed with booths selling regional ceramics, homemade knitwear and soaps as well as gingerbread, Kaiserschmarren and lots of Punsch. Children can visit the castle's farm animals in their stables, ride ponies and join Christmas workshops. Castle concerts take place each Saturday.

Dates: 26-27.11 | 3-4.12 | 8-11.12 | 17-18.12.2016

Location: 2294 Schlosshof 1

Seefeld ­Adventmarkt

The Seefelder Advent and Weihnachtsmarkt is a shot of Alpine magic. Taking place in one of Tyrol's most scenic and picturesque towns, this traditional market stretches across the pedestrianised main street in the heart of Seefeld and is a mélange of warm christmas lights, handmade crafts and delicious, waistline-expanding delicacies.

Dates: 25th November - 8th January

Mariazell ­Adventmarkt

Another truly traditional market, which has a special advent ceremony as each new light in the giant advent candle holder - 12 metres in diameter and weighing six tonnes - is illuminated.  The scent of fresh-baked gingerbread and traditional vanilla cookies combines with orange punch and cinnamon stars to create a feast for the senses. This year it opens the weekend ahead of advent, giving visitors the opportunity to browse the craft stalls and see the final preparations for the advent ceremony.

Dates: 19th November - 18th December

 

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