Across Germany, Austria, Eastern France and Northern Italy, during the cold dark winter months, people have for centuries gathered at Christmas markets to clink mugs of warm mulled wines and revel in the season. There’s always live music and the chance to shop for ornate decorations, artisanal gifts and regional delicacies. In recent years, Canada has adopted these traditions—it makes sense with our climate and multicultural heritage. Here we reveal our favourite Christmas markets from east to west across the country—tiny and large—so you can wrap up your shopping with festive cheer.
Joy to Toronto!
The cobbled Distillery District, just east of Toronto’s downtown core, goes into full charm-offensive mode each winter, with a Nordic-style Christmas market. Grown-ups congregate in the cozy heated beer garden, where you can sip craft brews, gluhwein or Christmas cocktails. (Live acts, like choirs and carolers provide a soundtrack from the stage.) Kids (and pets) can take photos with Santa, and the whole family has fun at traditional carousels and on the Ferris wheel. At wooden stalls, you can stock up on everything from beeswax candles to Polish hand-painted glass baubles and buy Germanic snacks such as gingerbread men or spiralled roast potatoes with apple sauce and sour cream. Don’t forget to snap your photo by the giant illuminated JOY sign.
Where: Distillery District, Toronto
When: until December 23, 2017
Festive Port of Call in Quebec City
In Quebec City’s Old Port, visitors can stroll through the annual Christmas market for a delicious taste of the festive season. There’s an emphasis on Quebec regional treats (read: pork products), so you can sample cranberry desserts, smoked meats and charcuterie at gourmet tastings. Maple taffy on snow is a must-try. Crafty types can drop in for handmade-gift workshops, and among the 70-plus vendors are craftspeople selling wooden-carved decorations, Christmas wreaths and eco toys.
Where: Old Port, Quebec City
When: until December 31, 2017
Local Artisan Market in Winnipeg
Last-minute shoppers in Winnipeg will love the Holiday 2017 – WEST Etsy Market taking place for one day only on December 16. (Etsy is a thriving online marketplace where crafters and artists from around the world sell handmade items.) Looking for a felt fairy wand? Check! Coveting scented soy candles? Check! In the market for a burlap Christmas wreath? Check! There’s the coziest of knitwear too, designed and handmade by local crafters, and you can even deck out the baby on your list with teeny leather booties. Find a mix of newly crafted and vintage finds at this market, curated by Etsy Winnipeg. And to round out the shopping experience, pick up unique holiday cards (the old fashioned paper kind that require a stamp) just in time to catch the last mail delivery before Christmas Day.
Where: St James Civic Centre, Winnipeg
When: December 16, 2017
Yuletide by the Seaside in Vancouver
The Olympic Cauldron has been repurposed this year as the location for an oceanfront Christmas market in Vancouver. Here you can nibble on tubular sugar-dusted Hungarian chimney cakes or Bavarian roasted pork shanks with salty, crisped edges, then wash them down with Okanagan craft spirits or Austrian herbal tea. This is the place to buy your zany Christmas sweater or Alpaca stockings, not to mention gilded beer steins or 3D paper stars, which come in build-your-own packs. Singer-songwriters, jazz bands and a peace choir will take the stage to spread the Christmas spirit among a glowing-cheeked, tuque-and-mitten crowd.
Where: Olympic Cauldron, Vancouver
When: until December 24, 2017
Snowflake Gifts in Calgary
For a truly hyperlocal gift shopping experience, Calgarians can check out the Market Collective Cheer series. There, makers sell beautifully designed handmade goods, running the gamut from textiles to ceramics to jewellery to pet clothing. There’s a rotation of vendors from week to week, so it feels like you’re shopping a whole new market every time. As well as finding one-of-a-kind gifts made with love, you’ll be supporting up-and-coming artists and the live musicians who show up to serenade shoppers.
Where: Chinese Cultural Centre, Calgary
When: weekends until December 17, 2017
Holiday cheer in Montreal
For years now Montrealers have kicked off the holiday season with the Grand Marché de Noël. Held at Place des Arts, the city’s entertainment epicenter, this annual event features something for everyone. Foodies can sample charcuterie from local vendors like Boulangerie Ace or sip Quebec craft beer from Boldwin brewery, while the musically inclined can listen to angelic choirs and live acts.
If you’re looking to cross some items off your shopping list, there will be unique artisanal gifts to browse through including jewelry from Création Twinne and eco-conscious accessories by MERSiO. You can also get crafty in several workshops, play interactive games, or hop on board VIA Rail’s mini train, the coolest way for visitors to make their way around the market. But never fear if you missed the mini-train in Montreal: you can head to the Sens Rink of Dreams in Ottawa and hop on board from December 14 to 17 and December 21 to 23. You can catch a ride from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Where: Place des arts, Montreal
When: daily (except for 4-6 and 11-13) until December 24, 2017
There are so many unique Canadian markets to explore—here are a few more under-the-radar options: Michael Stadtlander’s Christmas market at Eigensinn Farm, in Singhampton, north of Toronto, has everything you need for the Christmas tables, from hams to preserves to oven-ready birds. Glebe Winter Market, in support of Ottawa Therapy Dogs, is bursting with handcrafted wares. Just outside of Edmonton, St Albert’s Indoor Christmas Market brings in seasonal vendors selling all you need for gifting, dining and decorating the home.
This post was updated December 2017