The scent of gingerbread, pretzels and spiced wine fills the air, as a few snowflakes fall by the glow of the Christmas lights. Live music fills the air, and bundled-up visitors stroll between red-and-white rows: It’s one of the longest-running Christmas markets in North America, and over almost 20 years, the Christkindlmarket has become a well-known Chicago tradition, and a popular cold-weather attraction for both locals and visitors.
Inspired by the Christmas market in Nuremberg, Germany (which started in 1545!), Chicago’s Christkindlemarket has been bringing German and other traditional holiday treats to the city since 1996. Currently located at the Daley Plaza in Chicago, the open-air market is lined with red-and-white-decorated wooden stalls. Vendors sell everything from glühwein (spiced or mulled wine) served in souvenir cups shaped like Santa’s boots, to authentic hand-crafted nutcrackers from Erzgebirge, to glass ornaments from Lauscha, and even cuckoo-clocks. Musicians and bands play holiday music as visitors enjoy hot potato pancakes with applesauce, strudels, or sausages, while shopping or just enjoying the atmosphere.
Part of the authenticity of this market is due to the collaboration of vendors from Nuremberg, Germany – as well as local vendors from the Chicago area. The market’s website even encourages you to practice your German here! In years past, the market has also included a visit from the Christkind (a fairy-like being, dressed in gold and wearing a crown), a traditional German figure that, like Santa Claus in other parts of the world, brings presents to children on Christmas eve. This is usually only for the Grand Opening, but this year the market will have their own Chicagoan Christkind, present throughout.
This market draws visitors from both nearby and beyond the Chicago area. It’s definitely a must do if you are in the city over the holidays. Wunderbar!
- Enjoy with: Your sweetheart, the whole family or a group of friends.
- Cost: Entrance is free! But it’s likely you’ll want to purchase a few yummy treats and/or unique gifts.
- Hours: The market is open from November 26 to December 24, Sunday through Thursday 11am-8pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-9pm.
- Visitor tips: It can get pretty packed, especially on weekend nights – so go earlier in the day if you prefer to avoid the crowds.
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