The best Christmas markets in Salzburg are the ones that have a little bit of everything: traditional handicrafts, tasty food, and a festive atmosphere. And luckily for you, I am an insider when it comes to finding these things in my hometown. So whether you’re looking for the perfect place to do your Christmas shopping or want to soak up the holiday atmosphere with a mug of Glühwein (mulled wine), here’s my guide to the best Christmas markets in Salzburg.
The Best Christmas Markets in Salzburg
First, let’s set the scene. The locals don’t visit these markets for shopping. They come to spend time with friends and family, enjoy the lively atmosphere, and savor the available treats. So, forget about the shopping list and join the locals in soaking up the charming atmosphere, sipping mulled wine, and indulging in delicious bites.
The three Best Christmas Markets in the Old Town are within walking distance of each other, making it easy to experience them all in one go. On the other hand, the fourth Christmas Market in Hellbrunn requires a short 15-minute bus ride but is just as enchanting, if not more.
1. Main Christmas Market around the Cathedral
The primary Christmas market around the Salzburg Cathedral is the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt at Domplatz. Located in the historic city center on the squares around the Cathedral, this traditional market dates back to the 15th century and has existed in its current form since 1971. It’s the oldest Christmas Market in Salzburg. The Christkindlmarkt draws countless visitors every Christmas season and features unique huts, special lighting, and a daily events program that includes readings of Christmas stories, Krampus parades, and choral concerts.
The Salzburg Cathedral is the heart of the old town. Therefore, if you visit Salzburg in December, you don’t have to go to the Main Christmas Market on purpose. You will get there anyway when you are out and about sightseeing. There is no way around the Salzburg Christmas Market in December. Visitors can enjoy the festive atmosphere while browsing through the stalls of tree decorations and Christmas mangers, and can experience folk song performances as well as an Advent Brass Concert. You may even spot a Krampus. The market is open from the last two weeks in November to just after Christmas and is a truly romantic and magical experience, even if it’s very touristy and commercialized.
2. Christmas Market at Mirabell Square
The Christmas Market at Mirabell Square is an exceptional experience because it’s one of the local’s favorite Christmas Markets in Salzburg. During the eight years I worked at the yoho Hostel, we had our yearly Christmas party at the Mirabell Christmas Market because, in December, we didn’t have time for a full-fledged Christmas dinner.
You won’t find many things to buy at the Christmas Market at Mirabell Square, but you will find mulled wine, Punsch, and Bauernkrapfen. Bauernkrapfen is our favorite. Bauernkrapfen is a traditional Austrian pastry dish made of yeast dough. They are shaped into crescent-like shapes. The dough is fried until golden brown and served warm, sometimes sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with sweet jam or savory Sauerkraut.
But enough of this excursion to Austrian food and back to the Christmas Markets in Salzburg.
Located just in front of Mirabell Palace and its gorgeous gardens, visitors can enjoy a quaint and cozy atmosphere far away from the bustling crowds at the main Christmas Market. The market is easily accessible by public transportation since most buses pass Mirabell Square, but it’s anyway only a few minutes walk from the train station and within walking distance from anywhere in the old town.
3. Christmas Market at Europe’s Oldest Restaurant
The Christmas Market at Europe’s Oldest Restaurant, St Peter’s Stiftskulinarium, is also a special experience. It’s similar to the Christmas Market at Mirabell Square in that it’s mainly about food and drinks. But despite being located at a restaurant, it’s even more about drinks and less about food.
The restaurant’s yard, which feels more like entering a cave, is transformed into a festive wonderland with trees, decorations, and thousands of lights. I have to say that in the past the atmosphere was better. The restaurant modernized in recent years, as did the Christmas Market, but it’s still great. The market is conveniently located only two minutes from the Cathedral and the main Christmas Market.
4. Hellbrunner Adventzauber
The Hellbrunner Adventzauber Christmas Market is a magical experience. If you are in Salzburg for Christmas Markets, you won’t want to miss it. The Hellbrunn Christmas Market is just outside Salzburg but is technically still within the city’s borders since the border runs through Hellbrunn. Located in the Courtyard of Hellbrunn Palace, the Hellbrunn Christmas Market is just a 15-minute bus ride by bus number 25 away. The market is open from November 17th to December 24th. It has different hours depending on the day and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. For the exact hours, check the website of the Hellbrunner Adventzauber!
The Hellbrunner Adventzauber is the perfect place for children, with a petting zoo, campfire grilling, a Christmas post office, and horse-drawn carriages. It’s not your average Christmas market. It’s less traditional than others, but I genuinely love the alternative spirit and the creative elements. There is an entrance fee of a few euros, but that includes a glass of Glühwein, hot punch, or children’s punch. The romantic booths, pre-Christmas gift ideas, and an Advent wreath make the atmosphere magical.
Beyond being a holiday hotspot, Hellbrunn is one of the most popular places to visit in the immediate surroundings of Salzburg. It’s a destination for fans of the Sound of Music because of the Gazebo that’s located there, and there are the 17th-century trick fountains, the Salzburg Zoo, and a stunning park. Don’t just take our word for it — learn all about what makes Hellbrunn so unique by checking out my guide to Hellbrunn.
The Best Christmas Markets around Salzburg
While the Christmas markets in Salzburg are a highlight of the winter season, their charming atmosphere and festive ambiance have become increasingly commercialized and touristy over the years. For a more authentic and immersive experience, it’s worth venturing out into the surrounding areas of Salzburg. The Christmas Markets around Salzburg are not necessarily less touristy but situated in the countryside with the backdrop of lakes and mountains, offering a more authentic experience regardless.
1. Advent Market at the Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf
If you are in and around Salzburg specifically for Christmas Markets, one market that should be on your list is the Silent Night Advent Market in Oberndorf, just a short drive from Salzburg. The market offers a unique and unforgettable experience at the world-famous Silent Night Chapel. This is where the most famous Christmas carol was born, adding to the festive atmosphere and providing a special ambiance. Visitors can marvel at the wood carvings and handmade decorations while enjoying the local rendition of “Silent Night” in the background, sipping on mulled wine, and snacking on roasted chestnuts.
The market, with 40 stalls, offers a wide selection of Christmas-themed products, from local crafts to baked goods and, of course, more mulled wine! But the Christmas magic doesn’t end there. If you’re looking for a unique way to send your holiday greetings, make sure to visit the Sonderpostamt (special post office) in the market. Here, you can send Christmas wish postcards with a special Silent Night postmark, making them truly unique souvenirs to send to loved ones back home.
If you’re interested in exploring the history of the Silent Night carol, be sure to check out my article on the origins of Silent Night. This article will guide you through the many sites and locations associated with the carol’s history. It will deepen your appreciation for this beloved Christmas classic.
2. Sankt Leonhard Advent Market at the Foot of Untersberg
The St. Leonhard Advent Market is a popular Christmas market in Salzburg due to its festive atmosphere and genuine arts and crafts from the area and all over the region. Located at the foot of the Untersberg mountain by the pilgrimage church of St. Leonhard, this authentic Christmas market offers a variety of unique handicrafts from across Austria and nearby regions. Visitors can browse for gifts such as Christmas decorations, ceramics, handmade children’s toys, candles, gift ideas, and cookbooks. Not only that, but they can also enjoy festive music, as well as delicious mulled wine and warm gingerbread. All proceeds from the event go to charities for disabled people, making it a great way to celebrate the holiday season while also giving back to the community.
If you visit the Christmas Markt in Sankt Leonhard, make sure also to take the Cable Car to Untersberg since the cable car station is across the street from the Christmas Market. Here is a guide on how to take the Untersberg Cable Car, which includes a guide on how to get there by bus number 25. By the way, Hellbrunn and the Christmas Market in Hellbrunn are on the same bus route, halfway to the cable car to Sankt Leonhard; Hellbrunn and the Untersberg Cable Car are best combined into one venture.
If you take public transport and the Untersberg Cable Car, it’s best to get a Salzburg Card since the Cable Car and the bus alone are more expensive than the card, and the card includes all the paid attractions in the city center as well. Here is my complete guide to Salzburg Cards.
3. Christmas Market in Sankt Wolfgang in the Lake District
The Christmas Market in Sankt Wolfgang is a winter wonderland that will delight all your senses. Located in the heart of the Salzkammergut Lake District, it offers a unique and enchanting experience that many consider the best Christmas Market in all of Austria. As you stroll through the market, you’ll be greeted by the sweet aroma of freshly baked gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, and hot mulled wine, which will warm you up on even the coldest winter days.
In addition to the delicious treats, visitors can also admire the intricate craftsmanship of the artisans and browse through their handmade gifts. The market is known for its traditional Christmas decorations, such as the giant Christmas trees, stars, and lanterns that add to the magical atmosphere. One of the most unique features of the Sankt Wolfgang market is the large Advent candle built on a raft in the lake, providing a stunning backdrop to the festivities.
But what truly sets the Sankt Wolfgang Christmas Market apart is the warm and friendly atmosphere that can be felt throughout the town during the holiday season. Locals and visitors alike come together to share in the joy of the holiday season, creating a sense of community and togetherness that is truly heartwarming. All in all, the Sankt Wolfgang Christmas Market is a true winter wonderland that should not be missed by anyone looking for an unforgettable holiday experience.
What to do at the Christmas Markets in Salzburg
What to do at the Christmas Markets is not specific to the Christmas Markets in Salzburg. Christmas Markets, in general, are filled with local culinary delights, unique souvenirs, and a variety of entertainment. In this section, we will explore what to do at the Christmas markets, including must-try food and drink, entertainment, souvenir shopping, and photo opportunities.
Drink Glühwein (Mulled Wine) and Eat Local Food
As I mentioned, indulging in a mug of warm, spiced mulled wine and sampling the local cuisine is a must-do at every Christmas Market. The mulled wine is often the main attraction for locals, but even as a non-drinker, I find the markets irresistible for their abundance of smaller portions of local delicacies. These tasty treats are typically affordable, and many dishes would otherwise only be available in Austrian restaurants for a full sit-down meal.
Smaller markets like the one at Mirabell offer a limited selection of dishes, but the Mirabell market especially is worth visiting for the one specialty they offer, the Bauernkrapfen. However, the larger Christmas Markets around the Cathedral in Salzburg offer a seemingly endless variety of dishes worth trying. From freshly baked apple strudel and traditional Austrian Christmas cookies and pastries like Lebkuchen (gingerbread) to an array of sweet and savory delights like Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes), Germknödel (yeast dumplings), spiced sausage and goulash, the options are endless.
Salzburg Christmas Markets: Entertainment
At the Christmas markets in Salzburg, you can enjoy various entertainment. Choirs, musicians playing French horn and trombone, and pastoral plays can be found around the Cathedral every day. Stroll through the area and listen to the melodies coming from every corner, like the voices of choirs, wind music played from high above the square, or the pealing of church bells.
If you would like to catch a special event while visiting the main Christmas market, check out their program on the website. Strangely the website is only available in German, but Google Translate should do the trick. With the program at your fingertips, you can plan your visit around the various activities, concerts, and performances throughout the market. Don’t let the language barrier keep you from enjoying all the festive entertainment that Salzburg offers.
For those looking for a less cheery and more thrilling option, the Krampuslauf is an event to be noticed. Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure in folklore that accompanies Saint Nikolaus. While Saint Nikolaus is known for rewarding well-behaved children, Krampus is said to punish misbehaving children. The Krampuslauf parade features a horde of Krampuses who roam the streets with rattling chains and menacing costumes in search of naughty children to scare.
Although Krampus and Nikolaus Day are celebrated on the 5th and 6th of December, Krampus runs occur at the end of November and the first week or two of December all over town. If you miss the one at the Christkindlmarkt in the old town, you can find one on the outskirts, with Gnigl being the biggest Krampus run in Salzburg. Hundreds of Krampuses come from the surrounding areas to participate in this thrilling event. So, if you’re feeling brave, be sure to catch a Krampuslauf and experience the darker side of Christmas in Salzburg.
Salzburg Christmas Markets: Souvenir Shopping
While locals may not typically purchase items from the Salzburg Christmas market, visitors find a treasure trove of unique souvenirs that cannot be found in souvenir shops. From hand-carved wooden figurines to delicate glass-blown ornaments, the market’s offerings are a way to remember your time in the city. With nearly 100 vending booths at the main market alone, there is something for everyone, from intricate lacework to cozy woolen mittens.
The souvenirs at the Salzburg Christmas market are not just unique – they also provide a glimpse into Salzburg’s cultural heritage. Many of the items are crafted by local artisans who take pride in their work. Parts of the market offer the chance to learn about traditional Salzburg crafts and techniques, like the art blacksmith at Alter Markt square. Whether searching for a gift for a loved one or simply looking to take a piece of Salzburg home with you, the Christmas markets offer a shopping experience unlike any other.
By the way: If you are not in Salzburg during the Christmas Markets but still want to get Christmas souvenirs, there are two shops in Judengasse and another one called Candela in one of the passages in Getreidegasse that sell Christmas decorations all year round.
Mulled wine mugs are a popular souvenir and a collectible for many. At larger Christmas Markets, it’s common to pay a deposit of a few euros for your Glühwein mug. This ensures the mug will be returned. At smaller markets, they often rely on the honesty of their guests, so you won’t need to pay a deposit upfront. If you decide to take your mug home with you, no problem! Pay the deposit, and it’s all yours to keep as a unique and practical souvenir. In smaller markets where you don’t pay a deposit, ask to pay for the mug! So, whether you’re a collector or looking for a practical souvenir, check out the Glühwein mugs. With their designs and clever deposit system, they’re sure to add some festive charm to your holiday season!
Salzburg Christmas Markets: Photo Opportunities
Visitors to the Salzburg Christmas Markets can enjoy some breathtaking photo opportunities. The market lies in the heart of the city, surrounded by views of monuments and edifices, such as the fortress and the Cathedral. During the festive season, the alleys of the market but the city, in general, are lined with Christmas trees adorned with strings of garlands, creating a romantic atmosphere perfect for a photo. But even the smaller markets in remote areas make for great shots with their decorations and details.