Advent and Christmas in Salzburg

Traditions, Christmas markets, and fairy tale world – an enchanting time of year

Wintertime in Salzburg basically means Advent time. With its markets and customs, the city is one of the most exciting venues for this tradition. It is the original site of Advent choral concerts and the song “Silent Night, Holy Night”, the home of the world-famous Salzburg Christmas Market around the cathedral, and organises Krampus runs and “Perchtenläufe” (see below) – all in all, during this season, Salzburg is transformed into a fairy tale world and casts its spell on all its visitors.

Abend am Christkindlmarkt Salzburg auf dem Domplatz.
Christmas market © Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Bryan Reinhart

The Salzburg Christmas Market

The atmosphere at this time is dominated by the markets; and in a very special way at the world-famous Salzburg Christmas Market at the Dom- and Residenzplatz. Every year, this is officially opened with a festive ceremony on the Thursday before the first Sunday of Advent and ends on December 26th.

The thrilling aromas of frankincense and the culinary delights offered at the market waft in the air coming from wooden huts, traversed by a sea of lights, at the end of which is a large, richly decorated Christmas tree.

As one of the oldest Advent markets in the world, dating back to the 15th century, here you will find mulled wine, punch, and Austrian specialities, as well as gifts and diverse events, such as the “Salzburger Turmblasen”, an Advent brass concert; and last but not least, a unique flair that draws in countless visitors each year.

Other Advent markets in the Christmas season

If this capital of music has attracted you through its wonderful sounds, then you should also visit the smaller Christmas market at Mirabellplatz. Almost every evening, regional musical groups complete the atmosphere and add their own melodic note to the Christmassy aromas and visual impressions.

At Hellbrunn Palace, the “Hellbrunner Adventszauber” is also held during the same period. The palace’s inner courtyard houses over 400 pine trees, which are decorated with 13,000 red baubles and fairy lights, and is transformed into a romantic Christmas backdrop. There are six other Christmas markets to marvel at in Salzburg, making the city an all-around joy during the festive season. This year, only the Advent at Hohensalzburg Castle will not be taking place, due to construction work.

Krampus runs and Perchtenläufe

The Alpine tradition, where masked and furry creatures dance and stomp through the city will not leave anyone feeling cold, with its deafening bells. Here, you can differentiate between Krampus, as gift-bringer Nikolaus’ helper and the “Percht”, which is part of an Alpine custom for scaring off evil winter spirits. They have long been a part of the traditions that are watched and marvelled at by international visitors. And although the Krampus and Perchten runs do not match up with the reflective joy of Christmastime, they are an unforgettable experience part of the run-up to Christmas.

Advent choral concerts

The far more pensive Salzburg Adventsingen (Salzburg Advent Choral Concerts) whisks its audience away to a rush-free environment and is just another of the musical highlights this city has to offer. It was invented by Toni in 1946, forming a completely new genre. 150 musicians, actors, and little shepherds bring old songs and music onto the stage in the Großes Festspielhaus (Large Festival Hall). These performances also feature Alpine meadows, customs, and scenic messages. Every year, a different overall theme is chosen to present to the audience.

Exhibitions at Christmas

If you would prefer to find out more about traditions and Christmastime, then don’t miss a visit to the Christmas Museum at Mozartplatz, which is open all year round. Additionally, the Toy Museum puts on a full seasonal Advent exhibit, which includes interactive events, such as an Advent wreath-making workshop. The handmade nativity scenes, which are displayed in the various churches, are certainly nothing to be scoffed at either, as these also represent a tradition that has existed since the 18th century. And you can experience the Christmas story through 16th – 19th century paintings in the Residenzgalerie in Domquartier.