Sometimes you need to leave well-travelled paths and seek adventure away from Vienna’s old town and palaces. Then you might discover hidden jewels jealously guarded by the local population. Like the Hirschstetten Advent market.
- Located in botanical gardens
- Includes a large indoor area
- …and a wonderful floral exhibition
- 2023 dates: Thursdays to Sundays, Nov 23-Dec 23
- See also:
Market and exhibition
(The unassuming front entrance in warmer times)
Vienna’s Wiener Stadtgärten department runs the Hirschstetten gardens with much love. This botanical (and zoological) delight lives on the far side of the Danube in the city’s 22nd district.
In the weeks before Christmas, the gardens and glasshouses host a rather fine Advent market with a bonus that no other market offers: a quite remarkable floristic Christmas exhibition.
Let us begin with the market…
Local handicrafts & snacks
On my visit, the market featured over 50 stands with a more local character than you might get elsewhere. A less commercial, less pristine ambience seemed to pervade, where the person staffing a booth might happily just chat about the weather or local politics with you.
Expect a fair few handicrafts, such as lace decorations (which we bought for my mum in England), knitted animals, felt Advent wreaths, sheepskin slippers, and similar.
On the food front, traditional Austrian and seasonal fare dominated. So I came across giant pastries, roast chestnuts, Christmas punch (of course), sausages, Leberkäse, Christmas biscuits (including vegan options), baked potatoes, waffles, smoked pulled port, pizza and pancakes.
(I did spot a distinctly not-Austrian jellybean section in the candy booth.)
A couple of locations sold cheeses, hams, pickles, spreads, Schnapps, sausages and the like to take home. The selection offered insight into local tastes and traditions.
Their cheeses included such rustic options as smoked varieties from the mountains of Vorarlberg and carried such glorious names as Truffelbergkäse.
And the hams and sausages revealed Austria’s love of heartier fare, where you may find a layer of fat thicker than the layer of lean on your cured ham, presumably to keep you warm in snow-trapped Alpine valleys. (Not that you get too many of the latter in Vienna, of course.)
Some booths and stands were inside a glasshouse, including a whole section devoted to raising money for charity. But most lined an outdoor route through the garden complex. The latter had a few Christmas decorations and lights to dispel the quiet gloom that settles over the plant world as the days draw in.
The Christmas exhibition
All of the above makes for a typical seasonal market experience, but the rather lovely and decorative icing on the Christmas cake comes from the annual floral exhibition.
You might imagine a few sad-looking spruce trees and a forlorn sprig of holly or two. Nope. Raise your expectations significantly.
The in-house expertise turns the long and large plant nursery glasshouses into a floral winter wonderland around a particular theme: a landscape crafted out of trees, shrubs and flowers.
All rather lovely, especially when you get up close and see the natural materials used and the obvious care that goes into the decorative elements.
The 2022 theme, for example, was Christmas around the world, covering the likes of Scandinavia, Mexico, Ireland and Australia. The displays included hundreds of red and white varieties of poinsettia.
We had a chat with one of the Wiener Stadtgärten staff members and you could see the pride in their work.
The 2023 theme will be “Märchen” (myths, fairytales, and stories) and include a section dedicated to Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.
Opening times 2023
The 2023 Hirschstetten market and exhibition opens Thursdays to Sundays from November 23rd to December 23rd. Opening times are 10am to 8pm.
The last market had a few small rides for children and regular musical performances at 5pm, which saw Gospel singers, swing time bands, country music, or traditional Viennese performers take to the stage.
How to get to Hirschstetten
Check the main Hirschstetten article for travel tips. The U1 subway and 26 tram route is your best public transport option.
Address: Blumengärten Hirschstetten, Quadenstraße 15, 1220 Vienna | Website