Part II: The Big Ones
Where? Around Marienplatz in the centre of the city. There is another in the English Gardens that I didn’t get to visit
What? Several streets radiated from the central Marienplatz including one street with stalls all dedicated to Nativity scene carvings
Glühwein? Rather strong; the cups are the taller, narrower annoying kind
Food? Untested but centred on sausages
Anything special? No
Munich apparently has one of the first Christmas or “December” markets, starting in around 1310. But it’s difficult to still create the old-time atmosphere at midday surrounded by a bustling, modern shopping district. The market felt as out of place as the sad affair set up in cities like Bristol in the UK. The shops were average: highlights being the tiny brez’l at the dolls’ house furniture stall and the soft toy animals filled with lavender and wheat ready for microwave heating (although, now, I’m not sure that my niece would enjoy watching bunny go round and round in a microwave). Having visited the city without the market, I can say that I don’t think it adds anything to the city centre.
Where? The main market is in two squares, Residenzplatz and Domplatz, around the cathedral. But to avoid the crowds, go to the Sternmarkt around Sternbräu or go out of the city completely to Schloss Hellbrunn, a day palace built by the ruling Prince-Archbishops. Hellbrunn is a 20 minute bus journey from the city centre.
What? The main market has all you could desire in a Christmas market- and the crowds to match. I go for gifts like Salzburg salt and decorations made of cloves and star anise. At Hellbrunn, there are stalls lining the avenue to the stately house, which is transformed into a huge Advent calendar as its window shutters open one more every day until Christmas. The park around the palace is lit up at night and there is a huge animal petting zoo. Just watch out for the Krampus trail!
Glühwein? I head straight for the prosecco punch at one of the stands in front of the cathedral. There is also some amazing oven-baked apple flavoured punch hiding under the arch between the two main squares.
Food? There is a wide variety in the main market: more modern potato and fried chicken are on Residenzplatz, opposite an incredible Kaiserscharrm place. Hellbrunn offers a wonderful smoked and fresh fish stall.
Anything special? The Krampus trail and the petting zoo, along with letters to the Christkind and a little playground, makes Hellbrunn a top choice for keeping children entertained.
I was enchanted with the market our first winter in Salzburg. It really is the perfect setting, has plenty of stalls and fulfils every requirement of a Christmas market. But, as we stay here longer, the charm fades into the huge bustle of the crowds and the never-changing offerings of the stalls. That is why now I usually choose to escape to Hellbrunn where the lit-up trees still promise mystery and there is always a micro-pig to pet. It’s the one that I take our visitors to.
Where? Hallein is a town about 30 minutes drive/40 minutes public transport south of Salzburg
What? The main market is inside the Old Saltworks on Pernerinsel and there is a small market at Mathias-Bayrhamer-Platz. There’s free parking for three hours around town while the markets are running.
Glühwein? Some tasty glühmost (mulled cider) from the stall at Mathias-Bayrhamer-Platz. My guest researcher/driver told me the non-alcoholic punch was very good.
Food? The vegan bosna was amazing. Baked potatoes looked good but untested.
Anything special? Being indoors made for a warmer experience and it was unusual to walk an alpaca through the Old Town streets!
To declare all bias, I have a soft spot for Hallein. I visit its Celtic and Silent Night museums, and love how this one town’s story tells you so much about wider European history. I enjoy an afternoon wandering in its Old Town while admiring the mountains above. So to add to this a covered, relatively warm Christmas market full of home-made pick-and-mix kekse (biscuits/cookies), honey products and more flavours of vinegar than surely there is a use for, it was perfect. The upper floor in the Old Saltworks is an art exhibition and performance space which adds another unique element. This one is a great choice for a varied, full day out.
Where? In Saalfelden, the third largest town in Salzburg state, about one hour drive from Salzburg or 2 hours by bus.
What? About twenty stalls clustered in the Rathausplatz
Food? Tasty spiral potatoes and chimney cakes but a disturbing lack of sausages
Anything special? Nothing that I could discover in 20 minutes
This was a quick stop-off while waiting for a bus but I really didn’t need any more time at this one. The best stall was the lady selling all kind of decorations and jewellery made out of used coffee pods.