The Top Christmas Markets Around the World

Dec 2, 2019

We could put a generous spin on this and say we’re sending you to these markets for the world’s coolest gifts. But who are we kidding? While you’ll definitely find singular crafts, indie-chic designs and gourmet treats for everyone on your list, the truth is that hitting any of the spots below is an epic gift to yourself.

A longstanding tradition in Europe—and a newer trend elsewhere, thanks to our growing appetite for all things artisanal—holiday markets are basically the Platonic ideal of seasonal cheer, all twinkle lights, mittened carolers and steaming spiced wine. Read on for 10 of the best, then pick one (or several) and flag down the next airborne sleigh you see. The driver will for sure know the way.       

Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market, Copenhagen

With its old-timey rides, fanciful vibes and famously good amusement park food, Tivoli Gardens qualifies as a wonderland year-round. But during the holidays things go next-level as the historic icon becomes a whirl of twinkling lights, bedazzled trees and more than 70,000 individual decorations. Wander the 60 resident stalls, hot drink in hand, to shop for everything from traditional candies to design-centric gifts (this is Copenhagen, lest you forget). Certain rides are open during the winter, too, and this year—for the first time—there will be entertainment projected onto the walls of the concert hall. Of course, Santa and his reindeer will be there to welcome you to the north. Nov. 16-Jan. 5

Bath Christmas Market

For a market that looks ripped from a Christmas fairytale—picture 150 chalets dotting a warren of Georgian streets—the Bath Christmas Market stocks remarkably modern gifts: A lot of the merchandise makes a point of being ethically sourced, fairly traded, all-natural and otherwise eco-friendly. That goes for aromatherapy potions, cozy knits and everything in between. (Of course, there’s plenty of traditional market fare, too.) Fortify yourself with mulled wine—you'll have many, many fellow shoppers—then make your way toward wreath-making workshops, glass blowing tutorials and so many truly great gifts, you’ll be racking your brain for, like, fifth cousins you might have left off your original list. Nov. 28-Dec. 15

Mercado de Coyoacan, Mexico City

Coyoacan is probably best known as the home of La Casa Azul, the Kahlo family residence where Frida entered and left this world—and where you’ll now find the Frida Kahlo Museum. But the district also has a market that’s as colourful (lemon yellow, to be exact) as the local streets. Though there are great local finds here year-round, the mercado becomes heavily Christmasy right about now, with all the local handicrafts you could ever need to make the holiday a proper fiesta. Piñatas, candles, figurines…the works. Note: This isn’t us telling you to skip the blinged-out-for-Christmas Zocalo. On the contrary, you can’t not go to the city’s most iconic square. Still, Coyocan makes for a sweet, neighbourhoody counterpoint that you won't want to miss.

Cathedral Christmas Market, Cologne

This North Rhine-Westfalia town is famous for its multitude of holiday markets and fairs. But if there’s a crowd favorite, it’s the one by the main Cathedral, where 150 or so wooden pavilions (or buden) are scattered around the old town landmark and a towering, gorgeously lit fir. You’ll find cute toys, artisan woodcarvings and warm lebkuchen (gingerbread), among other local specialties. And when you need a break from shopping, grab a mug of spiced glühwein and go for a joy ride on the carousel—or catch some live entertainment. The market's going big on that front with a roster of more than 100 performers. While you're in the neighbourhood, tour the cathedral itself—a twin-spired High Gothic masterpiece, UNESCO World Heritage Site—and perfect perch for Rhine viewing.  Nov. 25-Dec. 23

Tokyo Christmas Market

Japan has its own take on Christmas (Christmas Eve, for example, is a high-ticket date night—essentially another Valentine’s Day). But the nation’s proliferating holiday markets take their cues mainly from the traditional German variety—beer, bratwurst and all. The cultural mashup alone is worth experiencing, and one of the best places to do so is Shiba Park near Tokyo Tower. Fanned out around a 46-foot "Christmas pyramid,” hundreds of small Tokyo Christmas Market huts sell ornaments, handmade gifts, and hot seasonal drinks. The live entertainment? Bands flown in from Germany, of course. Dec. 6-26

Il Sogno del Natale, Milan  

Milan is home to several worthy Christmas markets, from the tradition-steeped Oh Bej! Oh Bej! to the two-birds-with-one-stone Mercantino di Natale at the Duomo (tour the city's most iconic structure while you're there). But only one local market lays claim to the title of Italy's largest Christmas village: Il Sogno di Natale. Designed to evoke Saint Nick’s North Pole hub—the entrance is even manned by reindeer—this ultra-kid-friendly complex occupies nearly 325,000 square feet and packs so many treasure-filled stalls, even power shoppers will want breaks. To that end, there's everything from an Enchanted Garden to the House of Elves (like most things, character meet-and-greets are just more entertaining in Italian).  Then there's the Writing Room, where kids (or, you know, whoever—we're not judging) can draft wish lists for the big man and send off specially stamped envelopes from the post office next door. Dec. 5-Jan. 6

Bryant Park Holiday Market, NYC

You’ll find a lot for your friends and family—and, fair warning, yourself—at this Midtown Manhattan market. Spread out in a maze under twinkling lights, the candy cane-stripped booths are stocked with handmade woolens, quirky T-shirts, fine jewelry, vintage maps, handmade ornaments and artisan crafts from around the world. The snack menu is globally-inspired, too, from its arancini to its ramen to its churros—all great fuel for not only shopping, but also taking a spin around the park's seasonal rink. Oct. 31-Jan. 5

The Nutcracker Market, Montréal

No question, there’s plenty of old-timey yuletide fun to be had in the streets of Vieux Montréal. But it’s the city’s strikingly modern Palais de Congrès (a très nice way of saying convention center) that houses a local Christmas favourite. The Nutcracker Market, set in the Galeries du Palais (sounds so much better than mall, right?), gathers 100 sellers of stand-out home decor, beauty and wellness products, jewelry, fashion and more. Still, maybe the biggest draw is the market’s raison d'être: the Grands Ballets’ Nutcracker Fund collects 10 percent of the proceeds, which help bring the magic of the ballet to thousands of sick and underprivileged kids. Bonus: As you shop, dancers costumed à la Nutcracker float around, performing the perfect leaps and twirls for your Insta stories. Nov. 28-Dec. 8

Salzburg Christkindlmarkt

The largest and oldest of Salzburg’s legendary Advent markets (aka Christmas markets), the Christkindlmarkt traces its roots to the 15th century. Toys, leather goods, knitwear, traditional folk decorations, incense, handmade dolls and more spill from the 100-plus stalls around Cathedral Square, at the foot of the Hohensalzburg Castle. As you take in the stone-cold beauty of the backdrop, warm up with jagatee (rum-spiked tea), roasted sausages, ofenkartoffel (baked potatoes) and countless other local treats. Nov. 21-Dec. 26

Carriageworks Christmas Market, Sydney

To any North American who's never experienced the novelty of a summertime Christmas, Australia says come on down, mate. Among the best (and briefest) seasonal markets in Oz is the Carriageworks Christmas Market, where—for one day—the beloved farmers market in Eveleigh's historic former rail yards becomes a last-minute holiday shopper's godsend, with some of the Southern Hemisphere's coolest crafts and freshest holiday fare, from plum pudding to brandy-infused fruit cake. While Canada Customs agents won't look kindly on a lot of the latter, it does make for great snackage as you browse the stuff you can take home (just take extra care with the gorgeous ceramics). And don't leave town without scoring another seasonal souvenir: a photo on the beach with SantaDec. 21 

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