For those of you who don’t know, Vienna is host to a very good annual film festival, Viennale, which usually takes place in late October and early November. Last year, and the year before, I couldn’t go for various reasons. This year, however, I have plenty of time and, for the first time, am able to catch a few productions only shown during day time. I’m in a habit of steering clear of the big international productions which I can see later in theatres anyway; instead I prefer the rare gems and documentary features which I can rarely see at all otherwise.
And I mean it, literally. Many booths are still in exactly the same place, selling exactly the same stuff that was original and new in maybe 2007. It’s a little like shopping for groceries. Sure, there’s one or two novelties each week, special offers or suchlike, but mostly you know where to find what, and the whole thing reeks of routine.
That said, this market is still in one of the most beautiful locations in the city, right in front of St. Charles’s Church, or Karlskirche. There is a shallow basin in front of the church which in Summer is filled with water, but now stands empty. This is used as the central square of the market and scattered with straw, because there are ponies which children are allowed to ride.
If you’re not a regular visitor, you will also find the merchandise interesting. While the kitsch level is rather high, there are several intriguing little things on offer that you’ll have a hard time finding in any of the other markets. Most remarkable, for me, is that one guy who sells Steampunk design, mostly hats and bags. If you like pens, or pottery, or elaborate glass-, wood- or metalworks, you will also find the perfect vendor, at least as long as you can afford the stuff, because nothing of it comes cheap.
The special highlight of this market is a stage at the very center where you can watch some kind of performance almost every day. This could be a band playing, or just some writer reading from his latest book.
The place is also very easy to get to. Karlsplatz is by far the largest underground station in Vienna, where three lines meet. All of that, and the fact that they have their own ATM – very unusual – makes for a rather crowded market, especially next to the exits where most of the glühwein is sold.
While you’re in the area, don’t forget to have a look at a few other landmarks that mark the borders of the large square: Musikverein is just across the street, so is Künstlerhaus and the University of Technology. The underground station is one of the many Vienna landmarks built by Otto Wagner.
Size: some 70 booths
Prices: high, hot beverages start at €3.50
Special offer: ponies, stage performers, unusual merchandise
The Vienna Museumsquartier is one of the more successful urban development projects of the last two decades. Just like the name suggests, it’s home to several art museums; but it’s also a large public space that serves as a very popular hangout for city people year-round.
Besides the two big museums, the Leopold Museum and the modern arts museum that goes by the name of MUMOK, or Museum Moderner Kunst, there’s also space for the performing arts and a couple of bars and restaurants, as well as a lot of small cultural groups and initiatives which have found a home here. This is the perfect environment for a Christmas market for artists and designers, and that’s exactly what WeihnachtsQuartier (website in German) is.
Unlike most of the markets introduced on this blog the WeihnachtsQuartier is only open for one weekend, usually the first advent weekend, which was at the end of November this year. If you’re in town at the time, it’s definitely worth a visit.
As soon as you enter you find yourself in a whirlwind of all shapes and colours. The artists work with all kinds of materials, like clay, glass, fabric, or metal. You don’t get the usual kitsch there at all. Instead, every piece is created with a brain and a heart, and you can see it.
Not much of the merchandise is Christmas themed, of course. You won’t find any tinsel trees, blinking Santa hats or similar atrocities here. What you can find and even buy, if you have deep enough pockets, is a lot of wonderful presents that surely will make some people really happy. If you love shopping for gifts just for the sake of the joy of it, this is the place to go.
One of the highlights in a fields with very high standards is the stall of a friend of mine, Sissy Staudenmayer, who makes delicious little things from glass, mostly jewellery, in all shapes and colours. Her newest invention are cupcakes that are absolutely free of sugar or calories, which unfortunately doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good for your teeth.