Holiday shopping doesn’t have to be about hours of scouring the internet in search of the deals or making your way through crowded department stores. Scattered throughout the world are holiday markets filled with illuminated trees, carolers, sweet treats, and stunning handmade gifts, decorations, and toys. These markets are part of a time-honored tradition that generally coincides with the four weeks of Advent. The history of the markets dates back to the Late Middle Ages, as early as 1298. Combine your holiday shopping with some travel in a private jet to one of these great winter destinations.
Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is one of the most popular and largest markets in the world. It opens on the Friday before the start of Advent with a special ceremony. Here, you’ll find more than 200 stalls selling traditional bratwurst, gingerbread, glühwein (mulled wine), rum punch, handmade gifts and more. The week before Christmas, children take part in a must-see lantern procession throughout the market.
For a unique twist on German holiday markets with fewer crowds, visit the Esslingen Medieval Market and Christmas Market for a trip back in time.
The self-proclaimed capital of Christmas, the Strasbourg Christmas Markets in eastern France date back to 1570, making it one of the oldest in the world. The distinct markets are spread among 12 locations throughout the city, giving you something different to do each day of your visit. As you make your way through the narrow streets, stop at Place Kleber to see the towering Great Christmas Tree. Each year, the markets host a guest country village, too.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is home to seven holiday markets, with the most popular at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, which are a five-minute walk from each other. They have the vendor stalls you expect to see in European markets, but what sets them apart is the Czech treats sold in them. The markets are open every day during the festive period, including Christmas day.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
If you don’t have time to fly half-way across the world, visit your neighbor to the north. The Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery Historic District delights with festive décor, thousands of strung lights and musical performances. You’ll also find hospitality lounges and beer gardens that are perfect for warming up with hot rum, mulled wine, beer, and more. The World Caroling Challenge also takes place here during the holiday season, giving you a taste of some of the best group performances in the areas.
Dating back to 1786, the Fira de Santa Llúcia is a three-week holiday fair in front of the Barcelona Cathedral that celebrates the feast of Santa Llúcia on December 13. The market offers nearly 300 stalls divided into four sections: plants and greenery, nativities, simbombes (traditional instruments), and crafts. One of the most popular children’s activities is the caga tio, a large piñata-style log that spills out gifts and candy. One of the best days to visit the market is on December 13 for its traditional activities, including parades, dance performances, caroling, and storytelling.
Vienna is home to the oldest holiday markets in the world. During the holiday season, the city transforms its popular squares into Christmas villages with more than 20 activities and non-stop opportunities to explore, shop, and eat. Each market area has up to 150 stalls with vendors selling fine handmade good. During the holiday season, City Hall near Rathausplatz transforms into a giant Advent calendar with art installations, live music, organic treats, and workshops. The markets also feature reindeer rides, nativity scenes, choral performances, train rides on the Christkindl Express, and curling on the dedicated ice skate rink.