The Best Christmas Markets to Visit in 2021
Christmas market season is here.
Christmas markets are taken seriously in Budapest: they dominate much of the old town centre. The heart of the action is Vörösmarty tér, a rambling square that’s stuffed with craft stalls selling wooden bowls, handmade decorations and seasonal snacks.
Aromas of roasting kürtöskalács (chimney cake), a traditional hollow cake rolled in cinnamon and sugar, will follow you all the way to St. Stephen’s Basilica, where lights illuminate the façade and children zip around on a small skating rink. For the full festive experience, book into the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, home to one of the city’s most impressive Christmas trees.
The Bryant Park Winter Village, New York, USA
Just a block over from Times Square, the Bryant Park Winter Village doesn’t officially call itself a Christmas market – but the sentiment is there. Browse the window-lined cabins selling locally made homewares and clothing, then join the locals for a spin on the 17,000-square-foot ice-skating rink; it’s free to use if you bring your own skates. Warm up over a mugful of hot cider with whiskey, ginger beer and lemon at the Fever-Tree Porch, and you’ll really start feeling in the festive spirit.
With so many brilliant Christmas markets in Germany it’s hard to pick just one – but the cathedral city makes our list for its sheer variety. You won’t find just one market here; there are seven in the city centre alone, each with a different feel from traditional to trendy.
For the largest postcard version, head to the famous market outside Cologne Cathedral, crowned with an enormous shimmering Christmas tree. For something alternative, local and distinctly 21st-century, try Ehrenfeld Christmas Market at Bumann & Sohn.
Hibiya Park Tokyo Christmas Market, Japan
A Christmas market in Japan? It might not seem the most likely of places, but central Tokyo goes all in for Christmas fun – its streets are lined with lights and its department stores flooded with carols. And there’s even a take on a German-style Christmas market in Hibiya Park, the green space near the Imperial Palace. Sip on glühwein or hot cocoa, shop at craft stalls and take in a spectacular 14m-high festive pyramid installation sourced from an actual German village.
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark
From its world-famous hygge – cosy conviviality – to its chic festive decor and hearty holiday dinners of roast pork and braised red cabbage, Denmark does Christmas very well. But a highlight of a visit to Copenhagen during December is the Tivoli Gardens, a historic amusement ground and pleasure garden that has its own twinkling Christmas market. With thousands of dazzling lights, visits from Santa and enticing aromas of sizzling sausage, it’s the archetype of the Christmas market you’re seeking, with some added fairground fun.
The Distillery Winter Village, Toronto, Canada
While much of downtown Toronto is carpeted in glossy skyscrapers, the historic distillery district – a series of brick-fronted 19th-century buildings and cobbled streets that once held a whiskey distillery – is an exception.
It’s the perfect photogenic backdrop for the city’s annual holiday village, brimming with gift stalls, food vendors and entertainment in the form of carollers and buskers. The market is especially popular in evenings, when Torontonians buy entry tickets to toast each other with mulled wine under the shadow of a 55-foot illuminated silver fir tree.
Home to France’s oldest festive market, dating to 1570, Strasbourg sometimes refers to itself as the capital of Christmas – and when you visit you’ll see why. Hundreds of wooden chalets fill the vast Kléber square outside the cathedral, along with endless lights twinkling from houses, streets and a soaring central Christmas tree.
Be sure to pick up a batch of bredele, a traditional biscuit Alsatians like to nibble during the holidays. Looking for something quirky? Stop off at the quirky new OFF Market for contemporary gifts and cute antiques.
The Christkindlmarket, Chicago, USA
Chicago has one of the biggest populations of ethnic Germans in the US, which partly explains why it goes all-out with its annual Christmas market in central Daley Plaza. For a quarter of a century locals have been gathering in November and December on Stammtisch (‘reserved tables’) to down bratwurst, pretzels and flaky strudel, washed down with beers and glühwein. Traditional-style gifts, from beer steins to candles – plus cosy winter clothing – are sold too, so you can tick off your holiday gift shopping at the same time.
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