Chicago’s German market has the best vendors for holiday shopping.
As the holidays quickly get closer, now’s a good time to start your gift shopping. There’s nowhere better to get a handmade, unique present than the Christkindlmarket, a popular German fair that comes to Chicago every winter. The location downtown just opened, so we’ve put together a complete guide of everything you need to know about this classic Chicago tradition.
What is the Christkindlmarket?
Every year since 1996, German American Events puts on a giant German market filled with handmade gifts, delicious German food, and entertaining events. Inspired by the 16th-century “Christkindlesmarkt” in Nuremberg, Germany, the outdoor fair is now a Chicago holiday tradition. Thousands attend every year and go away with perfect holiday gifts and limited edition souvenir mugs that locals enthusiastically collect.
Wait, how do you spell that?
It’s Christkindlmarket; not Christkindlemarket or Christkringlemarket or Christkindlesmarkt (unless you’re in Germany). Don’t worry. We were confused at first, too.
Where is it?
The Christkindlmarket has three main locations, although they’ve varied slightly year to year. There’s always a location downtown at the Daley Plaza, which is usually the most popular, and for the second year one in Wrigleyville and in Milwaukee. Last year there was also a market in Naperville, but that location won’t be making a comeback this year.
If you’re traveling by CTA downtown, you can take the Blue line to Washington or the Red line to Lake. We suggest taking public transit as parking downtown can be a nightmare and you’ll want as much time as possible to browse, eat, and enjoy. If you plan to attend the Wrigleyville market, get off the Red line at Addison.
When is it?
Exact dates vary year to year and location to location, but typically the market starts mid-Nov and continues to the end of Dec. This year, the Downtown location begins Nov 15 and ends Christmas Eve and Wrigleyville’s market begins Nov 22 and ends New Year’s Eve. Daily and holiday hours vary.
All locations have incredible artisans who sell wonderful (often handmade) gifts. Some of the most popular are Christmas ornaments, German cuckoo clocks, hand-carved wooden trinkets, and of course, Christkindlmarket’s famous mugs. You can view a full list of vendors for the Downtown and Wrigleyville market on the Christkindlmarket’s website.
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Mmm, yes. The food. If you love German and Dutch cuisine, look no further than the Christkindlmarket. From stuffed pretzels to mouthwatering bratwurst to delicious Belgian hot chocolate served in adorable mugs, the market has some spectacular food options. Gotta fuel-up after all that shopping!
You keep talking about these mugs. What’s the deal with them?
It might seem like a small thing to get so excited over, but Chicagoans love these limited edition mugs. Every year there are new, adorable designs and you can get hot chocolate included in your purchase! They serve them perfectly hot and topped whipped cream for you to sip at as you browse the market. Afterward, you have a wonderful souvenir to take home! Who doesn’t love that?
This year, Christkindlmarket decided to bring back the iconic boot mug that has been absent that past few years. Each mug is white and designed with individual market scenes of each location. The inside of the mug also varies by location, representing the German flag in black (Downtown Chicago) red (Wrigleyville), and yellow (Milwaulkee). There is also a Peppermint Penguin mug available for kids.
Who the eff is Krampus?
According to Central European folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic half-goat, half-man who punishes naughty children by shoving them into his sack for later consumption. In short, he’s evil Santa. Many vendors at the Christkindlmarket sell Krampus themed gifts like puppets, masks, and other fun (read creepy) items. Just make sure you behave yourself or the next thing you see might be the lining of Krampus’ stomach.
Alright, I’m in. How much is admission?
That’s the best part. It’s free! You might want to bring some cash, though, because some of the vendors don’t accept card.
Dates: Nov 15 – Dec 24 Downtown and Nov 22 – Dec 31 in Wrigleyville
Downtown hours: Sun – Thurs: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Fri – Sat: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Wrigleyville hours: Mon – Thurs: 3 p.m. – 9 p.m., Fri – Sat: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Sun: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Downtown location: Daley Plaza, 50 W Washington St, Chicago, IL
Wrigleyville location: Gallagher Way, 3635 N Clark St, Chicago, IL
Feature photo by @lovegallivanting.