This year marks the 31st edition of Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt in this particular format, in which it has become a first-rate tourist attraction. During Advent, Vienna has more than 6 million overnight stays, the most numerous tourists being German, American and Italian.
The tradition of gathering before Christmas has been around for much longer and is characteristic of central Europe, in particular of Germanic towns.
In Vienna, every part of the city (Bezirk) has its own Christmas market with stalls selling decorations, sausages, and punch.
The one best known to the tourists is the market in front of the Town Hall (Rathaus), this year titled “Viennese Christmas Dream“. The offer is abundant and spread out over 151 stalls. The park has an ice-skating rink on one side, the kind Zagreb has also managed to copy successfully, and romantic lighting on the other. It is crowded every day, but best avoided altogether on weekends. I went there on Sunday evening and there were no foreigners or big crowds.
But there are other markets that are also interesting and easily accessible by city transport. Art Advent in front of the Karlskirche is more Viennese and focused on selling handicraft and providing entertainment for the little ones. A small trendy downtown market can be found in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Located between two museums and around the statue of Marie Therese is another small, but cute market surrounded by magnificent palaces. Locals prefer the one in Spittelberg, in the 7th Bezirk. The most cultural market, as they say, is in front of the Schoenbrunn castle, whereas the hipster one with good DJs, which does not look like a market but is one nevertheless, is located in the yard of the Museums Quartier. The oldest one is on the Am Hof square, where it has been taking place since 1842. And there is a particularly romantic one in Wilhelminenberg, in the 16th Bezirk. This small market offers a tasteful, lovely, and romantic atmosphere, without the crowds seen downtown.
In two days, with a day ticket for the public transport, it is easy to see all the places.