The Austrian capital of Vienna is a beautiful place to visit at Christmas time. Along with its year-round tourist attractions, the city has many Christmas markets. Although it would be impossible to do them all in a small 48-hour period, I visited two of what I thought were the best ones.
As with most (if not all) trips, I take we start with a free walking tour. The company ‘Good Vienna Tours’ are the only free walking tour company in the city due to the lengthy process involved in becoming an Austrian tour guide. These tours are a great way to get a basic overview of the city and see all the biggest tourist sites before you spend the rest of your trip visiting further away and smaller places.
One of the first places we visited on the tour was St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the heart of the city. The building of the church began in 1137; however, much of its original construction was later destroyed in a fire. At one point the church was the largest building in the world, and this is no surprise as you can spot it from most points in the city centre. Another noteworthy place we visited was the Jewish quarter of the city. This quarter was once very populous, however most of its inhabitants were killed after the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938. The quarter is now home to only one of the synagogues that existed pre-World War Two and rather sadly there is a police car stationed outside 24 hours a day to ensure the worshippers safety.
After our free walking tour ended, and on the advice of our tour guide, we visited the St. Charles Christmas market. The market is in front of the very beautiful St. Charles Church, which is a one minute walk from Karlsplatz metro station. Stalls range from food stalls serving the delicious Glühwein (mulled wine) to stalls serving independently made Christmas gifts. There was even a selection of very small rides and some goats to visit if you are at the market with children. The market is very beautiful and the fact that it’s outside the city centre means it’s cheaper than other markets you may find.
One of the must-see places in Vienna is the Schonbrunn Palace. The Palace was home to the members of the Hapsburg dynasty until the Austrian Republic was formed in 1918. Since the 1950s the palace has been a museum and a very popular tourist attraction. So popular in fact that the museum has a 3-4 hour waiting time in busy season. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t go in the palace itself; however, during the month of December there is a Christmas market and later a New Years market. One again, the market has food stalls and stalls that sell Christmas gifts. The market is a little pricer than the St. Charles market, but that’s no surprise when you consider its location.
Vienna is a very beautiful city. However, I can’t help but feel like this may have been due to the fact it’s Christmas and the city may not be as impressive outside of the festive season. Nevertheless, if you’re thinking of visiting a city more to the east of Europe with beautiful Christmas markets and a lot of history, Vienna is a great option.