Further out from Vienna, past Grafenegg and Göttweig, towering majestically over the Danube river you can find the ruins of Aggstein Castle. You can see it in the distance perched on top of a rock when you take the boat up the Danube, and with such a location the views are spectacular. There are only a few parking spots actually at the castle, so most visitors will have to park at the foot of the hill. There is a shuttle bus going up the castle or you can walk up the hill which is quite steep, though well-surfaced. We took the bus up but walked down, which took about half an hour. Since the market is only open on weekends in November, it is quickly full. When we arrived at around 11 AM, there was still plenty of parking and we got a space on the bus straight away. After our visit, returning to the car at about 3PM, the parking area was full and the queue for the bus was huge. So I strongly recommend to go there before lunch, also because you can get plenty of very tasty food there anyway.
I have wanted to visit this castle since I saw it from below on a boat trip from Krems to Melk. So when I heard there was a Christmas market, which must be the earliest market in the region, I had to visit it. Most other markets start around mid-November, but this one runs from the beginning of the month and only for November. For the last few years November has been quite warm and again was unusually so this year. Snow in November is not uncommon in Austria, but for this visit to Aggstein it was 20°C and glorious sunshine.
Driving along the Danube, through the area known as the Wachau is always nice, but if the weather is sunny you get to enjoy the best of this picturesque region and the spectacular views from the ruin itself. The castle greets you with many stalls of food and crafts, though it’s immediately obvious that this is more of a medieval market than a Christmas one. There are festive crafts and decorations, but all the sellers and staff are dressed in medieval outfits and you can get yourself a longbow or a sword just as easily as your next ornament for the Christmas tree.
The smells of caramel almonds and pita bread with bacon waft around you as you are walk into the courtyard. There, the sounds of a medieval band just complete the scene, giving a flavour of the sights, sounds and smells of a bygone age. If you are not too afraid of heights, it’s time to climb up the outside of the castle. There are many paths that lead up the different towers, and you should definitely explore them all. From the highest elevation you have a fantastic view over the ruin with the Danube and the valley stretched out below.
Inside, you find the usual Christmas ornaments, but also everything from tools made out of chocolate, mediaeval clothes and a rat race. You shouldn’t miss the Nibelung exhibition and the chapel either. Back outside, there is an ox being roasted, which is served in a bun and is extremely yummy, deer burger, coffee and great poppy seed rolls. If the view from the castle isn’t enough, you can rock-climb further up, or even try your hand at archery. You might even feel the need for a sword or bow and arrow to take home. I was tempted, but held back.
All in all, this has quickly risen up to be one of my favourite Christmas markets, because it’s the perfect combination of location and choice of products. The latter are special enough to make it memorable and distinguish it from other markets. You never need wonder ‘oh, where did I see those medieval dresses?’ One thing I’m sure of is that I will go back there.
7. / 8. & 14. / 15. & 21. / 22. November 2015
Sa und So: 10:00 – 19:00 Uhr
Bus fees: One way 1,5 EUR, Round trip 2EUR
Entry fees: 4,5 EUR Adult