Starting from the end of November, the city of Graz in Austria turns into a true Christmas wonderland.

While it's almost impossible to escape the artistically decorated shop windows and twinkling Christmas decorations around Graz, the true stars of the season are the city's 15 Christmas markets.

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As they lie perfectly within walking distance of one another, it almost seems as though the entire city center melts into one giant Christmas wonderland.

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Traditional Christmas decorations are sold at markets all across Graz. © Graz Tourism

Christmas at Graz’s Main Square

The Christmas Market in front of Graz City Hall enchants with its stately backdrop. Because of its central location in Graz's Old Town, this has traditionally been the most touristy and crowded market by far, but it's popular for a reason. It offers everything a Christmas market should and is home to delightful stalls that are a treasure trove for traditional handicrafts, hand-made decorations, souvenirs, culinary treats, and warm drinks.

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One of Graz's biggest Christmas Markets is located on the city's Main Square. © Foto Fischer / Graz Tourism

One of the highlights of this Christmas Market is that it is home to Graz's official Christmas tree. The tall tree, encrusted with around 25,000 lights, always radiates a festive glow over the market. You can also marvel at the colossal advent calendar, which is projected onto the facade of the City Hall. Each day, a new door is "opened" to great excitement as the countdown to Christmas gets closer.

Graz’s Nativity Trail

Nativity scenes rank among the prettiest and most fundamental aspects of the Christmas season, and Graz takes them seriously. After all, it is home to an impressive 35-ton ice nativity scene. Hardly any event is more anticipated than its opening in the Landhaus courtyard each winter. Stylishly illuminated, it is a fantastic sight in the evening.

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Every year, Graz displays a nativity scene carved from 35 tons of ice. © Harry Schiffer / Graz Tourism

The ice crib, as it is sometimes called, is just the beginning. On a casual stroll along the red-carpet-lined nativity trail, walkers will discover an abundance of nativity scenes in shop windows on Graz's Stempfergasse. It's the perfect opportunity to admire, contemplate, and window-shop at the same time!

Unique Christmas Markets in Graz

While the Christmas market at the city's Main Square is undoubtedly the most popular of the 15 markets in Graz, many are drawn instead to the smaller and cozier Christmas markets around town. In fact, during Christmas, almost every square in the city center hosts its own Christmas market. Visitors have the choice of browsing the stalls at Eisernes Tor, Glockenspielplatz, Franziskanerplatz, Mehlplatz, Färberplatz, and Tummelplatz. The latter is known for its Bohemian vibe, offering goods from around the world.

The museum quarter in Graz, also known as Joanneumsviertel, is home to two unique Christmas markets every year. "Stikh" Arts and Crafts Market in the Joanneum Quarter is remarkable in that only local, hand-made goods are sold at its stalls.

Schlossberg, the towering tree-clad hill which dominates the center of Graz, is the setting for one of the city's most popular Christmas markets. Taking place in and around the beautifully decorated casemates, this is the best market to visit in the event of inclement weather. The market's charming setting and festive atmosphere are an absolute delight. From here, one can enjoy fantastic panoramic views of Graz while sipping on mulled wine or munching on candied almonds. And, at this Christmas market, it is possible to meet the traditional bringer of gifts in Austria, Christkind.

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Graz's Schlossberg hill hosts one of the city's many Christmas markets. © Harry Schiffer / Graz Tourism

Christmas activities in Graz for families

Those looking for a little more action during Christmastime would do well to stop by Karmeliterplatz. The square turns into a giant ice rink, where kids and adults alike flock to skate each year. In addition, children are well-entertained in the adjacent kids' tent with activities such as puppet shows, storytelling, cookie baking, and singing children's songs.

Another Christmas market popular among families is located in Kleine Neutorgasse, its biggest attraction being a colorfully illuminated Ferris wheel. And if that is not enough excitement, the "enchanted forest" at Schlossbergplatz is another great Christmas destination in Graz for families.

Graz’s Office for Christmas Carols 

Austrians have always taken Christmas seriously. After all, one of the most beloved Christmas carols worldwide, "Silent Night," was born in a tiny village in the Austrian state of Salzburg. Graz opened the Office for Christmas Carols to honor this and many other traditional pieces of music. You can easily pop in to visit as it is located only a few steps from the Main Square to browse their massive directory, ask questions, and learn more.

Christmas on the western side of Graz

Traditionally, Graz is split into two parts on either side of the river Mur. While the east has historically been the more affluent part of the city and the west considered more of a working-class area, much has changed over the last few decades.

Today, the western district of Lend is a hotspot for modern design. Its epicenter is the every-friendly alien, the Museum of Modern Art (Kunsthaus). In the winter, its facade illuminates the surrounding Christmas markets on Südtirolerplatz and Mariahilferplatz. Each year, the latter is home to a traveling Christmas circus known as Wonderlend.

Only a few steps further down the river, just crossing over into the district of Gries, lies the so-called "Grieskindlmarkt" on Nikolaiplatz. This Christmas market is dedicated entirely to zero waste & sustainable products.

Christmas Tram & Christmas Train in Graz

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The trams in Graz are decorated for the Advent season. © Harry Schiffer / Graz Tourism

Although Graz is known for its plethora of "short strolls," one can always take a break from walking on one of the city's Christmassy rides. Families with children may want to opt for the Christmas train, which conveniently runs between all the markets around town. The intricately decorated Christmas tram, on the other hand, takes you on a short 30-minute ride around the city center.

Sponsored by Graz Tourism

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This story was crafted collaboratively between Graz Tourism and Lonely Planet. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.

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