Vienna Christmas Markets, Part Six: Karlsplatz

Years ago, this was my favourite Christmas market in all of Vienna. Since then, little has changed.

And I mean it, literally. Many booths are still in exactly the same place, selling exactly the same stuff that was original and new in maybe 2007. It’s a little like shopping for groceries. Sure, there’s one or two novelties each week, special offers or suchlike, but mostly you know where to find what, and the whole thing reeks of routine.

That said, this market is still in one of the most beautiful locations in the city, right in front of St. Charles’s Church, or Karlskirche. There is a shallow basin in front of the church which in Summer is filled with water, but now stands empty. This is used as the central square of the market and scattered with straw, because there are ponies which children are allowed to ride.

If you’re not a regular visitor, you will also find the merchandise interesting. While the kitsch level is rather high, there are several intriguing little things on offer that you’ll have a hard time finding in any of the other markets. Most remarkable, for me, is that one guy who sells Steampunk design, mostly hats and bags. If you like pens, or pottery, or elaborate glass-, wood- or metalworks, you will also find the perfect vendor, at least as long as you can afford the stuff, because nothing of it comes cheap.

The special highlight of this market is a stage at the very center where you can watch some kind of performance almost every day. This could be a band playing, or just some writer reading from his latest book.

The place is also very easy to get to. Karlsplatz is by far the largest underground station in Vienna, where three lines meet. All of that, and the fact that they have their own ATM – very unusual – makes for a rather crowded market, especially next to the exits where most of the glühwein is sold.

While you’re in the area, don’t forget to have a look at a few other landmarks that mark the borders of the large square: Musikverein is just across the street, so is Künstlerhaus and the University of Technology. The underground station is one of the many Vienna landmarks built by Otto Wagner.

Size: some 70 booths
Prices: high, hot beverages start at €3.50
Kitsch: high
Special offer: ponies, stage performers, unusual merchandise

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