From city celebrations to majestic mountain scenery, visiting an Austrian Christmas market by train is the gift that keeps on giving.
Austria can’t be beaten when it comes to important B-words: Beauty, Bergs and Baroque. Especially during the Christmas period, when Austria takes on a festive glow with snow coating its towns and cities while Christmas markets offer traditional Austrian goodies like glühwein and gingerbread. Bring some extra magic to your Christmas season this year by travelling to a Christmas market in Austria by train, or better yet, visit several as you hop from city to city, market to market, and witness the hills come alive with the sound of festive music.
Vienna’s Christmas market tradition dates back to 1298. Today the city offers more than 20 Christkindlesmarkts to choose from annually. One of Vienna’s most famous markets takes place outside the Belvedere Palace where visitors can indulge in warming mugs of mulled wine and enjoy daily carol performances.
For a true taste of Viennese culture, don’t miss the chance to attend a Viennese ball between December and February. Seasoned waltz kings and queens can twirl their way to the Philharmonic Ball, while contemporary music-lovers can throw shapes at the more casual Bonbon Ball. Viennese balls book up early, so get in with a quick step and buy tickets as soon as possible. Whether you spend your holiday waltzing or window-shopping, take some time for a slice of Sachertorte at a traditional Viennese coffee house.
Salzburg is world-renowned for being one of Europe’s most picturesque cities, ideally located in the shadow of the Alps close to the Bavarian border. Christmas is an especially great time to visit Salzburg, when its Baroque buildings are dusted with snow and the entire city becomes one big, beautiful advent calendar of treats. Visit Salzburg’s most famous Christmas market, and one of the best Christmas markets in Austria, at the foot of the Hohensalzburg fortress in the World Heritage-listed Old City.
Of course, Salzburg’s most famous resident was Mozart. It’s fitting then that the entire city celebrates his music during the festive season. Don’t miss attending a concert in the Baroque Marble Hall of Mirabell Palace, where the Mozart family performed for Austrian royalty.
Innsbruck is a winter sports haven, known for its top-notch cross country skiing and sweeping mountain scenery. It also has some of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Austria. Head to the one in the heart of the Old Town, nestled among Innsbruck’s medieval buildings and famous Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof). Alternatively, head to the Maria-Theresien Strasse market, famous for its exquisite crystal Christmas tree.
Linz takes on an added layer of loveliness during the run-up to Christmas, with its mix of modern and historic buildings draped in twinkling lights. Jubilate over gingerbread when you head to the city’s popular Christkindlesmarkt in Linz’s Baroque main square. Or, to feast on fresh farm food, visit the Wintermarkt on the Pfarrplatz where local farmers sell fresh produce alongside artisans with home-made Austrian souvenirs.
No trip to Linz is complete without sampling the city’s eponymous Linzer torte, a traditional Austrian Christmas treat filled with thick jam and spices, topped with sliced nuts.
Located in the southern region of Styria, Graz is the country’s second largest city, boasting an abundance of Baroque palaces and Renaissance courtyards. Graz’s old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is an enchanting backdrop for its Hauptplatz Christmas market. This is just one of 14 different Christkindlesmarkts Graz has to offer. One of the city’s most singular Christmas traditions is a large nativity scene made of ice, located in Landhaus courtyard.
Once you’ve been made merry meandering through the markets, warm up with some traditional Styrian cuisine. Dishes include Wurzelfleisch (a warming pork pot roast) and Tafelspitz (beef served with roasted vegetables).
Image credits top to bottom: Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna at Christmas Flickr Commons (cropped) ©traveljunction, Christkindlmarkt at Maria Theresienstrasse, Innsbruck © Innsbruck Tourismus Christof Lackner, Christkindlmarkt am Hauptplatz in Graz © Graz Tourismus Harry Schiffer
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