Cozy up with a hot cup of cocoa as you stroll through the bustling alleys of these international Christmas markets. From Germany to New York, France to Vancouver, these holiday fairs welcome starry-eyed shoppers and rosy-cheeked spectators to explore winter wonderlands.
New York City, United States
Grand Central Terminal’s Holiday Fair welcomes an average of 750,000 visitors per day with opportunities for gift-buying that are practically limitless: for the professional, there is Margo Petitti, a collection of men’s neckties, bow ties, pocket squares, and more made in the U.S. from the finest Italian silks and cashmere, whereas Apotheke, a fragrance boutique, offers handmade candles and soaps infused with olfactory treats. Visitors also have the chance to delight in the station’s iconic architectural elements, such as its Tennessee and Botticino marble, Caen stone, and the famous Tiffany stained-glass clock, all decorated for the festive season.
The Grand Central Holiday Fair runs from November 14–December 24 at the Grand Central Terminal, 42nd Street East, New York, New York, U.S.A. 10017.
Innsbruck, Austria, transforms into a breathtaking, snow globe–like wonderland during the holiday season, with little markets spread out across the entire city. Each offers something different, with the most traditional being the Old Town market, which serves delicacies beneath Innsbruck’s famous Golden Roof architectural structure and is surrounded by charming medieval houses. Nearby, a “Fairy-Tale Alley” is decorated, much to the delight of children, with life-size figures from folklore stories. Venture further to Marktplatz (the Market Place) to see a 14 metre-tall Swarovski crystal–covered tree. Or, for a panoramic view of the festivities below, guests can ride the nearby funicular up mountainous terrain to an observation point at the charming Hungerburg Market. Bonus: Innsbruck’s local ski mountains are located just under an hour away. Slip down the slopes of the Stubai Glacier and then saunter back to town for mulled wine and cake.
The many markets in Innsbruck have various locations and times.
The 446-year-old Strasbourg Christmas Market has been elected the best of its kind in Europe by over 70,000 online voters in the past. Its accolades may be a result of its Great Christmas Tree, a 30-metre tall giant illuminated by a new light show each week; or, perhaps it’s the open-air ice rink, situated near some 300 vendor stands (an ideal place for budding holiday romances and frolicking children). Guests can also visit over 90 stalls manned by charity and humanitarian organization representatives so as to give to those in need.
The many Strasbourg Christmas Markets have various locations and times.
The Toronto Christmas Market returns to the historic Distillery District of downtown Toronto for its seventh year. Bringing the festival to life is the Tree Lighting Ceremony, where over 18,000 lights will ignite on the branches of an almost 17-metre tall tree. Musicians like JUNO nominee Alex Pangman and opera performer Chantale Nurse are included in the 320-strong line-up of singers, dancers, brass bands, and choirs that will perform over the course of the month. On the final day of the market, these performances will reach a pinnacle of collaboration in the form of the Mill Street Caroling Gathering. Guests are invited to warm-up with a hot toddy or some cocoa and then join the choir with Toronto Christmas Market’s resident carolers. Be sure to ride the Ferris wheel or the carousel, and to snap a picture-perfect memento with someone special beneath the 14-foot tall heart-shaped mistletoe installation.
The Toronto Christmas Market runs from November 18–December 22 in the Distillery District, 55 Mill Street, Toronto, Ontario.
The Vancouver Christmas Market returns for its seventh year expanding to a new seaside location at the Jack Poole Plaza—the site of the city’s Olympic Cauldron. Also new this year at the market is Canada’s first-ever Christmas Pyramid, a 23-foot tall structure decorated with angels, which plays music from various regions of Europe. Take it all in as you wander among more than 70 traditional vendors selling ceramics, timepieces, and food, including of chimney cakes, German pizza, and stollenhaus. Adults can sip on ice wine, while children partake in a scavenger hunt and ride the Christmas carousel.
The Vancouver Christmas Market runs from November 26–December 31 (closed December 25) at the Jack Poole Plaza, 1055 Canada Place, Vancouver, BC V6G 3E1.
The Dresden Striezelmarkt is Europe’s oldest Christmas market. The name Striezelmarkt derives from the German word striezel, or stollen, which refers to a popular type of Christmas bread (similar to, yet tastier than, fruit cake). Each year, a ceremonial stollen loaf is sliced and paraded through the crowds to commemorate the history of the market. Products from all over Germany, including pottery from Lusatia, gingerbread from Pulsnitz, and the local favourite, plaumentoffel (good-luck charms made from dried plums and arranged in shape of chimney sweepers—think gingerbread men, but with prunes), are available.
The Dresden Striezelmarkt runs from November 24–December 24, at Altmarkt, Dresden 01067, Germany.
This piece was originally published on December 13, 2015. It has been updated with correct dates and information for 2016.