It’s the most wonderful time of year! Especially when you spend it in Austria’s romantic city, Salzburg. The picturesque city on the edge of the Alps, dominated by a grand cliff top fortress is also the birthplace of Mozart and home to The Sound of Music.
The hills were definitely alive with the sound of clinking glühweins and twinkling lights when we visited for a weekend full of Christmas Markets.
The Salzburg Christmas Market dates back to the fifteenth century and is one of the world’s oldest Advent markets. An incredible destination all year round, during the run up to Christmas the charm of the holiday season takes over Salzburg’s old city with Christkindlmarkt.
Embellished with festive lights, decorations and crammed full of traditional stalls selling seasonal treats and handicrafts. Our short two night city break definitely put the Christmas into our step! Being such a compact city it was the perfect place to experience Advent Austrian style with the family. Here are my top tips to make the most from a whistle stop trip to the Salzburg Christmas markets.
Wrap up warm
Perhaps stating the obvious, but Christmas markets are all held outdoors and involve a lot of time in the wintry cold. To minimise the cranky levels from little ones and big ones (I hate the cold), layers are your best friends. Don’t forget the winter wardrobe essentials: scarf, hat and gloves. Trust me, you’ll be out for hours perusing the wonderful stalls and nobody likes frozen earlobes or fingertips.
Cash is king
Just like the three kings be sure to travel with gold – Although Euros will do in this instance. Unless you’re at a large company stalls, cash is typically the only form of accepted payment. Most of the stalls are temporary wooden huts, so if you don’t want to miss out on buying exciting treats leave the plastic for cash machine top-ups.
Wandering around the cute wooden chalets adorned with twinkling fairy lights, you’ll be overwhelmed with the festive goodies on offer. I’m the worst with buyer’s regret, so make sure you take time to browse.
From adorable wooden carvings, baubles galore, pretty candle holders and cosy hats and gloves you’ll be completely spoilt and confused with choice.
Bring your appetite
The aroma of Christmas cookies, toasted almonds and roasted chestnuts will tempt you as you wander through the markets. The amount of food on offer is quite overwhelming. From delicious bowls of Kaiserschmarrn, a traditional Austrian dessert of shredded pancakes to ginormous pretzels covered in everything from swiss cheese to chocolate. The aim of the game here is over indulgence – Christmas only comes once a year after all.
The pretty gingerbreads and fancy chocolates also make great presents to bring back home for friends and family. A lovely way to give them a taste of your travels
Glühwein and Hot Chocolate all the way
Sip on some steaming mugs of glühwein. The famous warm sweet mulled wine is a staple of the season. Boiled with cinnamon, cloves, oranges and spices, it’s the perfect way to keep warm whilst browsing the markets. Traditionally made with red wine, we found some white wine versions too. For the younger members the hot chocolates are not to be missed. Topped with lashings of delicious cream, even I succumbed to a couple of mugs of the chocolatey nectar.
The glühwein and hot chocolate are served in custom mugs, customers pay a deposit of a few euros on their first purchase. Once devoured, you can either return the mug when you’re finished and get your money back, or forfeit your deposit and keep the mugs as a souvenir. Although be wary of people asking to collect your mug, it’s only a scam to keep your money.
Go earlier in the season
Christmas markets are a BIG thing all over Europe, so plan to visit early in the season. The Salzburg Christmas Market starts in late November, it worked well for us to arrive early in the season, avoiding the crazy overcrowding. It makes a more pleasant trip all round, especially if you have kids in tow.
Let’s be honest the whole point of this trip is to visit Christmas Markets, shopping is inevitable. Make sure you leave room in your suitcase for all the goodies you’ll be bringing back for yourself, family and friends.
A visit to Salzburg isn’t complete without buying the famous Mozart chocolates. The original pistachio marzipan balls covered in dark chocolate have been handmade daily since 1890 in the tiny Konditorei Fürst shop in Alter Markt. You will see many different versions around town with red wrappers, but you can easily spot the originals with their blue and silver wrappers.
Don’t just visit the markets
With so much to see, I recommend you intersperse the various markets with different activities. When in Salzburg you definitely have to pay homage to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Born in the city in 1756, there are two different residences to visit.
The first visit is Mozart’s Birthplace, an apartment in Getreidegasse, where you can see the room he was born, lived and worked. In 1773 the family moved from their cramped living conditions to a much grander property on Makartplatz now known as the Mozart Wohnhaus. With eight rooms and its own concert hall, this is where Mozart created most of his famous compositions and where you’ll see his original fortepiano.
We also indulged in hot chocolates and cake at Café Tomaselli, a regular haunt of the illustrious composer.
To complete our Mozart pilgrimage we booked a Mozart Dinner Concert at St. Peter Stiftskulinarium. Within the walls of St Peter’s Abbey it dates back to 803 and is the oldest restaurant in Central Europe – Even the Mozart family ate dinner here!
The Baroque concert hall is lit by candlelight and you’re served a four course meal in between watching performances from his greatest works. During Christmas it’s extra magical with beautiful decorations, twinkling lights and an enormous Christmas tree.
And you can’t forget the second famous thing to come out of Salzburg – The Sound of Music of course! We didn’t do the actual tour where you can Do-re-Mi thorough the film’s exterior scenes, but couldn’t resist a wander through Mirabell Gardens.
For spectacular views of the beautiful city of Salzburg a ride up the funicular to Hohensalzburg Fortress is a must! There’s lots to do once you get up there, with a church, old houses, a restaurant, cafés and shops.
The Salzburg Christmas Markets runs from 22nd November to the 26th December 2018. It’s such a magical way to begin festive season. If you have little ones it’s the perfect mini wintery city break.
Have you been to a European Christmas market? Which one is your favourite? Let me know in the comments box below.
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