Getting away for a weekend break during the festive season is more than just an opportunity to put off your Christmas shopping for another few days and prepare your digestion for another onslaught of mince pies and turkey. Experiencing the way another country celebrates at this time of the year is an excuse to eat, drink, shop and be very merry!
There are few cultures that know how to mark the Christmas period quite like the Austrians, and the beautiful lakeside town of Zell am See knows how to do it in style.
So get your glühwein glasses on and get ready to believe in Christmas all over again…
Markets, Mulled Wine and Winter Magic
One of the most popular European traditions is the Christmas Market, and almost every city, town and village will put on some kind of event during the period. Zell am See is no exception and theirs is the highlight of the annual celebratory calendar.
Every week from the middle of November until the end of December (over four weekends), the Zell Starry-advent Market enchants locals and visitors with its magical, winter wonderland ambience. Set in the forecourt of the local congress centre, there’s endless delicious winter-warmer food, fabulous beers and wine (including the famous mulled spicy Glühwein) and plenty of entertainment.
Don’t miss out on the traditional festive gastronomic delicacies like:
- Fresh-baked cookies
- Roasted almonds
- Ganslsuppe (goose soup)
- Bröselknödel (breadcrumb dumplings)
- Rotkraut (red cabbage)
- Erdäpfelknödel (potato dumplings)
- Sekttorte (delicious filled pudding)
- Home brewed beer
- ‘Market’ goulash
- Gingerbread (saved the best until last!)
The market stalls are set in a circular ‘village’ of more than 25 separate little huts, and strolling around the enchanting snow covered markets is an absolute joy – and very romantic. You might even want to bring out your inner-child and have a ride on the gorgeous vintage carousel. Nobody will judge…
Aside from the food stalls there are also numerous musical events and other entertainment, as well as lots of little arts and crafts vendors where you can pick up some unique souvenirs or gifts to take home. There’s your Christmas shopping done!
Located in the Ferry Porsche Congress Center Platz from November 19th. Thursdays and Fridays 3-8pm, Saturday and Sundays 12noon-8pm, Christmas Eve 10am-2pm.
The Krampus Procession
The somewhat scary tradition of the Krampus is great fun, and without small children to placate you’ll really be able to appreciate it in all its ghoulishness!
The Krampus is the opposite of Santa Claus (or St Nicholas) and is brought out every year to threaten children into good behaviour! So, good kids get presents and bad kids get…a visit from the Krampus. You get the picture. While it really does have the potential to terrify small children, this ancient local tradition is all in the spirit of fun and creates an amazing and, at times, raucous atmosphere.
Dozens of locals dress up in outlandish, devilish costumes and masks (making themselves look as hideous as possible) and parade themselves through the streets, threatening the crowds of onlookers with bunches of birch branches.
While, at times, it appears some of these amateur Krampus impersonators may be fired up with a healthy dose of festive cheer (aka Jägermeister), if you’re looking to break the Internet, try posting a few selfies amidst this motley crew and you’ll be on the right track.
Terrifying and hilarious at the same time!
Join the Festivities
As well as the markets and the Krampus processions, depending on when you’re here, there are a number of other events to look forward to as well this year:
- Advent steam train to Mittersill & boat trip – December 19th
- Starry advent boat cruise on Lake Zell – December 19th
- Musical event: “Es wird schon ruhig um den See” – December 19th
- Zeller Christkind visits the Starry Christmas market – December 20th
- Adventrorate (Musical event) – December 24th
- Waiting for the Christkind (musical event) – December 24th
- Charity ice skating event, Kinderkrebshilfe – December 24th
- Christmas steam train to Mittersill – December 24th
- Christmas boat cruise on Lake Zell – December 24th
- Christmas concert event, Thumersbach – December 24th
- Christmas singing of the Liedertafel Zell am See – December 24th
If you fall in love with Zell am See and want to plan a longer return visit, this article provides some great information about the town and surrounds in both summer and winter.
How to Get to Zell am See
Even during the busy festive period, getting to Zell am See is not difficult. From the UK, you can choose to fly in to either to Munich, Vienna or Salzburg airports, which takes on average just under two hours. A number of budget carriers offer cheap flights to the region, and you can fly from London Gatwick to Salzburg Airport (which is the most common route) with easyJet for as little as £35.
Whatever airport you choose, the easiest and fastest way of completing your onward journey is with a pre-booked private or shared transfer from Shuttle Direct. From Salzburg Airport, the picturesque drive to Zell am See takes around an hour and 20 minutes, so you can be out on the slopes or joining in the festivities in no time.
If you’ve got a long weekend and decide you want the romance of overland travel by train, you can take the Eurostar to Brussels, connect to the high-speed train to Salzburg then on to Zell am See. Pre-book a fixed price Shuttle Direct transfer to meet you at the train station and take you the rest of the way to your accommodation.
Where to Stay
Seevilla Freiberg – With an unbeatable location on the shores of Lake Zell, Seevilla Frieberg is the perfect place for a short break during the festive season, with contemporary rooms, free Wi-Fi and stunning views. Walking distance from the town centre and ski lifts, you’ll come home from the slopes to a relaxing sauna or steam bath, then enjoy fine dining on the lakeside winter terrace.
Hotel Glasererhaus – Five minutes from the lake and 200 metres from the ski lifts, the Hotel Glasererhaus offers everything you need to enjoy a relaxing winter break. With an onsite wellness centre, spacious comfortable rooms with balconies, free Wi-Fi and within minutes of a gym and restaurants, the extra friendly personal service from the host offers a wonderfully warm winter welcome.
Hotel St George – Stylish, elegant and with an excellent location within proximity of the cable car, the Hotel St George offers a refined country estate ambience with modern touches like free Wi-Fi. Blending tradition and character with contemporary luxury, you can enjoy hearty breakfasts, fine dining and local wines from the cellar, and immerse in the facilities of the onsite spa centre’s saunas, sunbeds and massage treatments.
About Shuttle Direct
If you’re looking for the most convenient and reliable airport transport provider in Europe and North Africa, you’ve found it in Shuttle Direct. Every day, thousands of travellers entrust us with their onward transport arrangements from airports, train stations and cruise ports, and our fixed price service means you’ll never pay more than you should.
Make an online booking through our easy to navigate system and, with shared and private services to suit any budget, you’ll have confirmation of all your transfers before you leave home.