Christmas in Austria and Germany is celebrated in a very similar way, but for both countries, it is a time of celebration and joy for locals and visitors alike. Every year, big cities, like Vienna, become magical winter wonderlands, filled with twinkling lights, festive decorations, and delicious treats.
When the snow starts to fall in November, the square in front of City Hall transforms into the well-known Vienna Christmas Market. Stalls line the perimeter and are filled with traditional handicrafts, including wooden carvings, decorations and toys, and handmade ceramics.
Throughout the market, vendors offer tasty local specialties such as gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, hot wine, and “Tafelspitz”, a specialty hot food, which is basically boiled veal or beef in broth.
Vienna-based charity agents are also present in the market and asking for donations from visitors.
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At the Christmas Tree Piazza, a giant tree stands in the heart of the market and is decorated with lights and presents for the season. Live performances on a stage nearby are organized for the evening, providing a special atmosphere.
Vienna’s Christmas markets also extend to Spittelberg, Maria Theresien-Platz, and Schönbrunn Palace, which host smaller festive markets, fairs, and ice-skating rinks.
Of course, no Christmas in Vienna would be complete, without music. Every year, the Vienna Boys’ Choir (Wiener Sängerknaben) performs Christmas hymns, carols, and other traditional tunes in the city’s churches.
In addition, the prestigious Wiener Staatsoper, Volksoper, and many other venues hold special Christmas concerts that feature a wide variety of music from classical pieces to seasonal melodies from around the world.
If you are in the city, you can definitely listen to carols and hymns from all around.
Households decorate their homes with lights, Christmas trees, and advent calendars that count the days to Christmas. The gifts are opened on Christmas Eve, but it is not Santa Claus that brings them, no, it is baby Jesus. Christkind.
For this reason, the big Christmas market in Vienna town hall is called Christkindlmarkt. So that the Christ child can come into the house, the window is opened shortly before the gifts are given on Christmas Eve.
Another special custom in Austria is the Krampus Run. Krampus is the name of Santa Claus’s evil brother, similar to the Grinch. While good children get gifts from the Christ child, Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas, naughty children get punished by Krampus.
Krampus Run is an event where people dressed up as Krampus parade through the streets scaring people. The Krampus usually wears fur and a mask with horns and carries a rod.
And what’s found on the Christmas table? Many like cold dishes with fish or sausages on Christmas Eve. Although it has become more usual for more lavish meals to be served with roasts or goose.
Dishes like potato salad with sauerkraut and fish or bratwurst are also well-liked. Schnittlsuppe is a bread soup that Upper Austrians enjoy, while in Tyrol noodle soup is more on the Christmas menu.
If you do not want to stay home and would prefer to go to a restaurant for Christmas, make your reservation in advance. Not all restaurants are open during the holidays, and those that are, are usually fully booked.
One of the most popular cafes/ restaurants is Cafe Landtmann. Thanks to its location, close to the town hall and universities, it is a popular meeting place for actors, politicians, and other officials. The food is exquisite and so is the service.
Vienna has been a popular holiday destination for centuries and is a city that truly embraces the festive season.
With its beautiful decorations, traditional markets, and live music, the city is a beautiful and enchanting place to experience the joy of the holidays.