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Salzburger Christkindlmarkt | © Tourismus Salzburg GmbH
Between Christmas kitsch and living traditions
Advent never fails to set the pulses of everyone, big and small, racing in joyful anticipation. The combination of culinary treats, traditional folk events and wintry outdoor activities is all it takes for many people to decide to spend a weekend in Mozart’s hometown. We show you where to find the best mulled wine in the city and share with you the must-sees of your 48 hours in Salzburg during Advent season.
Of airy heights and singing shepherds
Brunch with a view? What could possibly be more wonderful than that? In Salzburg, you actually have several opportunities to gaze out across the city as you enjoy a cup of full-flavored coffee and your scrambled eggs. Our recommendation is the brunch at the Franziskischlössl on the Kapuzinerberg. There, not only do you have breathtaking views of the historic district, you are also treated to a wide selection of popular regional dishes that have been conjured up in the kitchen of your host couple. Whether smoked fish from Grödig or fresh dairy products from Anthering, you’ll find something delicious to get your day off to a healthy start. And for those who cannot get enough of this magical place, a very fine Christmas market opens at 11 am on the weekends.
After these culinary treats, you walk back into the city center. Greeting you on Mozart Square is a picture-perfect ice rink, which is sure to be a thrill no matter whether you are a “rookie” or “pro” on a pair of blades. For just a couple of euros, fans of this delightful mixture of fresh air and ice can make all of their figure-skating dreams come true. But if the prospect of balancing on a pair of ice skates is a little too daunting for you, not to worry: Treat yourself to a mug of mulled wine and take in all of the sporting action from right there at the edge of the rink.
Just a stone’s throw away, two of Salzburg’s most famous city squares – the Domplatz and Residenzplatz – provide the most picturesque setting imaginable for the Salzburger Christkindlmarkt. One of the world’s oldest Advent markets, it radiates an especially festive atmosphere. Each of the over 100 market stands does its part: From wrought-iron decorative angels to spice blends and homemade liqueurs, you are sure to come across all kinds of Christmas gifts for your nearest and dearest. If you have a bit of an appetite, a hearty bosna sausage or a plate of sweet Kaiserschmarren-style pancakes is certain to hit the spot. And from first bite to last, you will be able to enjoy breathtaking views of Hohensalzburg Fortress above.
After the bustle of downtown Salzburg, you might well crave a peaceful timeout. In that case, Salzburg Advent Singing will be just what the doctor ordered, an event that has managed to captivate visitors from around the globe for over 70 years. Whether at the Grosses Festspielhaus, at St. Andrew’s Church or in the Great Hall of the university: Christmas songs and enchanting folk melodies are the focus of these annual Advent performances. And so, accompanied by an emotional retelling of the Nativity story, the first eventful day in Salzburg gradually draws to a close.
The Occasion for Tradition, Contemplation and Decorations
After an extended breakfast, we begin where we finished the evening before – with silent reflection. We visit the Franciscan Church in the heart of the Old City to enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet. Already at the entrance we see a special feature of this church: The “Hand of Asylum”. As the name implies, it symbolizes the sanctuary of the church and whoever may touch it, will be granted access to the church – guilty or not. With only the flicker of countless tea lights illuminating our faces, we can lose ourselves completely in thought, breathe deeply, and sense the spirit of the Advent season flowing through us.
Now, with a rejuvenating dose of contemplation in our system, we set off to a nearby part of Salzburg known as the “Abbey District”, to St. Peter Stiftskulinarium, which is actually the oldest restaurant in Central Europe. Right outside the entrance, we are greeted by a magical Christmas world: Christmas trees, lights, ornaments – even reindeer – turn our thoughts to the “big day” yet again. Once inside, the venerable building mesmerizes us with its own exciting story and a meal that allows us to savor, quite literally, the full flavor of Advent.
With our tummies full, and our minds overflowing with festive impressions, we amble across the Dom- and Residenzplatz to the Salzburg Christmas Museum. Here, in eleven different theme areas, artistic Christmas figures from the years 1840 to 1940 are lovingly displayed. A brief foray into the world of folk festivals and festive celebrations between Advent and New Year’s adds the finishing touch to the exhibition. The ideal way, indeed, to get you in the mood for Christmas! Incidentally, if you are crazy about Advent, we have this special tip for you: Since this museum is open virtually year-round, why not come pay it another visit in summer when it’s 30 degrees Celsius outside, or in the autumn as the leaves begin to fall.
The late afternoon presents us with the perfect opportunity to head out to Hellbrunn: to an event known as “Hellbrunn Advent Magic”, to be precise. Set against the romantic backdrop of the palace, it is certain to delight you. Aside from arts & crafts as well as sweet temptations, it has many surprises in store for the kids as well. A petting zoo, a children’s bakery, as well as hot dogs grilled over an open fire, are all guaranteed to put an excited gleam in the eyes every child. At the beginning of December and throughout the Christmas season itself, an eerie group of creatures - the Krampusse and Perchten – also suddenly appear seemingly out of nowhere, both here in the city as well as in outlying rural communities. Their hand-carved masks, heavy bells and long switches even send a chill down the spine of most adults. A clear message, perhaps, that ancient folk traditions such as these deserve our respect as well as our enthusiasm.