I could write a whole blog on Vienna but I’m assuming that quite a lot of people have visited already, and certainly plenty of writers have covered it far more extensively and interestingly than I could, so this travel guide is more focused on the markets which spring up in Vienna over Easter (Ostermarkt), which are a beautiful and uplifting addition to the city at what can be a grey and chilly time of year.
You can expect the exact location of all the market stalls to change from time to time, but generally there will be several small markets around the main city centre plus larger ones at the Schönbrunn Palace, the Freyung, and the Am Hof square. Frankly I was disappointed to discover that Austria is yet another European country that doesn’t go full-on with chocolate eggs like the UK does, but once I’d calmed down I reasoned that you can get that stuff at home anyway; there are plenty of other sights and delights on offer at the Viennese Easter markets which are unique to Austria, and that is after all the point of coming here, so let’s get into it.
First things first; BE CAREFUL when visiting the Easter markets. Many of the items on sale are very lightweight and easily breakable, but are expensive to buy – and if you break them, you will have to buy them. Namely, I’m talking about the natural eggshells which are hollowed out and hand-painted for use as Easter decorations. I didn’t even attempt to buy any of these and carry them home on the plane but best of luck to you if you’re daring enough to try.
A much safer bet are the wooden decorations; these are also hand-painted but thicker and sturdier, and stall-keepers will wrap them up thoroughly if you request it. Some stalls also offer Lebkuchen rabbits, the delicious traditional German gingerbread usually reserved for Christmas cookies, so grab one of those as well for a taste of the German Christmas markets. Like the hollow painted eggshells, these biscuits may also not last ’til the plane journey home, but for different reasons.
The Easter market on the Freyung is a good place to start; not too many stalls but they’re bursting with thousands of individually painted Easter decorations, candles and crafts. Also enjoy the enormous rotating Easter egg, itself hand-painted. You can spend a fair bit of time here just slowly wandering around and taking everything in, the level of detail on many of the intricate decorations is incredible and deserves a good stare to be appreciated fully. This market is a treat for photographers, although as mentioned you’d be wise to keep your distance and just wait for a quiet time to use your zoom lens; all it takes is for the strap of your camera or equipment bag to brush past a single one of the eggs on display and you’re immediately down €10.
The market at the Am Hof square has far less of these hand-painted eggs and less decadent displays, but offers more in the way of food, including the aforementioned Lebkuchen rabbits and heart biscuits. You can also pick up traditional Viennese street food, mostly made of cheese and potatoes, would recommend. Other than that, there are plenty of craft stalls, and even more candles and wooden decorations. It takes less time to get around this market for shopping, but there are tables provided here for all the street food so you can still hang around and enjoy some nibbles. Well, I say nibbles; we ordered Kartoffel (which just means potato so you never quite know what you’re going to get) expecting some form of chips and received one enormous mass of battered potato about the size of a large pizza, spent a good amount of time just tackling that between three of us.
Schönbrunn Palace is a sight in itself, but for the Easter market it may be best to visit during a year when Easter is later in the Spring and the weather is warmer; when we were there we couldn’t enjoy the floral displays because the flowers were, erm, too cold, and were fenced off from visitors. Also enjoy the Roman ruins around the back of the palace, which are not really Roman ruins but apparently Roman ruins were in fashion around the time the palace was built so they made some fake Roman ruins and stuck them in the garden to look stylish. As you do.
The market at the palace probably features more jewellery and accessories than the other markets; some stalls don’t really have much focus on Easter, which is actually quite welcome if you’ve already been to the other markets and don’t fancy seeing the exact same items for sale again. This is actually fairly common for European Christmas markets, just having the same hats and candle holders and ornaments on every market scattered around the city, so it’s nice that the Easter markets in Vienna mix things up a bit, and it’s actually worth travelling around to visit them all.
As a little bonus, I would recommend visiting the Prater amusement park at this time of year, when the rides are closed but the grounds are still open for the public; it’s needlessly chilling on a grey day, like wandering around an abandoned theme park. Kind of ruins the joyful spring Easter vibes but depends what you’re into, I enjoyed it.
Lastly, I’m sure you can find a hundred other blogs detailing all the sights to see in Vienna and endless restaurant recommendations, but whenever you visit Vienna you should be sure to indulge in the wonderful ‘cake and cocktails’ culture which you can find in many central and eastern European countries. My favourite spot was Gelateria Castelletto, in the north of the city centre by the Danube, an absolute delight to pop into after dinner for a drink and a Viennese Sachertorte. Or a banana split. Or a crêpe. A glorious way to finish off your tour of the Vienna Easter markets.
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