Pretty much like the moon, the Christmas markets in Innsbruck follow you as you explore every corner of the city. They have grown into a family of seven and each has its own appeal. The markets do share some characteristics in common: they fit in the cityscape very well and keep the city lively on cold nights; they bring in local products from the villages but are not overly commercial like their metropolitan counterparts; a visit to the Christmas markets in Innsbruck is stress-free and you can’t have too much of it!
1. The Fairytale Market: Old Town, Innsbruck (Altstadt)
- 15 Nov – 23 Dec 2019, daily 11:00 – 21:00 (non-food stalls close at 20:00)
Enchanting and romantic, the Christmas Market in the Old Town is like no other. The medieval old town is carefully decorated with radiant lights and story scenes inspired by fairy tales and local lore. There are many festive music and theatre programms for your eyes and ears, and the market is also immersed in all sorts of heart-warming scents.
Before browsing the stalls, I usually start with something warm and tasty to have peace of mind. A wide range of alluring culinary delicacies are available here, such as mulled wine (Glühwein), roasted chestnuts, grilled sausages (Bratwurst), Zillertaler Krapfen (deep-fried Mezzelune filled with gray cheese and potatoes), hot gulasch, melted raclette and even Tornado potatoes. Hot chocolate with rum also seems popular. For me, the king of all food is:
If you come to western Austria in winter, don’t miss the chance to savor the iconic Kiachls! They are special even for the locals and are most likely to be found in Christmas markets. Kiachls look like doughnuts with the hole enclosed but the consistency of the dough is totally different. Under the golden brown crust, it is tenderly chewy. Kiachls are freshly deep-fried in front of you and served with either mountain cranberry (Preiselbeere) jam or sauerkraut.
When it comes to shopping, there is aromatic frankincense and Tirolean pine resin, home decorations, greeting cards, woolen accessories, Lebkuchen (gingerbread-style biscuits), Schneeballs (ball-shaped pastries), spices, cheeses, Tiroler Speck and many more. However, in my opinion, what really elevates this market to a superior league, is the fairy tale installation.
Fairy Tales and Stories of Giants
Forget Disney-style sweetness; in Innsbruck we celebrate the original Grimms’. Dotted around the old town, these fairy tale characters are curious, intriguing and … outright spooky! — There, I said it. I saw them for the first time in 2003 and have been hooked by their peculiar aesthetic every since. I visit them whenever I spend Christmas in Innsbruck as there are changes and tweaks every year. Gotta find them all!
Hans Christian Andersen surely earned a place in the fairy tale world. He can be found sitting on top of the stage roof.
On the other hand, why is there a “Giants’ Alley” in the Christmas market? The giants are actually from the local legends.
2. The Family Market: Marktplatz by the River
- 15 Nov – 23 Dec 2019, daily 11:00 – 21:00 (non-food stalls close at 20:30)
Follow the star! Between the river Inn and the Old Town sits the family-friendly Marktplatz Christmas market. The 16 meter tall Swarovski crystal tree is its focal point, surrounded by amusement rides, toy and game stalls, a puppet theatre and a kinetic Nativity scene. Saint Nicholas and the angels are also scheduled for a visit on 5 Dec 2019 (2~5pm). A joyous experience is the most precious gift!
This market is not just for the little ones though — there are plenty of handicraft and gastronomy stalls and the dinning areas are more spacious.
Markthalle : farmers’ market, grocery stores and restaurants under one roof
(farmers’ market: Monday to Friday 7 am – noon, Saturday 7am – 1pm)
3. The Panorama Market: Hungerburg
- 16 Nov – 23 Dec 2019, Monday – Friday 13:00 -19:00, Saturday – Sunday 12:00 – 19:00
Right in front of the Marktplatz Christmas market, there is a bus stop simply called Marktplatz. From there, Bus J brings you all the way up to the Hungerburg Christmas market (alight at Nordkette). This market is blessed with an unbeatable panorama view and the warm beverages prepare you for the onward adventure to the Seegrube or the 2,300m-high Hafelekar!
4. The Community Market: St. Nikolaus
- 22 Nov – 23 Dec 2019, daily 16:00 – 21:00 at Hans-Brenner-Platz, Sankt-Nikolaus-Gasse 1
Coming down from the Hungerburg Christmas market, if you again take Bus J, you will ride through an area on the left bank of the Inn called Sankt-Nikolaus, named after the local church. Next to the bus stop Innstraße there is an intimate Christmas market which is not too far from the Innbrücke bridge and the Old Town.
If your hotel is on this side of the river anyway and you appreciate a peaceful time with warm Glühwein and roasted chestnuts, then come and mingle with the locals. On 5 Dec 2019, the formal St. Nicholas Parade of Innsbruck sets off from the nearby St. Nikolaus Parish Church at 5pm.
The headquarter of Walde, a famous candle and soap manufacturer founded in 1777 in Innsbruck; products produced exclusively in Tirol
5. The Empress Market: Maria-Theresien-Straße
- 25 Nov – 6 Jan 2020, daily 11:00 – 21:00 (non-food stalls close at 20:00)
Stalls are open from 11am to 3pm on 24 December and from 11am to 7pm on 31 December. The market is closed on 25 December.
Now we are back to the city centre for some shopping on Maria-Theresien-Straße. Named after the 18 century Empress Maria Theresa, this street was formed way earlier. It connects the Old Town and Wilten, a southern district of religious importance.
Flanked by shops on both sides, Maria-Theresien-Straße is THE shopping street in Innsbruck. The pedestrian zone provides the stage for many events, including the Christmas Market. Adorned with oversized light sculptures, this market is ideal for shoppers taking a break while on the mission of finding the best gifts. It is worth mentioning that this is the only market which remains open after Christmas (till 6 Jan 2020).
The formal Christ Child Parade of Innsbruck starts here on 22 Dec 2019 at 5pm.
6. The Hipster Market: Wiltener Platzl
- 25 Nov – 21 Dec 2019, daily 16:00 – 20:00 at Wiltener Platzl, Leopoldstraße 31
The Wiltener Platzl Christmas market is in Wilten which I mentioned above, home to many of Innsbruck’s students. Where exactly are these locations? Let me mark them on this 1840 Innsbruck map for you:
Wiltener Platzl is old by age, but in the last decade it has been “rediscovered” and injected with new energy by independent businesses. The general feeling about this quarter, I guess, is that the businesses and the frequenters are more conscious about their choices. Nowadays there are a few characteristic cafes and restaurants, a respectable skate/snowboard shop, a flower shop, a vintage shop and a gaming centre. The hub is the small plaza where the farmers’ market sells regional goods on Saturdays (7:30am-12:00pm). The Christmas market is also hosted in the plaza and the after-work events can be found here.
(Although I call it a Hipster market, I have never seen any big beards there!)
The Grassmayr Bell Museum and Foundry is 350 meters away in the south. From the foundry, you can catch Bus/Tram 1 & STB (at Cineplexx) back to the city or move further south to the next Christmas market: Bergisel.
7. The Kaiser Christmas Market: Bergisel
- 22 Nov – 22 Dec 2019, Friday to Sunday 11:00-20:00 next to the Kaiserjägermuseum at the Bergisel
This market is only open from Friday to Sunday. Therefore, it would enrich your visit to the Tirol Panorama Museum with the Kaiserjägermuseum and the Olympic Ski Jump, if you schedule the trip on these days.
This Christmas market is officially called “Kaiserweihnacht” because the Bergisel is an important base for the Tirolean Kaiserjäger, an imperial army loyal to the Kaiser/Emperor. Again it is a good chance to stock up on regional specialties such as liquor, vinegar and organic soaps made in the village of Imst. This market also offers quite a few delightful handicrafts and a series of craft making workshops.
Programmes and Events
Christmas is a cultural event in many countries and everyone can enjoys the ambience of Christmas markets regardless of their beliefs. I wish you an awesome holiday in Innsbruck!
*The Photo on top of this page: © Innsbruck Tourismus / Alexander Tolmo