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Advent in Austria, St. Johann im Pongau

Fly direct from Edinburgh or London 

Spend the days leading up to Christmas in Maria Alm where the advent customs of an Alpine regions  towns and villages are the perfect antidote to the pre-Christmas rush. Be part of authentic advent traditions whilst visiting the Christmas markets, the magnificent baroque city of Salzburg and famous Gastein valley, nestled in the imposing nature of the Salzburg Alps.

We visit Oberndorf, learn the history of the famous carol Silent Night that originated here and visit the church of the composer Franz Xaver Gruber. We enjoy a morning horse -drawn sleigh ride from Filzmoos and witness the Krampuslauf, also known as the 'Horned God Run,' although Pagan, this was assimilated into Christianity and since the 11th century, Krampus has slowly morphed into a creature who works with St. Nicholas to capture children who misbehave.

With so many extras included you will be able to enjoy the sounds of church bells, traditional carols and festive brass band music with the smell of fresh cinnamon from Christmas treats and bubbling gluhwein as you wander the traditional Christmas markets. The emphasis is more on traditional clothing from local woolens, handicrafts, wood carvings and nativity scenes reflecting the true meaning of Christmas. We invite you to join us for our unspoiled celebration at this special time of the year.



  1. Travel to Austria (D, DR)

    Arrival at Munich Airport from Edinburgh and London. You will be met on arrival by your Tour Manager Katherine Schmidt and escorted to your coach for a drive to the Hotel Brückenwirt in St. Johann im Pongau for a seven-night stay on a half board basis. They will assist you with check-in and familiarising yourself with your resort. As today is the first advent Sunday, you will witness the advent crown lighting ceremony by the hotel owner with a short reading on Advent traditions. We then enjoy dinner in hotel followed by tea or coffee.

    Key to symbols: D = Dinner, DR = Drink 

  2. St Johann (B, D)

    In the morning take the chance for a guided walk with an included tour of The Pongau Cathedral followed by worship (transfer to the Cathedral can be arranged at the time. This will be at own cost). Overlooking the Salzach Valley, the two-towered parish church with Gothic woodwork was first mentioned in 924. After, stop for lunch in one of the restaurants (not included), and enjoy the town‘s shops and boutiques as well as the various gondolas and ski-lifts for magnificent views. You will be given a detailed city map in order to find your way back home in case you wish to walk on your own. In the afternoon take your time to relax and enjoy the hotel‘s facilities. If you wish to experience the nearby ski area, Katherine will be happy to accompany you there. Dinner in the hotel.

  3. Filzmoos and a mountain sleigh ride (B, L, D, DR)

    This morning you will take a drive to the mountain village of Filzmoos, where we change to horse drawn sleighs. The hour-long ride will take you to the remote Hofalm, an original rustic Alpine hut where you will be served a traditional lunch. Afterwards enjoy the atmosphere of the Hofalm, take a walk in the snow before returning to our hotel and enjoy a warming Glühwein and traditional festive stollen. Dinner in the hotel.

  4. Salzburg Cathedral & Christmas markets (B, D,

    Morning drive to Salzburg - the birthplace of Mozart, home to The Sound of Music and one of Europe’s finest baroque cities.

    Your visit includes a guided tour including a tour of and organ recital in the cathedral. Afterwards wander the Christmas markets set in the so-called ‘Rome of the North’ due to its stunning baroque architecture. Try a visit to the Mozart’s Birth-house Museum or take the funicular (at own cost) to the fortress for views across the city and surrounding mountains.Dinner in the hotel.

  5. Gastein Valley & Krampus Day (B, L, D)

    Morning optional worship in the hotel. Today you will visit the famous Gastein valley, nestled in the imposing nature of the Salzburg Alps. With peaks that exceed the three-thousand-metre mark, Bad Gastein is not only the Monte Carlo of the Alps, but also a charming Belle Époque town. You will see the magnificent waterfall in the village center and the parish church. Later visit a farmhouse and witness the old tradition of fumigation with incense and herbage. As a light lunch you can taste the many specialties produced on this farm.

    Afterwards proceed to Bad Hofgastein and visit the Gastein advent market. As today is „Krampus day“ it can easily happen that you meet some of those horned creatures there! Early dinner in the hotel. In the evening you will witness an age-old tradition of the two horned devil parade (in Austria they call it „Krampuslauf“) in the streets of St Johann with a fireside dance in front of the hotel. Originally thought to have come from the old pre-Christian myths involving beasts from the forest, the Krampus became linked with St Nicholas in the Middle Ages.

  6. Oberndorf – The Silent Night village (B, L, D)

    Today you follow the footsteps of the most famous Christmas song of the world: Silent Night. You drive to the village of Oberndorf to see the Silent Night chapel with a guided tour. You will learn how the song came about and began its triumphal march around the world. Don’t forget to sing “Silent Night” before leaving the chapel! Lunch is included and will be served in a nearby restaurant.

    Afterwards, you drive a short way to Arnsdorf. Here you will see the original house where Franz Xaver Gruber, the composer of Silent Night, used to live and teach – it’s still a school where pupils are educated and it’s the oldest schoolhouse in Austria still in operation. A guided tour will show you not only the living place of Franz Xaver Gruber, but also the pilgrimage church of Maria im Mösl, which has been famous for pilgrimages since more than 800 years. Return back to St. Johann and enjoy your dinner. Since today is St. Nicholas day, it might happen that St. Nicholas shows up at the hotel!

  7. St. Gilgen & St. Wolfgang Christmas Markets (B, D)

    Today we visit the beautiful Christmas markets at Lake St Wolfgang. First we drive to St. Gilgen on Lake Wolfgang, the birthplace of Mozart’s mother. Wander at leisure the lakeside Christmas markets and visit a wonderful display of handmade traditional nativity scenes with ornately carved figurines. We then board the ship across the lake to St. Wolfgang where we visit the parish church with its wonderful Gothic altar. St. Wolfgang erected the first church at the shore of the lake in 976, after his canonization it became a major pilgrimage site. In the afternoon, you have time to explore the village, have lunch or a coffee at the famous White Horse inn and of course enjoy the Christmas market in the village. We return to the hotel for an optional worship in the hotel lounge in the first floor. Dinner in the hotel.

  8. Journey home UK (B)

    After an early breakfast, we head to Munich airport and check-in for your flights back to Edinburgh and London.

Essential Information

Included excursions

  • St. Gilgen and St. Wolfgang Christmas markets
  • Cruise on Lake Wolfgang
  • Guided tour of Salzburg
  • Guided tour of Salzburg Cathedral with organ recital
  • Guided tour of St. Johann im Pongau with cathedral tour
  • Sleigh ride in Filzmoos with lunch
  • Oberndorf – Silent Night village, chapel and museum
  • Arnsdorf – home of composer Franz Xaver Gruber

Optional excursions

None! – all excursions and extras as listed above and below are included!

Included extras

  • Hotel Porterage
  • Personal audio guiding system
  • Krampuslauf (two horned devil parade) and a visit from St. Nicholas
  • Services of our resident and knowledgeable Tour Manager
  • Optional worship from our accompanying faith leader

Included meals 

We stay at the Hotel Brückenwirt in St. Johann im Pongau.

The tour is on a half board basis with continental breakfast and evening meal being served at the hotel. Three lunches and an afternoon Glühwein or coffee with cookies or festive stollen are also included.

Our team in Austria

Our dedicated and knowledgeable McCabe Tour Manager is there solely for our guests. They will escort all excursions and be available in the hotel for any queries and offer local advice, hints and tips for you to get maximum enjoyment of your time with us. A faith leader will also escort this experience and offer optional worship on some occasions, for those who wish.

Your journey

Flights are direct between Edinburgh or London to Munich and all airport and security charges are included as well as 23kg baggage allowance.

Length of flight to Salzburg: two hours

Flight times maybe subject to change and are confirmed with your final paperwork.

Your resort

The well-known Pongau Cathedral is a two-towered parish church with Gothic woodwork and is the landmark of Sankt Johann overlooking the Salzach Valley. It was first mentioned in 924. After the market fire of 1855, the church was rebuilt from the ground up (1855-1861). The Neo-Gothic altars feature a number of late Gothic figures.

The resort of St. Johann im Pongau has a wide range of shops, unique gift boutiques and coffee houses as well as a bank and a supermarket. During December there is also a small number of traditional Christmas market stalls. There is a small mountain gondola up from the heart of town to gain great views of the area and free buses operate to the nearby selection of ski-lifts for further magnificent vistas.

Your hotel: Hotel Bruckenwirt

Seven nights’ accommodation in the four-star, family-run Brückenwirt Hotel in St. Johann im Pongau in a double or twin room based on two sharing. Double rooms for sole use are available for a supplement.

The Nocker family pride themselves on offering a home-from-home, with a personal welcome where they regale the history of the hotel, local area and family traditions during Advent and Christmas.

Hotel facilities: a year-round outdoor heated pool (30 degrees Celsius), which is entered from the warmth of indoors, sauna, steam room, gym and an aroma therapy spa. There is a lounge area and cosy stube for socialising after dinner. Complimentary WiFi is available throughout the hotel.

Your hotel room: double or Austria twin bedded rooms furnished in the local style. Most rooms have balconies. There will be a bathrobe for your use during your stay.

Hotel bathrooms: most bathrooms have a walk-in shower. There are only four rooms with a bath which may be available on request. All bathrooms are equipped with a hairdryer, bathrobe, soap, shampoo and shower gel. Ample towels for both bathroom and the hotel pool will be provided.

A note about twin Austrian beds:  the distinction between double bedded and twin-bedded rooms in Austria is sometimes not clear. A traditional twin-bedded room consists of one bed frame with two separate mattresses and separate duvets and the beds will not necessarily be separated.

Single rooms available (limited availability)

Double rooms for single use for a supplement of £255

Single rooms (one single bed) for a supplement of £149



Practical information

Entry requirements

British Citizen and EU Citizen Passport holders can currently enter Austria freely with no restrictions or other documentation required. Stays within the EU can be up to 90 days (can be spread over multiple visits) within any 180-day period.

Please note your passport must be valid for six months after your return from Austria.

Full details of entry requirements and any required vaccinations will be detailed in your final paperwork 14 days before departure.

For the latest and most up to date travel advice including entry requirements please consult the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office travel advice website.

Health & wellbeing

For travel within the EU you should ensure that you have the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which is free of charge.  You can apply for the GHIC card by calling 0191 218 1999 or applying on line at…

The level of cover offered by the GHIC card varies by country visited and is only applicable in state-run health facilities. In some countries coverage may just be a partial contribution.

Adequate insurance cover will be required for all hospital emergencies and doctors’ visits.


In Austria the average temperature during your stay should be around -5 to +4 degrees centigrade. It is advisable to bring some warm clothes and layers for the days as well as a winter hat, gloves and a scarf. In the mountains weather can change rapidly for worse or better and a misty start often leads to a glorious afternoon. We never can see what is the other side of the mountain and the weather is often difficult to predict so please be prepared.


Dress is casual throughout the holiday. You may wish to take one or two smarter items for the evenings. Warm casual clothing is recommended in the day time with evenings being smart/casual. As the sightseeing visits require a certain amount of walking, we suggest you take a pair of warm lined shoes or boots with decent grip to walk in the snow or the occasional icy surface are a must. Austrians often wear real fur which are family heirlooms handed down from generation to generation and not seen as taboo as they are in the U.K.

Please bring a hat, scarf and gloves to keep warm as well as a pair of sunglasses as the glare of sunshine (hopefully) on snow can be quite strong.


There is a certain amount of walking (and stairs) involved on a daily basis on this holiday so please make sure you pack comfy footwear for this so that you are prepared. Your Tour Manager will keep you updated on a daily basis with what to expect the following day. If you are finding it difficult to keep up then please make sure you tell your Tour Manager who can help you to find places to rest and relax and then you can re-join the group at a later stage.

Some streets in towns and villages that you will visit will be cobbled. We suggest you take a pair of comfortable shoes with good grips or trainers. For your guided walking tours in Salzburg and Oberndorf you must be prepared to be on your feet for up to 90 minutes.

The McCabe Educational Trust

The McCabe Educational Trust is an independent registered charity with the aim of helping inspiring people we meet on some of our pilgrimages. As ‘the haves’ encounter the ‘have nots’ the Trust has become a practical tool for one to help the other.

McCabe Pilgrimages invite all travellers to become partners in this work. A £20 voluntary donation to the Trust’s work is added to every pilgrim’s invoice and all money raised in this way is given in full to the projects the Trust supports. This scheme is voluntary and confidential with nobody put under any pressure to participate.

Travel insurance

Ensuring that your holidays are appropriately protected is one of our main priorities. That’s why we have specifically chosen Holiday Extras as our *preferred travel insurance provider to ensure that you are protected before and whilst you are travelling. Holiday Extras offer McCabe Travel guests favourable rates for single trip, multi-trip and annual policies.

For more information or to obtain a quote click below for their website

Or call them on 0800 083 3551 to speak to a friendly advisor.

Please quote AG628 upon calling to receive the best rates

Full financial security

All money paid to McCabe is fully secure. Holidays including flights are covered by our ATOL license from the Civil Aviation Authority, and holidays without flights are protected by our membership of the ABTOT bonding scheme. If a pilgrimage is cancelled, for instance through lack of numbers or for political considerations, McCabe will promptly refund all monies paid.

AITO Quality Statement

McCabe Pilgrimages is a member of the Association of Independent Tour Operators. The Association represents Britain’s leading independent tour operators and encourages high standards of quality and service. McCabe abides by the Association’s Code of Conduct and adheres to the AITO Quality Charter.

You can read McCabe reviews on the AITO website here


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