In the late 17th century it was the wounded of the wars with the Ottoman empire who sought safety and rehabilitation.
Today, it’s students receiving nourishment of a more intellectual nature: the complex is part of the University of Vienna.
And in November and December, it’s families seeking doughnuts and distractions for the little ones at the Christmas market occupying the main courtyard.
This large courtyard has a park-like layout, so the market is protected from the hustle and bustle of the high street outside.
Which is not to say it can’t get busy. But this “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 is popular with young Viennese families, though, as there’s a section for smaller kids, featuring carousels, a Ferris wheel, a Christmas train 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 will find a good-enough selection: honey and wax candles, woolen hats and gloves, bags, nativity models, purses and pottery, soap and scarves, and similar.
Most people visiting were sharing punch with friends or enjoying a spot of sport on the curling sheet. You can eat, too, with goulash, strudel, hot dogs, baked potatoes and other warm winter fare available from the many food stands.
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). There’s a punch stand with an indoor area. And the edges of the courtyard are home to several restaurants offering traditional Austrian meals and good beer (the University influence).
So if the pleasures of punch on a crisp wintry evening fade into frozen fingers and toes, you have a handy escape.
Opening hours 2016
- November 12 to December 23
- 2pm to 10pm (Mon-Sat)
- 11am to 10pm (Sun, public holidays)
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: http://www.weihnachtsdorf.at/ (includes a full English version)