Visiting the Christkindlmarket in Chicago IL, has been on my bucket list for a while now and finally I managed to tick it off when I visited for my 30th birthday! For those that haven’t heard of the Christkindlmarket, it’s a German Christmas Market, similar to the Christmas markets that are popular in Europe! It runs from the middle of November until Christmas Eve and is held in Daley Plaza in the Loop District of Downtown Chicago! 2018 was Christkindlmarket Chicago’s 23rd year!
Christmas Things To Do in Chicago
The Christkindlmarket in Chicago is free to visit. It’s full of various stalls selling food, Christmas gifts and decorations! I spent a fortune finishing up my Christmas shopping and stuffing my face full of yummy treats! I liked the way each stand was labelled with where they originate from. Some are local Midwestern businesses but there are some that come from Germany too!
Christkindlmarket Tip: Many of the stalls only accept cash. There are a couple of ATMS on site, otherwise come prepared with a pocket full of cash!
Don’t miss these things at the Christkindlmarket in Chicago!
Traditionally at European Christmas markets, they’ll have unique little mugs in which Gluhwein (mulled wine) is served in. Chicago is no different! Each year they have designs made just for that year! In 2018, the main mug design was heart shaped (like the heart shaped gingerbread cookies which I’ll talk about later) complete with a market ‘skyline’ and the year and location.
The 2018 market theme was ‘Ich Liebe Christkindlmarket’ which translates to ‘I love Christkindlmarket’
There was then a second design which was snowman shaped!
I was a little surprised that not more stalls were serving Gluhwein, you had to go to a designated alcohol stall for the mulled wine and beer. The majority of the outdoor stands instead were serving hot chocolate or hot apple cider (non alcoholic) in the souvenir mugs.
If I remember correctly, a hot chocolate with whipped cream, served in one of the souvenir mugs was $7, with refills costing $2, or $3 with cream.
I also bought a Nurnberger brat in a crispy bread bun. Again it cost $7 but you did get 2 sausages instead of just one.
Carrying on with the food, I purchased one of the small decorated gingerbread hearts. They come in a range of sizes with different things written on them. To keep with the European-ness of the market, I bought one that said ‘Frohe Weihnacht’ on it, which means ‘Merry Christmas’ in German!
The smallest heart was $6 and has 2 holes punched in it and is threaded with a piece of ribbon. I carried it around like a bag, with it hanging on my arm, but others were wearing them around their necks too! In Germany, these heart shaped Gingerbread cookies are called ‘Lebkuchenherzen’.
For kids, you can pick up a special Christkindlmarket Passport (read as ‘I picked up a passport for myself but I love anything passport themed…’). There are a few pages where you can go round to participating stalls and collect a ‘passport stamp’. Once you get at least 5 different ones, you can give it into the Visitor Infomation stand and be in with a chance of winning some prizes.
The rest of the passport is full of word puzzles and games, focusing on teaching children different German Christmas words in a fun way!
It’s worth wandering around the different shops and looking at the different items for sale! Lots of the items are handcrafted or hand painted, with many of the Christmas ornaments being made out of wood or glass. One stall was even offering free engraving to make the ornaments even more unique!
Other items for sale included warm hats, gloves and scarves. I hear AMAZING things about products that are made from alpaca wool. (Here’s a side story for you! In 2008 I was a camp counsellor in upstate NYC. During the summer the camp would obviously operate as a summer camp, but in the winter they were an alpaca farm. During down time we’d be asked to get the alpaca ‘fleeces’ ready to be sent off to be made into clothing!) They are expensive products but then you get what you pay for!
You can pick up a leaflet from the visitor infomation which provides you with a market layout with infomation on all the different vendors and a timetable of the special events happening on various dates.
The pigeons all hundled around the mini firepit were a bit like celebrities…so many people were taking pictures of them…and probably jealous of them being able to stand around the fire! (Someone then scared them and twenty odd pigeons flew directly at my head and made me scream…)
There are toilets at the Christkindlmarket and I thought it was great that they were actually porta potties BUT were inside a tent/marquee complete with a door!
I visited on a Monday in the early afternoon and even then it was quite busy but not unbearable. I’d imagine on a weekend it would get rather crowded as the Daley Plaza isn’t exactly a HUGE space.
Where is Christkindlmarket Chicago located?
As mentioned, Chicago’s Christkindlmarket is located at the Daley Plaza on the corner of Dearborn, Washington and Clark Street. The nearest CTA train line is Washington on the Blue Line. The station exit pops up right next to the Christmas market! This was great for me as I find it easier (and cheaper) to park at or near O’Hare Airport when I visit Chicago and then get the train in. The airport is on the Blue Line too!
A single CTA pass LEAVING the Airport station is $5 (all other stations are $2.50) and is good for up to 3 journeys within 2 hours. I was able to use the same ticket to get back to the airport, without needing to buy another, WIN!
Sunday – Thursday 11am until 8pm
Friday – Saturday 11am until 9pm
If you’re visiting Chicago in December, it runs right up until December 24th so hopefully you’ll be able to catch it while in the city!
The Christkindlmarket is worth considering if you are looking for Christmas things to do in Chicago! They’ve since opened at a 2nd location on the outskirts Chicago in Naperville. However the Naperville market is only open Thursdays to Sundays throughout the season (with more dates in the lead up to Christmas Day).
2018 saw the introduction of Christkindlmarket Milwaukee! The Milwaukee location is actually open for the longest of the 3, with its final date being New Years Eve on the 31st Dec, rather than Christmas Eve!
You can find out more about the Christkindlmarket events on their website www.christkindlmarket.com
Christmas Around The World
To see another European country’s Christmas market traditions, check out my post: Visiting The Barcelona Christmas Market! (Spain)
Expat Life: How to Have a British Christmas in America (Expat Christmas)
What are some of your favourite Christmas things to do in Chicago?
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