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
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’ craft studio and a Little Brooklyn section with D.I.Y. 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: Through Dec. 24
Where: Union Square (south side) on W. 14th St. at University Place.
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: Through Dec. 23
Where: Avenida de Gaudi
Nice, on the French Riviera, enjoys a mild Mediterranean winter, which has attracted winter visitors for centuries. Lights and garland 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 a children’s play area. Handicrafts and holiday items are for sale in more than 60 “chalets” at this exciting venue. Go.
When: Through Jan. 1
Where: Place Masséna
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 10th 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: Through Dec. 23
Where: Praça D. João
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 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: Through Dec. 24
Where: City Hall Courtyard
The Grinch reimaged in intricate ice carvings, superfast indoor snow tubing and a Ferris wheel ride with Santa high above the D.C. area. Sound like fun? You and your family can experience all this and lots more this holiday season at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.
Traveling the countryside without adding miles to your car may sound like a riddle, but it’s really just a clever family travel plan offering the best of both worlds. Enjoy quality time with the family and view rolling scenery without having eyes on the road with train travel.
Not a fan of giant cruise ships? This might be the year to put Celestyal Cruises on your radar, especially if your dream family destinations are the Greek Islands, the eastern Mediterranean and, new for next year, the Adriatic.
While urban wine country might sound like an oxymoron, it’s actually a reality at the stunning City Vineyard in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. The water-side venue is the perfect host for your next event — whatever that may be, from 20 to 200 guests and from cocktail party to plated dinner.
Christmas is always a fun time of year to explore a new city. This year, head to San Antonio for Christmas with a Tex-Mex flair. This Texas city may not get snow for a white Christmas, but there are still plenty of holiday decorations and festivities to create a memorable, family-friendly experience.