Winter is always a magical time of the year, no matter how old you are or what country you live in. Adding to the whimsy are all of the different Christmas markets the world over. Feel the magic that these cities offer, and be prepared to come down with a serious case of wanderlust.
Chicago‘s Christkindlmarket is the United States’ largest Christmas market and is one of the world’s largest outside of Europe. This market attracts more than one million visitors every year. Additionally, if you call the market’s office, the menu includes “If you want to know how to spell ‘Christkindlmarket’, press 4.”
Christmas Market | ©Özgür Cam/Flickr
Berlin has a huge range of markets to visit, but the most popular are:
WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt: Known for its unique, homemade products, this market is classy, beautiful and is great for an evening of Christmas music while sipping on Glühwein.
The Lucia Christmas Market at Kulturbrauerei: Because of Berlin’s proximity to Scandinavia, this market offers a Scandinavian influence mixed with German traditions. Nordic flags line the market stalls and visitors can even snack on elk bratwurst!
Alexanderplatz Christmas Market: Famous for its wooden huts filled with glassblowers and blacksmiths, crafts and souvenirs, and hearty German Christmas meals.
New York, New York
Take a Deep Breath | ©Thomas Hawk/Flickr
Christmas in New York means massive city-wide decorations. While the Sixth Avenue ornaments are a fun spectacle, the real excitement lies at Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center. The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park offers a 17,000 square foot outdoor rink and 150 holiday shops and eateries to visit. A mere 10 minute walk away is Rockefeller Center and its gigantic, famed Christmas tree. Set up every year since 1933 and decked out with 45,00 LED bulbs, the tree offers more than just a nice view. Each year, the wood is used for the greater good, often used to build homes for the needy. One year the wood was even used to build homes for those affected by Hurricane Katrina.
London offers tons of different Christmas activities and markets; so many that the city itself looks like one giant Christmas market! Perhaps London’s most famous Christmas market is Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park; a Bavarian-style village with beer, Glühwein and fresh pretzels and innumerable fun activities.
Prague, The Czech Republic
Prague’s Christmas market in Wenceslaus Square and the Old Town Square is filled to the brim with traditional Czech food, culture and handicrafts. From local school choir performances to massive amounts of beer on tap to classic Czech foods such as Trdelnik, roasted hams and barbecued sausage, to glassware and holiday decorations, Prague’s Christmas market is one that cannot be missed (and must be visited with an empty stomach).
San Francisco, California
Can Can Bijou at Dickens Faire 2009 | ©Neil Girling/Flickr
Just outside of San Francisco in Daly City is a fun and unique Christmas festival called the Dickens Fair. Unlike the traditional German-style Christmas market, the Dickens Fair is based on Victorian London, complete with Dickens characters roaming around and putting on performances, roasted chestnuts to snack on and much more.
One of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets, the Frankfurt Christmas Market, dates all the way back to 1393. Filled with wooden huts contrasted by glamorous high rises, this market offers traditional treats, handmade trinkets, souvenirs and gifts, and local cuisine like hot apple wine and Bethmännchen cookies.
Season for a Reason | ©Shaheen Karolia/Flickr
Every year, Toronto‘s Distillery District completely transforms itself. Seasonal lighting and decorations set the stage for Christmas carol performances and visits to Santa. You can even bring your pet to take a photo with the jolly old man!
Philadelphia’s Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest offers sweeping views of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and the Delaware River and has the only outdoor, regulation-sized ice rink in the city. Moreover, visitors can enjoy a deliciously festive restaurant and bar while younger visitors can play in the kids lounge, where small rides and interactive arcade games can be found on rubber mat floors (for safe playing)!
Christmas Market | ©S. Faric/Flickr
Cobbled streets with charming wooden huts line Strasbourg’s Christmas market. Located near the German border, the city’s cross-cultural blend makes for a unique experience all year round, but Christmas is when the city really shines. As if you needed anymore proof, it was voted Europe’s best Christmas market two years in a row.