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IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas Markets in Austria

The festive season is coming and one of the main attractions in Austria is its beautiful Christmas markets. Typical decoration, food and drinks ensure tourists and locals alike look forward to them. Here's a guide to the main ones.

IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas Markets in Austria
Christmas market in Vienna / Rathausplatz (Österreich Werbung, Photographer: Harald Eisenberger)

Christmas markets are undoubtedly one of the best attractions during the festive period. In Austria, they are centuries-old traditions that draw locals, immigrants and tourists yearly.

There are many markets throughout the country – some state-funded, but many privately organised. Adding to that, all the smaller (but super nice and worth the visit) punsch and glühwein stands that you can stumble upon, and it’s clear that Austrians are great at celebrating the season.

Here is a guide with three of the main markets in each state. Remember: many are closed or have special hours on December 24th and 25th and January 1st.

Christmas market in Vienna / Karlsplatz (Österreich Werbung, Photographer: Harald Eisenberger)

Christmas Markets in Vienna

The Austrian capital is home to some of its most famous and beautiful Christmas markets. Here are some you need to know:

  • Viennese Dream Christmas Market 

Where: On the square in front of the City Hall

When: 19 November – 26 December 2022

  • Christmas Market at Schönbrunn Palace

Where: Parade Court, in front of Schönbrunn Palace

When: 19 November 2022 – 4 January 2023 

  • Christmas Village Belvedere Palace

Where: Belvedere Palace, Prinz Eugen-Straße

When: 18 November – 23 December 2022

You can check the complete list of Christmas Markets in Vienna HERE.

Christmas time in Villach (Österreich Werbung, Photographer: Michael Stabentheiner)

Christmas Markets in Lower Austria

Lower Austria has some spectacular places to visit (with impressive views) and many weekend or day events for Christmas enthusiasts. Here are three you need to know:

  • Kittenberger’s Advent magic in the garden

Where: Laabergstr. 15

When: 02 November 2022 – 08 January 2023

  • Badener Advent

Where: Hauptplatz Baden

When: November 18th – December 24th

  • Christmas-decorated Grimmenstein Castle

Where: Burg Grimmenstein

When: 12 November – 18 December

You can check the complete list of Christmas Markets in Lower Austria HERE.

Christmas illuminated town hall and Christmas tree on the Hauptplatz in Graz (Österreich Werbung, Photographer: Harald Eisenberger)

Christmas Markets in Styria

In the capital Graz, the markets are all within walking distance and look stunning.

  • Advent Market in Front of City Hall

Where: In front of the City Hall, Hauptplatz

When: 18 November – 24 December 2022

  • Christmas Market on Glockenspielplatz

Where: Glockenspielplatz Square

When: 18 November – 24 December 2022

  • WonderLEND on Mariahilferplatz

Where: Mariahilferplatz

When: 18 November – 23 December 2022

You can check the complete list of Christmas Markets in Graz HERE.

Christmas market in Salzburg (Tourismus Salzburg GmbH, Photographer: Günter Breitegger)

Christmas markets in Salzburg

Salzburg may be the land of Christmas for many, with its beautiful sceneries and famous spots – not to mention it is the home of what may be the most famous Chrismas carol (“Silent Night” or, as it is known in Austria: “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”). Here are some of the best places to be:

  • Salzburg’s Christmas Market in the City Centre

Where: On Cathedral and Residenz Square, in Salzburg’s historic city centre.

When: 17 November 2022 – 1 January 2023

  • Advent Market in the Hohensalzburg Fortress Courtyard

Where: Fortress Hohensalzburg

When: 25 November – 18 December 2022 

  • Advent Magic in Hellbrunn

Where: In Hellbrunn Courtyard

When: 17 November – 24 December 2022

You can check more about Christmas Markets in Salzburg HERE.

Christmas market in Innsbruck’s old town (Innsbruck Tourismus, Photographer: Christof Lackner)

Christmas markets in Tirol

Tirol is also a magical location for a snowy Christmas and Innsbruck, in particular, sets a beautiful backdrop for all the nativity decorations. Here are some places to visit:

  • Old Town Christmas Market

Where: In front of the Golden Roof, in Innsbruck’s historic city centre

When: 15 November – 23 December 2022 

  • The Family Christmas Market at Marktplatz

Where: Marktplatz

When: 15 November – 23 December 2022 

  • Christmas Market Maria-Theresien Straße

Where: Maria Theresien Straße

When: 25 November 2022 – 6 January 2023 

You can check more about Christmas Markets in Salzburg HERE.

Pyramidenkogel observation tower (Wörthersee Tourismus GmbH, Photographer: Gert Steinthaler)

Christmas markets in Carinthia

Carinthia has spectacular Christmas markets by the mountains and cosy places by town squares too. Here are some you shouldn’t miss.

  • A Christmas Market Above the Clouds

Where: Pyramidenkogel tower

When: 25 November – 18 December

  • Christmas Market on Neuer Platz

Where: Neuer Platz in Klagenfurt

When: 19 November – 24 December 2022

  • Christmas Market in Villach – the City of Lights

Where: Rathausplatz in Villach

When: 18 November – 24 December 2022

You can check more about Christmas Markets in Carinthia HERE

Christmas market Linz (Linz Tourismus, Photographer: Alex Sigalov)

Christmas markets in Upper Austria

Austria’s Upper Austria gets fully illuminated during Christmas time, and visitors can enjoy all the local food and beverages in many locations. Here are three of the best.

  • Christmas Market on the Main Square

Where: Main Square of Linz

When: 19 November – 24 December 2022

  • Christmas in Steyr

Where: Steyr Old Town

When: 18 November – 23 December 2022

  • Christmas Market in the Volksgarten

Where: Volksgarten (near the main station)

When: 19 November – 24 December 2022

You can check more about Christmas Markets in Burgenland HERE.

Christmas market in Bregenz (visitbregenz, Photographer: Christiane Setz)

Christmas Markets in Vorarlberg

Austria’s most western state has beautiful traditional markets with typical food and beverages. You can also find local handcraft and produce.

  • Bregenz Christmas

Where: Kornmarktplatz
When: 15 November – 23 December

  • Felkirche Christmas Market

Where: Old Town

When: 25 November – 24 December

  • Bludenz Christmas Market

Where: Mühlgasse 

When: 24 November – 24 December

You can check more about Christmas Markets in Vorarlberg HERE.

Did we miss your favourite Christmas Market? Let us know which one you recommend in the comments below or by emailing us at [email protected].

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AUSTRIAN TRADITIONS

Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

Catholics celebrate the first Sunday of Advent this weekend, and Austrians are ready for the season with crowns, demon-like creatures lurking, and a winged baby that brings children toys.

Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

The Christmas season is definitely full of events in Austria, a country where 55.2 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, according to Statistik Austria data from 2021. The season starts early, as Christmas markets open by mid-November, and lasts until January 6th, when Austrians traditionally bring down their season decorations.

There are also many specific dates and local traditions that can seem endearing or absolutely terrifying. For example, in early December, a nice man with a white beard brings tangerines and chocolates to good children. 

But before he does, his “assistant”, a nightmarish creature with horns and carrying around loud chains named Krampus, goes to the houses of children who misbehave.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas Markets in Austria

Christmas markets are open to all from mid (sometimes early) November, and Austrians traditionally flock to the spots for their yearly share of glühwein, punsch and typical food. The cities also light up with Christmas lights and decorations, and the season is one of the best for Austrian tourism, especially in the capital Vienna. You can see HERE a list of all the Viennese Christmas markets in 2022.

Don’t want to miss out on any traditions? Here are the dates for the Austrian Christmas season:

Advent Sundays (November 27th)

The fourth Sunday before Christmas is also known as the first Advent Sunday – it starts the “season of Advent” (or the season of “Arrival”) and many Austrian Christmas traditions.

This year, the first Advent Sunday is on November 27th.

Austrians will typically celebrate by baking Christmas biscuits and cookies, putting up some decorations and, most notably, preparing an Advent wreath (Adventkranz) that will hold the four candles of Advent. 

Then, every Sunday until Christmas, a new candle will be lit, counting down the time until Christmas. Some families will join in a celebratory meal and might even sing carols (including Silent Night which is actually Austrian).

Adventskalender (December 1st)

Another way of counting down the days until Christmas is with the traditional Adventskalender – those can start on the first Sunday of Advent. However, the commercial ones are typically from December 1st until December 25th.

There are countless calendars for sale and usually, for each day, the person gets a typical “present” that the person receives. Usually, it’s chocolates or sweets (more religious ones will contain a bible verse or a prayer), but nowadays, you can find Adventskalender of almost any theme – including for dogs.

READ ALSO: Eight unmissable Christmas experiences in Austria

Barbarazweig (December 4th)

On December 4th, Austrians celebrate St Barbara’s Day or Barbaratag. In 2022, the date also falls on an Advent Sunday. 

For Barbaratag, some people in Austria will cut small twigs and sticks from cherry trees or forsythias to decorate a vase at home. There is a superstition that if the twig blossoms before Christmas, the family will have good luck or someone will get married. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is travelling to Austria this winter worth it?

Participants wearing masks featuring the character of “Krampus”, a half-goat, half-demon figure punishing misbehaving children during the Christmas season. (Photo by Peter Kneffel / dpa / AFP)

Krampus (December 5th)

This might be one of the most unusual and surprising traditions (if you have never seen it before, that is). On December 5th, a horned, scary anthropomorphic devil creature visits the homes of Austrians and scares children who weren’t good kids during the year. They are also said to scare away the dark spirits of winter and are a very traditional part of local folk customs.

There are many Krampuslaufen (a sort of Krampus parade) in Austria – not all on December 5th. In them, people dress up as the demonic entity with chains and torches. 

READ ALSO: German Advent word of the day: Der Krampus

Nikolaus

Krampus is actually a companion to the much more friendly St. Nicholas, an entity that looks quite a lot like Santa Claus. 

St. Nicholas comes during the night of the 5th to 6th of December and rewards the well-behaved children with tangerines, sweets and peanuts. This is why your Austrian neighbours might leave their boots outside on that evening – Nikolaus fills them up with gifts and sweets. 

He has a long white beard and wears a religious vestment that is white and red, similar to a bishop’s vest.

READ ALSO: Posting Christmas presents from Austria? Here’s what you need to know

Christmas Eve and Christkind (December 24th)

If you think a lot has happened already, then imagine Christmas Eve. This is when the actual celebrations happen (not on the 25th). The shops will close early, and families will gather to decorate the Christmas tree – yes, it’s not uncommon for Austrians to follow this tradition of only decorating the tree on December 24th.

They also meet for Christmas eve dinner, which can vary greatly depending on family traditions and Austrian regions. From raclette to roasted geese or cold meats, much can be served during the evening. 

Another thing that might sound strange to foreigners is that there is no Santa Claus or Father Christmas in Austria. Instead, it is the “Christkind” (literally Christ Child, or baby Jesus) who brings the presents on Christmas eve.

READ ALSO: Where to find international food in Austria this Christmas

He looks much like a Cherubin and the children are told that he brings the presents, rings a bell and lights up the Christmas tree. 

The whole experience may seem curious to those watching for the first time: kids are lured into a separate room and the adults run to get gifts from the secret hiding places, set up the scene, turn on the tree lights and turn off other lights. Some then ring a small bell and the children are surprised to learn that they barely missed the winged baby who brought all the gifts.  

Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day (December 25th and 26th)

Though the evening before Christmas is the most important, Austrians continue to meet up during the next day and the 26th. 

Lunches and dinners are shared with loved ones and there is some more gift exchanging during those days. If they live in the mountains, they might go skiing on Christmas Day and later, as well.

READ ALSO: How to save money and still go skiing in Austria

Three wise men tree ornament

Epiphany is when the three wise men find Jesus in the stable. Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash

Three Wise Kings Day (January 6th)

Finally, the Christmas tree and the decorations are left until January 6th. In Catholic belief, this is when the three wise kings came to visit baby Jesus with presents. 

Kaspar, Melchior and Balthazar might literally visit Austrian homes. They then leave their mark: their initials and the year written in chalk above the house door, the K + M + B sign that is often seen by the doors of people in Austria.

January 6th is also Christmas eve for Orthodox believers and is celebrated by many people in Austria.

Austria is a small but very diverse country with countless traditions, especially during Christmas time. Did we miss your favourite one? Let us know by emailing us at [email protected] or leaving a comment.

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