The lights, music, food and drink, shopping, and endless holiday cheer in a holiday market can't be beat! Holiday markets are a delightful way to buy unique gifts and decorations from local small businesses that can be treasured and reused yearly. We've compiled a list of the six best holiday markets worldwide.
Christkindlemarket – Chicago, Illinois, USA
Amidst the skyscrapers and busy streets, the Christkindlemarket takes over Daley Plaza in Chicago, Illinois, each holiday season. This market attracts more than 1 million visitors annually and boasts being the most authentic holiday market outside of Europe. The Windy City's market started in 1996 and was inspired by the 16th-century Christkindlemarket in Nuremberg, Germany, which you will definitely find on this list. In addition, German companies were invited to participate in this market to encourage bilateral trade between the USA and Germany. Many booths and tents with handcrafted treasures, traditional food, and drink fill the square. And with some luck, Chicago may even have a light layer of snow on the ground to make the scene extra magical!
Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market – Cologne, Germany
Picture this: you're sipping steamy glühwein and wandering the colorful booths while taking in the stunning backdrop of a towering 700-year-old cathedral. Welcome to Cologne, a city in western Germany nestled on the Rhine River. The Christmas Market in the City Center has over 150 booths, and over 4 million visitors come through the market each year to shop, eat, and celebrate the holidays. Outside of the city center, Cologne has many smaller themed markets, some sell goods from local businesses, and other markets sell only culinary specialties. A small Christmas-Market-Express tram can take you to the different markets so you can enjoy them effortlessly.
Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market – Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is the capital of Hungary, and its Christmas markets are considered some of the most beautiful ones in Europe! The main market is in Vörösmarty Square, in the heart of Budapest on the Danube River. Glass ornaments, decorations, and elaborately decorated treats unique to Budapest are overflowing from booths, ready to be purchased! We highly recommend trying the traditional Kürtőskalács, or chimney cakes, a sweet dough wrapped around a spit that is cooked over hot charcoal. You'll find a lot of fancy coatings and fillings, but the traditional cinnamon matches perfectly with the holiday season. This market also has two outdoor stages where you can enjoy several different performances during your visit.
Palace Broglie Christmas Market – Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg, France, holds a lovely Christmas market, and the whole town transforms into a sparkly holiday wonderland. They lovingly refer to themselves as "The Capital of Christmas," with good reason since this is the location of the first holiday markets in France. Strasbourg's holiday decorations are unreal – anything that holds still long enough will be covered in holiday décor. The centerpiece is a 100-foot-tall evergreen tree decked with nearly 30,000 feet of twinkle light strands and hundreds of ornaments. While there are countless shopping stalls, the food is what shines. Fresh pretzels, spaetzle, sausage, crepes, and mulled wine, to name a few. Yum!
Tokyo Christmas Market – Tokyo, Japan
One of Japan's most outstanding holiday markets is in Tokyo in the Hibiya neighborhood. Visitors will experience European traditions, as the German Tourism and German Embassy support the market. Upon entering the market, each visitor receives a unique mug used to purchase drinks in the venue. The focal point of the market is a 45-foot evergreen tree shipped from Germany. Different shops and stalls sell handcrafted ornaments, hot chocolate, beer, and treats. There are also live performances from a choir from Germany!
Nuremberg Christkindlemarket – Nuremberg, Germany
And last but not least, Nuremberg, the Christmas market that is one of the oldest and most famous, claims to have started them all. Nuremberg is in southern Germany and draws people from all over Europe and the world during the winter holidays. The wooden booths that line the marketplace in the old town are filled with handmade wooden decorations, glittered paper Christmas stars, sweet treats such as gingerbread and candied almonds, and barrels of hot glühwein. There are many smaller markets too, and even one made especially for children.
There are many holiday markets worldwide; so pack your Carry-On Closet and make sure you leave some space for souvenirs!
Written by Andrea Jeschke