Christmas Markets are the main reason to visit Vienna from mid-November to late December. The Austrian capital, definitely, sparkles during this period as Christmas Markets create a magic and dreamy atmosphere throughout the city. Strolling and shooting photos around becomes really a unique experience.
Each Christmas Market brings festive and colorful cheer into city's squares, cobbled streets or courtyards. Most of Christmas Markets in Vienna open between 10 and 11 am. Being there at this time will assure you to avoid the usual afternoon and evening crowds. This means you can shoot photos in a more relaxed atmosphere and take your time to wonder around and check what is worth to shoot for your pleasure without too much stress around.
Always be nice and polite with sellers by asking them for permission for shooting photos of their stall. During my frequent visits in the various Christmas Markets, always I found nice people who allowed me to shoot photos of their stalls after asking for permission. Avoid to shoot if there are many visitors and buyers at the stall. If there's really something worth to shoot there try to go somewhere else and come back later.
Daylight will also assure you to keep lower ISO levels in your camera. Shoot details of colorful Christmas decorations and crafts on sale in the single stalls with low aperture in order to have a nice blurred background. Being the objects often too close each other you will avoid to have a messy photo as final result. Also, by shooting with a low aperture you can set a more reasonable ISO level. Morning time is also the best moment if you think of shooting with a tripod as it would be very difficult and tedious (for you and, honestly, for the visitors as well) by night when crowd around you can be really impressive and annoying. If you think of shooting at night remember that is getting dark already at 4 PM during the Christmas Markets' period.
Dress warmly as it can really get cold in Vienna under Christmas, particularly at night. Cold weather might inhibit the normal performance of the battery inside your camera and though the energy level shows hall full it can be dead completely just a few minutes later. So, always remember to bring an additional battery with you.
These are my three favorite Vienna Christmas Markets.
Rathausplatz is home to the most famous and largest Christmas market in town. About 150 variegated and colorful stalls selling every Christmas good you may have in mind, from wood nutcrackers to Santa Claus puppets, from mulled wine to sweet pretzel pastries. Beside the market, you can shoot (best at night) the giant maple tree adorned with hundreds of glowing red hearts and the Rathaus (City Hall) building behind. Also local people or tourists having mulled wine at the food and drink stand is a good photo option. For a great night view over the illuminated market, its sparkling neon signs and the Gothic style Rathaus building as massive background, just head to the close Burgtheatre simply by crossing Ringstrasse where the tram stop is located and from the top of its staircase you will get the best picture of Rathausplatz Christmas Market.
Freyung is the oldest Christmas Market in Vienna as dates back to 1772. Located in a small triangular square and surrounded by elegant baroque style buildings, this Christmas Market detains a special atmosphere due also to the picturesque small wooden cottages shape stalls that reserve almost an alpine touch in the very heart of Vienna. Stalls selling typical Austrian delicatessen as sausages and traditional cheese give a mere touch of authenticity to this Market and this is enough to name it as my favorite Christmas Market in town. Look for the lovely mountain hut shape stall selling every kind of Christmas baubles to get a lovely photo.
The small Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace is worth for a visit to shoot the beautiful view across the small lake with dozens of star shape lights emerge from and Upper Belvedere palace in the background. Come here at dusk for the best light. Don't forget the tripod and remember to keep off the grass next to the lake despite your strong temptation to set your tripod right there! Most of stalls at Upper Belvedere Christmas Market sale the usual and typical Christmas crafts and decorations. Being quite far away from the city center is not that crowded at night.