There’s a lot to do and see in Salzburg during the weeks leading up to Christmas. From the end of November, Advent is marked by festivities in streets, platzes, concert halls and restaurants. Here are the top three Salzburg Christmas traditions.
‘Er kommt, er kommt!’ is the cry heard when Krampus roams abroad. ‘He is coming, he is coming!’ The shaggy, horned creature, usually very tall with a hideously terrifying face, accompanies St Nikolas visiting children around 6 December. By tradition, Krampus acts as a kind of enforcer, the monster who scares children while St Nikolas encourages them.
Throughout the region, specialised clubs spend the year creating elaborate Krampus costumes and preparing for their annual ‘Krampus run’. On pre-announced dates and routes, they gather in large groups, jangling large bells, pounding drums and doing their best to scare the daylights out of spectators, young and old. On dark, narrow streets, amid thunderous noise and large crowds, Krampus is, indeed, terrifying. One of the best Krampuslaufen put on by Barmstoana Perchten and Krampusses, to be held on Linzergasse (Right Bank) beginning at 5 p.m. on 5 December. Dates and times of other Krampuslaufen and Perchten (similar to Krampus but later in the month) runs can be found at here.
Salzburg is a city of music, year round, so Christmastime offers a wealth of concerts. Particularly beloved are the Adventsingen, concerts featuring choruses and soloists performing traditional and folk Christmas music along with seasonal readings. Performers generally wear Trachten, the traditional regional dress, and perform on traditional instruments. Concerts are held from late November through mid-December at a variety of venues around the city.
Possibly the most famous of these concerts is held in the Großen Festspielhaus (Large Festival Hall), home to performances during summer’s Salzburg Festival. This 65-year-old show is not the oldest of the Adventsingen, but it may be the most beloved. What’s more, it offers an opportunity to see the inside of this beautiful venue. Information about this and other Advent concerts can be found here.
Advent brings Christmas markets throughout the region, and many of Salzburg’s have already opened. These markets vary in size, duration and focus, but all offer a chance to get in the holiday spirit while browsing an extraordinary array of gifts, decorations, handcrafts and, especially, tempting food and drink.
Salzburg’s largest Christmas market, known as the Christkindlmarkt, is in full swing in the city’s historic core, spread between Residenzplatz and Domplatz. Here you’ll find gifts of all kind, artisanal schnapps, cookies and other seasonal delicacies, traditional decorations and lots to eat.
Steps away on the Altermarkt is another Christmas market, this one filled with stalls run by charity organisations to raise funds. There’s plenty to sample. Enjoy Gühlwein or Punsch. Try Ofenkartoffel—jacket potatoes with fillings—and Bauernkrapfen—a kind of donut with either sweet filling or sauerkraut.
One of my favourite Christmas markets is tucked away in the Sternbrau courtyard off Getreidegasse. Stern Advent Market is small, but it’s notable for its unusual selection of traditional and contemporary gifts. There are woodcrafts, ceramic ware, antique fabric and lace and woollen wear. This market is worth seeking out.
Other markets are located around the city and its environs. A list with dates and times can be found here.
Photo by Flickr user Shadowgate: Christmas shoppers near the Dom, Salzburg.