Just like skiing, many Christmas past-times, including decorated fir trees and gingerbread houses, have historic roots in the Alps. Many of these traditions can be traced back to Christmas Markets, four-week Advent celebrations in the Alps, specifically in Austria and Germany. Some of these markets date back as far as the 13th Century. Today, you can still experience Christmas Markets, and many of the best are within or very close to Ski Country. From traditional Christmas sweets and hot, mulled wine to musical performances and ancient processions of St. Nicholas and his nemesis, the horned Krampus, modern market-goers are treated to a feast of the senses, just like those of the past.
From mid November through the first week of January, the entire capital of Tyrol is awash in Christmas festivities, but the most popular and charming Innsbruck neighborhood is the Alstadt, which features Medieval houses. On the narrow Kiebachgasse[street], Brothers Grimm characters peer down from the windows and tickle the imagination of children and the young at heart. Vendor booths are laden with festive goods like gingerbread, wooden toys and delicate, hand-blown glass ornaments.
Every day at dusk, trumpeters perform traditional carols on the 500-year-old Golden Roof. Don’t miss Kiachln, a traditional Advent doughnut, served hot with cranberry sauce. Take a ride up the funicular to Hafelekar, located just outside of Innsbruck, to enjoy birds’ eye views of the twinkling city below.
From late November to late December, , Kitzbuehel’s historic, Medieval village center is transformed to resemble a festive scene from an old-fashioned Christmas card. The month-long market features daily events as well as weekly concerts and parades. Don’t miss the free choral concert at St. Andreas cathedral. To get a real taste of this long-standing tradition, watch the St. Nicholas and Krampus procession. The anti-St. Nicholas, Krampus is a devilish pagan figure sent to punish naughty children with “swats” and coal. Warning, young children may find Krampus frightening.
Enjoy regional Christmas delicacies, like homemade bread with various spread, roasted chestnuts and mulled wine.
From late November through late December, the Richard-Strauss-Square in Garmisch ski resort base village is a glowing homage to the most wonderful time of the year. Here, you’ll find traditional Alpine music playing, decorated booths, handmade traditional crafts and culinary specialties.
At the end of November and into early December, Partenkirchen’s historic Ludwigstrasse becomes a winter wonderland of miniature wood huts decorated with lights and festive trimmings. The scent of freshly baked Christmas cookies and spiced wine tantalizes the senses.
Christmas markets in Vienna date back to the 13th Century. The tradition has grown into 10 markets, but the most popular are Rathausplatz, in front of the neo-Gothic City Hall, and Spittleberg, near the Museums Quarter of the city. At Rathausplatz, visitors peruse more than 150 booths, which offer miniature wooden houses, puppets, gingerbread hearts, leather clothing and woolen hats. Spittleberg is ideal for arts and crafts shopping, as it features hand-blown glass, silverware and ceramics.
Talk to your Europe Travel Experts about adding a trip to Vienna onto your ski vacation to Austria.
Located in what’s called South Tyrol, which is technically in the Italian Dolomites, the Bolzano Christmas Market is Italy’s largest and just an hour’s drive from Val Gardena and 1.5 hours from Alta Badia. South Tyrolians share common cultural traits with Austria and most locals speak German as their primary language, so even though you’re in Italy, the atmosphere feels Austrian. At the Bolzano Christmas Market, the beautiful Piazza Walther is decorated in Advent splendor from late November through the first week of January. The Market will be closed on Christmas Day.
Dating back to the 15th Century, the Salzburg Christmas Market sits at the foot of the Hohensalzburh fortress near the Cathedral of Salzburg. Choral and wind instrument performances of Christmas carols are held on the steps on the cathedral and fill the air with cheer. The market is held from late November through late December, and features merchants selling Christmas decorations, crafts, toys, jewelry and treats, including sweets, coffee mulled wine and punch.
Ski vacationers headed to Zell am See and Bad Gastein often fly into Salzburg, making it an easy option to spend a day at the Salzburg Christmas Market on either leg of your journey. Remember, you can always ask your Europe Travel Expert to customize your travel plans to fit this memorable experience into your itinerary.
Now that you know how to enhance the level of festivity on your Holiday ski trip to the Alps, book your vacation today. Our well-versed Europe Travel Experts will take the guesswork out of planning your trip so you can start dream of sugar plum fairies and Alpine powder. They’re standing by at 800-610-8911, and can help you customize and book your flights, rental cars, lodging and more. You can also get started by filling out a form for a free custom quote.
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com managing the website and blog content, I couldn't be happier. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.