Christmastime in Vienna, Austria (With a Pit Stop in Bratislava, Slovakia)
Christmas Market Tour 2018
Vienna is a city filled with royalty and elegance and I was so grateful to be able to visit during my European Christmas market trip. The lovely capital of Austria is located on the Eastern side of the country and is known for it’s imperial sights, timeless cafés and the best Christmas markets in Europe!
After spending two days in Budapest, Hungary, I made my way to Vienna, Austria while also making a pit stop in Bratislava, Slovakia. Just like in Budapest, the Danube River also splits the cities of Vienna and Bratislava. During my two days in Bratislava and Vienna, I visited historical buildings and sites, strolled through the most magical Christmas markets and savored authentic Slovak and Viennese food.
Both Vienna and Bratislava exceeded my expectations and I highly recommend everyone to put these two cities on your bucket list, especially if you plan to do a Central/Eastern European Christmas market trip like I did! Discover everything to not miss out on during Christmastime in Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna, Austria.
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Bratislava Pit Stop:
Prior to traveling to Vienna, Austria, I spent two days in Budapest, Hungary. Since Bratislava, Slovakia is situated between the two cities, I decided to make a pit stop there before heading into Vienna for the last leg of my Christmas market trip.
Even if you aren’t traveling around or coming from Budapest, you could still make a day trip or even a half day excursion to Bratislava from Vienna since the two cities are only a little over an hour away from each other.
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and is situated on the western side of the country. It is known to have one of the most beautiful (and colorful) Christmas markets in Europe and also has a castle, gorgeous churches, romantic cafés and restaurants, amazing views and friendly locals.
I traveled from Budapest to Bratislava via Flixbus. The Bratislava Central Bus Station is located on the other side of the city, so you will need to take a taxi if you want to get to Bratislava hlavná stanica (train station) or the downtown area. Since I had my luggage with me, I was able to rent a locker for a few euros in the train station.
What I loved most about Bratislava is that it was a fairly quiet and safe city making it perfect to get lost it. When I arrived in the city, I met up with my friend Ian and we began strolling into the downtown area. Below is what I recommend you check out if you visit Bratislava during Christmastime.
One of the first places Ian and I visited while we were in Bratislava was the infamous Bratislava Castle. This Renaissance castle is situated on a hill above the Old Town. I will admit that it was a little tiring walking up there, but the views definitely made up for it!
What is cool about Bratislava Castle is that it features the first written reference to the city, which appears in the Annals of Salzburg of 907, in association with a battle between the Bavarians and Hungarians. With an expanse history, Bratislava Castle now serves as a representative venue for the Slovak Parliament and houses collections of the Slovak National Museum.
Since Ian and I visited Bratislava Castle during Christmastime, there was a little Christmas market set up next to the Castle. In the courtyard of the castle was a beautiful nativity scene with a manger. It was definitely a beautiful sight.
Most Slovenského národného povstania (Most SNP):
Known as Slovakia’s “UFO” bridge, Most SNP was built during the Slovak National Uprising between 1967 and 1972. It is considered the most characteristic landmark of the city and is a cable-stayed bridge with only one pylon.
Even though we didn’t have time to visit the restaurant at the top (which is the UFO part), it was so awesome seeing it from the castle hill.
Known as one of the symbols of Bratislava, Michael’s Gate features Baroque architecture and offers wonderful views of the colorful city from the top. It is hard to miss Michael’s Gate because it leads you into the enchanting Old Town of Bratislava.
As we walked to the Christmas market in the Old Town, Ian and I admired this gorgeous gate and the surrounding buildings were also stunning!
Old Town Hall:
The Old Town Hall of Bratislava dates back to the beginning of the medieval city in the 13th century. Nowadays, the building houses the Bratislava City Museum (Mestske Muzeum), which is the oldest in Bratislava. It features an exhibition of the feudal justice system as well as the original furnishings from the municipal court.
What I loved most about the Old Town Hall was that it was located in the heart of Bratislava’s Christmas market and had the city’s stunning Christmas tree in front of it.
Advent season in Bratislava is absolutely magical! Between the gorgeous buildings, glowing streets, Christmas trees and red and white stands full of delicious treats, crafts and décor, there is so much to fall in love with in Slovakia’s capital during the holidays.
The main Christmas market is located at the Main Square and Hviezdoslav Square in the city. You could also find mini markets such as the one in front Bratislava Castle as well as the Eurovea shopping center. I absolutely LOVED what was offered at the Bratislava Christmas markets. They sell all different types of strudels, sweet and savory potato pancakes, sausages, Slovak rolls, cheese, gingerbread cookies and so much more! Just like the other markets, Bratislava’s also has mulled wine!
In addition to food, the Christmas markets in Bratislava also sell ornaments, trinkets and other Slovak handicrafts. It is such a magical place to be!
After spending an amazing morning in Bratislava, Slovakia, Ian and I took the train over to Vienna’s main train station – Wien Hauptbahnhof. What is great about Vienna versus the other cities I visited during my Christmas market trip is that they have UBER! Since everything in Vienna is spread out, it was nice to know we had the option to take an Uber if we needed it.
Getting around Vienna:
In addition to Uber, Vienna also has a vast transit network. You could either take the U-Bahn (subway), streetcar or the city bus. If you are staying closer to the city center and main attractions near the Danube, everything is easily walkable. There are also city taxis as well, but please keep in mind that Vienna and Austria in general could be pretty pricey.
To summarize how I traveled during my Christmas market trip, I found great flight deals through Skyscanner! From Newark to Munich with a short layover in Lisbon, I was able to grab a one-way flight for less than $200 without taxes! On my way home, I got a flight out of Vienna to Newark with a short layover in Düsseldorf for less than $300 with taxes included. (Make sure to also check out Expedia for great deals.)
Since I flew into Munich, I started my Christmas market tour there and then made my way to Salzburg after two days. From the Austrian Alps, I took a five our train ride to Budapest, Hungary where I spent two days there before heading to Bratislava and Vienna. I traveled around via train to each city, except for my journey from Budapest to Bratislava where I took a Flixbus. Due to the holiday season, Europe is filled with many tourists and travelers alike so I made sure to book my train tickets to each city in advanced through GoEuro. You could find great deals there!
Where to Stay in Vienna:
During my two nights in Vienna, I stayed at Hotel Bergwirt Schönbrunn. It is a cozy mid-budget, boutique hotel located near the famous Schönbrunn Palace. Just like in Salzburg, the hotel was further away from the city center though. What was nice about Hotel Bergwirt Schönbrunn is that there was a cute Austrian restaurant and bar located right in the hotel. The area outside of Schönbrunn Palace (ORF Centre) is also adorable and offers great restaurants, cafés, bars and more!
Things to do in Vienna during Christmastime:
Visit the Old Cafés:
One of the top things to do in Vienna is visit one of the old world cafés to savor a delicious Viennese cake! During my time in Vienna, my friend Ian and I went all out and visited the famous Café Sacher in the heart of the city where we got to enjoy Champagne, a cappuccino and their famous chocolate cake – a Sachertorte. This delicious chocolate cake also has a layer of apricot jam and is covered in chocolate ganache. It was amazing and the perfect way to start the day!
If you decide to go to one of the old cafés in Vienna, I highly recommend going early to avoid crowds. Thankfully, the line to get in when we went wasn’t too bad. When we left, it was almost wrapped around the block! (Mind you, it was also before Christmas.) I loved how the café was super elegant and made you feel like you were having breakfast in a palace.
Wander through the grounds of Hofburg Palace:
The imperial Hofburg is the former palace of the Habsburg dynasty rulers and currently serves as the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria.
You could get tickets and actually go inside the Palace, but the grounds were so beautiful to walk through. There were enchanting courtyards, beautiful parks and lawns, lovely gardens and so much more! To make it even better, it was snowing when we were there!
Get Lost in the Austrian National Library:
The Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, also known as the Austrian National Library, is Austria’s largest library. It is also a perfect place to feel like Belle from Beauty and the Beast!
The Austrian National Library is absolutely stunning and offers over 12 millions books and artifacts. Within these artifacts are manuscripts, music manuscripts, photographs, maps, globes and much more. It is definitely a place you cannot miss out on when you are in Vienna!
Stroll through the Magical Christmas Markets (Christkindlmarkt):
The Christmas markets in Vienna are truly nothing like I’ve ever seen before! Even though I found all of the Christmas markets in Central and Eastern Europe to be magical, Vienna’s definitely had that WOW factor to them. (I think I may have saved the best for last.)
The Viennese Christmas markets date back to the Middle Ages. Scattered throughout the city are a variety of different markets that sell glühwein, bratwursts, roasted chestnuts, pretzels, pastries and chocolates. They also offer handcrafted goods, toys, textiles and more!
There are so many Christmas markets in Vienna! If you have the time, I would definitely check them all out. Unfortunately, I only had two days in Vienna so I only got to go to three (which I was told were the best ones to attend).
Here are the markets I attended:
Viennese Dream Christmas Market at Rathaus:
The Christkindlmarkt at Rathaus had to be the most magical market for me. Located in front of the City Hall is the Christmas market offering everything that will get you into the spirit.
I will admit that the backdrop to Vienna’s Christmas market reminded me of the Christmas market in Munich’s Marienplatz. It was absolutely breathtaking! There are countless amounts of stands that will take you a couple hours to walk through, an ice-skating rink, Ferris wheel and other outstanding attractions.
You could even go inside City Hall on the ground floor and learn how to make Austrian Christmas cookies or candles. It is so cool!
Art Advent at Karlsplatz:
After attending Christkindmarkt at Rathaus, I walked 10 minutes over to Karlsplatz for the magical Art Advent. I absolutely LOVED how dreamy this market was with all of the lights and decorations around me! The Karlskirche (baroque cathedral) also makes for a magical backdrop.
Unlike the other markets, you will find exceptional craftwork, quality regional handicrafts and the best entertainment performances at this market. (Don’t worry though you could still get glühwein!)
Christmas and New Year’s Market at Schönbrunn Palace:
Another one of my all-time favorite Christmas markets was the one at Schönbrunn Palace. Even if you travel to Vienna during non-Christmas season, I highly recommend visiting Schönbrunn Palace. It is absolutely stunning and makes me want to attend a ball there LOL.
If you visit this beautiful palace during Christmastime, I highly recommend making your way there at night because it is absolutely stunning! During my evening there, it started to snow, making it even more magical. (Please note that these photos don’t do it justice.)
There are approximately 60 exhibitors offering beautiful original gifts and hand made Christmas decorations at this market. They also have glühwein and other Austrian and Viennese goodies!
Other Christmas Markets in Vienna:
Christmas Market at Spittelberg
Winter at Museums Quartier
Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace
Christmas Village at Maria-Theresien Platz
Christmas Village at the Former General Hospital
Winter Market on Riesenradplatz
Old Viennese Christmas Market
Am Hof Advent Market
Christmas Market on Stephansplatz
Savor Authentic Austrian Food and Beer:
During my two days in Vienna, I savored amazing Austrian-German food and sipped some of the best beer I’ve ever had! Here are the places I ate and drank at during my time in Vienna:
Brandauers Schlossbrau: This beautiful Austrian beer hall and courtyard is the perfect place to enjoy an authentic meal with a pint! During our last night in Vienna, Ian and I enjoyed a chicken schnitzel dinner with spaetzel, potatoes and Viennese beer. It was absolutely amazing!
Zum Blauen Esel: This cozy and quaint restaurant also offers delicious Austrian food. Instead of typical Austrian-German food (like schnitzel and sausage), I enjoyed a lovely seafood dinner that was so tasty! In addition, I also tried Austrian wine for the first time and loved it.
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time in Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna, Austria and discovered all of the magical places to visit during Christmastime. If you have any questions about my time in Bratislava or Vienna, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact me via social media or leave a comment below.
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