Christmas in Austria – the ultimate Bucket List
Nothing comes to mind quicker than Christmas markets, snow-covered mountains, and homemade cookies when thinking about Christmas in Austria. But not only for these reasons is Austria my favorite place to celebrate Christmas at.
Since my husband did not grow up in Austria like me, I decided to come up with a small Christmas in Austria bucket list – making a collection of all things that make Christmas in Austria so special in the first place.
Since he enjoyed my bucket list items so much last year, I have expanded my list and created a collection of all the memorable moments visitors need to have when spending Christmas or Advent time in Austria. Dive right in and be prepared to have the Christmas of your life in Austria!
1. Visit Vienna for the Christmas markets.
The Christmas markets in Vienna have a very special place in my heart, and they are probably the most spectacular Christmas markets out there. The historically significant buildings of Vienna, such as the Town Hall, are being lit up with thousands of glittering fairy lights.
The snow-covered trees are decorated and hundreds of small chalets set up shop selling everything from handcrafted goods to delicious treats and hot drinks. Make sure to buy something handcrafted by a local artist, for example, an ornament. This is such a sweet souvenir and you have the chance of supporting the craftsman directly.
Vienna has many famous Christmas markets, that are in my opinion, all worth a visit. I definitely suggest heading towards Town Hall Christmas Market and to Schönbrunn Palace. Make sure to also walk by the Belvedere, they have beautiful decorations up every year. Learn more about the Vienna Christmas markets here.
2. See a Christmas concert in Vienna
There are many different spectacular groups, such as the Vienna orchestra or the Wiener Saengerknaben performing traditional music during Christmas times. The locations vary, from different imperial castles to spectacular churches. See the selection of Christmas concerts here.
3. Eat Gingerbread (Lebkuchen)
Nothing is more delightful after a long walk in the snow than a hot cup of tea with a piece of traditional Austrian Gingerbread. My favorite brand is the Seckauer Lebkuchen, which is being produced in a small town in the heart of Austria.
Another fun Christmas tradition we do every year is baking your own gingerbread house. You need some good teamwork because building it (so that it keeps on standing) can be quite a task.
4. Go see the Krampus and the Perchten
Krampus and Perchten are some ancient mythical creatures, that were summoned during Christmas times to banish winter and evil spirits. Nowadays, there are many presentations of these “scary” creatures, mainly for children and as a spectacle.
Plenty of smaller and bigger towns hold once per year a small festival, presenting Perchten from local groups. So much fun – but some of them do have a whip, so be careful!
The Krampus usually comes together with the holy Nikolaus ( or the so-called Nikolo). He looks a bit like Santa Clause, and he brings gifts to children. The Krampus is his companion that punishes bad children.
5. Drink hot mulled wine (Glühwein)
Glühwein is a hot spiced red wine and is a traditional drink served in Austria after skiing or at the Christmas markets. This is one of my favorite things to do before Christmas in Austria. At the Christmas markets, they offer many different variations of the traditional drink- make sure to try as many as possible.
My favorites are definitely the traditional ones, but I also like Schilcher-Glühwein and Glühwein made from rose wine. There are also plenty of different versions of punch available, such as berry punch and orange punch. You might end up slightly tipsy after a fun evening at the Christmas market, because these drinks can be quite strong sometimes.
6. Take a road trip and see some special Christmas markets outside of Vienna
My favorite Christmas markets in Austria are in Salzburg, Graz and Hallstatt. The Christmas market in Graz is especialy beautiful, since one of the locations is in the middle of a cave in the famous Schlossberg.
There are also some pretty spectacular Christmas markets in Upper Austria (Schloss Ort) and in Carinthia, that are also worth the drive. Many smaller towns also have their own Christmas markets, and it can definitely be fun to check them out. They are much more quiet and less touristic, so you will not be pushed around as much!
7. Get the light of peace from your local church
The light of peace (Friedenslicht) is picked up from Bethlehem every year by a special delegation and then distributed to Churches and other public buildings. A special tradition in Austria during Christmas is picking up some of that light with your own candle and bringing it back home on Christmas day.
8. Make your own Adventkranz
The advent wreath is a small, round wreath made out of fir branches and decorated with four candles. On each Advent Sunday, one candle is being lit together with the family. This is the coziest Christmas tradition in Austria. You can make your own wreath or buy one at every flower shop.
9. Decorate a Christmas tree
Christmas in Austria would not be complete with a fir tree in the middle of the living room, decorated with beautiful ornaments and sweets. Decorating the tree together with your family on the 24th of December is not only so much fun, but it also really gets you in the mood for the festivities.
10. Bake Christmas cookies
Traditional Austrian Christmas cookies are one of my favorite things in that time of the year. Usually, the baking takes place at the end of November, so you can serve a platter with different cookies to guests and family coming together on the Advent Sundays. My favorite cookies are Vanillekipferl, Rumkugeln and Kokosbusserl.
11. Eat cheese fondue
A super delicious treat that will warm you up on the inside is cheese fondue. You can buy it at most Christmas markets. Usually, they will drop a huge blab of melted cheese onto a bread with toppings of your choice. Delish!
12. Go hiking and sledding in the snow
A Christmas tradition in Austria that we usually did on New Years Eve, is hiking up a mountain and going down with a sled. This is not only so much fun, but you also burn some of the calories you ate during that huge Christmas dinner.
13. Get presents from the Christkind (Christmas child)
Traditional Austrians do not believe in Santa Clause, because we believe that the presents are being brought by the Christkind (or my mum pretending to be that). Children may not see the decorated Christmas tree in the living room until the Christkind was there and all presents where delivered. Earlier in the month, children write a letter wish all their wishes and put it out on the porch.
14. Open the Advent calendar and count down to Christmas in Austria
In the first 24 days of December, Austrian children get a small present every day. It usually comes in form of a chocolate Advent calendar, but over the last couple of years, this changed. By now, there is a huge choice of Advent calendars, not only for children but also for grown-ups, such as make-up, beer or lottery calendars.
Buy or make yourself an advent calendar and count down the days until Christkind comes. This is gonna make the waiting time fly by when you get to open a door with a sweet surprise behind it every day.
15. Eat chestnuts
Many towns and cities have small chalets around Christmas time, that offer roasted chestnuts. Go grab a package and take a nice walk while indulging in the small treats.
If this fun bucket list for Christmas in Austria does not get you in the spirit, then I do not know what will. Make sure to follow me on Instagram and watch my stories if you cannot go to Austria to try it yourself – I will take you along with me. And last but not least – have a holly jolly Christmas!