5 magical Christmas markets in Canada

Steeped in French Canadian tradition and German folklore, these five markets are guaranteed to fill you with Christmas cheer…

Thomas Rees
02 December 2022

1. Distillery Winter Village, Toronto

Distillery Winter Village in Toronto (Shutterstock)

The Distillery Winter Village, formerly known as the Toronto Christmas Market, is held in the city’s historic Distillery District, offering all the charm of a traditional European market with a few Canadian twists.

Visitors are entertained by Bavarian brass bands, organists and folk dancers from Slovenia and Ukraine. There are beer gardens too and festive bars serving hot rum and Christmas cocktails. Try pierogi (Polish dumplings), sharpened with sour cream and fried onions, or poutine, a rib-sticking combination of French fries, gravy and soft cheese-curds. Invented in rural Quebec in the 1950s, the dish is one of Canada’s guilty pleasures.

You’ll find stalls selling Canadian beeswax candles, wooden toys and other traditional gifts. St Nicholas arrives early in December amid colourful processions.

Market dates: 16 November – 31 December 2023

2. Christkindl Market, Kitchener

Christkindl Christmas Market, Kitchener (Courtesy of Christkindl)

Kitchener is one of the oldest and largest German communities in Canada, and hosts the Christkindl Market every year, steeped in folklore and Teutonic tradition.

Listen out for local resident Klaus, a German organ grinder; watch candle-lit processions and demonstrations by local blacksmiths; and stop to buy delicate blown-glass ornaments, schnitzel, and stollen studded with sticky dried fruit.

Nativity scenes and plays are staged across the weekend featuring characters such as Knecht Ruprecht (Ruprecht the farmhand). A companion of the German Saint Nicholas, Ruprecht carries a sack filled with sweets for good children and a bundle of switches for dealing with those whose behaviour leaves something to be desired.

Market dates: 7 – 10 December 2023

3. The markets of Quebec City’s historic centre

The German Christmas Market, Quebec City (Shutterstock)

In the weeks before Christmas, the scent of pine-needles drifts through the streets of the historic centre where the nouvelle-French architecture glistens with lights. At Le Marché du Vieux-Port on Quai Saint-André, traders sell hand-made decorations, woollen scarves, maple syrup and tourtiere; a meat pie eaten in Quebec around Christmas and Thanksgiving.

In the first two weeks of December, the city also holds a German-style market while those in search of characterful Christmas presents should head to the city craft fair, where you can find hand-thrown pots, intricate jewellery and winter furs.

Market dates: 23 November – 22 December 2023

4. Longueuil Christmas Market, Montreal

Longueuil Christmas Market, Montreal (Shutterstock)

Confit duck, pear cider, maple butter and salted caramels. Just four reasons to visit The Marché de Noël et des Traditions held in Longueuil, a suburb of Montreal on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River.

The food, much of which comes from small independent producers and local farms, is the highlight here, though gifts are on offer too. Children can ride the wooden train which trundles through snowdrifts, between the garlanded stalls. Musicians and folk dancers provide festive entertainment and Santa is usually on hand to grant Christmas wishes.

Market dates: 24 November – 17 December 2023

5. Vancouver Christmas Market, Vancouver

Vancouver Christmas Market, Vancouver (Dreamstime)

Flaming bowls of feuerzangenbowle (fire-tongs punch) will keep you warm as you wander between the wooden chalets that fill the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza in central Vancouver. This traditional German drink involves a rum-soaked sugarloaf set ablaze and left to melt into a beaker of mulled wine. Along with baked apples and decadent Swiss raclette, it’s just one of the winter treats available at the Vancouver Christmas Market.

The German-themed market is also the place to find painted beer steins, elegant lace-work decorations and many other handmade gifts. Poinsettias, Christmas lights and advent wreaths add a splash colour with an old-fashioned Christmas carousel, gospel choirs and string ensembles for entertainment.

If you’re on the hunt for arty stocking-fillers, head to the annual Craft Circle Christmas Market, usually held in November. The market features hundreds of stalls with work by Canadian artisans including wood-turners, glass-blowers and toymakers. It’s the perfect place to find a special Christmas gift.

Market dates: 16 November – 24 December 2023

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