European-Style Christmas Markets in the Midwest

Traditional Bavarian and Dutch Christmas markets are at their peak in the Midwest in November and December. Here are 8 festive gatherings where you can lose yourself in the coziest renditions of outdoor holiday shopping.

When the Thanksgiving leftovers are chilling in the fridge and yuletide cheer is tangible, a classic Christmas tradition springs up across the region: European-style Christmas markets. The heritage of these old-world, open-air markets dates back centuries, giving local and international artisans the opportunity to peddle their steaming, spiced, glazed and glassy wares.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Courtesy of Choose Chicago

Christkindlmarket, Chicago

Christkindlmarket Chicago claims the festive trophy of "the most authentic traditional holiday market of its kind outside of Europe" for good reason. This Bavarian-style winter shopping wonderland drew inspiration from first-hand research in Nuremberg, Germany, 25 years ago. Today, international and local vendors gather in Daley Plaza to show off their craftsmanship under timber roofs and colorful fairy lights, typically drawing over one million visitors (November 17-December 24, 2023).

Christmas in Germany, Omaha

Nebraska's beloved German Christmas Market becomes a spirited display of holiday cheer for a day in December (December 3, 2023). Expect a 25-foot tree adorned with hand-carved ornaments, Glühwein, carol-singing, a Christkindl Market and authentic treats.

Kerstmarkt, Holland, Michigan
Courtesy of Kerstmarkt

Kerstmarkt, Holland, Michigan

Would we expect anything less than ample Dutch comfort and joy from a town called Holland? At Holiday Kerstmarkt, vendors stock booths with steaming baked goods, pottery, hand-knit sweaters, jewelry and (obviously) Dutch treats. Running weekends from November 18 to December 16, 2023, at the Eighth Street Marketplace, Kerstmarkt attracts visitors from across the nation. Highlights include a parade of lights, live music, food trucks, dogsled demonstrations and an appearance by the jolly Sinterklaas.

Christkindlmarkt, Frankenmuth, Michigan

As the holidays approach, Frankenmuth looks to its sister region of Germany for inspiration, transforming into the largest regional ChristKindlMarkt (November 24-26, December 1-3 and December 8-10, 2023). Frankenmuth has been fondly referred to as "Christmas Town, USA" by locals and visitors; for the holidays, the town welcomes 40-plus vendors to set up shop, including the pop-up bar Christmas Town Pub, which serves warm Glühwein, Frankenmuth Brewery's Christmas Town Ale and hot cocoa. Pair the drinks with a sauerkraut-heavy brat and a hearty cup of soup with generously buttered bread. Rumor has it that St. Nick will be making an appearance for family photo ops.

European Christmas Market, St. Paul
Courtesy of European Christmas Market

European Christmas Market, St. Paul

Grab the hand of someone you love (or at least want to shop with) and stuff the other one with a doughy treat at St. Paul's European Christmas Market at Union Depot, the only gathering of its kind in the state. For four consecutive weekends starting November 24, 2023, visitors can browse 60 kiosks. Special events include a tree-lighting ceremony, Irish dancing, bake sale and the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train arrival and concert.

Kerstmarkt, Pella, Iowa

The sophomore rendition of Pella's Dutch Kerstmarkt draws inspiration from outdoor markets in the Netherlands. Holiday vendors will set up shop from November 30-December 2, 2023, in Molengracht Plaza, a downtown replica of a Dutch canal. Nibble on sweet and savory pannekoeken (Dutch pancakes), fresh-popped kettle corn and barbecue while browsing hand-painted arts and crafts. The event is held in conjunction with Pella's Christmas Tour of Homes.

Reg clogg mugs at The Osthoff Resort
Courtesy of The Osthoff Resort

Old World Christmas Market, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Immersive is the name of the Christmas game at the Old World Christmas Market at The Osthoff Resort (December 1-10, 2023). A Christmas shopping bazaar lies beneath a (heated) tent filled with glass ornaments, hand-carved nutcrackers, stained glass art, fresh green wreaths, fine chocolates and probably everything listed in "The 12 Day of Christmas." The Old World Food Court offers hot Glühwein, dumplings, schnitzel and apple strudel. Besides enjoying shopping and treats, guests can hop on a horse-drawn wagon and grab a photo (and possibly brunch) with St. Nicholas and his reindeer.

Germania Society's Annual Christkindlmarkt, Cincinnati

Cincinnati's Germania Society boosts the local Christmas spirit at Christkindlmarkt, the oldest and most authentic of its kind in the area. This market is truly a bite-sized piece of Germany—the covered pavilion transforms into a winter wonderland stuffed with bier steins, cuckoo clocks, Schwibbogen (candle arches) and mesmerizing rotating candle holder carousels. Traditional wursts, soups and Bavarian pastries are plentiful, and featured events include appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus, the Christkind and St. Nikolaus; a lantern parade; and petting zoo. But it's not all beeswax candles and wool mittens—Krampus, the alpine Christmas villain, may also be strolling the grounds (November 3-5, 2023).

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