Vienna’s Christmas Markets

{A post in March about last Thanksgiving? Better late than never, right?}

Over Thanksgiving weekend, we flew to Vienna to enjoy the Christmas market atmosphere the city is known for that time of year, and it did not disappoint.

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We met M’s parents there, and shared a great Air BnB apartment for four nights. It was very conveniently located, and was kitted out with everything we needed for the baby—travel cot, high chair, and more. If you plan to go to Vienna with little ones, let me know and I’ll send you the info on where we stayed.

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This wasn’t it.

It was the first time in Vienna for all of us. I’d planned to go there back when I studied abroad in England, but canceled my trip, and had regretted it ever since. So no vomiting bug was going to keep me from going this time!

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Vienna was beautiful, but also very cold. On Thursday, we attempted to do the “city walk” outlined in our guidebook, which suggested we allow an hour or two to complete. For our crew, which included a four-and-a-half-year-old and a one-year-old, in the cold, it took ALL DAY and we didn’t even complete it. We had to make a LOT of stops.

We saw a couple of the major sights of the city, including the famous opera house.

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We stopped to warm up at the Sacher Cafe, home of the original Sacher-Torte cake, to try the confection Vienna is known for. Honestly, it looks good, but is surprisingly dry.

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Didn’t stop us from finishing it, though.

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We continued our walk, stopping a couple more times, including at an H&M so I could buy some warmer socks for my frozen feet.

We had lunch at a restaurant serving classic Austrian dishes, trading our American Thanksgiving turkey dinner for Viennese egg dumplings (though the chicken schnitzel did come with cranberry sauce). We’d been promising E hot chocolate if she could just hold on a little longer for the cold walk, and of course she spilled the entire thing all over the white table cloth pretty much immediately.

We continued our walk after lunch, and came across a couple of small Christmas markets to wander through.

One of them was outside St Stephen’s Cathedral, which we admired before giving up on our guidebook walking tour entirely and heading back to the AirBnB for a break from the cold.

Later, we went to the Christmas market in the Museumsquartier, which was a pretty big one.

We munched our way around the stalls—hot, fresh potato chips in a paper cone; giant pretzel (which E begged for then rejected after one bite because she said it tasted like bread (not that she doesn’t love bread??)—and indulged in the must-have at all of Vienna’s Christmas markets: hot mulled wine (glühwein) in kitschy Christmas mugs (and warm alkoholfrei kinderpunsch for E).

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You pay a €4 deposit on the mug, so you can either keep it as a souvenir or return it to get your deposit back. Each market has a different mug. Obviously, my MIL and I had to get a mug from each of the main markets to take home.

And obviously E wanted a Santa mug, then her kinderpunsch was too hot, then it spilled, then she wanted another one, and then it was too hot again, and then it was BEDTIME.

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After the kids were in bed, my in-laws were kind enough to stay in so M and I could go back out. We went to another Christmas market, which we all referred to as the “Three Streets Market,” because it’s all along these three cute little streets. I think this was my favorite of Vienna’s Christmas markets, and we went back several times (though their glühwein mug was disappointing).

On Friday, my MIL took E to the natural history museum and the children’s museum, and the rest of us went to the Naschmarkt (a year-round food market) for lunch.

We also went back to the “Three Streets Market” because it had closed not long after we got there the night before, and I wanted to browse the stalls and shops there.

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After dinner at an Italian restaurant that evening, we went to the main Christmas market in front of City Hall (the Wiener Christkindlmarkt on Rathausplatz).

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It’s big and has the most in terms of entertainment (ice skating, rides, etc.), but the merchandise being sold at the stalls is junkier quality than some of the other markets.

You can’t beat the sight of all the Christmas lights and big tree in front of the city hall building, though.

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The glühwein mugs there also get two mittens up:

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On Saturday morning, my MIL and I took E back to the Rathausplatz Christmas market to go ice skating. It was E’s first time ice skating, and I didn’t expect her to last very long. I was wrong. She LOVED it.

It was the perfect place for her first ice skating experience, because they have a small rink just for kids and it’s free for them to skate there (the helper penguin is free too)! You just pay to rent the skates, and there’s no time limit at all. You can get a locker there and put your skates in and come back later in the day and skate again. And getting there first thing in the morning (at 10 a.m.) was also good; we walked through the market later that evening and past the skating area, and it was absolutely mobbed.

My MIL and I took turns skating around the big rink, which was pretty cheap compared with London’s Christmastime ice skating rinks.

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We finally dragged E off the ice to go get some lunch. We went to Landtmann’s for another big, long Austrian lunch, topped off by their classic apfelstrudel.

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After that heavy lunch, we needed to walk for a bit, so we walked to the Christmas market at the University of Vienna. That one had a playground and some kiddie rides, plus a bier garden with fire pits, so we hung out there for a good portion of the afternoon.

We took E back to the ice rink so she could show M her skating skills, and he had to once again drag her off the ice for dinner.

That night, M and I went to a string quartet concert in the crypt of a church. For me, a visit to Vienna just wouldn’t feel complete without a classical music concert. There are lots of daily concerts in Vienna for tourists, doing a kind of “classical music’s greatest hits” show, some with dancers waltzing in period costumes. We chose to do something a little less showy, but I’m sure it was still primarily aimed at tourists. Still, it was a nice way to spend our last evening in Vienna.

I loved Vienna at Christmastime. Walking around the Viennese Christmas markets in the evening is just magical. Despite being so cold outside, they have such a warm atmosphere. Lights twinkling around fir trees and wooden huts, a steaming mug of mulled wine in your hand, chestnuts literally roasting on an open fire, the sounds of music playing and people laughing mingling with the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages going by… it’s like something straight out of a Bing Crosby song. It’s simply classic European Christmas at its finest and most charming.

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…Except for maybe the bike pumps the city has installed at some bike racks.

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