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A Holly Jolly Guide To Salzburg During the Holidays

Discover things to do in Salzburg at Christmas with locals who know it best.

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Hi, I'm Margot!

Margot Bigg is a journalist who has lived in the UK, the US, France, and India. She’s the author of Moon Living Abroad in India and Moon Taj Mahal, Delhi & Jaipur and a co-author of Fodor's Essential India and Fodor's Pacific Northwest. Her stories have appeared in Rolling Stone India, National Geographic Traveler, Sunset, and VICE.

It’s hard to deny the enchantment of Christmas in the city of Salzburg. Every year, just before Advent, elegant light displays and a myriad of Christmas markets spring up all around the historic Old Town, infusing Salzburg with festive cheer. Few people know this better than Michaela Mur, who—along with colleagues Karin Priewasser and Carolin Berka—helps visitors immerse themselves in Salzburg holiday tours with their spirited Salzburg Christmas Market & City Tour.

“I created this holiday-themed tour of Salzburg because I wanted to share the town’s unique atmosphere with everyone who loves Christmas,” says Michaela. “The Christmas spirit has a contagious effect and puts you in a jolly, heartwarming mood.”

What makes Salzburg great for the holidays

Tour guides Michaela, Carolin, and Karin (left to right).
Tour guides Michaela, Carolin, and Karin (left to right).Foto: Salzburg-Experience

There may be no place more Christmas-y than Salzburg (sorry, Santa).

Christmas season is a big deal in Salzburg, Austria, and this traditional Austrian city does a fantastic job at bringing yuletide cheer to locals and visitors alike. During Christmas in Salzburg, the city is adorned with decorations such as Christmas lights and nativity scenes, and many churches host daily caroling sessions.

At the Salzburg holiday markets, you can snack on treats such as gingerbread, pancake-like kaiserschmarren, and traditional vanillekipferl (crescent-shaped Christmas cookies flavored with vanilla), while you sip on festive drinks such as mulled wine and haustrunk (hot cider).

Don't forget to visit the Christmas Museum in Austria to learn about how the holiday has changed over time. Fans of classic Christmas music such as the great Christmas carol “Silent Night” take note: Joseph Mohr, the song’s composer, was baptized in the Salzburg Cathedral (as was Mozart).

Where to try Salzburg’s top holiday sips and snacks

Try some hearty beef broth at Grunmarkt farmers market.
Try some hearty beef broth at Grunmarkt farmers market.Foto: Salzburg-Experience

Must-try treats include sliced pancakes, weiner schnitzel, and of course, apple strudel.

For an extensive selection of festive treats, head to the Grunmarkt farmers market at University Square (closed Sundays), where you can warm up with local favorites such as wiener schnitzel or hearty beef broth with frittaten (sliced pancakes). If you’d rather just cozy up with a mug of warming orange punch, head straight to Sporer on the Getreidegasse, Salzburg’s celebrated shopping street. While apfelstrudel (apple strudel) is not a Christmas-specific treat, it’s certainly a must-try for any visitor to Salzburg, no matter the season. Some of the tastiest can be found at Cafe Habakuk.

Where to go Christmas shopping in Salzburg

Shop for enchanting ornaments at the local Christmas market.
Shop for enchanting ornaments at the local Christmas market.Foto: stdesign / Shutterstock

Take home holiday treats from holiday shopping in Salzburg.

While Salzburg's Christmas markets are one of the most festive things to do in Salzburg at Christmas—especially if you're in the market for things like nativity scenes or ornaments—there are also plenty of standalone shops to pick up some perfect holiday gifts and souvenirs. The aptly named Christmas in Salzburg shop is one such place, selling decorations and ornaments throughout the year.

Or, head to the Salzburg Old Town to pick up edible treats. Pirker is a local favorite for Lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread), while R. F. Azwanger has been selling all sorts of local delicacies, from liquors to jams, for over 350 years.

Where to stay in Salzburg this Christmas

Hotel Sacher in Salzburg.
Hotel Sacher is popular for its seasonal decor.Foto: Botond Horvath / Shutterstock

Where to snuggle up and watch it snow.

Salzburg’s famous Hotel Sacher is a great place to stay in Salzburg during the holidays, featuring seasonal decor and special Christmas Eve and Christmas Day set meals. Hotel Weisse Taube is an ideal option for history buffs—it’s likely that Joseph Franz Mohr of “Silent Night” fame was born in the structure that now houses this boutique property. The 15th-century Hotel Goldener Hirschis another festive choice, particularly if you want easy access to Salzburg’s celebrated Christmas and Advent markets.

Top holiday activities in Salzburg

A horse-drawn sleigh ride in Salzburg.
Don't miss an opportunity to take a horse-drawn sleigh ride.Foto: makalex69 / Shutterstock

Go for a ride on a horse-drawn sleigh for the quintessential holiday experience.

Along with Salzburg’s many Christmas markets and its Christmas Museum, the Austrian city offers all sorts of fun activities to help make spirits brighter. For a quintessential family-friendly Christmas experience, take horse-drawn sleigh ride in the Salzach River Valley or sign up for a Christmas cookie and apple strudel–making class.

While you’re in town, don’t miss the chance to attend a special Advent or Christmas dinner at the Fortress Hohensalzburg's Panorama Restaurant, either; or, sign up for a package.

Sound of Music tours and visits to top Salzburg landmarks such as Hohensalzburg Fortress, Mirabell Palace and Mirabell Gardens, and Hellbrunn Palace are also particularly special during the holiday season when the atmosphere in the city of Salzburg is at its most festive.

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