All About Krampus

You might hear them before you see them. You might catch the wild jangling of bells, rhythmic banging of drums and heavy, stamping footfalls before the monstrous masks, gnarled horns and shaggy pelts come into view. Before you know it, you’re witnessing a throng of terrifying figures running into towns and through the streets, and then you realise: Krampus has arrived.

Krampus is St Nicholas’ creepy Christmas companion, whose job it is to punish and scare any misbehaving townsfolk while the well conducted receive their treats. During winter holidays in Austria, you can watch hundreds of these devilish figures during one of the country’s festive traditions: the Krampusnacht. For a handful of set nights in winter, local residents don their terrifying costumes and hand-carved masks to parade for spectators, attempting to scare their socks off in the spirit of Christmas.

Krampus celebrations take place all over Austria. Here are just four of our suggestions:

With some of Austria’s deepest snow for freeriding and a long November-May season, the ski region of Obertauern in SalzburgerLand is a paradise for winter sports mavens. Once darkness falls, the evenings are occupied with hearty food and cold Austrian beer in mountain huts, or romantic horse-drawn sleigh rides through the alpine landscape under a starlit sky. That is, until the Krampuses come. For one night in December, hundreds of Krampus parade across the pass summit towards the town square, where upon their arrival a grand party begins with music and dancing.

Further west into SalzburgerLand sits the beautiful area of Bad Gastein, famed for its fairytale feel, boutique spas and 200km of pristine ski slopes. Here, the Krampus tradition is a really key event within the community, with many native ‘Gasteiners’, having moved away since childhood, returning home to take part in the beloved custom. Come December, Gastein residents busy themselves by baking cookies, braiding baskets and weaving ropes in preparation for Krampus. On 5th and 6th, 80 to 100 of these devilish figures go door to door, accompanied by St Nicholas, his basket carrier and an angel. While St. Nicholas distributes biscuits and nuts to the well-behaved, Krampus frightens their naughtier counterparts and warns then to play nice next year.

Want to catch Krampus during a winter city break? Head to the city of Klagenfurt, Carinthia’s capital boasting Renaissance courtyards and art nouveau theatres, for the largest Krampus run in Austria. 50,000 visitors show up to see the horned beasts run 1.5km is their spine-chilling splendour. For a smaller scale yet exceedingly impressive Krampus run in an incomparably picturesque location, locals will recommend the lakeside market town of Velden am Wörthersee, which is just a half hour train ride away. 

Hop across the provincial border from Carinthia is Styria for Graz’s Krampus Run. Herrengasse, the city’s main street, is lined by beautiful buildings, with sweet cobbled alleys dipping in between shop fronts showcasing iridescent jewelry, handwoven fabrics and boutique cosmetics. But for one evening each winter, this charming thoroughfare becomes the gathering point for the city’s Krampus. Crowds gather here at dusk in anticipation of the horned demons, who, upon arrival, torment the spectators with their jangling chains and gnarled masks. 

High-res images are available to download below. For further information, please contact  eleanor.moody@austria.info.