I’m a sucker for Christmas markets and when it comes to Christmas markets in Austria I’m always quick to head to Vienna or Salzburg. However, after several times in each, it was time to switch it up so I chose Innsbruck- somewhere I had never been before but figured would be fun and festive and pretty in the mountains. Well, I fell in love. Innsbruck Christmas markets are magical. I spent 3 days exploring Innsbruck at Christmas so here’s what you should know to plan your own adventure.
When Do Innsbruck Christmas Markets Open?
This changes every year. Typically, the Innsbruck Christmas markets all open on the Friday of the last weekend of November, but you’ll want to check with the tourism board’s website first. Some will open earlier. When I visited, two markets opened on November 15th, which was 10 days earlier than the rest. This was ideal because it wasn’t quite busy season yet which meant I got to explore without all the crowds. But also, it was only 2 of the multiple markets offered in Innsbruck at Christmas.
Where to stay for Innsbruck Christmas Markets
Innsbruck is fairly small but I highly recommend staying in or close to the Old Town. It’s the prettiest part of the city and the area that you will spend the most time in. I stayed at Hotel Schwarzer Alder Innsbruck which was about a 5-minute walk from Old Town and a 10-minute walk from the train station which made it very convenient. I also loved the hotel and would recommend it to anyone. I stayed on the 5th floor and had beautiful views of the mountains.
A couple of other options to look at include:
- Montagu Hostel for budget travellers or backpackers
- Hotel Central for a midrange stay
- The Penz Hotel for a higher end stay
Innsbruck Christmas Markets
Innsbruck Christmas markets aren’t huge, but they are definitely worth exploring. Here are the main ones and where to find them.
Old Town Christmas
Located in front of the famous building with the golden roof, the Innsbruck Old Town Christmas market is probably the best known. Little stalls selling ceramics, ornaments, jewellery, sausages, gluhwein, and more surround a towering Christmas tree twinkling with fairy lights. The market stretches down the street and, in the evening, there are light projections of snowflakes dancing on the front of the buildings.
Tip: be sure to try kiahln. These are donut-type treats dusted with icing sugar or topped with either cranberries or sauerkraut. They are a typical Christmas market treat here and the most popular vendor for them is at the Old Town Innsbruck Christmas market.
Maria-Theresien Straße Christmas Market
Maria-Theresien Straße is the main shopping street in Innsbruck. During the advent season you will find a Christmas market lining the street adding to your shopping experience.
Panorama Christmas Market
If you are heading up the mountain you will find the Panorama Christmas Market at the end of the funicular line in Hungerburg. This market is teeny tiny but it does offer a beautiful view over Innsbruck as you shop.
Marketplatz Family Christmas Market
Located beside the river at Market Square is another larger Christmas market. This one has been designed with families in mind with games, a carousel, and other forms of children’s entertainment. But there is lots to browse as well. And, of course, plenty to eat! Make sure to come here at night where you can see the giant Swarovski tree all lit up!
There are also a couple of other small spots where a few stalls will pop up like mini Innsbruck Christmas markets so keep your eyes out as you explore!
What Else to do in Innsbruck at Christmas
While the Innsbruck Christmas markets are a huge draw there is plenty more to see and do during Christmastime in this Austrian city. Here are a few of my favourite recommendations.
Lumagica is a light display held at Hofgaarten park featuring more than 300 displays during the festive season. Once you purchase your ticket you can walk through at your leisure and enjoy impressive figures and animals all made from lights. Some displays are even interactive while others put on a ‘show’ in time to the music. It’s a really fun way to spend an evening for all ages.
Nordkette is an epic viewpoint called the Top Of Innsbruck that you can easily reach from the heart of Innsbruck, all the way up a mountain. Many locals will make the climb to the second station (or rather, hike) but the vast majority of tourists opt for the funicular to Hungerburg and then two gondolas up the mountain. I went first thing in the morning and it wasn’t crowded at all, but there was quite a bit of snow up top since I beat the man with the snowplough! Dress warmly, but wow is it ever worth it! Get your tickets to the Top of Innsbruck here.
Innsbruck City Tower
The Innsbruck City Tower has an absolutely stunning panoramic view over Innsbruck and across to the mountains. You just need to climb 133 spiral stairs to see it! While climbing stairs isn’t exactly fun, the views are 100% worth it, and it’s really nice with all the lights and decorations set up at Christmas time. I went twice, once late afternoon just before sunset and again at night. I definitely recommend going in the daytime as there are big floodlights pointed at the tower to light it up at night which makes it a bit tricky to see and take photos. But during the daytime? Wow! Get your ticket here.
Located outside of Innsbruck but worth the trip is Swarovski Kristallwelten, or Swarovski Crystal World. It’s not quite a museum but it is a very cool experience with multiple rooms showcasing everything from Swarovski crystal costumes and outfits worn by celebrities to art displays and more. If you don’t have a car, there is a shuttle bus that runs from the train station and the Innsbruck congress centre. Buy your entry ticket here.
Once a palace owned by the Habsburg family, the Hofburg is now a museum where visitors can step inside and explore what is considered to be one of the three most significant cultural buildings in all of Austria. I’m not a big museum person but I loved walking around this old palace and seeing the architecture and décor. Plus, it’s a great way to escape from the cold!
The Innsbruck Card
For visitors to Innsbruck who plan to explore outside of the Christmas markets I highly suggest getting the Innsbruck card. The card seems pricey but even the 24-hour pass quickly becomes worth it if you have plans to do the Nordkette mountain views. The pass starts 24 hours after it is first used so you can time it as you please. Everything on the list above, including the shuttle to Swarovski Krystallwelton, is included in the pass.
Finals Tips for Innsbruck at Christmas
Innsbruck Christmas markets are magical and absolutely worth adding to your trip. Innsbruck is an easy trip to Munich and Salzburg by train so if those are on your path, be sure to add it to your itinerary. Like with all Christmas markets in big cities, the Innsbruck Christmas market is much quieter during the week than on weekends. So, if you can, try to plan your visit mid-week.
It’s also worth noting that some attractions are closed in November and December while the Christmas markets are on since it is a bit of a quieter time, especially for museums. So, if you really have your heart set on seeing something specific in Innsbruck, check ahead of time.
Finally, while perhaps not as popular as Vienna or Salzburg, Innsbruck Christmas markets are still widely known so it’s in your best interest to book accommodation in advance.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Austria
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.