Christmas is coming. Everybody in Vienna says “es weihnachtet”. This special verb means that the streets in the city light up with millions of bulbs, Christmas atmosphere blows from shop windows, there are Advent candleholders in the house windows, children are ice skating in the park in front of the City Hall and the smell of cinnamon and other punch ingredients is everywhere…
There are so many stalls in every Christmas market in Vienna that you can easily feel lost. So I decided to introduce you to some typical local things which you should taste or buy here.
Of course, first of all, people come to a market to drink punch or mulled wine (1). You can also find punch stalls elsewhere opened by charity organisations. Viennese stop here after work, warm themselves with a mug of the hot drink and talk until the late hour.
Did you know that punch actually comes from India? The word “punch” means five, this is the number of ingredients: alcohol (rice wine originally), tea or spices, water, sugar and lemon.
In Vienna, you can find punch made of raspberries, strawberries, oranges, bilberries or other fruits – with alcohol or without (Kinderpunsch). It is served in ceramic mugs usually with a motif of Vienna, a deposit must be paid for it. You can keep the mug as a souvenir or give it back to receive your money back.
An evening in December can be pretty cold. It is a good idea to buy a paper cornet with roasted chestnuts (2). They warm our numb palms and add important nutrients and vitamins to us. They are called Maroni in Vienna and usually are offered at the same stall with small potato pancakes – Kartoffelpuffer.
Doughnuts (3) cannot be missing from any Christmas market. Because this is a feast of generosity the doughnuts are enormous. The jumbo-doughnuts have a star made of caster sugar on the top. Austrians say that this fried pastry, which is called Krapfen, is their invention. You can read more about it on our blog: here
Once, during plays about Adam and Eve performed on 24 December, apples (4) were hung on a tree. Not only because there were no other decorations but also because apples symbolize the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. On Christmas markets in Vienna, apples coated with red sugar glazing allure all passers-by with their strong colour.
Whether you believe it or not, cotton candy (5) also belongs to a Viennese Christmas market! Honestly, I cannot imagine how you can eat it if it is very cold and everything is freezing. Who knows, maybe the cotton candy may change into glass cotton… And how am I supposed to I eat it with gloves? Usually, it is pink or light blue and packed in small or big buckets.
If you don’t want to stick your fingers with cotton candy but still would like to have something sweet and sticky, then I recommend Schaumbecher to you – ice cream cones (6) topped with marshmallow foam and coated with chocolate of different colours. At the same stall, also rolls (Schaumrollen) with a similar filling are offered. The Christmas kinds are of XXL-size.
Roasted almonds (7) also belong to the Christmas atmosphere in Vienna, traditionally with cinnamon, boiled in sugar water, roasted and caramelized. You can also buy walnuts, pecans or other nuts, but almonds are the tradition.
Don’t worry! I don’t invite you to the markets in Vienna to eat potatoes! These potatoes are made of marzipan (8) – a mixture of ground almonds and sugar. It is also a typical Christmas product, many imitations of fruits or vegetables are made of it but potatoes are simply the most popular ones.
Are you sick of sweet things already? O.K., let’s go have a look at some food stalls. Viennese love simple sandwiches (9) with lard or egg, tuna, cheese or some other spread. No company or school event is possible without sandwiches, so they should not be missing from Christmas markets either. It is one of the cheapest foods offers here.
Not only sandwiches, also sausages (10) are very popular by citizens of Vienna. You cannot imagine any Christmas market without a Würstelstand, a stall with grilled sausages which are nice smelling at a great distance. There are many kinds of sausages but I recommend to taste Käsekrainer, a sausage with small chunks of cheese which spill on the plate and melt in your mouth.
Some say it looks like a twisted knot, others think it is like a folded bracelet or arms crossed over the chest. And our son said that in the kindergarten he had eaten a bread with two holes. 🙂 What is it? A pretzel (11). They are salty or sweet and compete with lángos with their size.
Anyway, if you have eaten already and still would like to have something sweet, you can make a stop at a stall with pancakes (Palatschinken) or waffles (12). There is a big variety – waffles with cinnamon and sugar, strawberry sauce, whipped cream and caramel, bananas and chocolate and many more.
Now, when we have completely satisfied our hunger already, it’s time to search for typical local products at other market stalls. If you feel that snow is missing to create a real winter atmosphere, don’t worry. Just look for a stall with snow globes (13). Hold one of them, shake it and lots of fine snowflakes start to fall on St Stephen’s Cathedral, a Christmas tree, cake, snowman or another miniature figure inside the globe. It is an excellent gift as well, no “made in China” on the bottom, but only if you found a real stall of the family company of Erwin Perzy, whose grandfather invented these snow globes. Read more about it on our blog: here
Toys (14) definitely belong to Christmas! After the plastic which inundated our world, I have a feeling that we have returned to the old, good, wooden toys. At any Christmas market in Vienna, you can find figures which are jumping or flying on a spring or swinging in a joyful manner after pulling the string. These are the toys that amuse children and cheer the soul of adults…
Nuts used to be a very important additional food in winter so they were often also given as a gift. Many different tools were invented to open them. At any Christmas market, you can still find nutcrackers (15) in the form of wood carvings of a king, soldier, gendarme or forester. There are whole armies of these funny figures with a large mouth which opens by lifting a lever. The figure shows its teeth: crack, crack, give me a nut!
You can also find traditional gingerbread (16) hearts or stars with different inscriptions here: classical I love you, names of family members and some Christmas wishes as well.
Cribs (17) – nativity scenes representing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem – have been sold since 1843 at a special crib market in Vienna. Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II. had forbidden to expose cribs in public or in churches so Viennese started to set up their own cribs in their homes. Although the ban had been removed later, the tradition has survived until today. There are people who buy a figure every year to add it to their family crib.
Probably, it won’t be possible anymore to find out whose idea it was to replace apples on the Christmas tree with glass baubles (18). The fragile beauty of hand decorated baubles will impress all visitors of the Christmas markets in Vienna, especially when they are so many in a stall.
But you can choose some other Christmas decorations (19) for your Christmas tree – a teddy or another animal, a clown or a rocking horse. I found even a glass Christmas pickle which surely will make happy the tourists coming from America.
If your ears are cold already, you can choose a knitted hat, but of course, there are also classical red hats (20) with a white bobble. Although here in Austria gifts to the children brings not Santa but the child Jesus (that’s why the most famous Christmas market in front of the City Hall is called Christkindlmarkt), a Santa’s hat is a symbol of a good mood for me. You just put it on your head and the world seems funnier to you. And you can shout: Ho – ho – ho as well.
If you did not choose anything until now, buy at least an angel (21), made of bee wax for example because its smell belongs to Christmas as well. When I was a child, I believed that our Christmas tree was decorated by angels and was always very sad that I couldn’t see any doing that. Buy an angel, stroke him in your palm, believe in miracles and maybe you will be able to see the whole magic of Christmas through children eyes at least once more!
You can find more information about Christmas markets in Vienna: here
Did you visit any Christmas market in Vienna? What did you buy?
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri