Each holiday season, the Daley Plaza in Chicago’s Loop district explodes in Christmas cheer as the Christkindlmarket makes its appearance. A beloved European tradition, Chicago has adopted the Christmas market as a cherished tradition of its own. The Christkindlmarket has been coming to Chicago for the last 20 years.
It’s hard to believe that despite living in the Chicago area for the last five and a half years we have not ventured to the Christmas market before now. D has gone, thanks to his old office (and now his new one) being near the Daley Center. But last weekend was the first time the kids and I joined him.
Chicago is a bustling city center that attracts tourists from all over the world. It is only fitting that those tourists flock to the Christkindlmarket. Shuffling slowly past the stalls full of wreaths, advent calendars, and blown glass ornaments, we heard a vast array of languages, many European, as we dodged hoards of people mingling with each other over bratwursts, glühwein or apple cider.
I really wanted to enjoy the Christkindlmarket. Visiting the German markets in Munich and Nuremberg while spending Christmas in Munich eight years ago remains at the forefront of my mind as one of the highlights of that trip. The idea that a little piece of Germany was right here in Chicago was so exciting. However, the crowds of people were so thick it was almost impossible to move without getting trampled on or running over feet with the stroller. Browsing the shops was impossible with the amount of people trying to cram through which made enjoying the experience rather difficult. Although I admit it was our fault for going the day after Black Friday when the post Thanksgiving sales were still in full swing in the stores on Michigan Avenue just a few blocks away.
We ended up leaving after just a few minutes and taking a walk so the kids could nap and to allow the crowds to die down. After a breather in Millennium Park, watching people ice skating and visiting the historic Cloudgate sculpture (fittingly nicknamed the Bean because of it’s shape), we decided we weren’t ready to completely throw in the towel on the Christmas market so we headed back to brave the crowds one more time. Luckily, the crowds had died down slightly making it easier to move and we were able to browse the stalls somewhat but with a fair amount of dodging.
Beautiful German and Austrian glass ornaments lay in boxes right at eye level while gold star ornaments and blue and red bells with winter scenes hung from the ceiling. We selected a small blue bell to serve as our ornament for this year before calling it an evening and heading home. The smells of roasted chestnuts and various baked goods teased our nostrils, tempting us to indulge, but with only a few dollars left in our wallets, we thought it best to pass on the temptation.
Tips for Visiting the Christkindlmarket in Chicago
- Don’t go on a weekend, especially the weekend after Thanksgiving. Though it will be busy everyday, D says that it is more bearable on weekdays.
- Despite my disappointment, the Christkindlmarket is worth visiting during a less busy time. My only complaint was the thick crowds. (And if you’ve read this post you know how much I hate crowds.) Everything else about the Christkindlmarket was very charming and festive.
- The Christkindlmarket is located on the Daley Plaza on the corners of Washington, Clark and Dearborn Streets
- The Christkindlmarket is not just for adults. If you’re planning to visit the Christkindlmarket with kids, be sure to sign them up for the Kinder Club, which provides fun activities for kids ages 14 and under including a scavenger hunt, passport, and the chance to open the daily advent calendar starting December 1st. And the best part is the Kinder Club is free. I wish I had known about it before we went.
- Christkindlmarket runs from November 18th- December 24, 2016
- Open daily from 11 am- 8 pm Monday-Thursday and 11 am- 9 pm Friday and Saturday
- Admission is free
- Parking in Chicago is scarce and is quite expensive so I recommend taking public transportation. Daley Plaza is a short 10-15 minute walk from Union Station. There are also a few buses and CTA trains that will get you there as well.
Have you been to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago?
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