Tucked just a little bit away from the centre, the Christmas market at the Altes AKH 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
- Quite a few covered areas, so a good choice in bad weather
- Mini funfair area for young kids
- 2020 dates: Nov 13 – Dec 23
- See also: All Christmas markets
The Altes AKH has a history of providing for the needy.
In the late 17th century, the complex offered safety and rehabilitation for the wounded of the wars with the Ottoman Empire. It later housed Vienna’s main hospital and yielded Nobel prize-winning research, which explains the name for the area: AKH is short for Allgemeines Krankenhaus (“general hospital”) and altes means “old” or “former”.
Today, people seek nourishment and succour of a more intellectual nature since the buildings form part of the University of Vienna. Hence the official name for the market: Weihnachtsdorf am Campus der Universität Wien.
And come November and December, families chase doughnuts and distractions for the little ones at the Christmas market occupying the main courtyard.
Great for kids
The park-like layout surrounded by university buildings protects the market from the hustle and bustle of the 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.
The Altes AKH certainly enjoys popularity with young Viennese families, though, as smaller kids can ride ponies or go on the carousels and Christmas train.
A playground adjoins the market as well, 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.
A special feature at the 2019 market was the life-size Maltese nativity scene (Europe’s largest), with previous versions having appeared at the Vatican, Bethlehem, and Valletta.
Great for food
Not so many stands sell market wares, but you’ll find a small selection of the usual suspects. Most people visiting are locals sharing punch and food with friends or enjoying a spot of curling.
And the reason that locals gravitate here is because this is one of the better markets for food and drink, with a wide choice of warm winter fare and regional specialties from each of Austria’s nine provinces.
One big plus point is the separation of most of these food and drink stands into their own mini plaza. So you can browse the arts and crafts booths 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. For example:
- Indoor seating in Alpine cabins like the Josefinenalm, which serves meat and cheese fondues, as well as Tatarenhut (a kind of indoor barbecue with meat and vegetables)
- An indoor delicatessen, with traditional cheeses, hams, jams, chocolate and spirits 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 also house 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 on my last visit, where you could even roast your own sausages.
Opening hours 2020
The 2020 dates and times are:
- November 13 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