Austria is a Christmas lover's dream country. From beautiful markets in cities and towns large and small, to festive foods laced with tradition, to the musical heritage that includes the birthplace of the beloved Christmas carol, Silent Night, there is much to see and do throughout the country.
Salzburg is a good starting point for a variety of Christmas-themed excursions. In addition to the beautiful markets within the city, there's a plethora of Silent-Night related sites. You can use public transportation to easily visit nearby Oberndorf, where the famous hymn was first performed in 1818. The Silent Night Chapel is a pilgrimage site for fans of this Christmas song. www.stillenacht.info/en
Many Christmas markets are called Christkindlmarkt, or Christ Child Markets. In the tiny village of Christkindl in upper Austria, just west of Steyr, you can visit the pilgrimage church named for the Christ Child and can get a special postmark at the local post office.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, larger-than-life Vienna bustles with concerts, operas, dozens of Christmas markets, specialty food markets and bakeries. Don't miss the city's famous Sacher Torte, a year-around chocolate delight.
For this photo essay, we'll concentrate on Innsbruck, a picturesque city perched along the river Inn, in the Austrian Tyrol. Known for its magnificent Old Town, skiing, ski jumping, and legendary businesses such as the Grassmayr Bell Foundry and Swarovski Crystal World, Innsbruck is a year-round destination. During Advent, the town becomes a Christmas wonderland, with numerous themed markets, concerts in historic churches and city performance centers, bakeries and tearooms overflowing with seasonal goodies, and nativity displays in homes, churches and public areas.
For more information about Austria at Christmas time and year round, visit austria.info.