Brace, yourselves, people.
Because, CHRISTMAS IS UPON US.
If you’re anything like me, you’re headed to a Griswold-esque, overcrowded family home in a matter of days, and are maybe looking forward to it? Maybe dreading it? Generally freaking out about it?
It’s cool. It’s all going to be OK. Know why? Because along with awkward family photos and inappropriate questions from your drunk uncle, Christmas brings with it the beauty of—
Wait for it.
These are the best part of Christmas, my friends. They’re full of glitter and twinkle lights. They sell artisanal everything. There’s hot chocolate. There are cookies. There’s beer and mulled wine. And there are PRESENTS! For all the people on your list of course, but let’s be honest—cute, quirky, one-of-a-kind presents for YOURSELF.
Christmas markets are glorious. And you should go see all of them.
So, behold—the seven most awesome Christmas markets in all the world. Or, to be more accurate, Europe and North America, but whatever. We take our Christmas markets exponentially more seriously than everyone else, OK guys?
The Christkindlesmarket in Nuremberg dates back to the early 1600s, although the market’s exact origins are unknown. Germans take their Christmas markets to a whole new level—seriously, this list could have happened exclusively in Germany—but the one in Nuremberg is particularly cool.
For starters, it’s huge. It’s one of the largest Christmas markets in Germany, spilling out from its space in the main square of Hauptmarkt into neighboring streets and nearby squares. And, a little weirdly, the market always has a designated Christkind. She’s elected every other year, and has to be a “sensible” girl between 16 and 19 years old.
Basically, this Christkind is the central character in the Prologue—the insane opening ceremony that happens each year to kick off the market—and acts as a type of mother figure whose market delivers gifts to Nuremberg’s children.
The Christkindl Market in Chicago happens each year in Daley Plaza, and is reportedly the best Christmas market in the U.S. (Sorry New York City.) Run by German American Services, a subsidiary of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest—and NOT by the City of Chicago, surprisingly—the point of the market is giving Chicagoans a chance to experience authentic German culture. According to Hubert Kamptner, a native Austrian who sells nativity scenes at similar markets around the country, this is THE most authentically German Christmas market in the States. So good work, German American Services!
It’s been running since 1996, and has grown from just 15 vendors in its opening year to an impressive 56. And, this year is extra special, because Nuremberg’s official Christkind will be around to oversee the festivities. Pretty sweet!
The baby of this list, Quebec’s Christmas market is only four years old. But, it’s pretty idyllic. Situated in Vieux Quebec—the oldest part of the city—the cobblestone streets and guaranteed cold, snowy weather make for a Christmas experience straight out of the movies.
Run by a combination of private partners, German cultural organizations, and the City of Quebec itself, this market is one you don’t want to miss.
4.) Paris, France
Christmas markets in France originate from Alsace, a French region that borders Germany and has lived under German rule at various points throughout history. As a result, the markets in Paris are decidedly Germanic, but with a certain French flair. You’ll find macarons and other traditional French fare here, alongside the German gingerbread cookies and beer.
There are a slew of Christmas markets in Paris, so if you’re in the city, feel free to choose the one that’s most convenient for you. But the best one? Definitely the market at Trocadero, whose snowy Christmas village of vendors is complete with an ice rink and stunning views of the Eiffel Tower.
5.) Madrid, Spain
Madrid’s Christmas market has been around for more than 100 years, and it’s located right in the middle of the city, in the iconic Plaza Mayor. What do the Spanish specialize in when it comes to Christmas? Super intricate, handmade nativity scenes—so collectors, rejoice! Also, turon, a traditional type of nougat that the Spanish eat as a festive Christmas treat.
Feliz Navidad, viajeros!
The Christmas markets in Paris might be freaking incredible, thanks to Eiffel Tower views and the fact that—hello!—you’re in Paris, but the market in Strasbourg is where it’s at.
Strasbourg is the capital of Alsace, the storied region that boasts a blended French and Germanic cultural heritage. Their Christkindelsmarik takes place in front of the Notre Dame de Strasbourg, and has been happening for over 400 years. It’s the oldest and largest Christmas market in all of France, and it’s pretty incredible.
7.) Dresden, Germany
Last but not least, we’ve got Dresden’s Streizelmarkt—the oldest Christmas market in all of Germany. So, basically, this is the king of the Christmas markets in the country that is, itself, the king of the Christmas markets. This one’s the best of the best, folks.
The market dates back to 1434, and boasts a whopping 240 vendors. They’re selling all of the traditional Christmas wares—bratwurst, beer, cookies, ornaments, and nativity scenes—but they’ve also go something special up their sleeves. The Dresden Christstollen, a special cake that gives the market its name.
So head to Dresden and eat cake, this Christmas, folks. Eat all of the cake.
There you have it, folks! The best Christmas markets the Western hemisphere has to offer. Which ones have you already been to, and which ones should be added to the list? We’re dying to know.