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Christmas in Austria

Are you considering visiting some European Christmas markets or spending Christmas somewhere in Austria? But you’re unsure if it’s the right destination and what Christmas there is like…

You’re right in this article. I spent 3 years living and studying in Austria and Salzburg, experienced many Christmas traditions, and visited many Christmas markets around the country. So. I’ll answer all your questions about Austrian Christmas.

Whether you’re considering visiting Austria for Christmas or just experiencing some markets, you’ve made the right choice. Austria is a great place to be and get into the Christmas mood.

So let’s get into more details.

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Interesting Facts About Austrian Christmas

To summarize what Austrian Christmas is like, here is a quick summary of the local Christmas traditions. Scroll down for more detailed information about each.

Here you have 7 facts about Austrian Christmas and its traditions:

ST. NIKOLAUS: Santa Claus comes with Krampus on the 6th of December, bringing sweets.
KRAMPUSLAUF: Krampus is a big monster that beats you with a stick and runs through the streets of Austria on 5th and 6th of December.
ADVENTSKREUZ: Advent Wreath is decorated with 4 candles, and each candle is lit on a Sunday in December, signifying that Christmas is around the corner.
CHRISTMAS BAKING – locals like to bake Christmas cookies at home
Austria has some of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in the world.
HEILIGABEND – Christmas is celebrated on the 24th of December with a family dinner.
CHRISTKIND – Children get presents from Christkind on the 24th of December under the Christmas Tree.
NEUJAHRSKONZERT – New Year’s Concert – a huge concert played by Vienna Symphonic Orchestra in Vienna, greeting a new year.

celebrating Christmas in Austria
Me celebrating Christmas at my University In Salzburg – Austria

Where Is The Best Place To Spend Christmas In Austria?

The best place to spend Christmas in the country is Salzburg. It’s one of the most beautiful towns in Austria.

It also has some of the best Christmas Markets in Europe. And the best fact about Salzburg is that it’s tiny, so being in the town feels more cosy and Christmasy than in bigger cities like Vienna.

TOP EXPERIENCE: Christmas Markets Tour In Salzburg

Where To Spend Christmas In Austria?

I recommend these 4 main places in Austria that are great for celebrating Christmas.

🎄 VIENNA

Christmas in Vienna is overall great if you prefer a bigger city and multiple Christmas Markets.

I recommend the following hotels if you want to stay in Vienna:

Boutique Hotel Das Tigra
Hotel Sacher Wien

🎄 SALZBURG

Salzburg is best if you like a cozy small town with magical Christmas Markets and atmosphere. It’s also a great place if you want to go skiing.

I suggest these hotels if you stay in Salzburg:

Hotel Am Mirabellplatz
Hotel Sacher Salzburg

🎄 INNSBRUCK

Christmas in Austrian Tyrol, its little towns, and Innsbruck is the best place if you like a small town surrounded by snowy mountains and also want to go skiing.

In Innsbruck, I recommend the following hotels to stay at:

Pradl Elf My Apartment
Altstadthotel Weisses Kreuz
Aqua Dome Therme – 74km/46miles from Innsbruck, but stunning spa hotel in Tyrol 😍

🎄 GRAZ

Graz is great if you like a medium (not too big, not too small) city with nice Christmas Markets, close to Slovenia, so you can make a day trip. It’s also more affordable than other Austrian cities, so it might be a great place to stay on a budget.

I suggest these hotels to book in Graz:

Aiola Living Graz
Hotel Weitzer Graz

Salzburg
Salzburg – Christmas

Christmas In Austria: Weather

The average temperature In Austria during Christmas is 4°C/39°F. In northern Austria, it’s warmer than in the south of Austria, Tyrol, where the Alps are fully in the skiing season, covered by snow.

Northern Austria might not have snow anymore for Christmas. It can come later in January or February. But Vienna’s getting less and less likely to have a snowy Christmas. The temperatures are around 4°C/39°F, it’s usually cold, but pleasant cold, so you don’t have to pack extra layers.

If you’re visiting the southern part of Austria, where the mountains are, there is a high chance you’ll enjoy a snowy Christmas. The average temperature is about -2°C/28°F. It’s cold, so bring winter clothes.

Southern Austria, especially Tyrol, is great to stay for Christmas if you also want to enjoy a skiing holiday.

austrian christmas Tyrol

Christmas Markets In Austria

Austria has truly some of the most magical Christmas Markets in the whole world. I’m not joking.

Austria alone is like a fairy tale, with its royal cities, cute mountain towns, and snowy mountains in the background. Then add the Christmas lights and wonderful smell of Christmasy delicacies… and you’re in.

The atmosphere is incredible, and Austria is the perfect place if you want to get into the Christmas mood.

You can eat and drink various delicacies such as mulled wine, hot chocolate, caramel-covered nuts, chocolate-covered strawberries, or roasted chestnuts. In Salzburg, you have to try delicious sweet and savory pretzels.

I recommend heading to Vienna or Salzburg for the best Christmas markets in the country.

Where Is The Best Christmas Market In Austria?

The best Christmas market in Austria is in Salzburg, while the largest is in Vienna.

Salzburg has beautiful and cozy Christmas Markets that will bring you into the Christmas mood more easily.

Vienna, on the other hand, has more Christmas markets spread across the town. So there are more options, but it’s not as cozy as in Salzburg.

christmas in austria salzburg
My friend and I enjoying the Salzburg Christmas markets

👉 READ ALSO: Spain In December & Best Christmas Markets In Spain

Is Austria Nice For Christmas?

Yes, Austria is one of the best places to spend Christmas. It has a magical Christmasy atmosphere, beautiful decorations, and amazing Christmas markets, bringing you into the mood even at the beginning of December.

What Famous Christmas Song Was Written In Austria?

The Silent Night is a famous Christmas song that was written in Austria.

Joseph Mohr, the Austrian priest, wrote the lyrics for this special song in 1816. It was in a village called Oberndorf bei Salzburg, just 20km away from Salzburg (a 25-minute drive).

Nowadays, you can visit the chapel where he was this beautiful carol. That may be why Salzburg is the best place to spend Christmas.

christmas in austria salzburg and vienna markets

👉 READ ALSO: Best Of Austria Itinerary: 10 Days In Austria

Christmas Traditions In Austria

Austrians have some unique Christmas traditions that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. And let me tell you, it’s quite scary.

When I was studying in Austria Salzburg for 3 years, I got to experience these traditions every single year. It was a lot of fun. So let me bring you closer to Austrian Christmas and its celebrations.

1. Advent Wreath – Adventskreuz

The Advent Wreath is a Christmas tradition in a few other countries, like Slovakia (my home country). It’s a wreath with 4 candles and various decorations (depending on personal taste).

Some Austrians like to have a Wreath with real conifer branches, and some have artificial from a store.

On the last 4 Sundays before Christmas Eve (24th of December), they lit each candle, symbolizing that Christmas is getting closer.

It’s a nice tradition, and I remember we used to do it in my family, where we gathered on Sunday evening for dinner and lit one candle while listening to Christmas songs.

Advent Wreath
Advent Wreath

2. St. Nikolaus & Krampus

This is when it gets wild in Austria. So the good part is that children like to clean their shoes and put them next to the door in a house or onto their window in a room and hope to get some sweets and Christmas treats from Santa Claus the next morning (6th December) to their shoe.

The tradition continues on 6th December, when locals celebrate St. Nikolaus Day, even at schools and offices. Santa Claus comes to give treats to everyone.

Usually, children (and sometimes even adults) have to sing Christmas songs to St. Nikolaus to get sweets from him.

However, the ‘Austrian’ St. Claus is accompanied by a big monster called Krampus. And if the children are bad, the Krampus will beat them with a stick.

christmas St. Nikolaus Austria
St. Nikolaus

3. Krampuslauf

What is worse, on the 5th and 6th of December, many villages and towns in Austria celebrate the so-called Krampuslauf.

So imagine you’re in a cute Christmas mood, sipping mulled wine and chatting with your friends and family on the street.

And suddenly, this huge Krampus monster comes in and beats you with a stick. Or you’re simply walking through the street, and the Krampus starts running after you and beats you.

Well, yes. That’s the traditional Krampus in Austria. I mean, it’s literally creepy, I hated it. And it also hurts.

I remember we were at Christmas markets with my friends, and I didn’t notice that the Krampus was running after me, and then suddenly, he bit me. It scared the very last of me. I’m shaking while writing this.

Anyways… here we go – Krampuslauf in Austria – one of the craziest Christmas Traditions in the world.

christmas in austria Krampus
Krampus

4. Christmas Baking & Cookies

Another big thing in Austria is baking Christmas cookies. But ooh, these are delicious, and you probably can’t taste anywhere else (except Slovakia and Poland, maybe).

I also bake them at home every year in December. No matter where I’m traveling or working, I always do – e.g., last year, I got to bake them in Peru.

The most traditional Christmas cookies are Vanillekipferl (vanilla cookie), gingerbread, coconut kisses, or nut cookies. It perfectly brings you into the Christmas mood when you put some nice Christmas music on, start baking, and the entire house smells like Christmas. I love it.

Christmas cookies Austria
Me baking Christmas cookies in Peru
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5. Christmas Eve – Heilige Abend

Austrians celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December, the Christmas Eve. Traditionally, they decorate their Christmas tree during this day, too.

The entire day is a big preparation day when they decorate and cook the Christmas dinner.

How Is Christmas Celebrated In Austria?

Christmas Eve is considered a fasting day in the Catholic world. So they usually fast the entire day, maybe only eating light soup for lunch. But everyone waits for the big Christmas Dinner.

A traditional meal is fried carp with Austrian potato salad (so delicious). They don’t eat meat because it’s a fasting day. So that’s why it’s traditional to have a carp.

However, it’s been changing a lot over the past years, and people prefer eating something they enjoy more, like meat (Roast Turkey) or even Schnitzel in some cases.

For dessert, locals like to eat all those delicious homemade cookies they prepared earlier.

christmas food in Austria

Midnight Mass

The Catholics have a tradition of attending a Christmas mass in a church at midnight. I also used to go, and it was one of the most magical times for me.

Mainly thanks to the end of the mass, when everyone started singing the Christmas Carol ‘Silent Night’ (Stille Nacht in German) They switched the lights off and we sang the most beautiful melody with Christmas lights and decorations shining around. It was such a special Christmas moment.

christmas markets in austria
Christmas markets in Vienna

6. Christkind

Children in Austria don’t believe in Santa Claus because he comes on the 6th of December. They believe that the Christkind (Christ Child) brings the presents. He comes and bears presents to the world on the 24th of December.

And so usually, children are the fastest to finish their dinner meal as they can’t wait to get to the Christmas tree and see whether Christkind has already brought them some presents.

Kids usually get the presents after dinner on Christmas Eve, 24th of December, under the Christmas Tree.

christmas in Austria presents chrismtas tree christkind

7. Advent Carolers

Another wonderful Christmas tradition in Austria that I used to do as a kid, too, is the Christmas singers. Usually, children or teenagers in church communities or at school form a little Advent Choir.

They sing Christmas carols together and go from one house to another on the 24th of December, wishing everyone Merry Christmas. It’s super nice and cute. I was part of the Church Choir, and we used to go to houses to sing carols. I love this tradition.

It reminds us of the time when Marie and Joseph, parents of the Christkind, used to go from one house to another looking for shelter.

christmas carolers austria

8. Bleigiessen

Some families like to keep the Bleigiessen tradition, which is lead pouring.

Austrians place a piece of metal into a large spoon, heat it above a candle, and then pour it into cold water. The shape that the metal makes signifies how your next year will be.

Some families like to do it during the Christmas Even, while some do it on New Year’s Eve. I only did it once and got some weird monster shape from it.

My year was great, though, so I can’t complain. Maybe it was still the Krampus monster running after me.

9. New Years Concert

Every year, on the 1st of January, Vienna hosts a huge concert called the Neujahrskonzert.

The Viennese Music Association organizes it and it’s held in the Large Hall (Großer Saal) of the Musikverein (Music Club), famous for traditional Classical Music concerts and performances.

The Vienna Philhamornic Orchestra performs the concert, and it’s so magical and special.

christmas Neuesjahr Vienna

👉 READ ALSO: Magical European Christmas Markety By Train: Full Itinerary

Christmas History In Austria

The history of Austrian Christmas dates back to the Birth of Jesus Christ and the Pagan times.

Christmas is celebrated to greet the birth of Jesus Christ (Christkind in Austria). According to the stories from the Bible, Marie and Joseph, Jesus Christ’s parents, didn’t have a proper place to stay when the baby was about to come. So they went from one house to another, asking for shelter.

Nobody was willing to host them. And so the baby Jesus was eventually born in an animal stall in Bethlehem in the West Bank of Palestine.

Christmas in the country is associated with this historical event, and nowadays, Austrians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ every year on the 24th of December, which is known as the Heiligabend (Christmas Eve).

Kids believe that Christ comes bearing presents, and they get the presents underneath the Christmas tree in the evening.

Locals also like to attend a midnight mass to commemorate the birth of Jesus in a cave stall.

christmas in austria salzburg markets

The History Of Krampus

The Krampus is a Christmas tradition that dates back to the Pagan times. It was a pagan ritual for the winter solstice.

Nowadays, the Krampus run through the streets of Austria, beating children if they were misbehaving. It’s also meant to scare ‘The Bad’ in people and prepare them for the Christmas celebrations.

Christmas Food In Austria

Austrians eat some delicacies during Christmas, which makes this time even more beautiful and cozy. So, let’s look at what kind of food Austrians prepare for Christmas.

Here is a list of dishes and food Austrians eat and drink during Christmas:

🥂 Christmas Carp (Christmas Eve Dinner)
🥂
Christmas Goose (Christmas Eve Dinner)
🥂
Austrian Potato Salad (Christmas Eve Dinner)
🥂
Homemade Christmas Cookies: Vanillekipferl, Coconut Kisses, Nut Cookies (Christmas Eve Dessert)
🥂
Hot Chestnuts (at the Christmas Markets)
🥂
Caramelized Nuts (at the Christmas Markets)
🥂
Sweet Pretzels (at the Christmas Markets)
🥂
Chocolate-Covered Strawberries (at the Christmas Markets)
🥂
Baked Apple (at the Christmas Markets)
🥂
Mulled Wine (at the Christmas Markets)
🥂
Christmas Punch (at the Christmas Markets)

christmas markets in austria
Chrismtas Markets In Salzburg

👉 READ ALSO: Christmas In Spain: Complete Guide With Traditions & Best Places

Christmas In Austria: Basic Vocabulary

To help you fully immerse into Austrian Christmas, I’ve got a few words for you that you can use or understand when visiting Austria for Christmas.

It’s always super nice when you visit a country, and you can feel more integrated when you understand the local traditions and speak at least a few words of the language.

So let’s get into it.

What Is Christmas Called In Austria?

Christmas is called ‘Weihnachten‘ in Austria. It’s a German word for Christmas.

Christmas Eve is called ‘Heiligabend‘, the evening of 24th December, the main Christmas celebration in Austria.

How To Say Merry Christmas In Austria?

Merry Christmas in German is ‘Frohe Weihnachten.’ Be aware that Austrians speak German, not Austrian. There is no such thing as the Austrian language – only a dialect.

I must admit, though, that Austrians use various dialects of the German language. So, it often feels like a new language. But they speak different dialects and use slightly different words, depending on the region you visit in Austria.

Salzburg and Carinthia have some of the strongest accents, more difficult to understand.

Basic Christmas Vocabulary For Visiting Austria

Here is my basic vocabulary list for Austrian Christmas. It has some basic food and traditions vocabulary to understand locals when visiting Austria in December.

GERMAN WORD:ENGLISH TRANSLATION:
WeihnachtenChristmas
HeiligabendChristmas Eve
ChristkindChrist Child
KrampuslaufKrampus Run
GlühweinMulled Wine
BrezelPretzel
Neues JahrNew Year
WeihnachtsmarktChristmas Market
Prost!Cheers!
Stille NachtSilent Night (carol)

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FAQs

I’ve also answered some of the frequently asked questions about Austrian Christmas. So check the answers below.

Is Vienna Or Salzburg Christmas Market Better?

Salzburg Christmas markets are better, cozier, and have a more Christmasy atmosphere. It’s all smaller and brings you to the Christmas mood right away.

Vienna also has beautiful Christmas markets, but it’s a much bigger city, so getting into the Christmas mood takes longer (in my oponion).

What Is The Most Famous Christmas Market In Austria?

The Christkindlmarkt in Vienna is the most famous in Austria. It’s also the world’s largest Christmas market on the Rathaus (City Hall) square.

Are Stores Open On Christmas Eve In Austria?

Partially. Most of the stores in Austria are open until 1 p.m. on the 24th of December. On the 25th of December, most shops are closed as it’s a festive day. But there is always a small store that is open in case you need to buy some groceries.

WRAP-UP: Austrian Christmas

This is how Austria celebrates Christmas, the most magical time of the year. And Austrians can really make it feel even more charming. The atmosphere in Austria during Christmas is amazing, and it’s one of the best places to experience Christmas in Europe (if not the best). You’ll make the right choice coming here to spend your festive holiday season.

If you have any questions or need a customized travel itinerary, contact me at info(at)voicesoftravel.com. I’ll gladly help you.

Happy Christmas Travels!

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About the author: Nicoletta is a travel enthusiast and passionate language learner. While traveling, she loves to connect with locals using her language skills to learn about new cultures. Look for her skiing, hiking in the mountains, or exploring new destinations as she designs travel itineraries for her clients.

AUSTRIA: Interested in more articles for Austria?
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