12 CHRISTMAS MARKETS AND TRADITIONS TO GET YOU IN THE YULETIDE SPIRIT
Christmas markets originated in Europe, making it one of the best places to experience the romantic fairy lights, charming streets and festive spirit in full swing.
1. Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market, Berlin, Germany
Already stunning throughout all seasons of the year, the three historical buildings at the Gendarmenmarkt square stand bright and proud with decorative lights during Christmas season. Visit artisan stores for Christmas goods like origami crafts, belts, and glass art. Expect to find fragrant food stores that offer German, Austrian, and Bavarian dishes, as well as gourmet delicacies.
Did you know? If you order mulled wine and are charged higher than the price indicated at the market, don’t panic. The extra amount is a deposit for the mug. Feel free to return it or keep the mug as a souvenir as they are usually specially designed for the year-end event.
Where to stay: COSMO Hotel Berlin Mitte and Titanic Gendarmenmarkt Berlin Hotel are within walking distance to Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market. Situated in the cultural and shopping area of Berlin, they provide easy access to the city’s attractions. Or stay at one of the other 2,000 Agoda options in Berlin.
2. St Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market, Budapest, Hungary
If technology is more you than tinsel, St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market might be the spot for you. The market is famous for one of the largest 3D light painting shows in Europe, where visitors can be part of the narratives projected on the facade of St. Stephen's Basilica. There is a skating-rink free for children under 14 and culinary booths offering a taste of Hungarian specialties such as fried sausage and palinka (fruit brandy.)
Did you know? Hungarian children can receive gifts twice during this jolly season. On 6 December, children leave shoes on their window sills to get small presents like sweets or chocolates and also wait for the bigger gifts under their Christmas trees on the eve or morning of Christmas.
Where to stay: There are 8,000 properties to choose from in Budapest. Stay at the Kempinski Corvinus and Hotel President to enjoy Christmas in Budapest with many Christmas markets nearby, with St. Stephen’s Basilica just a few minutes away.
3. Medieval Christmas Market (Advent spectacle at Wittelsbacherplatz,) Munich, Germany
Prepare to be transported back to the middle ages in Munich. This market tries to capture the atmosphere of Munich Christmas markets dating back centuries ago with vendors in period costumes, medieval wares, and performances. Visit on a weekend when it gets especially lively and be sure to whip out your cameras and catch minstrels singing and armoured knights in the streets. Food is also made using traditional recipes, staying true to the theme of the event.
Did you know? You can pick up a Lebkuchen at the markets. The traditional German treat is a large cookie that is usually heart-shaped with a Christmas message on it, making it the perfect gift for your special someone with a sweet tooth.
Where to stay: Hotel Cristal and Vi Vadi Hotel Downtown Munich are a short walk from Central Station and less than a ten-minute drive to Medieval Christmas Market. There are also more than 900 hotels and homes in Munich.
4. Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, London, England
Looking for some thrills this Christmas? Apart from traditional Christmas gifts and eats, there are over 100 fairground rides and attractions waiting for everyone. This year, the market boasts the world’s tallest transportable observation wheel, UK’s largest open-air ice rink, karaoke, sculptures, performances and more excitement for the whole family.
Did you know? If you’re not one for hot chocolate and mulled wine, you can get a cool fix instead at Bar Ice in Winter Wonderland. This bar keeps your alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks chilled at -10°C and serves them in pre-carved ice glasses. Book ahead to secure tickets.
Where to stay: There are more than 26,000 Agoda properties in London. The Westbourne Hyde Park and Best Western Mornington Hotel are very close to the subway station and city centre, allowing you to explore the city in the day time before having loads of fun at the Christmas market in the evening.
5. Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic
Immerse yourself in an authentic Czech Christmas at the Christmas Market in Prague’s Old Town Square, one of the most beautiful and liveliest markets in the country with plenty of dance and choral performances to entertain visitors. Delight in traditional dishes such as roasted ham, sausages, Czech Christmas cakes and local beers. Keep warm with hot beverages such as honey wine, grog and hot chocolate.
Did you know? Instead of turkey, Czechs traditionally serve fried carp for their annual Christmas Eve dinner.
Where to stay: After exploring the Christmas market, rest at the cozy Ventana hotel located next to the Old Times Square, a few minutes’ walk from the market. Alternatively, stay at the comfortable Iron Gate Hotel & Suites Prague which offers a variety of room types to fit your need. There are more than 6,000 properties in Prague.
6. Karlsplatz Art Advent, Vienna, Austria
This is an alternative market for art and culture enthusiasts to shop for Christmas-themed products and more. Expect unique and original high-quality crafts from this curation of talented creators. Vendors have to pass a panel of judges in order to showcase and sell their crafts at the market! The food and beverage stalls serve organic cuisine and drinks, so you won’t get hungry strolling around Karlsplatz.
Did you know? Austrians get twigs from cherry trees and place them in a vase of water on 4 December. It is believed that if the twig blossoms by Christmas eve, the family will be blessed with good luck.
Where to stay: Check in at Grand Ferdinand - Beyond Stars and Standards for a stylish stay in the heart of Vienna and not far from Karlsplatz Art Advent, or stay luxuriously at the Schlosshotel Romischer Kaiser. There are more than 3,000 Agoda properties in Vienna.
Christmas is one of the most widely celebrated festivities in North America, and the season kicks off with major shopping sales like Black Friday just after Thanksgiving at the end of November.
7. The Great Dickens Fair, San Francisco, California
Charles Dickens’ classic novel “A Christmas Carol” is brought to life at The Cow Palace, where you’ll immerse in the recreation of a busy evening scene in 19th century Victorian London Town. Dress up in Victorian costumes and join in the festivities! See if you can spot Oliver Twist or Queen Victoria among hundreds of costumed characters along the lamplit lanes. Visit the ‘English pubs’ for your fix of drinks, meat pies and roasted chestnuts, or do some holiday shopping at the various Christmas stalls.
Did you know? Many Christmas traditions were created during the Victorian era including sending Christmas cards, singing Christmas Carols, Christmas cracker pull and feasting on roast turkey.
Where to stay: Pick from more than 1,000 Agoda properties in San Francisco, or escape from the hustle and bustle and stay at AC Hotel San Francisco Airport/Oyster Point Waterfront. The hotel has an excellent fitness centre, outdoor garden, and bar for a lovely view if you stroll around the bayfront area.
8. Vancouver Christmas Market, Vancouver, Canada
This German-inspired market has what you need to get into a jolly mood. You will find a variety of products here from Christmas-themed decorations, handcrafted gifts, to other kinds of products from around the world. Pork knuckle, chimney cake, raclette, bratwurst will remind you of Christmas markets in Europe. There are plenty of good Instagram spots in the markets such as the walk-in Christmas tree, Christmas carousel and Lovers’ Lane & Love-Lock Installation.
Did you know? Boxing Day is observed in Canada on 26 December, and perfect for shopaholics as it is when retailers typically hold their biggest sales of the year. Originating from the United Kingdom, the holiday name came from “Christmas Box.”
Where to stay: ThePinnacle Hotel Harbourfront and Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown are ideal for those who want to enjoy the market as well as the city. They overlook Coal Harbour, so you can relax and unwind by the waterfront. There are also more than 1,000 Vancouver properties on Agoda.
9. Enchant Christmas, Washington, DC, USA
While Enchant is not quite the same kind of Christmas market one might find in Europe, it is probably one of the brightest Christmas events in America. Enchant’s star attraction is the world’s largest Christmas light maze, which is a marvelous walk-through based on an original story. There’s also a skating trail lined with illuminated trees, reindeer and spectacular Christmas decorations.
Did you know? The National Christmas tree stands proudly in front of the White House and is surrounded by 56 smaller trees representing the different states and territories of the United States.
Where to stay: Book your stay at Homewood Suites by Hilton Washington DC Capitol-Navy Yard which is not far from Nationals Park where Enchant takes place or the family-friendly Residence Inn Washington Capitol Hill/Navy Yard which boasts spacious rooms, a kitchenette and is pet-friendly. Travellers can also pick from over 900 Agoda properties in Washington, DC.
The season of joy and gift-giving has also taken root in parts of Asia Pacific in recent years and each destination has something different to offer.
10. Christmasland, New Taipei City, Taiwan
Recognised for its massive scale and the most beautiful Christmas-themed decorations in the country, Christmasland features Taiwan’s tallest Christmas Tree and fun activities for all ages including rides, carnival games and concerts. Feel the festive vibes and marvel at the extravagant LED light installation and light shows while enjoying folk song and dance performances.
Did you know? The fair takes place at Banqiao district in New Taipei City which can be easily accessed by taking the metro. Walk towards Citizens Square and start admiring the lights on the way there.
Where to stay: There are more than 3,000 Agoda properties in Taipei. Hotel Cham Cham and Caesar Park Hotel Banqiao are great and accessible choices for those who want to enjoy Christmasland and explore the city of Taipei.
11. German Christmas Market, Sapporo, Japan
This market recreates the spirit of German Christmas markets in Japan. Visitors can browse through the stalls of Christmas souvenirs, watch performances or participate in workshops to craft decorations. The F&B booths offer a taste of German cuisine as well as other European food. You can opt for hot drinks such as Gluhwein (mulled wine) and hot chocolate to warm you up.
Did you know? You can get your Instagram-worthy shots after walking through the market at Odori park and enjoy the romantic atmosphere of Sapporo White Illumination. The park is beautifully adorned with colourful lights and statues that glow and twinkle in contrast with the white snow.
Where to stay: Enjoy the comfort of Tokyu Stay Sapporo Odori or La’gent Stay Sapporo Odori Hokkaido. They are in close proximity to the market and the rooms are equipped with all the necessary amenities. Agoda offers more than 2,000 properties in Sapporo.
12. Christmas Wonderland Singapore
Have you ever wondered what a Christmas market in the tropics is like? Well, Singapore’s annual Christmas Wonderland will make you stand in awe in the middle of the iconic Gardens by the Bay. Get in the mood as you step into an enchanting scene of light sculptures and Asia’s tallest luminarie Christmas Tree. Keep an eye out for the scheduled Blizzard Time because it’s going to snow in Singapore, and you can even ice skate at the market! Young ones can enjoy carnival games, kiddy rides and get a selfie with Santa in his Grotto.
Did you know? Visitors can soak up Christmas vibes along Orchard Road, Singapore’s famous shopping belt while doing their holiday shopping. The area is transformed into a wonderland of its own with glittering decorations and captivating lights.
Where to stay: Take your pick with more than 1,000 options in Singapore. Chill out at the iconic SO/ Sofitel Singapore; not only memorable for its location, but also its voguish interior. If you want to escape the busy city, check in at the elegant and seclusive Six Senses Maxwell.