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December in Austria

I am just starting to plan a Dec 14-23 trip.
We would land on Dec. 15, giving us 8 days before our Dec. 23 flight home. It is myself, husband and 16-year-old son who is 16 going on 80 in terms of his interests.

Our interests include: food, music, history, sites, science. We prefer a slower pace. Our trip to Spain in Dec 2023 taught us that we need to stay in places longer (we spent 4 nights in Sevilla, 3 in Granada, 1 in Cordoba and 1 in Madrid, and this was too fast paced) and attempt to see less so that we can just enjoy being in a place, visiting local spots and really “sinking in.”

We can get direct flights to Munich from where we live.

Would love input on where to spend time. Would Vienna for all 8 days be a good plan, with perhaps a day trip or two? Or should we consider Munich and Salzburg?

Posted by
1243 posts

Munich and Salzburg are usually good locations and the Christmas markets should be available then. Myself, I would look south down the train route to Innsbruck or Bolzano. Consider visiting places like Mittenwald, Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I think Innsbruck might be a really good hub for sinking into a location as it is a nice transportation hub - small but with many possibilities and directions to explore. But then, there are lots of smaller cities surrounding Bolzano, too that I have not yet been to.

I would enjoy (re)visiting Vienna, I'm sure - but the mountains always draw me. And I love the train. Happy planning!

Posted by
20461 posts

My first thought, go to Salzburg after you land. You can get there on a Bayern Ticket for 49 EUR total for the 3 of you. Stay 3 nights, then train to Vienna and stay 4 nights, then train to Munich for 1 night and see the Christmas Markets there before your flight home the next day. That way, you can buy cheap nonrefundable train tickets for Salzburg-Vienna and Vienna Munich.

Posted by
324 posts

Our interests include: food, music, history, sites, science. We prefer a slower pace.

Based upon your interests, yes, you could spend 8 days in Vienna. It think it's a great city. One day trip (via train) I do suggest is a vist to Melk Abby.

Posted by
5450 posts

I'm also from NC, but have lived in Vienna for nearly 17 years and consider myself a Christmas market geek.

I suggest landing in Munich and then getting on the train right away to Salzburg. Salzburg is my favorite Christmas market place. I suggest 4 days there, so that you have time to visit the magical markets on the Wolfgangsee as well as the markets in Salzburg. Then spend the remaining time in Vienna, where there is plenty to fill you days. I've posted in the past with detailed lists of the many markets here. I would then fly back from Vienna to Charlotte.

Posted by
2060 posts

Spend as much time as you can in Vienna. For a 16-year-old who has lots of interests walking from one to another Christmas market may be somewhat boring, with the exception that he may enjoy legally drinking Punsch in Austria. In Vienna there are so much museums also of interest to a younger audience, not to talk about the whole music scene.

Posted by
3903 posts

Here is my trip report on a similar (but shorter!) trip in December 2023 with a 21-year-old: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/the-young-adult-and-i-austrian-christmas-markets

Since you are Jolie NC, I'm going to take a leap and guess you are in NC and can do the non-stop flight from Charlotte to Munich on Lufthansa or American. We booked Lufthansa from Charlotte to Munich with return from Vienna via Munich (eh... that outgoing leg got changed due to a massive snowstorm that buried Lufthansa's planes in Munich). There was minimal difference in cost for that booking relative to round trip to Munich.

I looked at Skyscanner. For your current dates, CLT-MUC roundtrip on Lufthansa is $850. CLT-VIE roundtrip is around $1050. BUT CLT-MUC with VIE-CLT return is $804. So, you could fly into Munich, spend a night in Munich vs taking train on to Salzburg and then spend the majority of your time in Vienna.

Some helpful Vienna threads on the Forum:

Emily, an American in Vienna, gives her top 10 food experiences in VIenna: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/austria/my-top-ten-food-experiences-in-vienna

Emily's 2022 Vienna Christmas Market Review: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/austria/a-local-s-take-on-vienna-christmas-markets-2022-edition

Posted by
1338 posts

I would consider some time in Innsbruck. You could overnight in the Stubaital. Take a look at the town of Fulpmes. Easy to get to Innsbruck on the Stubaitalbahn (Stubai Valley Railway). You will probably have snow there. The Kreuzjochbahn (cable car) is in Fulpmes too,
https://www.stubai.at/en/aktivitaeten/points-of-interest/stubaitalbahn/
https://www.innsbruck.info/en/customs-and-events/highlights/advent-and-christmas/christmas-markets.html

Posted by
2060 posts

If you spend some time in Innsbruck and its surroundings you will lose at least three days of your trip, considering the travel times.
As you have only 8 days, my suggestion is to go by train to Salzburg right from the airport in Munich. Spend the remaining day and the night in Salzburg, go by train to Vienna the next day. Take a train as late as you feel comfortable; the last train to Vienna from Salzburg departs at 10pm.

Note: On December 15, as every year on the second Sunday in December, there is coordinated time table change of all European railway operators. At the moment, for all dates later on, the online time tables give no or tentative information, only.

Posted by
4600 posts

I'm with wtm1, but be sure to watch some vlogs of Salzburg and Vienna first to get a "feel" for them and see which kind of city seems to suit you better. They are quite different.

Posted by
2483 posts

While I would spend all of the time in Salzburg, I think 2 days in Munich, 3 in Salzburg and 3 in Vienna would be good.