Vienna is home to many outdoor markets. Some are seasonal, like the Christmas market at Karlsplatz and the Ostermarkt (Easter Market) at Schönbrunn. Others, like the famous Naschmarkt, run year-round, rain or shine.
I was told by locals and tourists alike to make it a point to visit these markets. And so I did. For several weeks now, visiting some market or another has been a favorite activity of mine.
One cold Saturday I made my way to Vienna’s most famous year-round market, the Naschmarkt. I specifically wanted to go on a Saturday to see the flohmarkt (flea market), which is not held during the week. But, boy, was it busy! I didn’t walk through the market, I was carried along by the crowd. There were all kinds of cool stands to look at as I drifted past.
The market spans the distance between Karlsplatz and Kettenbrückengasse, the next Ubahn station, with the flea market stretching beyond that. On the Karlsplatz side there are many small cafes and stands catering to the tourist crowd. They house handsome arrangements of olive oil or homemade mustard but aren’t the place to find a good deal.
As you go deeper into the market, you start to see lots of Turkish food stands. That’s what they are called here. They sell hummus and fresh olives and spices, even dates stuffed with walnuts. I think back home we would call them “Mediterranean food stands.” Everything there looked delicious. I wasn’t brave enough to fight the crowd and buy something, but there were plenty of opportunities. I think I must have passed 30 similar stands.
After that, there was the flohmarkt. While not as big as some flea markets I have been to, this one was decent size. Most of the stalls were selling a variety of Austrian antiques that were fun just to look at. There were a few others with more of a garage sale vibe that would have been great, had I needed any random articles of clothing, etc.
The atmosphere at Naschmarkt was a bit hectic on Saturday morning, but it was also energizing. Lots of people talk about how Vienna can feel sleepy, even with everything going on. There was no time for sleepiness at Naschmarkt. I enjoyed going there just to be part of the bustling crowd and smell all of the spices.
You may have noticed that I didn’t really buy anything while I was visiting Naschmarkt. The prices at some of the stalls were fairly decent, but I was too caught up in the crowd to stop. For actual food-buying and a more local market, I went to Brunnenmarkt. This one isn’t a tourist market. It’s a local, multi-ethnic market. Here you can buy eggs, meat, vegetables, you name it. While it was still crowded on Saturday morning, I managed to stop at a few stands and snag some good deals, including 1 Euro pita bread.
What I liked about this market was the authentic vibe. You could hear people meeting their neighbors, and it was clear that this was a Saturday tradition for many. My vaguely confused looks might have prevented me from blending in completely, but I still felt in touch with local culture. Like I was one step closer to being someone who has a full-time life in Vienna, not just someone who is passing through.
As the sun peaks out from behind the clouds, it has finally begun to look like Spring. And in Vienna this means it is time for the Schönbrunn Ostermarkt! Since this is a seasonal market, it is a special occasion for everyone. My friend Lucie and I went Saturday afternoon (because Saturday is market day, if you couldn’t tell). Part of the area in front of Schönbrunn palace had been filled with booths selling snacks, crafts, and other artesian delights. It was decorated with giant Easter eggs filled with real flowers. For the kids, there were games and a guy in a chicken suit walking around. As we explored the market, we passed a pretzel stand selling the most delicious looking pretzels.
The Ostermarkt was an entirely different kind of market, but exceptionally fun. I especially enjoyed the beautiful setting and decorations. And I think it added some Spring freshness to my market repertoire.
For me, shopping at the market isn’t about the practical aspects or the goods being sold. Every market I visit is a new experience. That’s what it is really about, the atmosphere, the people, the smells, just going to have a good time. And I always have a fantastic time. Everyone who told me that I had to check out Vienna’s markets was absolutely right.