Winter in Austria - the world's great Christmas Markets, and so much more

Obviously, the winter months in Austria are the times when people take to the slopes to ski and snowboard, or head to the Loipen – the cross-country ski-trails. As this is such an important facet of holidaying in Austria in winter, we have devoted a special section of the website to this, which you can visit by clicking here.

The purpose of this part of the website is to show you that you don’t have to be an ardent skier or snowboarder to get the most out of a winter break in Austria. For many, the winter really only gets underway in Austria from November onwards, as the cities, towns and villages get into the Christmas spirit. This is when the Austrian Christmas Markets are in a class of their own. The smell – or should that be fragrance – of steaming pots of Glühwein on the stove, sausages cooking on the grill, and Apfelstrüdel warming through in the oven is intoxicating and unforgettable. If your reaction to the Christmas adverts coming on TV is one of ‘bah – humbug’, then we can guarantee that a short break to one of Austria great cities and wandering around their wonderful Christmas Markets will get you into the festive spirit in a way that nothing else can.
It’s not just the Christmas Markets that can, or should, entice you to Austria in December. Many of the villages now have their own Advent Festivals from the first Sunday in December onwards. These are celebrated with wonderful delicacies to eat, warming drinks and music of different types. The celebration of the Festival of Sankt Niklaus on 6th December is another important date on the way through to Christmas. This is the time when St Nik visits the ‘good children’ and comes bearing gifts as a reward for their behaviour during the year. However, for those who have been less good, a beating from the Krampus – the scary masked spirits – awaits.
Christmas itself is a magical time. In Austria, it is Christmas Eve that is the focus of the celebration. Shops, cafes, ski school lessons all close or finish early, and people make their way back to their families, or, for those staying in hotels, it is the time to get dressed up for a special gala dinner. If you are not staying in a hotel, it is essential that you book your table at the restaurant of your choice as soon as you can, as everywhere fills up quickly. After dinner is over, many people make their way to Midnight Mass in the village church. The choir will usually have been practicing something special, and the church itself will be engulfed in the heady fragrance of burning incense and candles. Lots of the locals will take the opportunity to get dressed up in national costume. Although this represents a great photo opportunity for the visitors, they aren’t getting dressed up for the tourists – it’s just what everyone does.
Whereas Christmas Eve is quieter and more spiritual than in the UK, New Year’s Eve is the real chance to party, with more gala meals, dancing, music, Sekt and Schnapps flowing in abundance, and the turn of the year being marked with fireworks lighting up the skies.
The winter months are also fabulous for walking, as the villages clear many kilometres of pathways for those people not taking to the slopes. Many of the resorts also offer other activities, such as snow-shoeing, and sleigh-rides. It’s also a great time to visit the cities, as all the museums and art galleries are open as usual, but the hotel rates are usually a lot lower than going in the summer.
Don’t think that you have to be an ardent skier or snowboarder to enjoy winter in Austria. You’ll find plenty going on and lots to do – you’ll just need to remember to pack good socks, gloves and a nice warm hat!
The Experience Austria Travel office is open Monday - Friday between 9.30am and 5pm, and on Saturdays between 9.30am and 1.00pm. We are closed on Sundays.
If you are a client travelling overseas, and need to contact us in an emergency situation, you can call our 24-hour Duty Officer Telephone Number: +44 (0)7766 406759 for information and advice.



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