Vienna boasts about 20 Christmas markets, starting as early as mid-November and staying open until Christmas; the markets at the Prater and Schönbrunn remain open until early January. Numerous stalls featuring a vast array of decorations, toys, glassware, artwork, crystal, handicraft goods, smiley gingerbread cookies, roasted chestnuts (Maroni), sausages, honey, candles and of course effervescent mulled wine with spices (Glühwein) and invigorating fruit Punsch with rum. The markets also offer exciting entertainment for families with children; they can bake their own gingerbread cookies, paint Christmas decorations or recite poems for Santa.
Art Advent on KarlsplatzThe market on the square in front of the impressive Karlskirche is quite different from the others; all goods sold here are hand-made by local artists and craftsmen, with live demonstrations and raised stages for small children to see better. Most food and drink is regional and organic, including the amazing oven-baked flatbread and delicious waffles. There's regular live music, and the market also offers plenty of exciting live acts, art installations on the Kunstinsel Art Island, fire-dancing and stiltwalking groups.
Art Advent at Karlsplatz, from 22 November to 23 December, www.artadvent.at/en, Resselpark, M Karlsplatz. Open daily 12:00-20:00.
Schloss Schönbrunn WeihnachtsmarktThe Christmas and New Year market in front of Schönbrunn Palace is unique in its atmosphere and imperial flavour. Some 80 stalls sell various gifts and original artwork, and there's an entertainment program for adults and children with a choir, brass band, palace tours, cookie-baking and quadrille dancing lessons.
Schönbrunn Palace Parade Court, M Schönbrunn, www.weihnachtsmarkt.co.at. 23 Nov – 5 Jan. Open 10:00-21:00; 24 Dec 10:00-16:00, 27 Dec - 1 Jan 10:00-18:00.
Weihnachtsmarkt am SpittelbergSeveral quaint cobble-stoned streets in this historic neighbourhood are transformed into a romantic Christmas village with 100 stands with crafts, gifts, food, mulled wine and more.
Spittelberggasse, M Volkstheater, www.spittelberg.at. 14 Nov- 23 Dec. Open 15:00-21:00, Fri 15:00-21:30, Sat 12:00-21:30, Sun & holidays 12:00-21:00.
Wiener WeihnachtstraumVienna’s largest Christmas market sprawls on the vast Rathausplatz in front of the city hall. More than 150 stalls featuring an array of gifts and food will provide plenty of opportunities for shopping, sampling tasty goodies or enjoying the fairy-tale lights and illumination. There are many special activities for children; they can bake bread or make a gift at the 'Christkindl workshop'. On advent weekends, sing along as choirs from Austria and around the world perform Christmas carols (from 15:30, every Fri-Sun from 25 Nov).
Rathausplatz, M Rathaus, www.wienerweihnachtstraum.at. 15 Nov - 26 Dec. Open 10:00-22:00, 24 Dec 10:00-16:00.
Winter Market at the PraterAdventure, tradition and Viennese charm are all available at the Vienna Prater amusement park. Founded in the 19th century, the park has over 250 rides including turbulent roller coasters, spooky ghost trains and attractions of all sorts for children of all ages. The top event this season is the “Prater Rocks” winter holiday festival. From 16 November till 6 January, the Christmas and New Year's winter market will keep you warm – in combination with hot punch and live acts. It all takes place on the Riesenradplatz square below the famous Ferris Wheel, and admission is free. A visit to the festival can always be combined with a visit to Madame Tussauds Wien or a ride in the Ferris Wheel.
The central Riesenradplatz square takes you back to the charming Vienna of 1900; experience the traditions and original rides from that era. For young children, the Prater is a world of experience where they can play and be entertained to their heart's content. On weekends and holidays at 12:00, 13:00, 14:00 and 15:00, the Kids'Adventure Tour on the heated Praterzug Winter Train connects the Riesenradplatz with three popular children's attractions; the exciting indoor Autodom car track, the pony rides and the Silver Mine Grotto ride.
Laugh along with the silly Clowndoctors, who are collecting for their work to cheer children up in Vienna's hospitals; make a donation and receive a red nose to keep your own nose warm! The Clowndoctors perform every Sunday at 15:00.
Older children can scream their way through the haunted house on the ghost train ride, or surf the crest of the wave on a roller coaster. Children and adults alike will love the world's tallest carousel, where you can endlessly spin and swing round and round in the seats hanging from chains. There are plenty of hot drinks and bites at the winter market to keep you in a warm winter mood.
For older children and adults, the Ybbstaler canyon demons visit the market during the traditional Perchten Parade on 1 December at 17:00; dressed in devilishly good outfits with scary masks. The Prater's winter market on Riesenradplatz is especially worth visiting at dusk when everything is brilliantly and colourfully lit up. There's great live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 19:00. There's everything from pop and soul to gospel via everything in between. The Prater winter market is open daily from 12:00-22:00; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 11:00-22:00; 24 December 12:00-16:00, 31 December & 1 January 12:00-02:00. Admission is free. For more information see www.wintermarkt.at.