When it comes to festive travel experiences, few things compare to the sights and smells of European Christmas markets. While many of the continent’s most famous markets are back in business this year, there are still some beloved venues that shut down amid rising COVID cases. Add to that the lingering stress of crowded airports and canceled flights, and it starts to feel like the Grinch has already stolen Christmas.
But fear not: There are plenty of European-style markets right here in the United States that pull inspiration from across the pond, featuring traditional foods and appealing handmade goods. So whether you’re craving German glühwein or Danish hygge, these seven Christmas markets will make you feel like you’re spending the holidays in Europe.
Chicago, IllinoisNovember 18–December 24
Chicago sure knows how to impress during the holidays, right down to the last window display on State Street. One of the city’s biggest yuletide attractions is its annual Christkindlmarket, inspired by the classic Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany. If you can blur out the Chicago landmarks in your periphery, you really might believe you’ve been transported to Bavaria, with wooden stalls hawking handmade gifts and the scents of that region’s gingerbread and bratwurst wafting through the air. If you’re there with kids, don’t forget to take a picture with the Christkind, “a fairy-like being dressed in gold and white robes with a crown up on her golden locks.” She’s the namesake for the Chriskindlmarket and in German folklore she’s the bearer of gifts to children.
Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaNovember 19–December 24
Yet another German-inspired market, Philadelphia’s Christmas Village feels like a European wonderland with its dozens of wooden huts, illuminated beer garden, and thousands of twinkling lights. (The fact that it’s backed by Philly’s ornate, second empire–style City Hall only adds to the European feel.) This year’s market has added a double-decker carousel and a German-food court, where visitors can fill up on bratwurst, Belgian fries, warm plates of spätzle, and lots of beer and spiced wine. It’s the same time as the neighboring Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market (also near the Ice Rink at Dilworth Park and the municipal Christmas Tree at North Broad), so the district surrounding Love Park is busy with holiday cheer this time of year.
Savannah Christmas Market
Savannah, GeorgiaNovember 25, 2022–January 2, 2023
Now in its third year, Savannah’s Christmas Market in the Plant Riverside District combines Austrian tradition with Southern charm. Here you’ll find a small collection of stalls lined up right along the river, selling mulled wine, beer, pretzels, and chocolatey treats for the kids. There will also be a wide range of holiday-themed events this year, including a Tree Lighting Ceremony (November 25) and Savannah Harbor Boat Parade of Lights (November 26), as well as live music performances, children’s activities, photos with Santa Claus, and more each night.
Holland, MichiganNovember 19, 25, 26, 29; December 2, 3, 9, 10
Holland, Michigan, is perhaps best known for its springtime tulip festivals (like its namesake), but the town leans into its Dutch heritage just as heavily during the holidays. Its annual Kerstmarkt pays homage to the Christmas markets that pop up all around the Netherlands in December, with food, drinks, and crafts sold across a variety of booths. The vendors offer a mix of traditional Dutch cuisine and local Michigan treats, so be prepared to chase your bowl of erwtensoep (split pea soup) with some maple syrup candy.
Solvang, CaliforniaNovember 26, 2022–January 6, 2023
If you can’t make it to the Christmas festivities at Tivoli Gardens this year, you can still get a fix of Danish culture at Solvang Julefest, an annual celebration held north of Santa Barbara in the town of Solvang, which calls itself “the Danish capital of America.” For more than a month, the city’s downtown area transforms into a charming Christmas village straight from a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, complete with gløgg and brunkager (Christmas cookies), visits with Santa, and scavenger hunts to find the mysterious Solvang nisse—basically the Danish version of Elf on the Shelf.
Scandinavian Christmas Fair
Raleigh, North CarolinaDecember 3
Hosted every year by a local Swedish American organization, this fair brings Scandinavia to Raleigh with traditional folk dances, visits with Tomten (Santa), and gifts ranging from Norwegian sweaters to painted gnomes. This year marks the 26th anniversary of the Julmarknad (“Christmas market” in Swedish), which is a great excuse to load up on Swedish meatballs, pea soup, glögg, and kanelbulle (cinnamon buns). Tickets cost $7 per person, and all proceeds go toward scholarships and local Scandinavian initiatives.
Après Ski Holiday Market at Dairy Block
Denver, ColoradoNovember 25-27; December 2-4, 9-11, 16-18
Denver’s Christkindlmarket (November 18–December 23) tends to get most of the attention during the holidays, but don’t sleep on the city’s smaller markets—especially the Après Ski Holiday Market at Dairy Block, a trendy complex that has restaurants, bars, shops, and a hotel. This charming market pop-up, inspired by Swiss ski villages, premiered last Christmas and is back again with blue and white lights that transform Dairy Block Alley into a winter wonderland. You’ll feel like you just left the slopes as you enjoy wine and cheese in a heated igloo or sip some CBD-infused coffee in a bubble tent—this is Colorado, after all.
This article original appeared in 2021 and has been updated with new information. Caitlin Morton
This article original appeared in 2021 and has been updated with new information.