Tucked just a little bit away from the centre, the Altes AKH Christmas market has more of a local feel to it. Friends commonly gather here after work and at weekends to toast the season.
- Big on food and drink, both to consume and take away as gifts
- Lots of covered areas, so a good choice in bad weather
- Mini funfair area for young kids
- 2019 dates: Nov 16 – Dec 23
- See also: All Christmas markets
The Altes AKH complex has a history of providing for the needy.
In the late 17th century, it offered safety and rehabilitation for the wounded of the wars with the Ottoman Empire. It’s also the former site of Vienna’s general hospital.
Today, students seek nourishment of a more intellectual nature, since the buildings form part of the University of Vienna. And in November and December, families chase doughnuts and distractions for the little ones at the Christmas market occupying the main courtyard.
The large courtyard has a park-like layout surrounded by university buildings, protecting the Christmas market from the hustle and bustle of the high street outside.
Which is not to say it can’t get busy. But the “Weihnachtsdorf” is not as famous as, say, the Christkindlmarkt, so you’re less likely to find yourself hemmed in by ravenous visitors in their bussed-in thousands.
Equally, it’s not the prettiest location, so if you’re only going to visit one or two markets, this probably won’t be top of your list.
It’s popular with young Viennese families, though, as there’s usually a section for smaller kids, featuring carousels, a Ferris wheel, a Christmas train, pony rides and a balloon-themed funfair ride.
There’s also a playground adjoining the market and an animal area with, for example, a donkey. So this might be the right choice if you’re worried about the toddlers getting bored (or crushed) at any of the alternatives but still want your Christmas punch.
There are not so many stands selling market wares, but you’ll find a fine-enough selection: honey and wax candles, woollen hats and gloves, bags, nativity models, purses and pottery, soap and scarves, and similar.
Many people visiting are locals sharing punch with friends or enjoying a spot of sport on the curling sheets (usually bookable online from mid-September, if you’re interested).
You can eat something with your punch, of course, with a choice of warm winter fare available from the many stands offering regional specialties from throughout Austria.
One big plus point is the separation of these food and drink stands into their own mini plaza. So you can browse the arts and crafts stands in peace without fighting your way past people queuing for sausages and Glühwein.
The other big plus is that this market offers relief from the cold.
The Josefinenalm, for example, is a large Alpine cabin serving meat and cheese fondues, as well as Tatarenhut (a kind of indoor barbecue with meat and vegetables). One of the punch stands has an indoor area. There was even an indoor delicatessen when I visited in 2018, with traditional cheeses, hams, jams, and more to try and buy.
So if the pleasures of punch on a crisp wintry evening fade into frozen fingers and toes, you have plenty of places to escape to.
The edges of the Altes AKH courtyard are home to several restaurants offering traditional Austrian meals and good beer (the University influence), adding to the weatherproof nature of the market. The Stiegl Ambulanz restaurant, for example, had open fires outside. You could even roast your own sausages there.
Opening hours 2019
The 2019 dates are:
- November 16 to December 23
- 2pm to 10pm (Mon, Tues, Weds)
- 2pm to 11pm (Thurs, Fri)
- 11am to 11pm (Sat)
- 11am to 9pm (Sun)
How to get to the Altes AKH
When I say the market is a little away from the centre, it’s really not that far. You can walk to it from the Rathausplatz square, for example. Alternatively…
Tram: the Lange Gasse stop is just outside the main entrance to the market area, and reached via lines 33, 43, 44 and 5
Subway: U2 (get out at Schottentor and go two stops on the 43 or 44), U6 (get out at Alserstraße and take the 43)
Bus: 13a (get out at Skodagasse and go one stop on the 43 or 44 in the direction of Schottentor, or a take a short walk)
Address: Weihnachtsdorf Altes AKH, Universitätscampus – Hof 1, Alserstraße, 1090 Vienna | Website