Christmas Markets Around the World

December 9, 2013 by

Festivals & Events, Places to Go, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Christmas market in Germany.

Christmas market in Germany.

Aside from a few flurries in November in the Northern Hemisphere there is nothing like a good Christmas Market to know that the holiday season is fast approaching. Celebrated around the world for one weekend or a whole month, Christmas markets are a great way to embrace the coming season, to enjoy some yearly traditions, be social, and to get a head start on your decorations and present shopping.

With hundreds of Christmas markets around the world it is hard to say where the best might be. If you like drinking gluhwein at a Christmas market then Munich might be your favorite or perhaps you’d like the Mexican alternative, ponche navideño, at a Christmas night market in Mexico City.

The history of Christmas markets finds its origin in Europe, dating back to the very first recorded Christmas market taking place in Munich, Germany in 1310. Since the 14th century they have become more popular throughout Europe and in recent years have become ever more popular in other parts of the world, like in Canada, the US, Mexico and even Japan.

In Europe, many begin the Friday before advent, which is four Sundays before Christmas Eve. The majority of these markets last the four weeks until Christmas, while others last until January 6th, the Epiphany. They are often held in the main square of a city and typically you can buy various foods, desserts, and holiday drinks like gluhwein (hot mulled wine) along with Christmas decorations and crafts made by local artisans. These markets often coincide with other holiday festivities like parades, singing and dancing.

Read more about Christmas markets in Europe.

Christmas Markets in Germany

Evening view of traditional Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin

Evening view of traditional Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin

Christmas markets are found all around Germany this time of year with more than 30 taking place in the country alone. Currently the most popular Christmas markets in the world take place in Cologne, Germany, the fourth largest city in the country. Each year seven different Christmas markets take place in the city with over four million visitors.

The Cologne markets are also known to be watched over by Heinzelmãnnchen Gnomes, who bring festive cheer but also prevent anything mass produced or modern being sold at the markets.

Christmas markets are becoming increasingly popular and are a great way to attract tourists to a city in the low season. Berlin, Germany celebrates with over 70 Christmas markets that line the streets of the city. They also fill up the city squares like Alexanderplatz with holiday cheer starting as early as mid November, and in Berlin there is nothing like a hot gluhwein to wash down a currywurst.

Strangest Christmas Markets

Weihnachtsmarkt. Photo via Wikimedia commons.

Weihnachtsmarkt. Photo via Wikimedia commons.

Germany is also known for having a few odd and out of the norm Christmas Markets that might make you look twice. In Hamburg in an area known as the St Pauli District you will find the Weihnachtsmarkt, said to be the horniest Christmas Market in Germany. At first glance it looks like a normal German Christmas Market with Gluhwein and festive decorations but then you might notice the hand-crafted wooden sex toys, lingerie, lewd sayings on ginger bread cookies, and don’t forget the strip shows. Perhaps you might want to leave the kids at home for this one.

In both Valkenburg and Minden, Germany, the markets are famous for being underground in caves. The Valeknburg Gemeentegrot Christmas Market takes place at the bottom of a mountain in a place known as Cave City from the middle of November until Christmas Eve. Minden’s Weihnachtsmarkt is only open for a few days, located in an old mineshaft and lit by candlelight.

Christmas Markets in the US & Canada

Butchart Gardens near Vancouver.

Butchart Gardens near Vancouver.

If you won’t be in Europe this Christmas season, don’t worry as there are many Christmas markets also taking place across the US and Canada. Starting mid-November until Christmas Eve, the Union Square Holiday market in New York City, with over 100 holiday-decorated stalls, may be the post popular of them all.

In Chicago they have been celebrating the Christkindlmarket since 1997. The market is a traditional German holiday market inspired by the Christmas Market in Nuremburg, Germany. Another popular American Christmas Market takes place in Arlington, Texas. In a nod to its German sister city, Bad Königshofen, it features authentic German food, crafts and gifts.

In Canada there are fewer options across the country for Christmas markets however the ones they do have definitely make up for it. In Toronto you can celebrate with the Toronto Christmas Market for just over two weeks at the end of November, while in Vancouver there are five weeks of festivities at the Vancouver Christmas Markets with over 45 vendors, many who have come from Germany to celebrate this time of year.

Christmas Markets Elsewhere in Europe

The Christmas Market in Strasbourg, France is the largest and oldest in all of France, taking place since 1570. Strasbourg is home to 250,000 people and each year its market draws in over four million visitors in its 38-day celebration, making this also one of the most popular markets in all of Europe.

The famous Tivoli Gardens and Pleasure Park in the middle of Copenhagen, Denmark host a Christmas Market each year amongst its roller coasters, fountains and gardens. Open from mid-November until Christmas there are over four miles of stalls set up inside of its gates, making it one of the largest markets in the world. If you are lucky you might even see a live reindeer or two wandering around.

The Irish also like to get into the Christmas spirit with a Christmas market in Dublin for 12 days in December each year. There are no records saying that this is the drunkest Christmas market in the world but with all the Guinness flowing, the chances are high. The market takes place in the Dublin Docklands  with vendors serving gluhwein, roasted nuts and bratwurst. There are also musical performances, carolers, storytellers and traditional Victorian fairground rides.

Christmas Markets Around the World

You can find Christmas celebrations around the world!

You can find Christmas celebrations around the world!

Munich and Sapporo, Japan became sister cities in 1972 and in 2002 Sapporo celebrated their 30th anniversary by hosting a German Christmas Market that they have continued to enjoy each year ever since. The market features typical German food vendors and gourmet food vendors, many arts and craft stalls as well as music concerts, and dance shows. You can even take a brief German language lesson.

Each year Mexico City celebrates with various Christmas themed markets around the city along with the popular La Magia de Navidad also known as The Magic of Christmas. Beginning the second week of December it lasts until the end of the first week in January. There may be tacos instead of bratwursts and ponche navideño instead of gluhwein, however the spirit of Christmas is universal.

Sydney, Australia hasn’t gotten too into the Christmas market Spirit yet, however each year for one night the weekly Paddington Markets have a nighttime Christmas Market event that is definitely worth checking out if you find yourself Down Under.

These are just a few of the many Christmas Markets celebrated around the world. Where is your favorite?

Check out these top 25 places to spend Christmas around the world.

-Cailin O’Neill

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2 Responses to “Christmas Markets Around the World”

  1. Sasha Says:

    Hi great list but what about all the other Christmas markets in Europe? Czech Republic, Hungary, all the Baltics, Poland, UK all have fantastic and atmospheric markets in the run up to Christmas. Here’s a link toBudapest’s market: http://thingstodo.viator.com/budapest/christmas-markets-in-budapest/

  2. Lina @ Divergent Travelers Says:

    Christmas in Germany is definitely on our list!

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