Although the weather had been surprisingly warm this year in November in Austria – over 15C (60F) and sunny almost every day, the Christmas Market Season (Chrsitkindlmarkt) had officially began last weekend. Most Christmas markets in Austria and Germany begin their operations on the first Advent Sunday (this year November 29) and last until Christmas. However, Christmas always comes early to Innsbruck, the capital of the Austria’s province Tyrol. Because the ski season is not fully underway yet, Tyrol tries to attract tourists by starting Innsbruck’s Christmas markets early and keeping them running later, until January 6th, 2016 this holiday season. In 2015 the market opened in November 15th and was visited by 30,000 people on the first day, according to www.tt.com. This attendance was pretty amazing, given that Innsbruck’s population is just shy of 125,000. Did a fourth of the city’s population spend their Sunday drinking gluhwine or did the tourists arrive en masse as it was hoped?
The scene at Innsbruck’s Old Town couldn’t be more perfect: Christmas tree lights twinkle beneath the city’s famous Golden Roof, with the snow-dusted Nordkette mountains as a backdrop. The city stages a total of six smaller Christmas Markets, each with a different take and unique appeal. Every evening at 5 pm, trumpeters step on to the balcony of the Golden Roof – an old-town landmark decorated with 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles – and entertain the crowds with Christmas songs. Overall the six Christmas markets in Innsbruck feature over 200 stands that sell food, drinks, and crafts.
At Marktplatz (Market place), on the banks of the River Inn, the market is family-oriented and one of the largest with over 60 stands. The centerpiece is a 14 meter Christmas tree studded with 170,500 Swarovski crystals. Exciting attractions and the cozy traditional atmosphere make this market an experience the whole family will love. Children will have fun riding a nostalgic carousel, friendly ponies and enjoy a show at the puppet theatre. Every day from 3 to 6 pm there is a puppet theater performance, story time and magic show. Animal-lovers will have even more to look forward to, with goats, guinea pigs and donkeys at the petting zoo.
Beneath Innsbruck’s famous Golden Roof, the city’s Old Town hosts a festive market with a medieval setting. Weave your way through the stands to find unique Christmas tree decorations, traditional wooden toys, beautiful hand-carved nativity scenes and figures and many other lovingly made examples of Tyrolean handicraft. Inspired by the stories of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, you will find figures of well-known fairy tales hanging in the surrounding alleyways, such as Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty.
The Christmas Market on Innsbruck’s main shopping street offers a more contemporary and modern take. The Maria-Theresien Street will dazzle visitors with festive lights, glass and crystal and over 30 stands. The Christmas Market on the Hungerburg mountain takes place in one of the more unusual locations and getting there is an experience in itself. From the city center take the Hungerburg funicular up the mountain to Innsbruck‘s highest market and enjoy the most amazing panoramic views over the city. The most recent additions to the Christmas Market scene in Innsbruck are the Christmas Markets at Wiltener Platzl in Wilten neighborhood and in St. Nikoulaus neighborhood. Both are lower key than the markets in the center. Wilten for example is known as the artistic market, with a display of hand-made crafts and festive delicacies from Grandma’s receipe book. St. Nikoulaus, which is just across the river from major tourist spots, is a small, tranquil market for the whole family.