Each Christmas, the forecourt in front of Schönbrunn Palace is turned into a Christmas Market of the better sort. Indeed, the Schönbrunn version ranks among the very best in Vienna, bearing easy comparison with such markets as those on the Rathausplatz, Spittelberg and Freyung.
The palace and its outbuildings form an impressive backdrop which is reflected in the quality of the wares. There are no stalls selling cheap watches or plastic soldiers. Instead, you get products from the workshops of candle makers, glass blowers, wood carvers, potteries, stonemasons and other traditional artists and artisans.
It’s a great place to find traditional Christmas gifts and decorations harking back to a time when plastic was still a twinkle in some chemist’s inventive eye.
The food stalls are also a throwback to another era: Victorian-style candy and sweets, traditional gingerbread and cookies, steaming baked potatoes, strawberries dipped in hot chocolate, melted cheese on dark bread, roast chestnuts, pastries…it’s nigh on impossible to walk round without buying something to eat.
The roughly 60 stalls form a large ring, with a giant Christmas tree on the palace side. A small stage plays host to open-air (and free) advent concerts, with performers from around the world…Hungarian dancers, American high school choirs, etc.
There’s usually a program of events in the surrounding buildings, with specialist exhibitions and guided tours. It’s not uncommon, for example, for children to bake Christmas cookies in the Imperial Bakery or take part in various seasonal activities at the Schönbrunn Children’s Museum.
Like the other markets, it can get very busy. And very cold; the open layout offers little protection from the wind. My tip is to go at dusk, around 4pm, on a weekday. The advent concerts tend to be in the afternoons, and the darkness adds a little extra to the atmosphere. But it’s not peak visiting time. If you really don’t like crowds, then go in the morning.
Opening times 2018
- November 24 to December 26
- 10 am to 9 pm
- Closes earlier on December 24th (4 pm) and 25th/26th (6 pm)
The Schönbrunn Christmas market converts to a “New Year’s Market” after the 26th, running until January 1. Check the website for full details.
To reach the market, follow the general instructions for finding the palace.