Visiting the Vancouver Christmas Market
Each year, as soon as December rolls around, I can’t wait to get bundled up to go outside, haul out the holiday decorations, admire the twinkling lights, cozy up with a hot beverage, and just enjoy the overall festiveness of the season.
But the problem with living in Vancouver, one of Canada’s mildest cities, is that it hardly ever snows in the winter months. Maybe once in January if we’re lucky, but that’s not a guarantee every single year.
Instead, we have several months of endless rain, grey skies, mostly green mountains, and temperatures that feel like they fall somewhere between autumn and winter.
To me, snow goes hand in hand with the holidays, and it’s pretty hard to get into the Christmas spirit without it. Luckily, there is one place in the city that adds festive cheer - with or without snow.
The Vancouver Christmas Market, an authentic German inspired market, is the perfect place to spend a few hours, even on a rainy west coast day, to raise your holiday spirits.
Now in it's sixth year, the Vancouver Christmas Market runs from the end of November to December 24th each year at Queen Elizabeth Plaza in downtown Vancouver.
Inside the market you’ll find traditional foods like Bratwurst, Stollen (bread-like fruit cake), and Lebkuchen (the German version of a gingerbread cookie). There are delicious hot beverages like Glühwein (mulled wine), Feuerzangenbowle (a mix of rum and mulled wine), and a selection of German beers.
To me, nothing says Christmas quite like the smell of cinnamon, clove, and spices emanating from Glühwein.
So grab yourself a mulled wine and spend some time browsing over fifty market vendors. Discover some of the handicrafts that are typically found at Christmas markets across Germany: nutcrackers, beer steins, hand carved wooden toys, glass ornaments, jewelry, soap, and clothing.
Be sure to check out Käthe Wohlfahrt, the largest vendor at the market and Germany’s top Christmas ornament company. The prices are pretty high, but remember that the items are hand carved, painted and imported from Germany.
The first Christmas markets sprung up during the Middle Ages in German speaking areas across Europe.
These festive street markets began as a meeting place for villagers to buy and sell decorations and gifts, and usually operated from the first Advent (the fourth Sunday before Christmas) right up to December 24th.
I first visited a Christmas market when I was living in Germany back in 2008. I was lucky enough to live within a five minute radius of what is one of the most famous of all Christmas markets, Nuremberg's Chistkindlmarkt.
I loved the Christkindlmarkt so much, until I didn't. European Christmas markets are so popular among locals and tourists alike, that it was hard to go for a casual stroll through the festively decorated outdoor stalls without feeling like I was being herded like cattle.
At the Vancouver Christmas Market, this just isn't the case.
There was always a line at the entrance, don't get me wrong, but it really wasn't that bad. Sure, there were line ups for the food vendors, but believe me when I say it is nowhere near as bad as in Germany.
At the Vancouver Christmas Market there is plenty of space to move around through the charming wooden outdoor village and to get a good look at the wares.
There always seemed to be a crowd around the carousel. With it's bright lights, colorful horses, and holiday tunes it is the focal point of the entire market, admired by adults and children alike.
If there's one thing the market can improve on, it's this: stop playing acoustic Top 40 radio hits at a Christmas market! I mean, come on. People come here for Christmas-y things, not Adele and One Direction.
See those two lovebirds listening above? I think those were the only people who ever stopped for a moment to appreciate the unfitting music.
All in all, I think the Vancouver Christmas Market is the go-to place in Vancouver if you're looking to get into the holiday spirit.
From the dazzling lights, to the charming wooden huts, to the trees, nutcrackers, ornaments, carousel, and cheery German staff, you'll feel like you're walking through a winter wonderland, even in the rain.