The Plaza at Queen Elizabeth Theatre has been transformed into an enchanting German-style Christmas holiday wonderland. This is the fifth year of the popular Vancouver Christmas Market in downtown Vancouver. The Market is based upon the centuries’ old tradition of handcrafted, artisanal Christkindlmarkt markets in Germany. These markets were different in every town, and local tradesmen and artisans would display handmade wares and unique food and drinks from their community and region.
The Vancouver Christmas Market features many of the same items that you would find strolling through the markets in Germany; handmade wooden ornaments, wooden smokers, stalls of German handmade crafts, specialty food vendors (think chocolate, stollen, wild mushrooms), and prepared food options like pretzels, schnitzel, sausages and even Turkish pizza.
Holiday Shopping at the Vancouver Christmas Market
The Market is an excellent place to begin your holiday shopping, or to find those last-minute unique gifts for that special someone. There are more craft and gift vendors this year, featuring everything from alpaca scarves to locally-sourced honey, from springy wooden toys (perfect for above the crib or bed), to the ‘Herrnhuter Sterne’ hut of gorgeous paper or plastic light star ornaments. The large indoor market display by Kathe Wohlfahrt, the popular German Christmas ornament and decor company, features thousands of ornaments to choose from to adorn packages, trees, or to give as hostess gifts.
Did Someone Say Chocolate?
The artisanal food vendor selection has also grown, and I’m very happy to see the return of Zotter’s Chocolate Factory. The uniquely flavored (think tequila lemon & salt) chocolates from Austria are artfully wrapped and curated for hot chocolate, spicy chocolate, or fruit jelly chocolate lovers alike. Perfect stocking stuffers for any chocolate lover. Other unique food vendors include Das Stollenhaus, Taste the Wild (local mushrooms), Sonnentor Tea, and the Honeybee Centre.
Zotter’s also features hot chocolate to drink, as do several other food vendors. The drink of choice for adults on our visit appeared to be Gluhwein (hot spiced red wine). You can rent or purchase a collectable Christmas Market mug from several vendors, once you’ve received the wristband to show you’re of age to enjoy the gluhwein, hot cider, or the Krombacher Haus beer on tap.
The Sounds of the Holidays
With warm drink or cold beer in hand, it’s a lovely stroll around the Market, accompanied by the sounds of Christmas music, live caroling, or children’s choirs performing on the Pavilion Stage. There is a busy schedule of daily musical performances, as well as opportunities to meet mascots Holly & Jolly, live walking gingerbread characters.
Meeting walking gingerbread men will be a thrill for many children, as will decorating their own cookie version at the Gingerbread Haus. Cookie decorating is one of many children’s activities at the Vancouver Christmas Market, which also include scavenger hunts, face painting, and a meet-and-greet with Santa Claus himself. But even Santa has to compete with the temptations of riding Vancouver’s only Christmas Carousel. (Tip: ride the colourful carousel before diving into a turkish pizza, bratwurst sausage, hurricane potato, cotton candy or beavertails. There is no shortage of delicious food at the Market, and that is indeed one of its strongest draws.)
Kids six and under are free. A Family Admission Combo (two adults + two youth 7-12) is just $17, and it turns into a skip-the-line Season’s Pass after your first use. The Christmas and VIP Christmas Combo tickets include more Market experiences, such as carousel rides, souvenir mugs and food items.
Claudia lives in Vancouver. She's the mother of two teenage boys, and has a thirst for travel, chocolate, and pineapple margaritas. She writes and blogs as thetravellingmom.ca, offering a modern mom's guide to family travel sanity. She is much too active on Twitter as @travelling_mom.