The Best Christmas Markets to Visit in the World
It’s that time of the year when thoughts turn to gift buying and parties and just where exactly can we sit Great Auntie Mabel on Christmas day, so she doesn’t crack out her slightly racist jokes near the children? But for all the precise organization and the tacky tinsel, there are some places that exude the festive spirit and make you fall in love with yule time all over again. If you’re still searching for some Christmas gifts – and who isn’t? Then why not take a trip to a Christmas market before you’re all ho-ho-ho’d out?
US & Canada
North Americans aren’t ones to be outdone, so it’s no surprise that they go the whole hog when it comes to Christmas celebrations. Houses and streets are strewn with tiny twinkling lights and carols are sung in city squares. In some areas, such as those below are huge celebrations and markets showcasing the excesses of the season.
Christkindlmarket, Chicago, Illinois (November 18th – December 24th)
This year marks the 21st Christkindlmarket in Chicago, which sees visitors flocking from all over the world to visit the outdoor venue. Alongside German food and drink and other festive items sits a Christkind, a woman dressed in gold who hands out gifts to visitors on their arrival. There are also lots of entertainment acts booked, such as The Canterbury Carolers who sing traditional yule time songs as you soak in the festive spirit.
Toronto Christmas Market (November 18th – December 21st)
Toronto Christmas Market is a little piece of days gone by in a modern city. Open Tuesday-Sunday between 12pm-9pm on weekdays with a 10 am start on the weekends. Beer gardens and eateries are interspersed between stalls selling Christmas trees and decorations, there is a caroling challenge which sees groups of people compete to be the best carolers of all and the event hosts a St. Nicholas Celebration where Santa parades the street on a white horse to cheers of the crowd. Santa himself accepts guests in his house, where little ones can give them their Christmas lists and have a photo taken. Toronto is a truly magical experience for all.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (Nov. 18-20, Nov. 25-27, Dec. 1-4, Dec. 8-11, Dec. 15-18).
What place could be a more perfect setting for a Christmas market than a city called Bethlehem? The heated venue has over 35 huts that sell a wide range of craft and festive items as well as creative workshops in glassblowing and wreath making where you can get your hands dirty and make something unique to remind you of your visit. Just make sure you leave the Gluhwein until after you’ve made your piece of you may be going home with a wonky glass ornament.
Some of the more traditional markets come out of Europe where punters can warm themselves from the brisk chill by drinking mulled wine and stuffing themselves full of European treats such as baklava and sausages. Here you’ll find blown glass tree ornaments and handmade wreaths that will give your home an artisan look of years gone by.
Vienna, Austria (Various between November 12th – December 26th)
Stroll around one of the many markets in Vienna to the soundtrack of brass bands and gospel groups in a gorgeous setting. Similar in appearance to the German markets, the Vienna markets offer handmade gifts, wooden toys and Christmas decorations in all shapes, colors and designs in timber cabins. While there is no doubt that the markets will hold your attention, there are also many heritage sites and museums in the city to explore, should you need to get away from the snowy chill of the city.
Copenhagen, Denmark (November 19th – December 31st)
Experience a true Scandinavian Christmas at the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. For a short time each year, the historic venue becomes home to snow-covered trees and decorated wooden houses that embrace the hygge lifestyle. Stay snuggled up and warm as you receive your gift from Santa Claus, or take a spin on one of the many theme park rides set up for the event. This event is the jewel in the Danish Christmas celebrations.
Tallinn, Estonia (November 18th – January 07th)
Tallinn is a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its well-preserved medieval city center. Try eating some of the local delicacies at excellent prices. The incredibly popular market attracts an incredible 250,000 visitors every year, all keen to grab themselves traditional Christmas decorations and wooden toys. There is an outdoor ice rink set up in Old Town, but make sure you grab yourself a mulled wine or cocoa afterward to warm up. There are film screenings, classical concerts and jazz events are put on especially at this time of the year so there should be plenty to keep you occupied.
Stockholm, Sweden (November 19th – December 23rd)
Take a trip to Skansen in Stockholm where the market has been an annual event since 1903. The place is famous for its delicious sweet pastries, marzipans, and jams, so make sure that you leave plenty of room for dessert. There are also reindeer sausages to tuck into if you’re daring. Probably best to not tell the kids you’re snacking on Rudolph, though. Little wooden chalets sit happily on the snow-covered ground in Bollnäs Square, surrounded by crisp white fairy lights. If you’re travelling with children, they’ll love the petting zoo where they can meet farm animals found in the nativity while they listen to carols.
Prague, Czech Republic (November 26th – January 06th)
Prague hosts some of the most beautiful markets in Europe, with the biggest being housed in King Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square, which are just five minutes apart by foot. Expect to find wooden cabins filled with hand-blown glass, jewelry and wooden toys that are just perfect for the little people back at home. Or how about feasting on the culinary delights the market has on offer such as the spit roasted hams or crisp, sweet pastries that are prepared right in front of you? And it all needs washing down with a glass of mulled wine, of course. It would be rude not to.
Nuremberg, Germany (November 25th – December 24th)
The original German market hosts over 200 stalls selling items from all over the country ranging from jewellery to Christmas decorations, wreaths, sweets, cheeses and wines as well as handmade toys and gifts. The annual market officially opens when a golden and bejewelled woman known as the Christkind opens the event from the balcony of the Church of Our Lady. There is also a smaller children’s market nearby (where the Christkind spends the rest of her time) where she invites the children to take a ride on the merry-go-round and hand her their Christmas lists. Kids can take part in lots of Christmas crafts such as baking their own shooting stars, hearts or teddies and decorating them afterwards. If you’re lucky, they might even offer you a bite or two.
And if you are planning on being in Europe, how about going to one of the many UK markets? They often pop up in the most picturesque of places in cathedral cities alongside stunning architecture and green spaces and embrace all of the traditions of a Christkindlmarkt without having to travel miles to get there.
Lincoln Christmas Market (December 1st -December 4th)
Those up north wouldn’t go wrong to take a visit to the Lincoln Christmas market. Located in the cobbled streets surrounding the cathedral, the event welcomes more than 250,000 visitors every year from all over the world attracted by the traditional setting and the city’s heritage that goes back more than 2,000 years. Alongside the traditional food and drink more commonly found in a German market, there are Lincolnshire delicacies provided by the local farms and cheese producers. The city also has a vibrant arts and crafts scene, buoyed by the nearby arts center so expect to find lots of handcrafted jewelry, leathercraft, and paintings produced by local residents.
Bath Christmas Market (November 24th – December 11th)
Bath Christmas market is an award-winning market situated in the area around the Roman baths and the beautiful Abbey. There are over 170 chalets in the market selling unusual and handmade gifts such as wooden bowties and British-made faux fur items. Grab your friends a luxury hamper, so they know how much you care. Feeling hungry yourself? How about going nuts over roasted chestnuts or caramel nuts? Chalets sell traditional textiles, reversible jewelry and work from local artists, making sure you can find something for your friends (or a little treat for yourself).