(Editor’s note: The original version of this post was part of Dispatches’s Alpha test content last December. We’re reposting it here with updated information so you don’t miss it this Christmas season. The 2016 event runs 2 December through 4 December.)
Pigs roasting on spit, coin minting and hand-making arrows for archery are not the first things that come to mind when you think of Christmas markets.
A different twist on the Christmas Market is coming next weekend to Kaserne Arsenal, a former military base in southeast Vienna that is now the Museum of Military History (Heeresgeschichtlichs Museum).
There, artisans demonstrate how shoes used to be made, how writing and creating illustrations were done with feather and ink, how coins were minted and how food was cooked using open fire in the Middle Ages. The historic presentations were complete with the Middle Ages outfits of the sellers, many of whom seemed to be from the nearby country of Slovakia.
Surprisingly, some market visitors join the dress-up fun. In case you don’t have any Middle Ages-appropriate clothing in your own closet, you can purchase them at the market. All made of wool, cotton and leather materials, no synthetics in site. At least not for sale at the numerous stands.
Oh, let me not forget the sounds of bag pipe filling the air to complete the experience. And open fires to warm the hands.
I visited in 2015 on a lovely sunny day with blue skies, but with enough cold pinch to warrant getting the mandatory Christmas Market hot spiced wine. One finds not only trinkets to admire and perhaps even buy as Christmas presents, but also other Christmas Market and Vienna enthusiasts.
A few comments on the meat cooked on the spit: I had to try it more for the idea, rather than the love of meat (it was not all that great). But in the process, I ended up sharing a two-hour conversation with a new Canadian friend. More about that in a minute.
No one can say the Christmas Market offerings in Vienna are stale, with the Middle Ages market taking place among the more traditional fairytale versions at the Viennese Rathaus (the City Hall), the royal palace Schönbrunn, or in the Austrian pilgrim town of Mariazell (for a flavor of Christmas of how it used to be).
With something always going on in Vienna, it is as easy to find the gem events like this (since they are highly advertised) as it is to miss them.
(Since you hear about them coming up but with the competition of other great events, it is easy to forget about that particular you had in mind by the time it comes around. Hence, why we’re telling you about it now.)
Also, the Kaserne Arsenel market only runs three days, unlike the other Christmas markets across Europe, which might be open into January, 2017.
While I had forgotten that I had read the Middle-Ages market would be coming up since I saw the ad for it, and was only reminded while sitting in a nearby park and seeing people dressed up in historic outfits passing me by.
Sue from Canada came looking for it. The retired scientist visits every year with her husband for a dose of cultural offerings of the city and invited her landlady in Vienna to join her at the market this time. As Sue points out, it is difficult not to find something interesting happening in the city.
For busy working people, it is easy to stay home and miss out on a lot of what the city has to offer. With time and desire to explore, Sue seems to be the perfect person to get a few more tips on where to go.
When I go the Café Sperl that she raved about, I will have to tell you about it in a post.
After all, Sue made an excellent choice on that weekend at the Middle Ages market in Vienna in early December.
Heeresgeschichtliches Museum Adventmarket
Arsenal 18, 1030 Vienna
02 December 2016
14:00 hours – 22:00 hours
03 December 2016
10:00 am – 10:00 pm
04 December 2016
How to get there:
Public: trams 18, D, O, Buses 13A, 69A, Subways U1 (Südtirolerplatz) or U3 (Schlachthausgasse) or Express Train (Schnellbahn) to station Südbahnhof Address and Info How to Get to Heeresgeschichtliches Museum via Public