So, where can you find Roman ruins, Habsburg architecture, a former residence of Haydn, sausages, and snow globes all at one location? Answer: the Christmas market on Michaelerplatz.
- Beautiful setting encircled by history
- Trademark white booths match the surrounds
- Small, but covers all the essentials
- 2020 dates: Nov 13 – Dec 26 (may continue afterwards as a New Year market)
- See also: Christmas markets
NB: Events, etc. continue to be subject to public health restrictions in late 2020 and likely beyond. Be prepared for changes (e.g. compulsory face masks at all seasonal markets)
The official title for the market is the k.u.k. Weihnachtsmarkt. The abbreviation k.u.k. stands for kaiserlich und königlich (English: imperial and royal). In the past, suppliers to the court would use the designation to indicate an official stamp of approval (see here for more background).
Today, k.u.k. works as a form of branding to hint at a touch of royal elegance. Which is fair enough at the Michaelerplatz market, because the location is about as imperial as they come.
The palace buildings, specifically the great domed entrance, mark one side. The other sides feature such historical joys as:
- The Loos house (now a bank): a classic example of Vienna Modernism that had the Kaiser curling his lip in disdain and disappointment (allegedly)
- The 800 year-old St. Michael’s Church
- The entrance to Kohlmarkt, an upmarket pedestrianised shopping street. The house on the Michaelerplatz corner once housed a young Joseph Haydn shortly after they threw him out of the cathedral choir. Walk down this street to see the Viennese Christmas lights
- The Palais Herberstein, one-time home to one of Vienna’s more famous coffee houses
- The remains of a crossroads and buildings from Roman times
The market looks particularly glorious at night, when the lights shine on the palace buildings. And to cap it all off and add that little extra historical touch, the city’s horse-drawn carriages (fiakers) park here.
As for the booths, well, consider the market a very compact version of the larger alternatives elsewhere. The white stands are unique to this location, and their contents mirror the essentials at any self-respecting Weihnachtsmarkt. For example:
- Decorations from all manner of materials, including (in 2019) golden pieces embedded with Swarovski crystals
- Nostalgic toys, decorative tea light holders, amber jewellery, scented woods and similar
- Sausages and other fried delights (even fish and chips on my visit, a dish I feel certain never graced a Habsburg plate), plus, of course, Weihnachtspunsch
And although one or two of those tea light holders did feature Mozart and Sisi in a nod to tourism, there was nothing tacky here. So a pleasant place to stop, grab a bite, browse the goodies, then move on through the seasonal lights and cheer of Vienna’s old town.
Opening times 2020
In 2020, the Christmas market opens from November 13th to December 26th:
- 10am (?) to 8pm (5pm on December 24th)
The market normally transitions into a New Year’s equivalent after Christmas, though 2020 may prove different, depending on prevailing public health measures.
How to get to the Michaelerplatz
Nearly everyone visiting Vienna wanders through Michaelerplatz at some point, since it forms one major entrance to the central Hofburg Palace complex.
No trams spoil the view, but you’re not far from a couple of underground stations.
Subway: You can walk up from Herrengasse (U3) or take a longer walk through the lovely Graben area from Stephansplatz (U1 and U3). The giant LED Christmas chandeliers hang all along the Graben
Bus: Michaelerplatz is a stop on the 1A and 2A buses that traverse the old town
And, if you’re lucky, you might find another advent market across the square in the stables of the Spanish Riding School: a rare opportunity to get up close(r) to the white stallions.
Address: Michaelerplatz, 1010 Vienna | Website