Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year! The lights, food, drinking red wine in a cozy atmosphere, and don’t get me started on chunky sweaters accompanied by hats, scarves, gloves, and extra warm coats! Add in a blanket of snow covering the ground, and I – am – in heaven. I’ve recently settled into life in Chicago and I have to say that Chicago knows how to do Christmas right. The city is decked out in lights (that respond to Christmas music playing!) and everywhere you turn there’s almost always a large and ornately decorated Christmas tree. But the cherry on top of it all? Chicago’s annual Christmas market – Christkindlmarket.
If you’re visiting Chicago, or live in Chicago, a visit to Christkindlmarket is one of the most festive ways to celebrate Christmas and the holidays. It’s modeled after the German Christmas markets and having been to European Christmas markets myself, I have to say that it is quite similar. There are even names of cities around Germany to accompany where each stall “comes” from. (For instance, you may see a sign above a pretzel place that says “Bavaria”).
Christkindlmarket has been held annually since 1996, has over 150 food and craft stalls, and attracts more than one million visitors per year.
Before reading further, make sure to check out this list of The Best Things to Do in Chicago in the Winter
Visiting Chicago’s Christmas Market – Christkindlmarket
There are two different locations where the market is held. The main location of Christkindlmarket is in Daley Plaza in what’s referred to as the “Loop”. The second location is in Wrigleyville, more north of the city (and where the Cubs play!).
The Daley Plaza location is the main site of Christkindlmarket (and larger than the Wrigleyville location), but the Wrigleyville one is just as great and happens to be near an ice skating rink! In my opinion, the Wrigleyville location seems more family-friendly so if you’re going with kids you may want to visit that location.
Entrance to visit Christkindlmarket is completely free. If you don’t plan to buy any food, drink, or souvenirs then this could be a totally free event for you to visit. However, if you do want to purchase food and drink (which I highly recommend) then you will need money. Most of the stalls are cash-only, but there are multiple ATMs located throughout the market.
While I think that buying food and drink is worth it, prices are a bit high, so expect to spend about $20+ if you get one snack and one drink. I spent about $30 on one drink and two snacks.
Being as this is a German Christmas market, expect lots of yummy German food at the food stalls throughout the market. You’ll be able to find bratwursts, german chocolate-coated fruits, candied nuts, melty cheese sandwiches, big pretzels, German pancakes, and more! My favorite food stall was Baked Cheese Haus where they smothered my sandwich with a big heap of warm raclette cheese.
You should also know that at the Daley Plaza location, there is a heated restaurant called the Timber Haus where you can reserve a table in advance and eat your favorite German foods and drink your favorite German drinks in the warmth, without waiting in line.
Making Christkindlmarket feel even more authentically German, you can also get German drinks here like mulled wine (called Glühwein in German) and German beer. There’s also a plethora of non-alcoholic drinks to choose from like hot chocolate and warm apple cider.
My favorite thing about the Glühwein is that they come in fun Christmas cups that you’re able to keep afterward!
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The market opens annually just before Thanksgiving and closes just before New Year. This year (in 2021), Christkindlmarket was open from November 19-December 24 (Daley Plaza location), and November 19-December 31 (Wrigleyville location). Hours vary on location but are generally open from 11 am – 8 pm during the week and until 10 pm on the weekend.
I recommend visiting during the week as the crowds are much fewer than on the weekends. You also may consider visiting during the day when the sun is out (thus it’s a bit warmer), and crowds will be even fewer.
One thing that is important to note that wasn’t mentioned above is that unless you book a table at Timber Haus, there isn’t anywhere to sit. There are plenty of tables you can stand around and eat, but make sure to wear comfortable shoes because you’ll be walking around a lot.
After my first visit to Chicago’s Christmas market, I know that this will be an annual tradition for me. What are your favorite Christmas traditions around Chicago? Let me know in the comments below so that I can add them to my ever-growing Chicago bucket list!