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A week for Christmas - Vienna, Salzburg or Innsbruck?

Our family (2 adults, 11/13 yo kids) would love to find a magical, authentic Christmas this year in Europe - and we can get to these three options on a nonstop flight :)

We love history, food, unique experiences, weird sights
(eg atlas obscura), wandering little streets, nature/national parks, science and the arts, and scheduling in some downtime. However, this trip is ideally going to be largely about Christmas magic, sparkles, snow, coziness, special non-tourist oriented cultural traditions, frosted windowpanes, candlelight, etc etc.

We are experienced travelers in Europe and beyond, and kids are intrepid and curious.

We want to spend ~5 nights in one place probably in an airbnb (and if we stay longer, a place with interesting activities or day trips would be great but not a deal breaker).

Thank you!!

Posted by
1146 posts

I would consider Innsbruck because of the options to explore the Tirol. You can check this out - some of the Tirolean Christmas markets continue on beyond Christmas itself. In addition to Innsbruck and its immediate sights (mountains, town) you can head south to Italy (Bolzano, etc.); west (Arlberg scenic train ride); north to Munich and Bavaria; northeast to Salzburg. I am only experienced with the larger towns in this neck of the woods, but a lot of folks here can speak to winter places to visit for scenery and sports. Munich, Bolzano, Innsbruck, Salzburg all have museums if you need time-out from outside.

I enjoy all the locations you have mentioned, but the mountains call me more than Vienna.

Posted by
10075 posts

I also would drop Vienna. Salzburg would be magical. Not Innsbruck rather Garmisch- Partenkirchen.

Posted by
1767 posts

Except for high mountains none of the mentioned towns can compete with Vienna, especially when travelling with kids.

Posted by
2836 posts

We love Innsbruck at this time of year. Very festive, and with the alpine backdrop. Perfect.

Then of course add the nearby old town of Hall in Tirol with a more “local themed” market atmosphere.

A trip on the Nordkettenbahn brings you to the snow.

A trip over the border into Italy to Bolzano for the markets and of course the Ice Man exhibit at the Museum of Archaeology.

Many many day trips plus Innsbruck is all that during the Christmas season.

Posted by
15982 posts

For a "traditional" Christmas, going to a major tourist city might be counter productive. But you can do it if you do tge research to find maybe a local to show you where they go and what they do. I love Budapest at Christmas but it took years to discover the right mix of local family and more mainstream winter attractions.

Posted by
2156 posts

We spent Christmas 2011 in Salzburg. It was excellent. We stayed here - It is just outside town along the light rail line.

Some things to do- salt mines at Hallein, Christmas eve train to Silent Night villages

Posted by
1140 posts

My two cents... Find a nice half board Austrian hotel with an indoor/outdoor pool in the Stubaital near lifts. Look for Rodelbahn (sled riding). Take the bus into Innsbruck when ready and enjoy all the holiday offers there. Check for Christmas markets in the town you choose and decorations outside and in the hotel. You will be competing with the skiing crowd and in high season (Alps). If you haven't done so, make reservations now! Not sure the place you describe exists. You might look into the Wildschönau area (bored kids)? Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis might be a lot of fun with the kids. It's a family area. Hopefully snow natural or man made or both then. Be aware of the Covid situation.

Posted by
8929 posts

OOps I responded on the other thread but yes I’ve always dreamed of spending Christmas in Salzburg. I love the ideas that the poster above has suggested. And Stephen’s idea of “Christmas Eve train to the Silent Night villages” — incredible !

Posted by
2836 posts

Just thought I’d add that we have spent 18 nights during 5 different trips (2 in Dec.) at the Gasthof Badl in Hall in Tirol near Innsbruck.

Posted by
2836 posts

One more suggestion. From our base in Hall in Tirol, we went to opening night of the Rattenberg Advent. Not your typical advent market experience. There are no stalls selling stuff. What there was was so atmospheric, so very special. Picture an old medieval town with bags with candles in them lining every street and alley way. No electric lights. Torches and open fires to warm up by. A candle in every window of this old town. Cauldrons over open fires with servers in period costumes serving up mulled wine drinks. All the small stores and eateries open. An outdoor concert of Christmas themed music. Theatrics played out with again, costumed performers. Rattenberg was THE best evening we spent during both of our Christmas Market experience trips in Austria.