There are plenty of Christmas markets in Austria and lots in Vienna. And the biggest is on the Rathausplatz, the square in front of the town hall and opposite the Burgtheater.
There are those who’ll argue in favor of the smaller, more cultured markets in Schönbrunn or Karlsplatz. But the one that garners the most attention and crowds is the Rathausplatz version.
It’s the home of the Wiener Christkindlmarkt, a yuletide market whose roots go back to the late 18th century: it only moved to its present location in 1975. It’s impossible to say how many visitors it attracts, but estimates range as high as a whopping 3.5 million a year.
The Christkindlmarkt has really blossomed in recent times. At one point it looked like it would degenerate into a rather tasteless venue where every second stand seemed to sell plastic toys from China. Not anymore – the quality of the stands is quite high.
On the culinary front, you’ll find the traditional roast chestnut stalls, and a host of stands selling everything from cream-filled pastries and a dozen varieties of pretzel to specialty hams and sausage. There are also plenty of places to drink a mug of Christmas punch.
On the non-food front, stalls selling Christmas decorations and arts and crafts (or both) dominate. The decorations are not your “10 for a dollar” plastic type, but are often made of blown glass or handcrafted wood. And the arts and crafts stalls show off the handiwork of numerous artisans from Austria and surrounding countries.
Though the market itself delights with its mix of traditional Christmas sights and smells, the surrounds are also worth a visit. The park areas either side of the market feature displays for children, illuminated ice skating, lit-up trees and more.
The organizers of the Christkindlmarkt have declared the market an area of respite from commercial Christmas stress. But don’t imagine that this implies you can take a gentle stroll around the stalls. At peak times, the place is wall-to-wall with visitors.
Although the Christkindlmarkt is open all day, the best time to visit is at night, when the lights and smells combine to give the true Christmas market experience you read about in books.
But there’s a fine line to tread.
Come too late and you hit that visitor rush hour. So if you have the choice, go midweek in the early evening. You get enough people to engender the right atmosphere, but not so many that it becomes a hassle just getting from one stall to the next.
Opening times 2018
Not yet available. These were the times in 2017:
- November 17 to December 26
- 10am to 10pm (7pm on December 24th)
The market is easily reached by public transport. The trams 1, 71 and D stop right outside (the stop called Rathausplatz / Burgtheater).
Alternatives requiring a short walk are…
Tram: Lines 2 (get out at the Stadiongasse / Parlament stop), 49 and 46 (both Dr. Karl-Renner-Ring), 37, 38, 40, 41, 42, 43 and 44 (all Schottentor)
Subway: U3 (get out at Volkstheater) and U2 (get out at Rathaus or Volkstheater)
Bus: 1a (get out at Schottentor) and 48a (Dr. Karl-Renner-Ring)
Address: Christkindlmarkt, Rathausplatz, 1010 Vienna | Main website