Christmas markets may have originated in Europe centuries ago, but it’s present-day Canada that has perfected them. Is there any country on earth that can take cold dark nights and snowy days and make them bright, magical, and delicious? Whether it’s an old-fashioned German-style Christmas market with glühwine and carols or a much more modern affair, you’ll find incredible Christmas markets in Canada from coast to coast.
These are some of the most popular markets to explore but this is far from an exhaustive list. Many Canadian cities have their own mini-markets that last just a day or a weekend. No matter where you’re traveling in November or December, take a moment to research their holiday festivities. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you discover! Of course, COVID-19 protocols and weather can possibly change the events planned for each Christmas market, so be sure to double-check opening hours and schedules of events before you head out.
1. Whitehorse, Yukon
Whitehorse puts a twist on the proverbial 12 days of Christmas that everyone can appreciate — it has 12 days of market festivities. The Fireweed Community Market sets up in the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Center for 12 days and welcomes more than 100 vendors. Inside the warm, cozy space, visitors will find arts and crafts, beadwork, farm products, specialty foods, roasted coffee, homemade jams and preserves, spice mixes, baked goods, body products and toiletries, photography, books, and more. Plus, there’s plenty of holiday entertainment from buskers.
2.Vancouver, British Columbia
Move over, Munich and Frankfurt. Vancouver is giving you a run for your money when it comes to Christmas markets. Where else can you find German beer steins, West Coast wine, and flaming bowls of feuerzangenbowle? Translated as “fire-tongs punch”, this is a hot, spiced mulled wine that gets an extra kick from a large piece of hard sugar that has been soaked in rum, set on fire, and then dropped into the wine punch via a pair of tongs. There are plenty of foodie treats here as well, including baked apples and Swiss raclette, plus treats to take home like local sea salt, homemade candy, and Christmas cake. You can get gorgeous Christmas decorations, including hand-painted ornaments, wreaths, and poinsettias, along with everything from dainty lace to children’s toys. Choirs and musicians set the mood for everyone to shop, snack, and sip.
3. Banff, Alberta
Santa himself might well be jealous of all the fun that goes on at the Banff Christmas Market — to say nothing of the backdrop. Located in Banff National Park, this Christmas market hosts more than 50 vendors from across Canada. Much more than just a shopping experience, people attend the market to go on sleigh rides, eat barbecued food (it may be Christmas, but this is still Alberta), sample homemade chocolate, and roast apples over a campfire (when you roll the hot juicy apples in the provided cinnamon and sugar, it tastes just like apple pie!). Mulled wine and other libations are available in the Fire Lounge and help warm you up in more ways than one. This is one of Canada’s earlier Christmas markets, taking place over a couple of weekends in November.
4. Kitchener, Ont.
It’s hard to pick a “Christmas capital” of Canada (after all, the North Pole does have a Canadian postal code!) but if I had to choose, it would be Kitchener. This southern Ontario city is home to one of the largest German-Canadian populations in the country and, in fact, its name used to be Berlin. They throw one heck of an Oktoberfest, but they also really shine at Christmas. Kitchener’s Christkindl Market has been transforming the city into an authentic, old-world-style market since 1996.
Every December, residents and visitors are treated to music, choir performances, plays, nativity scenes, a model railway display, blacksmith demonstrations, a parade and donkey procession, and ceremonial tree lighting. Along the way, you can treat yourself to schnitzel and stollen (as well as free milk and cookies!) and shop for blown-glass ornaments, artisan crafts, toys, and jewelry. The entire city gets into the spirit of things, and you can spot festive decorations and special events all across town throughout the month of December.
5. Toronto, Ont.
In Canada’s largest city, you might just find the country’s coziest Christmas market. The Toronto Christmas Market is held in the city’s historic Distillery District. Located just east of downtown, this area was once home to Gooderham and Worts, a whiskey factory founded in 1832. Now, it’s a pedestrian zone, home to snug shops, tiny galleries, specialty restaurants, and plenty of bars (as well as creative tours, like the Segway tour that I once tried.)
Come Christmas, the area is transformed with thousands of twinkle lights and a massive Christmas tree. Cobblestone streets only add to the charm as you explore the stalls selling Canadian handicrafts and European-inspired treats. There are regular performances from musicians and folk dancers, and, when you’re weary, you can rest at the beer garden, which also serves up holiday cocktails and hot rum. You could refuel with some homemade pierogi, but there are some distinctly Canadian treats on offer, too. Keep your eyes open for stalls selling poutine, Canada’s beloved guilty pleasure of fresh fries, cheese curds, and gravy.
6. Ottawa, Ont.
As a long-time resident of Ottawa, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the Ottawa Christmas Market on this list. The city’s long-time market space at Lansdowne Park, in the heart of the Glebe neighborhood, gets transformed over the course of four weekends during the lead-up to Christmas. More than 35 vendors are on hand to offer food, drink, handmade crafts, eco-friendly coffee, locally distilled spirits, chocolates, soaps, wooden products, and much more.
Pro Tip: If you’re in and around Ottawa in December, be sure to check out the free holiday light show on Parliament Hill and across downtown.
7. Montreal, Quebec
Montreal’s Christmas spirit is so high that it has not one, not two, but three Christmas markets! At the Village de Noel in the Atwater Market, more than 50 vendor chalets offering everything from honey to pottery to bath salts are set up as choirs perform holiday hymns in the background. This family-friendly market has featured face painting and marshmallow roasting in the past.
Meanwhile, at Le Grand Marche de Noel you can get a double dose of both Christmas fun and Quebecois flavors. This is the place to go to sample poutine, smoked meat, maple syrup, and local cheeses from more than 100 producers, processors, and artisans. Past activities have included a massive raclette party (where cheese is melted by a huge bonfire and then eaten with other tasty treats like baguette slices) and outdoor screenings of holiday movies.
Finally, at the Marche de Noel a Jean-Talon, one of the city’s oldest marketplaces is transformed for the holidays to host Montreal’s newest Christmas market. A dozen or so vendors are set up to offer luxurious products like maple liqueur, artisanal duck, homemade nougat, and more.
Come to think of it, you might just say that Montreal actually has four Christmas markets. The Marché de Noël et des Traditions is held in Longueuil, which is a suburb of Montreal. This dreamy market seems to specialize in holiday indulgences, as you can browse for confit duck, pear cider, maple butter, and salted caramels.
8. Quebec City, Quebec
Quebec City is wildly magical and romantic at any time of year, but the city utterly transforms in the lead-up to Christmas thanks to the German Christmas Market. This is old-fashioned European charm at its finest. You can buy German treats like mulled wine, bratwurst, pretzels, fondue, and gingerbread from the many wooden stalls that pop up, as well as Christmas gifts like handmade decorations and woolen mittens. There are plenty of local products, too, such as maple syrup and tourtiere meat pie. Between the cobblestone streets, the centuries-old architecture, and the thousands of fairy lights, this might just be the prettiest place in all of Canada. Plus, the festivities usually include a dog parade, where the participating pups dress up and get to meet Santa!
9. Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
While many Canadian cities transform into German-inspired Christmas markets each year, something very different is taking place in Charlottetown. It embraces a Victorian theme! Every year, the city hosts a Christmas festival running from mid-November to mid-December. There are indoor craft fairs and outdoor light shows, a Dr. Suess-inspired “Whoville” event, and horse and wagon rides from Peake’s Wharf. But the Victorian Christmas Market at the end of November is a highlight of the program. This open-air Christmas market is the largest of its kind in Atlantic Canada. More than 60 vendors are set up, and there are fire pits and hot chocolate to keep everyone warm.
For more winter-in-Canada inspiration, consider: