Imagine getting into the yuletide spirit in romantic Vienna, singing your favorite Christmas melodies in one of the musical capitals of the world.

Under the royal backdrop of the majestic Schönbrunn Palace, one of Vienna’s most splendid markets glows with an intoxicating blend of holiday cheer, nostalgia and romance.

A twinkling tree, the stunning glow against the Palace, lively and festive concerts, handmade gifts and traditional Christmas markets – these are why a million people visit Vienna’s stunning Christmas Market at Schönbrunn (aka Weihnachtsmarkt Schönbrunn). And don’t forget the food – Victorian-style candy and sweets, candied fruits, traditional gingerbread and cookies, strawberries dipped in hot chocolate, melted cheese on dark bread, roasted chestnuts, delicious pastries, cotton candy, Christmas punch, mulled wine, piping hot waffles, crepes and sausages are a delicious and tempting taste of the market. Two specialties include the fragrant Vanillekipferl – a delightfully light, crescent-shaped biscuit with icing, sugar, vanilla and almonds. Yum! And the sweetest way to combat the cold is with a swig of traditional Christmas Punsch (aka Weihnachtpunsch). There are numerous variations – but it is often some combination of either mulled wine or tes, spices, sugar, rum and brandy.

Each year, somewhere between 60 to 80 exhibitors turn out with small wooden stalls teeming with traditional handicrafts and workshops. An intricately hand-carved manger sits in front of the lit-up Christmas tree. And in a throwback to another era, traditional artists of all sorts – everyone from candle makers, glass blowers, wood carvers and stonemasons – come together to sell their crafts. Homemade beeswax candles are popular gifts here -- along with handmade ornaments, nativity sets, jewellery, notebooks, toys and snow globes (fun fact: snow globes were invented in Vienna in the early 1900s!). Visitors also enjoy live open-air concerts or Mozart wafting through speakers (Vienna was of course Mozart’s home base!)

The history of Vienna’s Christmas Markets can date back to 1298 and the founding of its early precursor, the ‘December Market.’ At the time, King Rudolph I (no relation to the famous reindeer) granted his son, Duke Albrecht I, certain rights and privileges, including the ability to hold a December Market (or Krippenmarkt). Since then, Vienna’s markets have grown in number and activities. The addition of the ‘huts’ were chronicled for the first time in 1626, and the sale of gingerbread, baked goods and confectionary treats. By 1764, there was already a mention of a second market. By the 1870’s, the term ‘Christmas Market’ was widely used.

Nowadays, there are at least six popular markets in the city. Other popular markets here include the Viennese Christmas Market (located on the square in front of City Hall), Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace, Christmas Village Maria-Theresien Platz (located between the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art), Christmas Market at Spittelberg (behind the Volkstheater) and the Christmas Village in the Former General Hospital.

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