Sleigh Bells Ring in Europe

Top European Christmas Markets in Austria and Germany

On Donner, On Blitzen! at European Christmas Markets

I’m addicted to European Christmas markets! In Germany and Austria, they’re called Weihnachtsmarkts and Christkindlmarkts depending on where you are. Each market has distinct aspects and settings that highlight its individuality, but there are many similarities — festive lights, hand-made arts and crafts, food, drink, and entertainment. I love sipping Glühwein and eating bratwurst sandwiches while browsing the arts and crafts stalls and talking to the artisans amid old European settings.

"European Christmas Markets: Hohensalzburg Fortress atop Festungsburg Mountain in Salzburg, Austria"

Hohensalzburg Fortress atop Festungsburg Mountain in Salzburg, Austria

After visiting my first Christmas markets in Germany and the Czech Republic last year, I hoped that I could make a tradition of spending some time every holiday enjoying them. So when the opportunity arose to head to Germany and Austria earlier this month, my Christmas spirit shifted into high gear.

I’m still sorting through the photos that Mr. TWS and I took in European Christmas markets in Prien-am-Chiemsee, Munich, Salzburg and Vienna — some in large town squares, others down small side streets and one that was spread out on a whole island. Sharing a few of our photos, here are my 2012 Christmas cards to you!

From Munich

"Weihnachtsmarkt at Marienplatz, Munich, Germany"

Marienplatz Weihnachtsmarkt at Neues Rathaus in Munich, Germany

The Marienplatz Weihnachtsmarkt is a large market in Marienplatz (St. Mary’s Square). Just a short distance from our hotel and with a spectacular setting in front of the Neues Rathaus, it was the perfect place to kick off our 2012 Christmas market tour.

The Christmas market continued down the long main pedestrian street for blocks with pretty decorations.

Munich Weihnachtsmarkt

Weihnachtsmark Munich

The market in the photo below was in the Kaiserhof courtyard of the Munich Residenz and featured hand-crafted products, animated fairy-tale scenes and a large Christmas pyramid.

"Munich Residenz Christmas Market"

Weihnachtsmarkt at the Residenz in Munich, Germany

The medieval theme at Mittelaltermarkt was on display with costumed vendors and medieval gear for sale.

"Mittelaltermarkt Near Odeonsplatz in Munich, Germany"

Mittelaltermarkt (Medieval Market) near Odeonsplatz in Munich, Germany

"Medieval market in Munich, Germany"

Mittelaltermarkt (Medieval Market) near Odeonsplatz in Munich, Germany

From Prien am Chiemsee

The Christmas market on Frauenchiemsee Island of is one of my favorites for its unique setting on an entire island in Lake Chiemsee. To get to the island from Prien, you take a ferry that first stops at Herrenchiemsee Island where King Ludwig II built a castle. It then goes on to Frauenchiemsee Island and the Christmas market. The total trip is about 25 minutes each way. Glühwein and craft stalls stretch along the shore and among the inns and gasthauses that dot the island.

"Frauenchiemsee Island Christmas Market, Germany"

Christmas Market on Frauenchiemsee Island, Prien am Chiemsee

"Frauenchiemsee Island"

Christmas Market on Frauenchiemsee Island, Prien am Chiemsee

From Salzburg

Salzburg, Austria’s markets are in stunning settings among historic churches, palaces and a mountain fortress. Cathedral Square was a beautiful location, especially at times when the bells tolled or musicians played from the top of the buildings.

"Salzburg Christmas Market"

Salzburg Christmas Market

The market in nearby Residence Square had many festive booths with Christmas decorations.

Decorations at Salzburg Christmas Market

Salzburg Christmas Market

The market at the Hohensalzburg Fortress was another of my favorites being small and distinctively set among the fortress buildings nestled in the courtyard. It gave me the feeling of going back in time.

"Hohensalzburg Fortress Christmas Market"

Hohensalzburg Fortress Christmas Market in Salzburg, Austria

From Vienna

Mozart, the waltz, palaces and Sacher Torte — Vienna is a treasure! There are also many Christmas markets throughout the city.

"Schönbrunn Palace"

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Our favorite of the Vienna Christmas markets was the one at Schönbrunn Palace. The palace was one of the most impressive backdrops and the market itself was characterized by high-quality, local crafts.

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Our last Christmas market and the largest of those in Vienna was Wiener Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz (City Hall Square). The lights and decorations are brilliant. There was also more orientation to children with a train and carousel.

"Rathaus Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria"

Rathaus Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria

"Rathaus Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria"

Rathaus Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria

There were elaborately lighted gateways at each of the walkway entrances to the square.

"Rathaus Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria"

Rathaus Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria

Now, where should I go next year?

Merry Christmas!

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66 thoughts on “Sleigh Bells Ring in Europe

  1. Jeff Titelius

    This post would make a great Christmas card! Oh how I must visit these and ALL of the other markets someday! LOL. Yes, all 1,000 or so. ; )

    Your photos capture the enchanting ambiance so beautifully and now, my wanderlust is insatiable!

    Thank you for the wonderful tour!

    Merry Christmas!

  2. Linda

    I know, deep down, that it isn’t all about the lights or the glitz or even the snow, but I simply can’t get that image of Christmas out of my head – do you remember, even at the end of “Holiday Inn” it didn’t snow until the very last minute?!…….this post is beautiful, and it has determined !me to go in search of snow next year

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Linda. Yes, I remember that about “Holiday Inn”. The images we have of Christmas are pretty powerful and the Christmas markets really bring them to life for me.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I’ve been in NYC early in the Christmas season a few times and loved it. I’d really like to be there closer to Christmas sometime, too.

  3. Patti

    We are giving serious thought to taking a similar trip in 2013. Your photos have inspired me! And, I’m thinking if you can brave the cold in Germany and Austria, I can brave the cold in Paris next month!
    Merry Christmas!

  4. Leigh

    What a fantastic series of photos. I would like to be in Sweden or Norway for Christmas – what do you think Cathy? I’m sure there are lots of tourists but I bet these markets have a great community feel too. And all that gluwein (sp?) to drink. Wonderful.

  5. Senaf

    These are beautiful pictures all of them would make beautiful post cards. I have never been to a German market but that is all the more reason for me to make plans to go. I have plans to visit Germany next year but unfortunately not in the winter time. Thank you for sharing your wonderful vacation with us. Continue to enjoy drinking Glühwein and bratwurst sandwiches are the best. Have you had Weiswurst yet???

  6. Salika Jay

    It’s always nice to see seasonal photos from around the world. These Christmas markets are nice. I’ve only been to Christmas markets in Canada. Hopefully someday in Europe. Merry Christmas Cathy, Mr. TWS and everyone! 🙂

  7. Mary @ The World Is A Book

    What a great post, Cathy! Wow, you got to visit so many during your stay. I would love to visit any European Christmas market but these in Germany and Austria seem to take it to the next level. How awesome to go to an island for a Christmas market. Thanks for the virtual tour since it’ll be awhile before I get to see one.

    1. Cathy Post author

      The island Christmas market was so unusual. I think that Laurel said that it’s been called the best Christmas market in Germany.

  8. Vera

    Oh wow, very beautiful and atmospheric pictures!! I love it how there’s snow everywhere. I’m from the mid-western part of Germany, where it normally only gets cold enough for snow from January on. Still, even our decembres further up in the country are cold enough to enjoy mulled wine at the Christmas markets. Which surely must be the most important thing;)!

  9. Kerry Dexter

    lovely photos, Cathy. thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. as for where you should go next on your Christmas market travels — how about Dublin? there are several in the cuty, including one amidst the Georgian architecture in Merrrion Square. or head west to Eyre Square in the city of Galway for a lively holiday market. not always snow in Ireland at the holidays — though sometimes there wil be — but a lovely holiday spirit whatever the weather.
    happy Cjrsitmas to you!

    1. Cathy Post author

      I would love to visit Ireland during the Christmas holidays. I was there several years ago in the fall. What a wonderful country & people!

    1. Cathy Post author

      London is another one of my favorite places to be during the holidays. We spent a little time there in early December of 2009 & 2010. Lots of holiday spirit!

  10. Anita Mac

    This is so awesome! We were in Prague last winter – that was my first introduction to Christmas Markets. I had hoped to go to Germany this year, but alas, it wasn’t to be! That is going onto the plan for next year for sure! Love your photos. Looks like you had a brilliant time! Happy holidays.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I was in Prague last winter, too — maybe we bumped into each other at the market in old town square. Wonderful place to experience Christmas markets.

  11. Christopher

    It’s so great to see these pictures of the Weihnachtsmärkte, especially the one on Marienplatz in Munich. I saw them putting up the tree a few weeks ago, but I’ve been in the US since then. It’s a beautiful square. Thank you for these pics!

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  13. Jennifer

    Merry Christmas, Cathy! Vienna has been my favorite city yet for Christmas markets. Next year I hope to take a Christmas market river cruise and visit some in Germany. Laurel’s posts from the Lyon Festival of Lights make me want to visit there as well!

  14. Turkey's For Life

    Glühwein and bratwurst – why else do you need to go to the Christmas markets? 🙂 Great festive photos. We’ll take this opportunity not to wish you a happy new year and look forward to more of your posts in 2013. 🙂
    Julia and Barry

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  16. Mike (Nomadic Texan)

    I am so happy to view these Catherine! Its exactly as I thought it would be! Beautiful. I hope that one day my wife and I can attend a Christmas Market tour in Europe and see all these wonderful sights! Thanks for sharing.

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