Austria’s original Christmas market, the Christkindlmarkt in Salzburg’s Old City, dates back to the 15th Century. As the first to open in November it heralds the official start of Advent. Lit by myriads of fairy lights and candles from around 100 pop-up markets, Salzburg paints a magical picture at this time of year, with the heady scent of glühwein and spiced apple in the air, and the sound of bells and carols ringing out to lift the spirit. A snowy mountain backdrop completes the festive scene.

Known as Tandlmarkt for the first half-millennium of its existence, the renamed Christkindlmarkt has never moved from the Cathedral & Residenz Square area. It makes a good starting point for any tour. Packed with artisan stalls offering locally-made gifts, festive decorations, and culinary treats, it is surrounded by many others in easy walking distance, each with its own specialty. Take a funicular ride to Hohensalzburg Fortress, for spellbinding views over the city and a market in the courtyard. The delightful Franziskischlössl in the Kapuzinerberg forest is only a short bus ride away and gives an equally lovely aerial view of the city. Its inner court is the perfect setting for a small market warmed by open fires. Make time for Hellbrunn Palace and its enchanting torchlit market; children adore the reindeer sleigh rides and the giant advent calendar.

SalzburgerLand has 119 municipalities and everyone embraces the Christmas spirit with most creating their own Christmas market. Charming Alpine villages in easy reach of the city include Oberndorf whose market is on Silent Night Square in front of the chapel where the Silent Night carol was first sung on Christmas Eve, 1818. An advent cruise from the lakeside resort of St Wolfgang calls at St Gilgen via the floating Peace Lantern and illuminated Oxen Cross. Combine Christmas markets and skiing at one of SalzburgerLand’s world-class resorts where markets open in December:  Saalbach, Zell am See, Grossarl, Bad Hofgastein, and many others.

The difficulty of travel this year is all the more reason to plan a Christmas Markets trip in SalzburgaLand for next.