Christkindlmarkt is the austrian name for "Christmas-market" and the most beautiful in many ways is for me the one in Schoenbrunn castle.
There is a big number of shops lined up in a big cercle in the court in front of the castle.
You may easily go around for shopping as there are no small paths with other customers pushing you around.
There is a lot of space to walk or take a rest at one of the 4 food-stands in the centre of the market with a lot of tables and space around them.
In Vienna you will find more than 10 big Christkindl-markets
read more about them in my "shopping-tips"!
I've been in a fair few European capitals in December but I think it's highly unlikely that anyone does Christmas better than the Viennese. The place seems somehow made for Christmas and you will have absolutely no problem finding a Christmas Market to shop or browse in. The biggest and probably the most commercial is at the Rathaus and then various other smaller ones are dotted around at regular intervals. On Freyung, the Square we stayed on, there was a great market, small enough to get around easily and with quite a lot of crafts and home-made foods. A little way up the street was Am-Hof, specialising in antiques and bric-a-brac and outside the Kunsthistoriche Museum was the best craft market I came across. I bought wax stars here and some ceramic jewelry . I also bought cute little wooden toys for the 'kinder' in my life and a black ornamental cat for myself. Sometimes the crowds are so thick that it can be difficult to see the stalls, so if you're an early bird then your chances of some relaxed shopping are greatly enhanced. Most of the markets stay open until around 9 in the evening and it's really nice to stop and have a hot punch on your way back home.
In Vienna (like many other places in Europe), there is a tradition of Christmas markets in the holiday season. These markets are not just for shopping -- but are social events. People enjoy good conversation along with traditional Christmas snacks (such as Heisse Maroni) and drinks (such as Punsch).
Austrians believe that pigs bring good luck. The pig has long been a significant animal, especially at the end of the year, as a symbol of abundance, because all parts of the pig can be eaten.
At New Year’s pigs of all sorts — stuffed, ceramic, glass, etc. — are exchanged as a good luck symbol.
In some restaurants on New Year’s Eve a pig is let loose within the establishment; guests try to touch the animal for good luck as it runs around.
I think children pretty enjoy this activities in Rathaus. The hall is separeted in many rooms and in every of them is different type of handicraft as cooking cookies, painting pictures, sewing and so on. They are very cute. People can buy their products.
Our favorite was a cute girl making some cookies.
Vienna doesn't just stop at Christmas markets. There are wonderful decorations on streets, public buildings and shops all over the city. I have never before seen so many perfectly dressed Christmas trees and it made me cringe to think of some of the scraggy, almost bare offerings which grace some of our towns and open spaces. Even some of the trams are decorated at Christmas and watching one go by festooned with great golden bows is a sight for sore eyes. I understand the Christmas trams can be hired for private parties which must explain how jolly all the passengers look. As well as at market stands, people drinking gluehwein can be found in courtyards everywhere. So many buildings in Vienna are actually former palaces that an amazingly high number of them have large cobbled courtyards hidden away inside. Passing by in the evening you are alerted to these courtyards by the smell of hot mulled wine and the buzz of conversation. A most civilised local custom, I think.
The Wiener Eistraum is an annual ice skating venue spread over much of the Rathauspark. This area contains two large oval skating rinks, two small children's rinks, plus a long ice trail that weaves through the park. Tickets can be purchased for a full day of skating, or just a partial day and the prices range from 1.5 Euro to 3.5 Euro per person depending on age. After skating, or while resting, the central area has numerous local food and drink booths with plenty of beer, gluhwein, and regular wine.
Throughout the Eistraum festival, there are special events such as charity hockey games, a jazz brunch, an Irish band, and Romeo and Juliet on Ice.
The inner hall of the Viennese town hall is a real workshop into the Christmas time.
The children bake cookies and then, they sell to the many visitors.
The aggregate sale is donated for the arms, orphan, or suffers children.
It is a joy and an amusement to admire, the small, hard-working hand, that work.
The children bake cookies, paint small pictures or picture frames, and make colourful candles or Christian tree jewellery.
In the Weeks before Christmas you will find numerous markets across Vienna's squares and pedestrian zed zones.
The most famous festivity is the Viennese Christmas Market, on the town hall place.
The stalls sell mainly small gifts and Christmas decorations, as well as punch and hot spiced wine to warm you on cold winter evenings.
This party lasts from end November until at the 24th December, on the Christmas Eve.
In the six weeks leading up to Christmas, Vienna and many other towns and cities have a Christkindlmarkt - an Advent Market. They sell a lot of traditional products - such as wooden toys, christmas decorations, sweets and cakes, as well as hand-crafted ornaments and nick-nacks. There are always stands to get food and drink - usually you pay a cover charge for a mug when you buy Punsch or mulled wine and can then walk around the Christmas market with your warm (potent alcoholic) drink in your hand, and enjoy the atmosphere. For younger visitors there are often fairground style-carousels, and there are various such markets all around the city. In city, the main ones are usually at: The Rathaus (the biggest one), the Altes AKH complex, The Freyung, Karlsplatz / Resselpark, Schönbrunn and in the Spittelberg area.
The link is for the Rathausplatz Christkindlmarkt
Yes, I know some of you will be terribly disappointed to read that this is bit of genuine cultural info rather than an advert for fetish shops but it really is rather interesting! For if you travel to Vienna during the Advent season you will see amazed to see shop windows full of Father Christmas's and, 'er, devils! Fear not though, for these are simply chocolate/sugar/china/glass representations of the same chap - Krampus, devilish associate of St Nicholas and the berator of bad boys and girls.
On St Nikolaus Day (Dec 6th), Nicholas (or dad dressed up) visits Viennese households to find out what the children have been up to over the past year. Good chaps and chapesses are duly rewarded with fruit, nuts and other small treats whilst the others get a jolly good talking to! Well actually, Krampus is almost always depicted carrying a rather hefty broom which I doubt he's going to use for sweeping up. So be warned you blighters! Oh, and if you come to Vienna after the 6th December, all signs of him will have deftly disappeared from view. So pop over around the last week of November and you'll see him and the major Christmas markets.
However, be warned that if you see figures dressed as Krampus wandering the streets of the city bearing birches, you might want to stroll swiftly in the other direction lest you end up sampling a whack or two. Of course, some might find that an added attraction...'er, but let's not dwell on it!
Pronounced "Glue wine", or something close to that, this drink was my favorite beverage of Europe. Its basically hot, spiced wine, with a little brandy thrown in to boot. Served from big wooden barrels or large metal vats, around town during the cold weather, it defined my time in Vienna, along with the Christmas Market. It is extremely tasty, and warms you up quickly.
Here is a recipe I found from the net:
4 qts. dry red wine (such as zinfandel, pinot, burgundy, etc.)
1 qt. dry white wine
1 pt. Marc (or heavy brandy)
1 c. white sugar (more to taste)
6 sticks cinnamon
12 whole cloves
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. mace
Pour 6 ounces red wine from the first bottle into an appropriate glass for later quality control checks. This may need to be repeated from another bottle, at the cook's discretion. Pour the remaining wine from the first bottle into a 3 gallon pot (or larger) and begin gentle heating. As it begins to warm, add sugar and spices. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add Marc (or brandy) and all remaining wine. (Note: if there are too many quality control checks, it is frequently necessary to purchase more wine.) Heat thoroughly but do not allow to boil! Add thinly sliced lemon and 1 orange and allow mix to steep for about 1 hour over low heat. Add more sugar during this time if desired, but do it slowly and ensure it dissolves. Frequent samples are usually required during this time, again for the sake of quality control. Serve hot and garnish with orange slices. A stick cinnamon could also be used. Serve about 12-15 folks, or two quality control inspectors.
In Vienna we saw many beautiful Christmas Markets like the one on the picture... We bought some Christmas ornaments for our tree and drunk some hot drink on this markets.
Among the other cool things we saw were the Christmas decorations, here in Portugal we don't have that kind of decorations (and markets) and all that mixed with the cold weather gives the city a magical atmosphere.
For Austrians the big day is 24 December and festivities start in the afternoon with the decoration of the Weihnachtsbaum (tree). Its often covered in wooden ornaments, cookies and candles or even sparklers (keeps the fire brigade busy during the festive season). I had the chance to celebrate Christmas Austrian style once. We had a huge meal and then opened the presents afterwards. 25 December is the day for visiting family.
Don't think that winter means nothing for tourists! From mid-November until the end of December there are lots of Christmas markets around the city. The number one "Christkindlmarkt" is on Rathausplatz in the city centre and offers something for everyone! There are special activities for the kids inside the townhall such as cookie baking or decoration making as well as the mini-train outside. Food lovers get to sample lots of cheeses and hams from Austria, try out the garlicky langos too! There's plenty of Glühwein and Punsch for those who need to keep warm and Kinderpunsch for kids and those who are driving. Apart from that you have an amazing choice of tree decorations and kitsch. The christmas tree is donated by a different Austrian province every year. For something more arty, hot pineapple punsch and less kitsch head for beautiful Spittelberg market (U2/U3 Volkstheater). For a market with a great backdrop and some live carol singing as well as great food, try out Schönbrunn's market (U4 Schönbrunn) which runs up till New Year's Eve. There is also a small market on the Freyung (near Schottentor) and sometimes in the studenty Altes AKH (take 5, 43, 44 trams).
It is also a tradition to have an Adventskranz (wreath) with four candles which are lit on the Sundays leading up to Christmas. Adventskekse (cookies) such as Vanillekipferl are on sale everywhere, or make your own as I do!