Christmas Markets Around the World

Christmas markets date back to medieval times, when farmers started selling seasonal crops at the Main Market Square in Nuremberg, Bavaria. By the mid-18th century, a list of 140 German vendors sold their wares at the annual Christkindlmarket and markets began popping up in a multitude of European places, plazas and piazzas. Today, market aficionados head to nearby cities, fly to far away destinations or take river cruises to stroll, shop, enjoy live music and sample mulled wine, gingerbread and a plethora of holiday treats.

New York City, New York

Union Square Holiday Market-1907

The Union Square Holiday Market features more than 100 red and white booths in which local vendors sell 100 percent artisanal, handcrafted and fare-traded items, including gifts and gourmet items, jewelry and handicrafts. There’s live music, a kids’ crafts studio and a “Little Brooklyn” section with DIY beer-making kits and natural olive wood items. Along with Parisian soups, hot chocolate and foodie treats, there are discount coupons for nearby businesses available at the information booth. Go.
When: Now through Dec. 24
Where: Union Square (south side) on W. 14th St @ University Place.

Barcelona, Spain

Architect Antoni Gaudi’s magnificent unfinished Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is illuminated nightly in this sophisticated Spanish city on the Mediterranean coast. The Christmas market, called Feria de Navidad de la Sagrada, boasts about 120 stalls selling all kinds of artisanal items, including artwork and handicrafts. The market is decorated with holiday lights and also features a seasonal ice rink and, on two Saturdays, Santa Claus distributes balloons and cookies and collects children’s letters. Go.
When: Now through Dec. 23
Where: Avenida de Gaudi

Nice, France 

NOEL 2015
Nice, on the French Riviera, enjoys a mild Mediterranean winter, which has attracted winter visitors for centuries. Lights and garlands decorate the Promenade des Anglais, overlooking the Bay of Angels at holiday time. At the magical Christmas Village, there’s an enchanted forest with 600 fir trees, a Ferris Wheel, carousel, ice skating rink, ice sculptures, parades, concerts and children’s play area. Handicrafts and holiday items are for sale in more than 60 “chalets” at this exciting venue. Go.
When: Now through Jan. 1
Where: Place Masséna

Porto, Portugal

Porto is an idyllic and temperate coastal destination with gracious historic squares. Along with an annual circus and thousands of Santas, there’s a major Christmas market, Artesanatus, located under a giant plastic bubble in Placa D. Jolio, a renovated square that honors the 14th century’s tenth king of Portugal. Artisanal vendors sell traditional Portuguese handicraft items, jewelry, pottery, wood and glassware as well as authentic, well-priced wool capes, shoes and boots and bags made of cork. Go.
When: Now through Dec. 23
Where: Praça D. João

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Christmas Village

The medieval-like setting transforms Philadelphia’s City Hall courtyard and, with its timber booths, replicates the Christkindlmarket in Nuremberg. The annual event features Christkind, the golden-crowned, curly-haired, blonde, spirit of Christmas who dresses in a long white gown sprinkled with golden stars and recites a prologue at its opening ceremony on Nov. 27. More than 80 vendors display artisanal glass ornaments, nutcrackers and Steiff stuffed animals plus art, handicrafts, toys and trinkets. Bratwurst, schnitzel and warmed German Glugwein add ethnic flavors. Go.
When: Now through Dec. 24
Where: City Hall Courtyard

irvina lew

Irvina Lew is an author and freelance contributor to guidebooks, magazines and websites who shares intriguing stories about the world’s best destinations including hotels, restaurants, spas, cruises and safaris.