Get Into the Holiday Spirit with These Christmas Markets Around the World
So merry, so bright.
Nothing (nothing!) beats a good Christmas market when it comes to getting in the holiday spirit. In small and large cities worldwide, parks and plazas fill up with charmingly-decorated booths selling seasonal drinks and snacks like mulled wine and pastries, as well as handmade trinkets. Depending on the market, this is likely just the beginning; look for towering Christmas trees laden with lights, vast ice skating rinks, cultural performances, and carnival rides, among other festive attractions. Typically, the markets run from mid-November until late December or early January, so you can shop for gifts or enjoy the cheery environment with loved ones.
Of course, every market has its own traditions, and the types of snacks and crafted items tend to vary between regions—which means you'll have to visit more than one to get a complete picture of what's out there. Get lost in Vienna's Christkindlmarkt (considered to be the largest Christmas market in the world), catch a festive light and sound show in Hong Kong, or browse market stalls beside Chicago's Wrigley Stadium.
Read on for some of the best Christmas markets you can visit this holiday season. No matter which one you choose, it's sure to be merry and bright.
Considered the largest Christmas market in the world, Wiener Christkindlmarkt is renowned for its 100+ stalls that sell everything from souvenirs to delicious Viennese delicacies, including kaiserschmarrn (sweet, fluffy, ripped-up pancakes), glühwein (mulled wine), and bauernkrapfen (donut-esque fried pastries). Located in Rathausplatz, a large city square near Vienna’s city hall, you'll know you're there when you see all the lights, stalls, an illuminated skating rink, and a multi-level carousel. Make a romantic visit to the famous Tree of Hearts, where red hearts glow among branches, check out the trail of Nativity scenes, or simply shop for holiday gifts from the massive range of vendors. The market runs from mid-November until the day after Christmas and gets millions of visitors each season, so it’s worth visiting on the earlier side if you want to avoid the crowds.
The heady fragrance of mulled wine hangs over Strasbourg's Christkindelsmärik, which has been held in Strasbourg since 1570, making it one of Europe's oldest Christmas markets. With decorations and glittering lights everywhere you look from late November to Christmas Eve, it’ll make you feel like you've stepped right into a winter wonderland. Be sure to visit the market's decked-out tree in Place Kléber, which is known for its imposing height (typically around a hundred feet), and spend some time shopping at one of more than 300 different stalls that sell everything from traditional Christmas treats (like pizza-reminiscent tarte flambée or buttery bredele biscuits) to handmade crafts of all kinds. Traditionally, the market also provides space for charitable organizations to connect with visitors; this year there will be almost 90 of these organizations present. If you can't make it to the market before Christmas, you can also check out the city's After-Christmas Village starting January 1.
Distillery District Winter Village
Stroll the cobblestone streets, marvel at this year's 51-foot tall Dior-designed Christmas tree with 70,000 twinkling lights, and shop at the more than 65 local stalls within Toronto’s Distillery District Winter Village. Previously known as the Toronto Christmas Market, the annual holiday market runs from November 17 through the end of the year, and hosts a tree lighting, live musical performances, and Santa appearances. Sip a seasonal beverage or few at the Winter Village's seven bars, and eat at a range of food cabins serving cozy, festive fare (think crepes, raclette, churros, and frites). Tickets are required after 4 pm on weekends and during the last few days of the year and cost $11 each, but you can enter the market for free at any other time.
Christmas in Tivoli Gardens
Housed in Tivoli Gardens, the third oldest amusement park in the world, this Danish Christmas market embodies the spirit of hygge with a serious dose of festive cheer. The park's garden is filled with glittering decorations for the occasion, including more than 1,000 lit Christmas trees and over 70,000 baubles, along with adorable wooden houses. Pose for a photo with Julemanden (also known as Father Christmas), witness a spectacular light show, and get a front-row seat for one of the park's holiday-themed plays and ballets—and yes, the park's many rides are open for the occasion, too. For those who long for a traditional Christmas market, the park provides a full-fledged collection of around 60 food and gift stalls as well, many of which serve up Danish holiday eats like gingerbread hearts and spherical æbleskiver pancakes. The market runs from late November through New Year's Eve, so there's plenty of time to visit.
Hong Kong WinterFest
If you're able to make the trip to Hong Kong this winter, it's worth checking out Hong Kong's WinterFest in the West Kowloon Cultural District. There, you'll find a Christmas Town overlooking the harbor, bright with holiday lights (including those on a massive Christmas tree and multiple smaller trees) and dazzling views of the city skyline. Every evening, the Symphony of Lights illuminates Victoria Harbor, making the view even more dramatic. Along the Cultural District's East Lawn, a series of holiday-themed lodges will be filled with festive displays that make up the city's Christmas Wonderland. Meet up with Santa, stay for a concert, and participate in bazaars and workshops—but time your visit carefully; the Christmas Wonderland is only open from December 23 to 27, whereas the Christmas Town runs from November 25 to January 1.
Dresden's Striezelmarkt is considered the oldest Christmas market in Germany, with this year's event marking its 588th year. Running November 23 through December 24, the market offers a daily program of cultural events, including performances by the local Kreuzchor choir and Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as a gingerbread festival. And be sure not to miss Stollenfest, where hundreds of bakers and enthusiasts will join together for a procession that celebrates stollen, a Christmas bread filled with candied fruits and covered in icing sugar. Visitors are also encouraged to check out the market's enormous walk-in candle arch, take a spin on the carousel and ferris wheel, and pay respects to this year's 72-foot Christmas tree. And of course, you'll find plenty of stalls here, too, where you can shop for gifts or munch on some German sweets.
Winter Village at Bryant Park
New York, New York
New York really comes alive during the holiday season, especially at the Winter Village in Bryant Park. A 17,000-square foot ice skating rink is the centerpiece of the village, offering free skating with a reservation (and paid skate rentals if needed), plus skating performances. You can grab some cozy food and cocktails at the rink-side lodge, or inside private igloos. The Curling Cafe & Bar is also an option; reserve a curling lane and get competitive, then retreat into your heated dome for a bite to eat. Nearby, a European market-inspired series of kiosks sell everything from specialty food to eco-friendly artwork, giving you a reason to browse for hours beneath the glittering city skyline. The winter market runs from late October to early January, but the rink and lodge are open until early March. Starting with a firework-filled tree lighting on November 29, you'll also find a festive Christmas tree adding cheer to the park.
Tallinn Christmas Market
A Christmas tree has graced Tallinn's Town Hall Square every year since 1441, so the city takes the accompanying holiday market very seriously. The event opens with a solemn tree lighting and light show on November 25, after which you can feel free to enjoy the market in full. Snack on Estonian Christmas dishes like blood sausage, stewed sauerkraut, and many types of gingerbread, and taste a range of traditional and more inventive glöggs (mulled wine). Starting a few days after the tree lighting, you'll be able to meet Santa in his house on the square, clamber aboard some carnival rides, or check out the Christmas Market Stage for folk performances. On weekend evenings, these performances happen hourly, and visitors can dance in a conga line around the tree. The Christmas Market will end with a closing ceremony on January 8, so be sure to catch it before it closes.
Brussels Winter Wonders & Christmas Market
Although Belgium has no shortage of Christmas markets, Brussels's Winter Wonders event (which runs November 25 to January 1) is known to be the largest and most impressive in the country. With more than 200 different chalets for browsing, you can expect to find everything from Belgian beers, waffles, and glühwein to handmade ornaments and trinkets. The massive market is spread out across the city center, which gives it plenty of space for an ice skating rink, Ferris wheel, and 66-foot Christmas tree covered in more than a mile of string lights. There's even an immersive audio and visual show at Grand-Place that runs multiple times every evening. First-time visitors should take advantage of the guided tours (available in English!) that will help you navigate the beautiful market without feeling too overwhelmed.
If you’re looking to experience a European-inspired Christmas market within the US, you’ll adore Chicago’s Christkindlmarkets. The German-style markets contain everything from food stalls to gift vendors to help you make the most of your holiday season, and there are actually three of them to choose from within the Chicago area: Daley Plaza, Wrigleyville, and Aurora. Visit one or all three to get into the holiday spirit—the Chicago and Aurora markets run from November 18 to December 24, while the Wrigleyville event lasts until December 31. Prepare to snack on some schnitzel and glühwein, shop for some glass ornaments, and meet the market's Christkind namesake, a gold-clad angel adorned with a crown who traditionally brings gifts to children in German-speaking countries.