Travelling is part of my DNA. Choosing a destination always is excruciating… Returning to a place I have fallen in love with or discover a new one? When it comes to Vienna, though, only one answer comes to mind – yes, yes and yes. My last stay was in summer – I enjoyed the many urban beaches, endless street art safaris by the canal, swam in the Donau and drank wine in the vineyards overlooking the city. A real dream… For full contrast, this fourth visit had to be in December. Full Christmas Market magic!
There are quite a few in Vienna, the big ones, of course, being in the centre. The most modern is at Museums Quartier, the most festive at the Rathaus (complete with a mini ferry wheel, ice rink and hearts in the trees), the sweetest in Alter Wiener, the most creative on Karlsplatz but there are many more, each with its own atmosphere… and its own mug (heart, Santa, boot-shaped), for which you pay a few Euros deposit and get filled with mulled wine or punsch.
Punsch. Think Punch with both rum and wine, infused with fruit and spices. There are quite a few recipes to choose from and it will take you a few days to go round them all: Orange, Kirsch, Amaretto, Apfel (apple), Aperol Orange, Eierlikör (a kind of egg liqueur), Schokorumkokos (chocolate, rum, coconut), Beeren (nothing to do with beer! This one comes with wild berries instead). Each lodge serving them also offers Kinderpunsch, an alcohol-free version.
In most cities I have been, Christmas markets are commercial, often filled with Made in China products. In Vienna, though, you end up chatting with everyone. Artisans, locals, fellow travellers. You might very well end up around a plate of bratwurst with a total stranger, sharing tips…
Your heart and your spirits warmed, your cheeks coloured a brighter shade of pink, you then go from one stall to another. Your bag gets heavier with adorable ceramic stars, garlands made of dried citrus, delicately decorated gingerbread, superb brooches made of felt or leather… If only you could bring one of these Advent wreaths back home!
In truth, Vienna gives you the best Christmas present you could wish for: for a few hours, you feel like a child again.