Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year- especially in Bavaria! While living in Austria I fell in love with the country, it’s architecture and it’s traditions. But my favorite memories of Austria were during the Christmas season when Bavaria turned into a Christmas catalog from the 1950’s.
Germany and Austria start the Christmas cheer early by setting up Christmas markets in November all around their countries. In Salzburg, Austria alone there were about eight Christmas markets spread throughout the city.
I loved going with a few close friends bundled up in our winter jackets and scarves while wandering around
the magical markets listening to Christmas carols and bells- all the while drinking glühwein. To be honest, the glühwein is probably why I liked Christmas so much in Austria. It is a hot spiced wine that is absolutely delicious! They sell it at stalls during the Christmas season and it comes in a cute little mug. When you buy glühwein you pay a deposit for the mug, so if you want to keep it as a souvenir you can.
Yes, there was nothing that I loved more than wandering around the christmas markets with a hot mug of freshly poured glühwein to warm up my belly. The Christmas markets also have tasty treats from roasted nuts to giant pretzels. My favorite were the sweet roasted almonds that added a sweet smell to the winter air.
The markets are wonderful place to purchase Christmas ornaments and handmade goods. I loved walking around and looking at all the stalls with their traditional items. The atmosphere and set-up of the markets is sure to get even the Grinch into the holiday spirit. I went to quite a few Christmas markets- and really you can’t go wrong- but two of my favorite in Salzburg are the following.
Alt Stadt means old city- this is the town centre of Salzburg. The Christmas market can be found in Residenzplatz. This is a beautiful setting for the Christmas market with a view of the cathedral and the fortress. Since it is in the downtown area there is plenty to do not only in the market but all around – such as the outdoor skating rink.
Schoss Hellbrunn is a palace that is famous for it’s trick fountains. This is great reason to visit the palace, but it is also worth a visit for it’s Christmas market. At this market you will find an outdoor nativity scene- with live animals! This Christmas Market is not as convenient as Alt Stadt (you have to take bus 25 there) but it’s neat to see the differences in the Christmas markets…plus who can resist more glühwein.
Another must if you are in Salzburg during the Christmas season is to visit the ‘Easter in Salzburg’ shop. Okay, so the name doesn’t sound very Christmassy and I admit that it is a year-round store, but, trust me on this one. From the second you walk into this store you will be surrounded by a bizillion eggs-shell ornaments all hand painted beautifully. I’ve never been so nervous walking into a store- there are delicate egg ornaments in every nook and cranny of this places! Even if you don’t feel like buying any it is still fascinating to walk around and look at all of the wonderful eggs. My favorite were the sound of music eggs- i’ve always loved that movie and it was filmed in Salzburg.
If you do feel like purchasing an egg they put them in an egg carton for you and wrap them very carefully. They will be fine in your carry on luggage. If you are already at the Alt Stadt Christmas market you might as well meander over to the Easter in Salzburg shop since it is close by on Judengasse (Juden street).
After reading this post you have probably decided to tell your family that you will be heading to Austria for Christmas this year. Before you book your plane ticket though and break your family’s heart there is one thing that I should warn you about. Austria has a very, very dark side at Christmas…..Read about it here– if you dare.