Back in “days of yore”, traders would often use the space around a church as a marketplace, particularly if that church was also a place of pilgrimage. So you could get your relics and radishes at the same time.
The Stephansplatz Christmas market follows this precedent.
Stephansplatz is the square surrounding Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s), the huge cathedral that dominates the pedestrianized area at Vienna’s heart. And so the market harks back to medieval times, with its wooden stands clinging to the sides of the cathedral and offering tourists and city dwellers refreshing victuals and a selection of handicrafts and gifts. (No relics though).
Two things help the market stand out.
First, obviously, the location. The stands are all wooden and topped by lights, with a backdrop of the magnificent cathedral lit in Christmas reds and greens, but also townhouses and other buildings from Vienna’s imperial heyday.
Second (at least when I visited in 2016), the booths are a kind of “best of” selection. There are around 40, so it’s relatively small compared to say the Christkindlmarkt, but they cover pretty much the entire spectrum of market stands.
So you’ve your handmade and hand-painted decorations and craft products; jams, oils and vinegars; candles, candle holders and ceramics; Lebkuchen and specialist chocolates. And more.
Of course, mixed in among all this are stands serving food and drink, seasonal and otherwise. It’s lighter on the food side than most other markets, but you can still get your pretzels, spiral chips, cupcakes, cured meats, roasted almonds, hot sausages, cheese spätzle or soups served in giant bread rolls. And Weihnachtspunsch (of course).
If you’re taking in the Christmas lights display along the Graben and Kärntner Straße, then the market allows you to complete your Christmas experience bingo without much effort – it’s at the junction of those two streets (see map below).
Opening times 2016
- November 11 to December 26
- 11am to 9pm (closes at 4pm on Dec 24 and at 7pm on Dec 25 and 26)
The market is slap bang in the middle of town, right outside the Stephansplatz central subway station that’s on the U1 and U3 subway lines. You can also reach it on bus lines 1A, 2A and 3A (the stop is also called Stephansplatz).