While some Christmas Markets claim to be the most authentic or have the oldest ancestry, there is no denying that Vienna claims the distinction of hosting the most Christmas Markets in one city. There are approximately 20 Christmas Markets sprinkled about Vienna, Austria, bringing the term pop up market full circle. During my Viking River Cruise, I was able to take in three charming Christmas Markets in one day.
I was already excited to visit Austria’s capital with its stunning architecture, blended with old world imperial traditions. Add on Viennese pastries and Lipizzaner stallions and I was in horse heaven. A team of matching white horses waited patiently next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, ready to take visitors on a tour of old Vienna. On the other side of the cathedral, a Christmas Market welcomed holiday revelers with steaming mugs of glühwein, roasted chestnuts on an open fire (yes, really) and endless stacks of fresh pretzels. Tis the season to be jolly, indeed! There’s no escaping the holiday spirit when you are surrounded by dancing puppets, gingerbread houses and rosy red-cheeked dolls made of cinnamon sticks!
After exploring a smaller Christmas Market in downtown Vienna, some of our Viking River crew opted for an excursion to Schönbrunn Palace in the afternoon.
In 1569 a member of the Habsburg dynasty purchased a large plot of land, built a mansion and created hunting grounds. Schönbrunn, meaning “beautiful spring” was dubbed the summer residence of the family. In 1918 the Austrian Republic took over the property and turned the 1,441-room Baroque palace into a museum. In 1996 it because a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to strolling the formal gardens, visitors are able to take a guided tour of the imperial apartments and explore the furnished rooms in the palace. There was also a carriage museum tour (for an additional charge) with 94 carriages on display. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit the museum.
Schönbrunn Palace was an optional four hour excursion on my Viking River Cruise that I wanted to take to see yet another Christmas Market and I’m glad I did.The Christmas Market at Schönbrunn Palace offered some of the best hand-made crafts in my opinion. This is the place where I purchased some unique Christmas ornaments to take with me back to California. It also gave us a memorable sunset over the palace. What a send-off Vienna!
Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Disclosure: thanks to the folks at Viking River Cruises for making this trip possible. As always, all opinions are my own.