I finally finished editing all the photographs from our three week Christmas Market trip last week. I am so far behind on blogging about our December and January jaunt through central Europe, but I’m ready now. Without further adieu, let’s jump right into the first stop of our second trip through the European Christmas markets: the Salzburg Christmas Markets! Spoiler alert: I loved the Austrian Christmas markets the first time we visited and nothing has changed.
While the main focus of this post is going to be on the Christmas markets in Salzburg, I will include some logistical information about how to get there, where to stay, and where to warm up. I have another post on visiting Salzburg in the winter that will be a more comprehensive guide to Salzburg and more travel tips. If you’re curious about ringing in the New Year in Salzburg, Lorelei has a great post.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for tours and products I love at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
2023 Salzburg Christmas Market Dates
- November 23 – January 1, 2024 – Salzburg Christkindlmarkt at Domplatz
- November 23 – December 24, 2023 – Hellbrunn Christmas Market
- November 23 – December 24, 2023 – Mirabellplatz Christmas Market
- December 1 – December 18, 2023 – Hohensalzburg Christmas Market
- November 17 – December 23, 2023 – St Wolfgang Christmas Market
- November 17 – December 23, 2023 – St Gilgen Christmas Market
- November 17 – December 23, 2023 – Strobl Christmas Market
Why Visit Salzburg at Christmas time?
Ambiance at the Salzburg Christmas Markets
Salzburg is made for Christmas markets. The large squares, the beautiful architecture, the snowcapped mountains, and the Salzach river all come together to create an atmosphere ripe for celebration. When you add in the fact that Silent Night was written and first performed near Salzburg, the entire city feels ripe for holiday cheer. Whether you’re listening in Residenzplatz listening to the church bells ring or above the city at the Fortress listening to the musicians in the city below, you can hear Christmas from every corner of Salzburg.
And, the holiday cheer doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. At night, the city is aglow with Christmas lights and you can watch families ice skate to familiar Christmas tunes. Salzburg is one of my favorite destinations at Christmastime.
Salzburg Christmas Market Food & Drinks
Of course you can get gluwein, the tasty mulled wine that smells like Christmas in brewing around every corner, at the Salzburg Christmas markets. But, there’s also delicious Austrian schnapps that can keep you warm, too. (My favorite is the baked apple schnapps that we found at the Christmas markets at the Hohensalzburg Fortress!) You’ll also find delicious open-faced sandwiches, fresh pretzels, fruit cakes, cheeses, and more.
Salzburg’s compact size means that the Christmas Markets often bump into the other outdoor markets, so there is no shortage of delicious treats to try.
Salzburg Christmas Market Review & Some of My Favorites
As soon as you arrive in the Aldstadt (old town), it feels like you’ll encounter a new Christmas market every time you turn around. There are also several Christmas markets that are outside of the old town that shouldn’t be missed! The opening times and dates for each market vary so you’ll want to check out the Austrian Tourism Board to check the dates before planning your trip.
Most markets start towards the end of November and run through the holiday season in December. That being said, the Christmas season does not run as long as it does in the U.S., so make sure you check the dates! Nothing is more disappointing than finding the reason for your trip doesn’t start for another week!
Located in Residenzplatz and extending into Domplatz, the Salzburger Christkindlmarkt is one of my favorite Christmas markets. My favorite purchases from the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt include Christmas ornaments, bath salts, and a few home decor items. The Christkindlkmarkt in Salzburg has the longest opening hours and the ice rink is right behind Residenzplatz on Mozart Square is open even later. It’s my favorite place to end a romantic stroll through Salzburg at night!
If it’s your first time visiting Salzburg, I highly recommend this Christmas market tour, which starts at this market. You’ll visit the Salzburg Cathedral, warm up with snacks and gluwein in the Cathedral Square, learn more about Austrian traditions, and visit one of the most peaceful places in Salzburg. (I won’t spoil it because I truly believe that the tour is worth it!)
Hohensalzburg Fortress Christmas Market
If you’ve ever wander to visit a Christmas market in a castle, this is your opportunity. I felt like I had taken a step back in time and that I was living in an absolute fairytale. Don’t miss this market. The is one of the best Christmas markets in Salzburg. I skipped it on my first few trips to Salzburg because it seemed too complicated to visit. You don’t have to pay admission to visit the Christmas market, but I highly recommend that you take the funicular. This Hohensalzburg Fortress ticket is a great buy and includes the funicular ticket, as well as an audioguide.
My favorite experience at the Hohensalzburg Fortress Christmas market was tasting schnapps with my mom. She brought quite a few variations home for friends. I recommend the baked apple and I’m sorry I didn’t buy some for myself! Don’t forget to explore every corner of the Fortress and check out the different views of Salzburg. It’s especially beautiful at the end of the day when the city starts to light up. It looks so warm despite the cold temperatures and snow.
Hellbrunn Advent Market
Twenty minutes from Salzburg, located at the Hellbrunn Palace, is the Hellbrunn Advent Market. You can grab bus #25 from the Rathaus stop, right outside of the aldstadt. You’ll have a short walk to the entrance of the market, but you can just follow the crowds. We visited on a Friday night and there was no shortage of people to follow. With what felt like hundreds of Christmas trees, the Hellbrunn market felt like you were walking into Christmas forest.
In addition to the beautiful Christmas ornaments, I noticed that the Hellbrunn market seemed to offer more of the traditional arts and crafts compared to the other markets. They seemed to have more home decor items, too. To be honest, I purchased more Christmas ornaments at Hellbrunn than any of the other Salzburg Christmas markets – and I would have happily brought home more if it had not been our first stop.
Salzkammergut Christmas Markets
While most of the Salzburg Christmas markets can be visited using your own two feet, a bus, or a funicular, I highly recommend that you visit the Salzkammergut lake district as well. This is one instance where guided tours make a lot of sense. On our first European Christmas market adventure, we took a guided tour of the Salzkammergut Christmas markets. The tour departs from Mirabellplatz (which also hosts a Christmas market) and includes transportation to Strobl, St. Wolfgang, and St. Gligen. The views along the drive are incredible, each village is decked out in holiday cheer, and there are all kinds of events going on. We heard brass concerts, experienced a Krumpus run, and saw an incredible nativity scene. Each village had their own personality and I enjoyed experiencing the different markets. I think you should do a tour of the lake villages because parking would be incredibly difficult. The villages are quite busy, especially on the weekends.
BOOK THIS: Salzkammergut Christmas Market Tour
Things to Do in Salzburg at Christmas
Things to do in Salzburg on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
In addition to the Christmas markets, there are a few other things that you can do to enjoy Salzburg at Christmastime. Here are a few ideas of things that you can only do in (and around Salzburg) to take advantage of the holiday spirit. Salzburg has carriage rides through the old town, which are nice, but since you’re in the mountains, why not take a sleigh ride??
Wondering what to do on Christmas Eve in Salzburg? Take a tour to the chapel where Silent Night was first performed.
If you’re in Salzburg for Christmas and a few days after, you might be lucky enough to catch some of the elusive Salzburg winter markets until New Year’s Day!
Salzburg Indoor Activities during Christmas
If you’re looking for ways to warm up in between visiting the Salzburg Christmas markets, I whole-heartedly recommend taking an apple strudel and Austrian Christmas cookies class. This was our second time taking a baking class in Salzburg! We’ve also taken a stand-alone apple strudel cooking class and also learned to make Salzburg Nockrl.
Celebrate Austrian cafe culture with a visit to Cafe Tomaselli for coffee (hot chocolate) and pastries. Try Schnapps at Sporer. Enjoy a classical music concert at Hohensalzburg Fortress. Check out the hand-painted Easter Eggs at the Christmas and Easter and the Christmas in Salzburg stores.
Getting to Salzburg for the Christmas Markets
Salzburg has its own airport (SZG), which is serviced by the low-cost carriers and some of the legacy carriers. Two hours away, however, is Munich, Germany (MUC) which is served by direct flights from the United States, as well as connecting flights. I’ve found that Munich tends to be a more cost effective airport to fly into though. I use Skyscanner to check both legacy and low-cost carriers. It’s more efficient than checking each website individually, and most travel aggregators don’t include the low-cost carriers.
Salzburg is easily reached by train or car. On our first Christmas market adventure, we took the train from Munich using a Bayern ticket. This past year, we rented a car for our adventures. We should have checked the traffic in advance, but the drive from Munich to Salzburg is very easy.
Hotels in Salzburg near the Christmas Markets
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Salzburg in November and December is cold. Christmas markets are outside. I’m not a fan of being cold, but I love Christmas markets and Christmas decorations. You need to be okay with being outside and being cold. That being said, choosing where to stay is important. A lot of Salzburg hotels, especially the newer ones and the chain hotels, are in the new town, which is across the Salzach River. It’s not far, per se, but it will be cold. For that reason, we stay in the aldstadt. By staying in the old town, we’re never too far from our hotel if we want to warm up. It’s easy to get out at night. Nothing requires too much planning.
You need to book in advance. Most of the hotels are fairly small with limited rooms. When I went to book our hotel in September, there were only two hotels that had two rooms available. I thought I could put it off a little longer and one of the hotels disappeared over night. With the Goldener Hirsch under renovation, it was time to book. I love both of these hotels equally and wholeheartedly recommend either one.
Located right off the Residenzplatz, the Hotel Goldgasse is the best hotel to stay at for visiting the Salzburg Christmas markets. It’s literally a two-minute walk. It is located off a small alleyway, however, so the rooms are very quiet in the evenings and the early morning hours. Before we arrived, the hotel provided detailed parking and arrival instructions, so we had no trouble whatsoever finding our way through the old town with our luggage.
Contrary with most hotel rooms these days, the Goldgasse comes with a culture all its own with delightful murals on the walls, retro Smeg appliances, and a completely modern bathroom. Beds are comfortable, down comforters are warm, and there’s a Dyson fan in the room if you don’t want to open the windows to cool it down. Our standard double room also had a small sitting area and a wardrobe that could function as a closet. While the rooms are on the smaller size, they are incredibly comfort with ever amenity carefully considered. The staff is both attentive, kind, and extraordinarily helpful.
The Hotel Goldgasse is a Small Luxury Hotel, so it’s worth comparing rates before booking. Sometimes you can find a really great deal when you compare multiple sites.
Hotel Goldener Hirsch
Located on Getreidegasse (the famous Salzburg shopping street), the Hotel Goldener Hirsch is a classic Austrian hotel. Since the Marriott-SPG merger, it’s also bookable by points. They just finished a 10-month renovation on the property, and I can’t wait to revisit it. We stayed here on our first Christmas market adventure. Although I lost all our photos when my external hard drive crashed, I’m happy to share a little more about our stay.
As a Marriott Titanium member, we were upgraded to a one-bedroom suite. The suite (room 6) had a separate sitting area, a large bathroom with a separate shower and a bathtub, and Hermes bath amenities. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced a more fluffy down comforters; it is absolutely perfect for an Austrian winter. The room layout was a little different with small steps between rooms, but you have to remember that these buildings were built over 600 years ago! Despite being located near a busy pedestrian street, we did not hear any street noise.
In addition to the warm staff, who were always happy to make suggestions and recommendations, my favorite part of this hotel is the hazelnut chocolates that they would leave during turndown service. I’m eager to see the changes that they’ve made to the hotel. I’m obsessed with checking the sneak peeks on their instagram.
How to Enjoy Your Time in Salzburg
First and foremost, buy your cuddleduds before you go. Pack a wardrobe that can be layered for warmer days and cold, cold nights. Bring a scarf, a hat, ear warmers, and gloves. Wear wool-lined, waterproof boots. You’ll want all your cold weather gear. If you’re going to capture the holiday spirit of Salzburg, you have to be outside. If you’re going to be outside, you need the appropriate clothing.
Salzburg is a magical city, best explored on foot. Roam the streets. Beyond that, do as the locals do. You’ll find them at the Christmas markets. Find out what they recommend. Try new things. Bring home souvenirs. Enjoy concerts in the squares while sipping mulled wine. Compare apple strudels and schnitzels and sausage stands. Eat pretzels that are as big as your head for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Listen, Learn & Read More
Rick Steves offers a free audio tour of a Salzburg town walk. It might be a little cold for a DIY walking tour in December, but it’s definitely worth doing if you can manage it! Whether you do it during the morning, the middle of the day, or at night when the Salzburg Christmas tree is softly lighting the square, make sure you explore every nook and cranny of the old town.
I bought Tom this Rick Steves Best of Germany book for our anniversary last year, and it included Salzburg. It was the perfect guide for this particular Christmas market trip! I eventually found the Salzburg Day by Day book. I think it’s a bit overpriced right now, but if you find it at Half Price Books (or anywhere else), it’s worth picking up! (You might even sell it on Amazon for those prices, lol!)
I’ve used Duolingo to try and pick up a little bit of German before we go, but it hasn’t stuck with me yet.