Yes, I’ve been travelling again – it’s an addiction! With festive spirit in the air and Christmas just around the corner, I thought that it was the perfect time to take an impromptu jaunt to one of the famed European Christmas Markets, and what better way to do so than to combine this with a visit to see my friend Anna in Krems an der Donau, a town in Lower Austria and her home for the year.
Krems is located around an hour from Vienna by train which gave me just a few hours to explore the capital before making my way to Anna’s Austrian home, but what this trip gave me was the best of both worlds. Not only did I get the opportunity to enjoy a huge Christmas market and embrace the tourist inside me, I discovered the life of the locals and wandered the streets of some of Austria’s more quaint and distinctly beautiful locations.
Here are my 5 picks for an Austrian adventure, from the traditional to the alternative.
1. Drink glühwein at the Rathaus Christkindlmarkt
Of all of the touristy things that you can do in Vienna, this is probably up there with the best of them. This gorgeous building serves as the City Hall and would be a stunning spectacle at any time of year.
However, combining the stunning gothic architecture with an array of Christmas lights, from twinkling leaves to glinting violins amid the surrounding trees, this place is nothing short of magical.
Sadly, I only had a short time to enjoy the market, and most of it was spent in awe of the building itself, but I did have time to sip on a mug – or rather a novelty boot – of Glühwein and purchase a few Christmas decorations for my tree. What more could a girl ask for?
2. Explore Schönbrunn Palace in Winter
One great thing about visiting a friend who has spent time in the city is being able to tap into their knowledge of the area – thanks Anna! Schönbrunn Palace was my first stop on Anna’s tour of the city, and although it is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Austria’s most visited landmark, it was completely unknown to me before I hopped off the U-Bahn.
According to Anna, Schönbrunn comes to life in the summer with a stunning rose garden, but at this time of year its courtyard becomes a more peaceful Christmas market, framed by a Christmas tree of epic proportions. It was a photographer’s dream!
3. Wander the cobbled streets of Krems
When I met up with Anna in Vienna, she told me that I would notice a massive difference between Krems and Vienna, and whilst I didn’t really get a feel for the city in the 5 hours that I spent there, it was clear to see what she meant from the moment we strolled through the old town of Krems an der Donau – it felt a million miles away from the bustle of city life. For someone who likes to wander aimlessly and experience the true life of the locals, from walks along the Danube to glühwein on its cobbled streets, it is absolutely perfect.
Again, Krems has added beauty in the summer and autumn months, when it becomes one of Austria’s popular wine regions, but I was completely content with my glühwein.
4. Eat Schnitzel from a traditional Austrian restaurant
Chicken Schnitzel, or the mother of all breaded chicken breasts, is popular all over the world, but did you know that it originated in Austria? Schnitzel is traditionally served with a slice of lemon and some potato salad, and the only thing left to say is that it was simply divine. It’s an Austrian must.
5. Visit Durnstein and the Wachau Valley
Whether it is the appeal of a quirky, medieval Austrian town, the history of the ruined Durnstein Castle, where Richard the Lionheart was once held captive, the brisk walk to the site of the ruins or the picturesque views of the Wachau Valley, it is hard not to be captivated by the wonder of Durnstein, my favourite part of this whistlestop adventure.
Surrounded by the rusty Autumnal leaves of the forest, and the remnants of the vines that annually produces the popular wine of the Wachau Valley, this place is utterly enchanting. And whilst you may think that you would prefer the vibrant summer views, there was something extremely special about visiting the area on a quiet Saturday morning when we had the ruins completely to ourselves.
All in all, my trip was short, varied and the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit. Thank you once again to the lovely Anna for showing me around – you can read more of her adventures here: https://mllemckitty.wordpress.com
What are your favourite memories of Austria? Share in the comments!