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5 fabulously festive Christmas markets in Austria

With its fairy tale frisson and traditions dating back to the Middle Ages, Austria (along with Germany) is where Christmas markets all began. So, grab a steaming glass of glühwein and step back in time…

Vienna Christmas Market (Shutterstock)

1. Old Town and Hungerburg Christmas markets, Innsbruck

Innsbruck Christmas Market (Shutterstock)

Innsbruck Christmas Market (Shutterstock)

Innsbruck's Old Town Square is where Christmas tree lights twinkle against the gilded copper shingles of the 16th-century Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof). Here, the scent of fried kiachl (sweet and savoury doughnuts) wafts over stalls filled with old crafts and spiced biscuits. No wonder it's extremely popular, and busy.

A more contemplative option lies high up in Hungerburg, where a funicular takes you to a Christmas market and the best view in town, and where an annual ‘Krampus run’ (6 December) sees the festive devils of Alpine folklore let loose on the mountain slopes. 

Christmas cheer runs from: 15 November to 23 December 2019 in the Old Town, and in Hungerburg from 25 November to 23 December 2019

More information: Innsbruck's Christmas Calendar

2. Belvedere Palace and Schönbrunn Palace Christmas markets, Vienna

One of Vienna's twinkly Christmas markets from above (Shutterstock)

One of Vienna's twinkly Christmas markets from above (Shutterstock)

As you might expect from stately Vienna, its Christmas markets tend to err on the grandiose side.

From the boutique jewellery and ceramics stalls that cluster in the Baroque shadow of Belvedere Palace, to the imperial pomp of the Schönbrunn Palace, which captures the senses with its jazz concerts, gallons of spiced weihnachtspunsch (a local take on glühwein) and some 80 stalls huddled under the auspices of the Habsburg’s former summer retreat - the city of Mozart hits all the right notes.  

Christmas cheer runs from: 22 November to 26 December 2019 at Belvedere Palace and 23 November to 26 December 2019 at Schönbrunn Palace.

More information: Vienna's Christmas Markets

3. Christkindl and Hellbrunn Christmas markets, Salzburg

A Christmassy market in snow-soaked Salzburg's Old Town (Shutterstock)

A Christmassy market in snow-soaked Salzburg's Old Town (Shutterstock)

With its snow-topped Alpine setting and hilltop fortress, Salzburg’s Christkindl market is a fairy tale incarnate.

The choirs make their stand in the glow of the cathedral, where stalls of crafts, traditional toys and sweets scatter the cinnamon-scented square. It was here that the city’s first Christmas market was held, back in the late 1400s, but it isn’t the only game in town these days.

Head to the far-flung district of Hellbrunn (30 minutes by bus from the centre) for a more Alpine take on the season’s market festivities, with reindeer-pulled sleds and an advent calendar projected onto its 17th-century palace.

Christmas cheer runs from: 21 November to 26 December 2019 at Salzburg’s Christkindl, and at Hellbrunn from 21 November to 24 December 2019)

More information: Visit Salzburg 

4. Old Town and Färberplatz Christmas markets, Graz

Graz's main Christmas market (Shutterstock)

Graz's main Christmas market (Shutterstock)

Tradition is top of the menu in Graz. Grab a warming glass of local feuerzangenbowle (wine and rum set alight) and make for its Franciscan Quarter.

Beneath the oldest monastery in Austria lies one of its longest-running Christmas markets, where tin toys and local crafts compete with the big wheel and carousel of the Advent Fair.

Don’t miss the nearby ‘Ice Crib’ (an annual ice sculpture) in the courtyard of the Renaissance-era Landhaus, then finish at the arts and crafts market of Färberplatz, run by a collective of local craftspeople, for the best gift selection in the city.

Christmas cheer runs from: 22 November to 24 December 2019 in Graz’s Old Town, and 29 November to 23 December 2019 on Färberplatz.

More information: Graz's Christmas Markets

5. Volksgarten Christmas Market, Linz

Linz Christmas Market (Shutterstock)

Linz Christmas Market (Shutterstock)

The city of Linz might be more metropolitan than fairytale, but the scent of gingerbread houses is never far away at Christmas.

Most festive action takes place on the main square, but Volksgarten market makes a cute escape from the crowds, with its ice-sculpture exhibition and scattering of live workshops showing how its traditional gifts are made. Woodturning, carving and pottery are all demonstrated here, with some even offering the chance to join in yourself before browsing wares across some 60 stands.

Having only started in the 1950s, this market is a relative newcomer, but well worth a visit.

Christmas cheer runs from: 23 November to 24 December 2019 at Volksgarten 

More information: Linz's Christmas Market

More Christmas markets in Europe:

The 5 best Belgian Christmas markets

Italy's 5 most festive markets revealed

Where to go in Germany for the best Christmas markets

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