Can you smell the gingerbread, roasted chestnuts and glühwein yet? No? Then it’s time to book a trip to explore the Christmas markets in Salzburg
If the thought of buying Christmas presents in a crowded shopping centre sends you reaching for the smelling salts then how about soaking up the atmosphere at a traditional Christmas market in Austria’s stunning Alpine city of Salzburg.
There’s something very special about buying handcrafted Christmas gifts from candlelit wooden stalls in a snowy medieval square, especially if you have a glass of Glühwein (mulled wine) in your hand.
Some of the oldest Christmas markets are in Austria; Salzburg’s original Christmas Market dates back to the 15th century. Now Mozart’s birthplace boasts several markets so you have plenty to choose from.
At the main one this year in Cathedral Square over 100 artisans will be exhibiting and selling home-made gifts, beautifully carved decorations, candles, roasted chestnuts and gingerbread from November 19.
But you will need to save some space in your suitcase for the goodies on sale at the Hellbrunn Christmas Market at Hellbrunn Palace by the city gates and the Christmas Market on Mirabellplatz Square in front of the picturesque Mirabell Palace.
Each market offers its own distinct charm and character. The Hohensalzburg Fortress Christmas Market is worth the funicular ride alone for its stunning views over the city.
There is plenty of festive entertainment too. Performances by Salzburg choirs and children’s singing groups draw crowds. Having said that Salzburg is a magical musical city year round – as any Mozart or Sound of Music fan will agree.
A short taxi ride outside the city is the Oberndorf Christmas Market on Stille Nacht Platz, a favourite pilgrimage for Austrians and where the famous carol (Silent Night) was performed for the first time.
You can stroll through the narrow cobbled streets of Salzburg’s old town, wander around a magnificent rococo church, drop in on a Mozart concert and enjoy dinner in one of the many traditional restaurants.
If you want to extend your stay why not combine it with some gentle skiing.
Zell am See is a lively, picturesque village, one hour and 20 minutes from Salzburg, on the shore of Lake Zell. The lake freezes over during the winter so you can skate or walk across the frozen water taking in the views. Zell am See is packed with charm, offering lots of shops, bars and cafés and has a traffic-free centre.
It is also part of the neighbouring glacier resort of Kaprun which offers 138km of piste to suit all abilities and an attractive mix of open and densely wooded lower slopes and lots of cross country trails. Zell am See also has its own Christmas Market right in the pedestrianised centre.
For a seven-night break try Crystal Ski’s twin-centre holiday, departing December 12, priced from £612 per person. The package includes flights from Gatwick, all transfers, four-nights at the four-star Hotel Lebzelter with half board in Zell am See and three nights at the three-star Hotel Neutor with breakfast in Salzburg. For more information and to book visit www.crystalski.co.uk / 020 8939 0726