Christmas markets date to the late middle ages in Germany and France, and continue to bring cheer to outdoor spaces during winter’s coldest, shortest days. Also known as Christkindlmarkt, translating to Christ Child Market, the street festivals are held during Advent to celebrate the build-up of excitement before the holiday, and are the perfect places to purchase unique gifts.
Here are some of the top Christmas Markets in Canada, where the European tradition thrives.
You can’t help but feel the happiness of Noel, strolling through the open-air Toronto Christmas Market, which takes over the pedestrian boulevards of the city’s Distillery Historic District. If you want to come in from the cold, plenty of bars, boutiques and restaurants line the district’s cobblestoned streets. A high point of the festival is an annual procession welcoming St. Nicholas.
You’ll enjoy European traditions and festivities, such as lively Bavarian brass bands, and organists and folk dancers from Slovenia and Ukraine. Stuff your belly with pierogi, topped with sour cream and fried onions, and visit one of the market’s beer gardens. And because it’s Canada, there will be poutine; a savoury comfort meal of French fries, gravy, and cheese-curds.
Full of German folklore, music, and cuisine, the annual Christkindl market is held in one of the oldest and largest German communities in Canada
. Snack on schnitzel followed by stollen – a bread baked with candied citrus peels, dried fruit, and spices – as you watch candle-lit processions and nativity scenes. The sound of clanging hangs in the air when you pass the stalls of blacksmiths crafting seasonal wares. Learn more about German storytelling through weekend plays, one of which features Knecht Ruprecht, a helper of the German St. Nicholas. Ruprecht always has sweets on hand for good children, and a bundle of switches for those who are naughty!
Many of Canada’s Christmas markets take place on urban streets, but you can experience a winter wonderland of pine forests and snowy mountains at this market in Canada’s first national park. The Banff Christmas Market
is ideal for gift shopping because of its wide array of vendors. Purchase Inuit carvings, locally crafted jewelry, home décor, clothing, and more. Take a ride on a horse drawn sleigh and find some homemade chocolate to munch.
Experience Old World French and German markets in the historic quarter of Quebec City. At Le Marché du Vieux-Port on Quai Saint-André
you’ll find vendors selling maple syrup, handmade decorations and tourtière; a meat pie eaten during Christmas and Thanksgiving in Quebec. Behold beautiful light installations and ice sculptures at Festi Lumière, hosted by the Quebec Aquarium. Sip on mulled wine and eat a fresh and salty pretzel at Quebec City German Christmas Market, where you can buy Christmas gifts from rustic, wooden stalls run by traditional artisans from Germany and France. Visit Le Grand Marché de Noël for all your gourmet holiday needs.
Adorned by Christmas lights, poinsettias, a Christmas carousel, festive wreaths, and other holiday sights, the Vancouver Christmas Market
is the perfect seasonal experience. If you’re looking for stocking-fillers and gifts, time your visit to the market’s Craft Circle Christmas Market, which features work by Canadian glassblowers, toymakers, and other artisans. Be sure to try the impressive feuerzangenbowle
, or fire-tongs punch. The traditional German drink features a rum-soaked sugarloaf, set ablaze before it is served in a beaker of mulled wine.
If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll enjoy the pear cider, maple butter, and salted caramels at The Marché de Noël et des Traditions held in Longueuil, a suburb of Montreal on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River. If you’re a foodie, this is the place for you; many of the culinary offerings are sourced from local producers and farms. Folk music and dancing provide entertainment, and kids can ride a wooden train through the snow.
Before you and your family make plans to hop in the car and drive a few hours to Christkindl Market, you may want to consider purchasing travel insurance in case of a medical emergency. If you’re travelling outside of your home province, you should know that your provincial health plan may not cover all of your health needs. Some expenses that may not be covered in this instance could include accidental dental injury, ambulatory transportation, and refills on prescription drugs. Let us be there for you too.
Travel insurance is underwritten by CUMIS General Insurance Company, a member of The Co-operators Group of Companies, administered by Allianz Global Assistance, which is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc.