Innsbruck Christkindlmarkt and Krampus

Old Town Innsbruck is a dream for any Christmas market lover. 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of Innsbruck’s iconic Weihnachtsmarkt, unique for combining tradition with sophistication and alpine flavor. The half-century tradition boasts a festive atmosphere with rows of market stalls filling the streets in various sections of the city. There are hot drinks, Tyrolean crafts, and regional foods for every taste… all framed by snow-covered mountains.

Austin and I took a quick day trip to Innsbruck to partake in the festivities. We rode the FlixBus from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Innsbruck. Tickets were about 7 Euro apiece and there were no transfers, making for simple worry-free traveling. The bus ride through the alps was beautiful! We passed through tree-lined roads and vistas overlooking smaller towns encapsulated in fresh snow. After about an hour, we arrived at Innsbruck Südbahnstrasse and proceeded to walk 15 minutes to the Christkindlmarkt Maria-Theresien-Strasse.

This is known to be the most modern of Innsbruck’s Christmas market areas, located in the main shopping street of Innsbruck. Personally, I found this area to stand out for its contemporary Christmas lights. The wide avenue is dotted with sparkling trees and was adorned with two oversized lit ornaments. There were about 30 stalls here with a variety of delicacies and treasures to peruse.

We continued to walk to the Old Town district, land-marked by the iconic Goldenen Dachl (seen to the right of the Christmas Tree above). This famous golden roof building is a must see in the city. The quick history on the landmark is that it was commissioned by Emperor Maximilian I to mark his wedding. The roof is decorated with 2,657 copper tiles and was completed in year 1500. The Emperor and his wife used the balcony to observe events in the town square below. Directly in front of the golden roof, you will find the most well-known Christmas market area in the city, Old Town Christkindlmarkt. Rows of stalls stretch down the street with vendors selling crafts, goods, and souvenirs of many varieties. In the evening, light projections can be spotted on the front of the historic buildings. When we arrived, a brass trio was set up, playing Christmas melodies for all to hear.

We couldn’t resist but slowing down to enjoy a hot cup of glühwein in one of the special gold 50th anniversary mugs. It is a common practice at European Christmas markets to pay a “pfand” for mug use and later return it to recoup your deposit. In some cases, you can purchase mugs to take as a souvenir for a few extra Euros. It is a simple and logical routine, but could be confusing if you are new to the scene and working through a language barrier.

We made our way from the Old Town area across the street to view the Inn River, lined with colorful buildings on the opposite bank. It was my first visit to Innsbruck and this river walk area will definitely draw me back for a second trip outside of Christmas season. The skyline of Innsbruck is special because of the relatively low and horizontally spanned building line, topped with the tall Nordkette mountain range as an upper boarder. Around nearly every city corner, there is a spectacular view of the Nordkette range. Along the Inn River at Market Square, you can’t miss another Christkindlmarkt which is referred to as the Marktplatz Im Advent. This Christmas market area is known to be very family-friendly. I found it to be delightfully cozy, with lots of good food options as well as an impressive number of stalls – from my estimation, there were close to 70. There is an old-time carousel and a spectacular eye-catching Swarovski crystal tree (fun fact: Swarovski was founded in Austria). The scent of spiced almonds and roasted chestnuts were a delight. I recommend coming hungry and sampling a few different snacks. Some specific things to try in Innsbruck would be Gröstl (bacon, onion, and potato hash), Kartoffellanzen (spiral fried potato served on a stick), apfelkrapfen (apple doughnut balls), and hot punch varieties.

In addition to the main three Christmas Markets mentioned above, there are a few other areas in Innsbruck where festive stalls will pop up, so be open to explore! We were anticipating cold weather, but the wind was more chilling than we had really planned for. Wear layers, be willing to jump in a shop or restraint if needed, and if all else fails, drink a mug of hot gluhwein to warm up! In addition to the traditional Christmas Markets in Innsbruck, we were drawn to visit the area for the infamous “Krampuslauf” or Krampus Run which is held annually on December 5th. The tradition of Krampus is a deep rooted and infamous one, dating back to the 12th century. Krampus is a half-goat, half-demon creature that punishes misbehaving children at Christmas time. The devilish creature is a companion to Saint Nicholas who rewards the good children with sweets on December 6th. The alpine folklore tradition of Krampus originates mainly in Germany and Austria, although you will see variations of it in other European cultures. On the evening of December 5th, men dressed as Krampus run through the streets scaring children (and adults like me lol). Around 6:30pm in Innsbruck, crowds of people lined the street between the golden roof and the Marktplatz for the procession. You could hear the Krampuses (Krampi?) approaching from far away, because they jump around wearing huge belts with oversized cowbells on the back. They commonly have sticks in hand and wear large intricately crafted horned masks with hairy wigs. I mean… it was terrifying. I’ll let the video do the rest of the talking lol

Hope you are having a happy holiday season, with a bit more Saint Nicholas and a bit less Krampus!

One Comment

  1. Oh my gosh, Krampus is terrifying so glad there were no little kids around. Liked how you told about getting to Innsbruck (time and cost) Want to know more about that drink?.?? Is it a warm cider, hot chocolate, chai and did you like it? We liked all the pictures. And dad wants to know if Austin is auditioning for Krampus (no costume needed) lol

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