If I ever missed one thing during the years we spent in Scandinavia, it was a real Austrian Christmas, including Austrian Christmas markets. While most people know the famous markets in Vienna, little has been said about Christmas in Graz. The city goes full out in December and there is plenty to explore, from Christmas markets to traditional handicraft workshops and concerts.
Please note: This article appears in paid collaboration with VisitGraz as part of the #GrazAmbassadors project. Of course, this does not affect our opinion. We report our honest experiences without obligations. The article also contains affiliate links. Learn more about them on our Disclosure page.
Christmas in Graz – A Calendar
Christmas season, or otherwise known as Adventzeit to locals, begins already at the end of November (and gingerbread starts to appear in supermarkets already at the end of August). In fact, it’s so crucial to us, it’s even known as the 5th season. As a result, our social calendar tends to be packed during December and Graz offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the season.
- 20.11.2020: Opening of the nativity trail
- 22.11.2020: First ride on the advent tram
22.11.2020: The Christmas markets in Graz open
- 27.11.2020: The office for Christmas carols opens
- 28.11.2020: Opening of the ice nativity scene
- 28.11.2020: Lighting of the Christmas tree on the main square
29.11.2020: Krampuslauf(again in 2021)
- 01.12.2020: The first door of the Christmas calendar opens
On all advent Saturdays, public transport in Graz is free! And on Fridays, your one-hour ticket automatically turns into a 24-hour ticket.
1. Herrengasse & The Nativity Trail
Graz goes all out for Christmas and one of my favorite things are the upside-down Christmas trees strung up along Herrengasse. It was customary to hang trees upside down above dining tables in the old days when separate living rooms were not common. In fact, they were hung up similarly to how many cultures string up mistletoe to this day.
While you admire them, don’t miss the right turn into Stempfergasse which is home to an annual exhibition by the Diocese Museum Graz. It features an inviting red carpet paired with various nativity scenes you can admire while window shopping. The installations are generally accompanied by contemplative texts and invite you to stay awhile.
On Herrengasse, definitely don’t miss the shopwindow of Ferdinand Haller. It’s universally known for its exquisite tree ornaments dazzling the eye of window shoppers. Do pop in for a unique present!
2. The Advent Tram
If you get tired of walking from Christmas market to Christmas market, you can always hop on the Advent Tram and enjoy a different view of the city. The tram is easy to identify by its lavish twinkly light decorations and the ride is completely free!
You can embark/disembark at Hauptplatz, Südtiroler Platz, and Jakominiplatz. The ride takes approximately 30 minutes.
PS: If you are traveling with kids, they may also enjoy a ride on the popular Advent train. It runs between the various Christmas markets around town and helps you slow down amidst the hustle and bustle of the markets. Rides cost 2 EUR for adults and 1 EUR for children.
3. Office For Christmas Carols
Did you know that the popular Christmas song “Silent Night” was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber in the Austrian town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg in 1818? The Office for Christmas Carols on Sporgasse is the best point of contact to learn about this and many other traditional Christmas songs. Established by the Styrian Center for Folk Music, their directory contains about 30,000 entries. Stop by to learn about music and Styrian Christmas traditions!
4. The Ice Nativity Scene
The highlight for each Graz resident is the opening of the Ice Nativity Scene in late November/early December. You can find it in the Landhaus courtyard, skillfully illuminated and dazzling the eye with its glister. Although shortly-lived, this installation of 35 tons of ice is sure to leave a memorable impression.
5. Lighting Of The Christmas Tree
An important social event in our calendar is the lighting of the Christmas tree at Hauptplatz every year. This year, the ceremony takes place on the 28th of November, followed by the inaugural opening of the Ice Nativity Scene.
6. Krampuslauf (again in 2021)
If you haven’t grown up in central Europe, there is a good chance that you have never heard of the so-called Krampus. In folklore, Krampus is a creature described as “half goat, half demon” and truly frightening. He is the companion of St. Nicholas and opposed to his benevolent associate, Krampus punishes children who have behaved badly.
To get face-to-face with a Krampus as a tourist, it’s best to attend a traditional Krampuslauf. They occur in most towns around Styria on the so-called Krampusnacht, the evening of the 5th of December, and naturally also in Graz. It’s a procession of several young men dressed in traditional costume, roaming the streets. Sometimes you may see so-called Perchten, a local variation of the Krampus (but equally as terrifying).
This year, the Krampuslauf in Graz will take place on the 29th of November, between 16:00 and 18:00, along Herrengasse. With over 500 participants and thousands of spectators, expect a crowd. We recommend that you arrive early in order to get a good view of the procession.
7. Enchanted Forest
Although we certainly love Christmas markets, it’s good to take a break for the hustle and bustle, the drinking, and shopping. The Enchanted Forest at Schlossbergplatz offers the perfect reprieve. Marvel at the fairy tale scenes while you relax. And if you are traveling with kids, they will certainly enjoy a ride on the Fairy-tale Express just around the corner, inside the mountain.
Christmas Markets in Graz
For a relatively small city, Graz actually hosts a vast number of Christmas markets each year. There are two things I particularly love about them: For one, each market has a distinct flair to it which differentiates it from the others. Secondly, all Christmas markets in Graz are actually within walking distance from one another. For this reason, Christmas in Graz is also known as the advent of short strolls.
The biggest and best-known Christmas market in Graz is the market located on the main square, Hauptplatz. To me, it’s reminiscent of the Christmas market in front of city hall in Vienna, although not quite as expansive. Located in the hear of the center, it offers more than just the regular stalls with handicraft, glühwein, and food. You can marvel at the city’ official Christmas tree as well as the ginormous advent calendar projected onto city hall. Each day, another door opens just as in our chocolate calendars at home.
If you’re not familiar with advent calendars – each child (and many adults) receive a calendar before the 1st of December. Each subsequent day until Christmas eve we open one more door, revealing what is behind it. There can be any number of things behind the doors, ranging from poems, over chocolate, to beauty products. It’s a great souvenir to bring home!
Head to the tourist office to buy a very special advent calendar. This calendar seems very traditional at first – filled with chocolate. But each chocolate is filled with high-quality products from the Graz region, including local craft beer, honey, and more. The doors of the calendar show highlight from the region. What better way to reminiscence about Graz back home?
The market in the so-called Franciscan quarter is one of my favorite Christmas markets in Graz due to its location. Nestled tightly between the Franciscan church and buildings housing shops and restaurants, this market comes with a very intimate atmosphere.
Another plus is its proximity to Linzbichler, one of the best candy stores in Graz. I challenge you to resist to leave their shop without buying any of their incredible confectionaries!
The stalls around Franziskanerplatz close on the 24th of December, but re-open as a new year’s market on the 26th of December!
3. Kleine Neutorgasse
Just on the other side of the Franciscan church, you will find the Christmas market on Kleine Neutorgasse. This market is a big hit with kids as it features a brightly lit ferris wheel.
While you’re in the area, be sure to pop into Das Gramm. Das Gramm is a zero waste shop and a perfect place to buy any last-minute Christmas gifts without straining the earth’s resources. Here, you can also learn about the art of Furoshiki – wrapping Christmas gifts in cloth, rather than paper.
Glockenspielplatz (again in 2021), Färberplatz
For something completely different, head over to Mehlplatz. The stalls on Mehlplatz distinguish themselves from the others in the city through their modern design. Here, you can find local arts & crafts with a touch of modernism.
Just around the corner lies the Christmas market on Glockenspielplatz. It brazenly runs under the theme “Styria” which makes it the ideal place to shop for local products.
If you come at the right time, you can admire the famous Glockenspiel that the square is aptly named after. To learn more, read our blog posts about 35+ Things to Do in Graz. And just a few steps further, you can browse for handicraft and design on Färberplatz. On the weekends, you can enjoy live music while kids are invited to partake in creative activities.
Am Eisernen Tor (again in 2021)
The Christmas market at Eisernes Tor is hard to miss as all tram lines pass it, going in and out of the city. It’s easy to reach and very cozy with more than enough space for lingering, chatting over mulled wine, and enjoying the Christmas spirit. Speaking of the Christmas spirit, the stalls at this market are run by charitable organizations, and all proceeds are donated to their respective causes. Among others, you can find the Red Cross and animal welfare organizations.
The Christmas market on Tummelplatz is perhaps one of the most unique of its kind. While Austrian crafts dominate most of the other markets, on Färberplatz you can find trinkets from around the world. Browsing the items made from glass, leather, wood, and more is a sensory treat. If you’re feeling a bit chilly, you can invest in woolen goods from Peru. Shopping here for presents is always a delight.
On Karmeliterplatz you will find the Children’s Winterworld. It’s a cozy space for playing, crafting, singing, and simply spending time together. The big attraction, however, is the 1,000 m² ice skating rink dominating the square during winter. Rent yourself a pair of skates and glide onto the ice! Access to the rink costs 6 EUR while skate rental runs you 5 EUR (you will need to leave a deposit as well).
In case of bad weather, you best head to the Christmas market on Schlossberg. To get here, you can either walk or travel a little more comfortable by funicular or lift (the funicular is the most direct option). Once atop the hill, head into the casemates to discover this intimate Christmas market. It featured traditional handicraft and food products from Styria, accompanied by traditional Styrian folk music.
Best of all, at this Christmas market, you get to meet the Christkindl! While in many other countries Santa Clause delivers presents on the night of Christmas Eve, Christkind brings presents earlier the same evening. Be sure to snap a picture with her 🙂
Please note that this market is only open on the weekends.
9. Joanneum Quarter
A bite further from the hustle and bustle, you can find the Christmas market in the so-cllaed Joanneum Quarter. Today, it is a hotspot for history, art, and culture. Enjoy some mulled wine while the city’s creative scene entertains you with electronic beats every Friday and Saturday.
If you prefer it a bit calmer, come during the week and check out the „Stikh” Arts and Crafts Market. “Stikh” stands for the Styrian handicraft organization which provides a platform for local artists to showcase their crafts during Christmas. Those looking for traditional pieces will be disappointed as the market stands under the motto of creativity and individuality.
The Grieskindlmarkt (a play on the Austrian word for Christmas market – Christkindlmarkt) is unique as it is actually a neighborhood market initiated by a local business. The focus of the market lies on zero waste & sustainable products. On the weekends, you can attend workshops under the motto “home-made for Christmas”.
11. Südtirolerplatz &
Mariahilferplatz (again in 2021)
Finish off your stroll under the watchful eye of the “friendly alien”. At Südtirolerplatz, you’ll find the Steirerhütte hut which serves hearty Styrian meals to keep you warm and full. It’s just the last push you need to head over to Mariahilferplatz.
On Mariahilferplatz, you’ll find the Wonderland circus. Like a traveling circus, it embodies the funky atmosphere of the Lend district and offers a wonderful alternative Christmas experience. A rich music program rounds off the offer.
12. Advent auf der Insel
This last Christmas market I’d like to mention is not actually part of the main Christmas markets, but still within walking distance of them. Located on the Murinsel (Island in the Mur), this tiny market offers a cozy setting to shop for designer products.
What to Eat & Drink at the Christmas Markets in Graz (again in 2021)
An essential part of the Christmas market experience is obviously food and drink. Locals come to the Christmas markets not only to buy gifts, but also to meet colleagues, friends, or family over a cup of mulled wine. If you want to do the same, here is a selection of things you might want to try at a Christmas market in Graz:
- Schilcherglühwein: Schilcher is a wine grown exclusively in Western Styria and is also used to make mulled wine. It’s a kind of glühwine you won’t be able to get anywhere else, so be sure not to miss it!
- Glühmost: Did you know that Styria produces more apples than any other Austrian region? We love apples, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we would also enjoy them prepared as a hot beverage. Most is partially fermented apple juice and relatively low in alcohol. Glühmost is its hot variation.
- For food, you can find pretty much any Christmas market classics in Graz, ranging from waffles, over raclette, to langos, and more.
Be aware that you need to pay a depost for your cups at the Christmas markets. This cost is not included in the price, so don’t be surprised if you get charged 2 EUR extra. You can either keep the cup as a souvenir or return it for your depost at the end of your visit.
Other Christmas Activities in Graz
If strolling through the streets is not quite enough excitement for you or the glühwein is not enough to keep you warm, check out some of these indoor Christmas activities in Graz:
1. Craft Workshops
If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you may want to try and take advantage of one of the many craft & DIY workshops taking place around Graz before Christmas. These workshops are held in German and are visited by locals exclusively – a truly authentic experience for visitors!
We recommend having a look at the program of Oma’s Teekanne who offer workshops such as folding your own Christmas tree ornaments from paper. You can also check out Steirisches Volksliederwerk (https://www.steirisches-volksliedwerk.at/kurse_seminare.php?work_id=16) for a combination of crafting and Christmas carols! Common activities are the decorating of candles and gingerbread.
Please note that these workshops have limited places and that prior registration is necessary. Some workshops are free while others may charge a small fee.
Another workshop you can join is to learn how to create the traditional Austrian Adventskranz (Advent wreath). It is made of twigs of evergreens and topped with four candles, representing the passage of the four weeks of Advent in the liturgical calendar. Although bulky, your own traditional Advent wreath makes a fabulous Christmas souvenir from Graz.
You can find workshops like these around town. We recommend:
Now, what do you think? Which is your favorite Christmas market in Graz? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!