The cozy smell of chestnuts roasting on open fire pits. A warm cup of mulled cider cradled in your mittened hands. Soft flecks of snow falling as you walk among shop stalls filled with glittering merchandise that just begs to be gifted.
Europe, and Germany especially, is famous for its traditional holiday markets, but the scene above can be relived right in your own backyard. Take a seasonal spin through this showcase of 10 amazing Christmas markets around North America to find one near you.
Toronto Christmas Market, Distillery Historic District, Toronto, Canada
Imagine rows of beautifully maintained brick Victorians, once distillery buildings and industrial outposts, now fashionable bars, boutiques, and galleries. This is Toronto’s Distillery District, home to one of the coziest holiday markets around. Equal parts romantic and magical, with strings of globe lights overhead and antique lamps on street corners, the annual Christmas market brims with trendy Torontonians clutching spicy mulled cider and cups of poutine. Get there early to avoid the crowds and browse the shops (including supercool Blackbird Vintage, in case you need to get yourself a little Christmas gift).
Christkindlmarkt, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
The birthplace of Bethlehem Steel bills itself as “Christmas City” each December, when nearly 1 million guests pour into the town for its Christkindlmarkt celebrations. Under outdoor tents and the city’s glittering Star of Bethlehem, browse gifts from artisans hailing from all over the world. Once you’re shopped out, chow down on hearty Pennsylvania Dutch snacks (pierogies, funnel cake, and a heavenly multitude of wursts) while listening to local music acts.
Union Square Holiday Market, New York City, New York
This glittery urban market has become as much a Christmas institution as the Rockettes’ kicking legs or Rockefeller Center’s towering tree. Join thousands of city dwellers as they browse an endless number of high-quality shops and stalls clustered in Union Square. In true New York spirit, food vendors sell artisan-crafted jams from Brooklyn, locally sourced cider donuts from Chelsea, and goodies from Chef David Chang’s Momofuku Milk Bar.
Marche De Noel Allemand, Quebec, Canada
December’s swirling snow and subzero temps can’t keep the Quebecois indoors. Instead, the city’s old-world-style holiday market takes to the streets. Charming wooden stands are clustered along pathways under the glow of festive lights. Sellers hawk everything from glassblown ornaments to hot chestnuts while carols from a nearby brass quartet drift over the crowd. If the adorable storybook quality of the market doesn’t keep you warm, the hot mulled cider will.
Great Dickens Christmas Fair, San Francisco, California
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair has been bringing Victorian London to life in San Francisco since 1970. Costumed characters straight out of A Christmas Carol and other Dickens masterpieces roam the marketplace and interact with guests while storytellers, carolers, and Irish dancers work the main stages. Pop into lamplit shops and music halls, then grab a seat at a cozy pub for a traditional English high tea (or an absinthe cocktail).
Downtown Holiday Market, Washington, D.C.
Forget trawling overcrowded shopping malls or mindlessly browsing Amazon: D.C.’s Downtown Holiday Market, now in its 10th year, fulfills all your shopping needs right in front of the Smithsonian complex. Find artwork, ceramics, crafts, clothing, antiques, soaps, candles, and other one-of-a-kind gifts from local artisans, many of which are fair-trade and sustainable. In fact, the entire market runs on biodiesel fuel and uses recyclable shopping bags—we love keeping the holidays green.
Texas Christkindl Market, Arlington, Texas
Arlington throws an enchanting Christmas market to celebrate its sister city, Bad Konigshofen, Germany, as well as the state’s own shared heritage (in fact, some 3 million Texas residents claim German ancestry). The cheery traditional market is full of family-friendly activities, like a Bavarian-themed petting zoo and a marionette theater, plus wooden huts and tents lined with sparkly Christmas lights and pine boughs.
Vancouver Christmas Market, Vancouver, Canada