Magical Christmas Markets Around the World
Christmas markets brighten the darkest season of the year. Most are modeled after traditional German markets, known as Christkindlmarkts (the spelling sometimes varies). Held around the world, the markets herald the holidays with colorful lights and music and invite shoppers to browse for ornaments, candies and cookies, handmade toys and more.
One note: if you plan to go, verify the market's dates, times, events and vendors. A few are still finalizing details.
Sneak a peek at this year’s Philadelphia Christmas market on preview weekend, Nov. 18-19. The village officially opens on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, with a welcome from the Christkind, or “gift-bringer,” who wears a white gown spangled with stars, a crown, and, sometimes, angel’s wings.
Visitors will find rows of wooden huts selling gingerbread, roasted nuts, bratwurst, international gifts and mulled wine, among lots of other items. The village is open through Christmas Eve.
Held from Nov. 24 - Dec. 31, this market in Arlington is especially family-friendly. A Peppermint Park for children offers winter carnival games, inflatables, puppet shows, crafts and other activities. After the kids play, look for hand-crafted gifts and collectibles and treats like strudel and hot chocolate. Got a chill? Pop into the Arlington Highlands Warming Haus, a heated tent furnished with tables and chairs; a customized catering menu and beer and wine are available. (Reservations at the Haus, which seats up to 200, are encouraged for big groups, but are not required.) This is one of the largest open-air holiday markets in the Southwest.
Dresden Striezelmarkt, Germany
The Dresden Striezelmarkt dates back to 1434, making it the oldest Christmas market in Germany. It’s named for hefestriezel, a sweet commonly known as German Christmas cake. You’ll find the market in the historic city center, on Altmarkt Square, surrounded by eleven other different Christmas markets also selling toys, decorations, beverages and foods. Look for the traditional pflaumentoffel, a figure of a chimney sweep crafted from dried prunes. The Dresden market takes place from Nov. 24-Dec. 24.
Denver's Annual Christkindl Market, Colorado
Denver’s 16th annual Christkindl Market runs from Nov. 29 - Dec. 24. Bring an appetite for Bavarian salted pretzels, Danish pastries, German and European soups, and honey and honey products made in Boulder. Vendors will sell authentic German Christmas ornaments, nutcrackers, Pashima shawls and other winter wear from Nepal, wooden Santas and birch bark boxes from Ukraine and much more.
Christkindlmarket Chicago, Illinois
The Windy City’s market draws visitors from around the world. For a preview, arrive on Nov. 17 for ’Twas the Night Before Christkindlmarket.’ The market then opens from Nov. 18 - Dec. 24. See the website calendar for special events like a children’s lantern parade and a schedule of pop-up booths that will feature everything from Hawaiian dance to gourmet German foods. Shop early to score a popular Kinder Club souvenir mug, and don’t miss the booths selling Bavarian glass and pewter, Black Forest cuckoo clocks and handmade dragons and other creatures.
Annual Georgetown Christmas Market, Colorado
St. Nicholas will appear at the Christmas market in downtown Georgetown, Colorado, along with carolers in Victorian dress, dancers and other entertainers. This pretty mountain town is a perfect setting for all the traditional market offerings, along with horse-drawn carriage rides and a Santa Lucia Children’s Procession.
Shop for Colorado wines, art, jewelry, antiques, and, of course, European Christmas gifts and décor. This market is open for two weekends, Dec. 2 through Dec. 10.
Step back into jolly old England at the Cow Palace Exhibition Halls in San Francisco, California. This holiday fair starts on the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs for five weekends from Nov. 18 - Dec. 17. It's modeled after a Victorian party, complete with costumed characters who perform in music halls and traditional English pubs and often mingle with shoppers. Wear your own Victorian-era outfit, if you wish, but check the costume guidelines so you won't compete with Father Christmas or Scrooge or any other of author Charles Dickens' memorable characters. Wander the lamp-lit shops to find one-of-a-kind gifts and leather goods, jewelry, clothing and more.
Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt, Germany
Nuremberg puts on holiday finery for its market from Dec. 1 - Dec. 24. This market is famous for its gingerbread, three-on-a-roll sausages and hot mulled wine. Look for Christmas tree decorations like the traditional rauschgoldengel, an angel made of gold foil. Join a stagecoach tour to see the decorations all around the city while a coachman serenades you on his trumpet. Then let the kids ride the merry-go-round, visit Santa, and bake their own goodies in the shape of teddy bears and shooting stars next door, at the Children’s Christmas Market.
Brussels Winter Wonders, Belgium
Brussels’ Christmas market, Winter Wonders, takes place from Nov. 24 to Dec. 31 in the center of the city. There's a carousel for the kids and an ice skating rink for the whole family to enjoy at Marche aux Poissons. Later, shop for gifts, décor, sweets and other foods, or look for the “guest of honor,” a market-within-the-market that changes every year. Previous guests have included Quebec and Lapland.
Salzburg Christmas Market, Austria
Salzburg’s Christmas market will be held around the square at Salzburg Cathedral and at Residenzplatz, a square in the center of historic Salzburg, from Nov. 23 - Dec. 26. Vendors at this centuries-old market sell candles, incense, hot punch, educational (and fun) toys, textiles and many other wares. Sample the coffee and milk specialties or snack on warm donuts filled with jam or custard, pretzels, gourmet cheeses and other foodie delights. Save time to take a guided tour of historic Salzburg and catch a choral concert in front of the cathedral.
Strasbourg Christmas Markets, France
This year, Strasbourg's markets will include some 300 chalets, spread over 10 sites through the city. It's known as the Capital of Christmas for its sparkling holiday lights and centerpiece Christmas Tree, and more than 500 Christmas-related events that are held in the area. This year, Portugal is a featured guest country, and visitors can shop for meats, wines, beers, basketry, traditional drums and guitars, and more in the Portuguese Village. Don’t miss live musical performances by choirs, bands, and carolers, or one of four free Advent concerts. The fair will also host "The Off,” an alternative Christmas market with an untraditional atmosphere and events that celebrate the holiday in different ways. The markets will operate from Nov. 24 - Dec. 30.