14 Things You Can’t Miss at 2021 Christkindlmarket

‘Tis the season for strudel, steins, and all things Glühwein.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the beloved Christkindlmarket in Chicago, a tradition inspired by Christmas street markets in Germany dating all the way back to the late middle ages. Originally, vendors would congregate in town squares as the winter months set in, selling homemade items, seasonal food, and hot (i.e. boozy) beverages as a remedy for the chill plus, of course, live music and dancing. And today’s market, shockingly, is not that different from its European beginnings. This year, Daley Plaza downtown will host a robust collection of vendors while the market’s Wrigleyville location at Gallagher Way is part of the city’s Winterland festivities.

In addition to browsing locally made gifts, visitors can also peruse products from across the world like Peruvian alpaca hats and hand-carved ornaments from Germany, all while sipping steamy glühwein. So whether you’re hunting for unique treasures to wrap up for the in-laws or simply looking for a little holiday cheer, consider this your one stop shop for all things holidays. Here are 14 can’t-miss experiences and products at Christkindlmarket 2021.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

Daley Plaza
No need to freeze your booty off—Daley Plaza’s Christkindlmarket location is stocked with an alpine-themed heated indoor dining area complete with decorated tables, live music on the weekends, and curated German meals and beverages serving parties up to eight for 90 minute seatings. Snag one of five reservation packages varying in quantities of German beer, juicy brats, pretzels, souvenir steins, sauerkraut, and other incentives. And if you’d rather stop by without a reservation, you can still take advantage of a la carte snacks like currywurst, Nürnberger-style bratwurst, strudel, stollen, potato soup, pretzels, hot chocolate, and, yes, more beer.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
You don’t have to be a kid to appreciate dancing and singing traditional Christmas Carols amid the glow of illuminated lanterns and a real-life fairy. Both markets will host the Lantern Parade this year as an ode to German long-held tradition, in which children would go out after dark carrying lanterns and singing folk songs in hopes of being rewarded with treats—kind of like Halloween but a lot less spooky. The Lantern Parade also commemorates St. Martin, known as a friend to children and a patron of the poor. Expect to see Christkind, a folklore angelic gift-giver, who provides lanterns and bags of goodies for the kiddos while guiding the singing crowd through the market. Both events take place from 4 to 6 pm, with Daley Plaza kicking things off on December 1 and Gallagher Way following on December 12.

DonerMen
DonerMen

Daley Plaza
DönerMen, one of Chicago’s favorite German food trucks, is back serving their signature döner kebabs this year. The no-frills cuisine makes a great late-night snack, consisting of shaved roasted chicken layered with cucumber yogurt, spicy red pepper sauce, cabbage, tomato, and greens, all wrapped in freshly baked Turkish flatbread. Other dishes like Currywurst—a fusion of Indian spices and German sausage—is also on hand to fuel your Christmas shopping adventure.

Bob's Belgian Hot Chocolate
Bob's Belgian Hot Chocolate

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
Good hot chocolate can be hard to find, but Bob has you covered. Throw out that tub of nesquik, ditch the hand warmers, and pick up a cup of Bob’s Belgian-style brew this year. Bob’s homemade hot chocolate is not only delicious, but extremely celebrated, with six certificates from The Chocolate Academy (yes, this exists). His hot cocoa is made from a blend of 100% imported dark chocolate with sugar, milk, and a few other balancing ingredients. Make sure to grab some hot chocolate mix to take with you—it’s stocking-stuffer gold.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

Gallagher Way
This year, the folks over at Gallagher Way are not messing around when it comes to seasonal festivities. Christmkindlemarket has teamed up with Winterland to bring a variety of winter programming aimed to stem off those winter blues. Along with the market, expect an ice skating rink, a tree lighting ceremony, ice bumper cars, curling, holiday movies, a wreath-making workshop, and curated activities with Hotel Zachary. And, of course, an appearance by Santa Claus to keep the fans happy. Check out the official Winterland events calendar for more info.

Winterborn Alpaca
Winterborn Alpaca

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
You know how they say don’t go to the grocery store on an empty stomach because you may just end up buying too much? Keep that old adage in mind when stopping by Winterborne Alpaca’s inviting booth as the temperatures drop. Their ethically sourced Andean alpaca fiber is hand-woven using textile traditions from Quechua artisans, and the company was founded by Canadian designers who work with a single family in Ecuador as well as a Peruvian women's cooperative to make each piece. Hit them up for socks, shawls, mittens, beanies, and scarves guaranteed to keep you warm and snug clear through spring, alongside adorable child-safe plush stuffed animals perfect for that new niece or nephew.

Daley Plaza
‘Tis the season for giving, and when you spend your money with St. Rogers Abbey, you’ll be supporting a good cause—not to mention you’ll be getting something delicious out of it too. The folks behind this Willamette institution adhere to classic French baking techniques, serving up gourmet pastries like buttery Croissants, Almond Twists, and sweet Macaroons. Profits go toward helping those most in need by providing food for their soup kitchen and facilitating afterschool programs.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
Bavarian Tradition is manning several booths this year, each with a unique assortment of decorative items like clove and spice wreaths, painted jumping jacks, incense houses, and authentic German ornaments. The ornaments and Christmas collections come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from hand-painted pewter nativity scenes and intricately carved wooden nutcrackers to delicate glass and rhinestone snowflakes, soft gnomes, and hand-knitted frosties. Each ornament is a one of a kind work of art made by German artisans and inspired by, you guessed, Bavarian traditions.

Käthe Wohlfahrt of America
Käthe Wohlfahrt of America

Daley Plaza
Starting from humble beginnings in the 1960s, Wilhelm and Kathe Wohlfahrt began peddling music boxes at holiday bazaars in Germany and, ever since, the company has flourished. Today, they sell a variety of German-inspired specialty items from beer steins and advent calendars to Schwibbogen, cuckoo clocks, decorated incense smokers, painted ornaments, figurines, chocolates, candles, and more, all crafted with expert, time-tested skill.

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
You can’t go wrong with cheese dripping over bratwursts and toasted bread. Wisconsin’s Baked Cheese Haus offers alpine-style Raclette smothering everything from sandwiches to brats. A standout is Jambon Cru, which comes with melted Raclette over cured ham, onion, Dijon mustard, and baby gherkins all inside a warm and toasty baguette. Don’t forget to grab a cup of hot Honeycrisp Apple Cider to wash it all down.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
Don your tree with twinkly glass treasures made in Lauscha, Germany courtesy of Glaszauber Lauscha in Daley Plaza. Beautifully blown glass orbs, each painted with detailed wintery scenes covered in snow top the roster at this festive retailer. Over in Gallagher Way, Unique Glass offers colorful glass orbs alongside less conventional shapes like incredibly detailed flying pigs, octopuses, hummingbirds, unicorns, elephants, pickles, and more.

United Chocolate Works
United Chocolate Works

Daley Plaza
You won’t know whether to eat the chocolate at United Chocolate Works or marvel at it like a piece of art. Taking candy creation to a whole new level, they mold their chocolate into playfully realistic shapes like handheld scissors, adjustable wrenches, paint brushes, and delicate roses. And they don't just look pretty—their decadent handcrafted Belgian chocolate is also extremely delicious.

Daley Plaza
Whether you’re looking for beautiful wooden furnishings or a fun decorative figurine, both Wooden Treasure and Wooden Wonders have it all. Along with their stunning carved creations, Wooden Wonders also offers handcrafted collectables inspired by Eastern Slavic folk traditions, while Wooden Treasures stocks everything from carved fairies and gargoyles to smoking dragons and animal-shaped key rings.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
For all things sausage and strudel, German Grill at Daley Plaza and The Austrian Lodge at Gallagher Way can satisfy any market-born craving. Highlights include platters stacked high with Nürnbergers, Frankfurters, Weißwürste, Thüringers, spicy Kilometer sausages, and Currywurst, mounds of Sauerkraut and Leberkäse (AKA sliced pork loaf), plus hearty sides like fried potatoes and potato pancakes and plenty of drinks to keep you hydrated. Finish up with an order of homemade apple strudel, if you know what’s good for you.

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Elanor Bock is a contributor for Thrillist.