5 Austrian cities to visit in Christmas time

As the whole 2020, also the end of the year is pretty different than we are used to. My December usually included visiting as many Christmas markets as I could. I just love strolling decorated cities in Slovenia and neighbouring countries and trying all the best festive food. And although this year the only city I have visited this month is Ljubljana, where I live, I can still remember my past amazing Christmas destinations. To spread some Christmas spirit, I am sharing a few of my favourite cities in Austria, which are amazing for visiting during the holidays. Due to protection measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, they have cancelled all the Christmas activities in Austria, but nobody can stop you from dreaming and planning next year’s travels.

Trip map created with Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android

1. Graz

Austria’s second biggest city is a charming destination all year around. However, in Christmas time it is even better, as it puts on an amazing festive look. In the city centre there are 14 different locations with Christmas activities, while the most popular being the market on the main square Hauptplatz. There you can find a majestic Christmas tree, that was illuminated with more than 25.000 Christmas lights in 2019, and the City Hall with facade that transforms into a huge Advent Calendar at dusk. You can’t miss also crossing the Mur river through the Island in the Mur and Ice Nativity Scene in the Landhaushof Courtyard, which is made from 35 tons of ice. But my favourite are the Christmas markets above the city on the castle hill Schlossberg. There you can shop for Christmas ornaments while snacking on roasted chestnuts and admiring illuminated Clock Tower.

Graz Austria Christmas market Hauptplatz
Graz Austria Christmas market Schlossberg
Graz Austria Christmas market Schlossberg
Graz Austria Christmas market Europe

Visited: December 2019

2. Kitzbuhel

Austria’s largest and best-known skiing resort Kitzbuhel has many charms beside amazing ski slopes. Its old town Innenstadt is an ensemble of beautiful colourful houses, which are built in the traditional architectural style typical for the Lower Inn Valley. And they are especially cute covered in snow and illuminated with Christmas lights. You can admire them on the two main streets – the Vorderstadt and the Hinterstadt, where you will also find the Christmas markets. Take time to try out some Kaiserschmarrn (pancakes served cut in small pieces) and mulled wine, they’re both expensive but delicious. Take a walk also to the Pfarrkirche St. Andreas.

Kitzbuhel Austria Europe Christmas destination
Kitzbuhel Austria Europe Christmas destination
Kitzbuhel Austria Europe Christmas destination Vanja Vodenik
Kitzbuhel Austria Kaiserschmarrn Gluhwein Christmas market

Visited: December 2017

3. Zell am See

This traditional Austrian skiing town, that lies on the shores of Lake Zell, fills its squares in the old town Alt Stadt with cute little Christmas markets every December. You can drink some mulled wine next to the St. Hypolith’s Church, which dates back to the 11th century, then stroll illuminated streets and buildings. Do also pass beautiful Grand Hotel to get to the lake, which has illuminated stars on the water. If you are there on Christmas Day, do not miss town’s special tradition – Christmas tree dive.

Zell am See Austria Europe Christmas market
Zell am See Austria Europe Christmas
Zell am See Austria Europe Christmas
Zell am See Austria Grand Hotel

Visited: December 2017

4. Villach

This small city in the south of Austria is the second largest in the Carinthia region. It is probably not a famous one, but this only adds to its charm. I visited it on the last day of December 2014, it was snowing and the streets of the old town where full of locals drinking Glühwein, eating Austrian sausages and enjoying themselves. Colourful facades of houses and small wooden Christmas stalls with souvenirs just add to Villach’s charm. And there is a big ice skating ring in the city centre. For lovely snow views you can also take a walk along Drau river.

Villach Austria Europe Christmas market
Villach Austria Europe Christmas skate ring
Villach Austria Europe Christmas Vanja Vodenik
Villach Austria Europe Christmas

Visited: December 2014

5. Salzburg

One of the most popular Austrian cities does not disappoint also in the Christmas time. Squares around the Cathedral of Salzburg are full of Christmas stalls, where you can buy beautiful Christmas tree ornaments, nativity figures, toys and knitwear. And there is so much amazing food choices. You can try gingerbread hearts Lebkuchen, baked apples, toasted almonds, Apfelstrudel, sweet pretzels and more. For more Advent magic you can visit also the Christmas markets on the Hohensalzburg fortress and at the Hellbrunn Castle. To see other activities in Salzburg check out my blog post about my favourite activities in the city.

Salzburg Austria Europe Christmas market
Salzburg Austria Europe Christmas market tree ornament
Salzburg Austria Europe Christmas tree ornament
Salzburg Austria Europe Christmas market sweets

Visited: December 2014

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