Yesterday, I shared some of my thoughts on the Am Hof, Rathaus and Spittelberg markets. As I stated yesterday, I’m an enthusiast, not an expert, on Christmas markets, and this is all simply my own opinion and observations as a not-quite-novice Vienna settler and a mom who dares to shop with her kids. Now for a few more . . .
Maria-Theresienplatz — This market, right on the Ringstrasse, is my personal favorite. I love the whole feeling of it. It’s well populated but big enough to not be too crowded, there are a lot of very nice shops, many of which sell Austrian goods and which also exist as Viennese brick-and-mortar stores (extra credit, to my mind, because I like the idea of buying actually Austrian things and supporting local business). There’s a little food and a few Punsch stands plus a ride or two for the little kids, and enough space to manuever even with the stroller. (Last year, our oldest brought his bike and was even able to ride around a bit without any trouble.) They often have live Christmas music on the weekends and in the evenings, and that, along with the setting (between the Art History museum, Natural History museum, the MuseumsQuartier and the Hofburg) give the whole market a fantastic ambiance. I think that’s what I like best about it — the setting, the music, and the local shops.
Freyung — The Freyung, near Schottentor and the Graben (and just a block from the market at Am Hof) is one of the oldest markets in Vienna. (It’s also the closest to our house, so we go a fair bit.) It’s very small, but it has a nice, community feeling (lots of people local to the neighborhood stop in for a Punsch and stay to socialize). They have a children’s program and often have live performances, including a whole Advent program. Some of the stalls sell small, cheap items, but there are some very beautiful things, as well — it’s a wide range. The absolute best thing about the Freyung market is that it seems to consistently have the friendliest and nicest shopkeepers of all the Christmas markets in Vienna. Unlike a lot of market stalls, the vendors seem sincerely interested in helping, answering questions, and even visiting with the kids — children feel genuinely welcome here. It’s unusual for us to walk through without the kids being given some kind of treat, and without being drawn into a conversation with a shopkeeper — pleasantly unexpected for Vienna. Since it’s a small market, there aren’t a ton of options in terms of food a drink, but there are a few. It’s conveniently located between the Rathaus market and the Am Hof market — it would be an easy walk between the three (although I’d never be brave enough to try to visit three markets in a single day WITH the kids).
Karlsplatz — The Christmas market at Karlsplatz has a unique feel to it. It’s large, and the stalls are spaced far apart, so it doesn’t feel crowded, even during busy times. The shops seem to specialize in unique (sometimes strange), expensive, artisan items, including, this year, a strong focus on reused and repurposed items. There are a ton of pottery, woodcarving and knit wear shops. It’s a lovely market, with lots of fun things for the kids — pony rides, a huge straw play area, arts and crafts, a few playgrounds and a steampunk carousel (and, inexplicably, llamas). The Punsch at this market is the best I’ve had — a few shops sell organic (“Bio”) Punsch (my favorite — not specifically because it’s organic, but it seems less . . . overwhelming) in a variety of flavors. Jo says Karlsplatz is her favorite market so far.