The Story of Silent Night: Christmas in Austria

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At Hellbrunn Palace, the castle facade is turned into a giant advent calendar.
At Hellbrunn Palace, the castle facade is turned into a giant advent calendar.

The Christmas market at Hellbrunn Palace is another popular favorite. In truth, Hellbrunn is more of a manor than a palace, but visitors delight in its amusing trick foundations and beautiful gardens. From November 17 – December 24, Hellbrunn transforms into a Christmas fairytale, with hundreds of conifers decorated with some 13,000 light balls and strings. The castle façade is transformed into an oversized advent calendar, and there are pony and train rides along with Christmas market stalls selling baked goods and hand-crafted works.

Advent cruises take visitors to the villages along Lake Wolfgangsee. Photo by Austria Tourist Office
Advent cruises take visitors to the villages along Lake Wolfgangsee. Photo by Austria Tourist Office

Advent Cruise on Lake Wolfgangsee

The small Austrian villages of St. Gilgen, Strobl and St. Wolfgang celebrate Christmas in a distinctive way. All three are connected by Lake Wolfgangsee, and at Christmastime, a ferry service carries visitors to Christmas markets at all three villages during the evening, cruising past giant floating lanterns, the lit Ox’s Cross and the Wedding Cross beneath the Falkenstein Wall.

Onboard you can keep warm with a mug of hot wine. From the lake, you can see the villages lit in their holiday finest, with views of St. Gilgen’s 11-meter high advent candle, Strobl’s six-meter high Christmas star and St. Wolfgang’s lantern of peace. Sometimes, you’ll even hear the echo of Christmas choirs or brass horns across the water.

The Christmas market in St. Gilgen, Austria. Photo by Austria Tourist Office
The Christmas market in St. Gilgen, Austria. Photo by Austria Tourist Office

Christmas in St. Gilgen

At Christmas, the streets of St. Gilgen are decorated with hundreds of Advent candles, with the 11-meter candle serving as the famous icon of the village. The Christmas market is painted in Baroque style, with painted figures of animals, angels and people. An illuminated path guides visitors along the Biblical story of Christ’s birth. The season in St. Gilgen includes concerts and Christmas plays. Many families come to enjoy the Mozart ice rink or to take the cable car up Zwölferhorn Mountain for an incredible view of the lake.

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