Every year I read blogs and stalk instagrams of Europe’s famous Christmas markets, and I swear that the next year I am going. They just look so fun. So Christmasy. So delicious. And every year, I end up using my vacation time or making plans, and alas, I have never been! But – as I say every year – maybe next year! I really want to go on a Viking river cruise (yes, far too much Downton Abbey…) through the Christmas markets!
In any case, for most of us Americans, it is just too far to travel, especially around the holidays. However, Quebec City, which is only a 1.5 hour flight from New York, offers a very European feel and the entire town goes above and beyond to decorate for Christmas. Plus, they have a legit Christmas Markets (plural!)! Quebec City just may fill that Christmas market hole in your holiday heart!
For those of you who don’t know, Quebec City is the capital of Quebec, a province of Canada founded by the French in 1608. Quebec City retains a lot of its French roots, which totally adds to its European feel. Further, Quebec City is a really old town, complete with town walls and its very own Chateau, also adding to the European feel. Quebec City is also easily accessible by plane, train from Montreal (3 hours) or car (3 hour car from Montreal, 6 hours from Boston and 10-12 from the New York area).
Quebec City decks itself out for Christmas starting in late November (around Thanksgiving in the US). Lights and decor fill the city streets and businesses. It is very pretty, and it adds to the European ambiance. And, as promised, Quebec City has not one but two Christmas Markets – the German Christmas Market and the Old Port Christmas Market!
Le Marché de Noël Allemand (the German Christmas Market)
The most European of the two Christmas markets in Quebec City, the German Christmas Market is about a 10 minute walk from the Chateau Frontenac (the big Fairmount hotel that looks like a castle). It is set up in two parks next to the Hotel de Ville (town hall).
The German Market Christmas has a number of stalls selling holiday gifts, treats and bottles of wine. There are also several stands selling food. Amzazing food. I tried a fondue dog – fresh French bread stuffed with fondue cheese, or a sausage and fondue cheese for CAN $6. We tried both. Equally delicious.
Also, fresh churros rolled in your choice of sugar or cinnamon. 6 for CAN $ 5. Again, delicious.
Also, Glühwein! Glühwein (aka vin chaud) is a spiced wine served warm, and it is very popular in Europe, particularly Germany. Many stalls selling bottles of wine (and hops!) will sell mini shooters of glühwein for CAN $1, but these are very small, more to warm you up and allow you to taste their wine
For a normal size glass head to Lufthansa’s Winterbar, located right in the middle of the market. They sell normal sized glasses for CAN $5.50.
In addition to glühwein, some stands offer hot chocolate with alcohol and beer.
And BMW has set up an indoor chalet offering table seating and german plates, such as susage, sauerkraut and spatzel. To my great disappointment, no schnitzel. This is your best bet to get warm, and they only take cash money.
The German Christmas Market is decorated very Christmas-like. Carolers dressed to theme sing and old Christmas postcards are set up for picture taking.
Le Vieux Port Marche (Old Port Market)
The Old Port market is located, unsurprisingly, on the river. It is an easy, 5 minute walk from the Old Town. The Old Port Market is open year round and at Christmas takes on somewhat of a Christmasy theme, with Christmas decor and gift ideas, but largely with the same sellers who participate year-round.
The Old port market has several food options, including a seating area serving poutine and sandwiches. A few of the vendors also sell lunch type food at the market. There is a famous sausage stand that sells hotdogs and a creperie, which sells savory and sweet crepes. We enjoyed these beignets, which were topped with chocolate and maple (érable in French) (6 for CAN $2.75).
There is not really any alcohol available for consumption, but an number of stands well wine bottles. There is also a shop dedicated to craft beer in the middle of the market. I was very happy to find Mona & Filles cassis, since I found it was too cold to visit the Île de Orleans (an island about 15 minutes from downtown Quebec City and is known as the “garden” of Québec).
If Quebec City is too far, Toronto, located much closer to the US in Ontario, also offers a Christmas Market in Toronto’s Distillery District. I went in 2013. The Toronto Christmas Market is larger than the Quebec City markets and offers more food and drink, but Toronto lacks the Christmas charm of Quebec City!
Toronto Christmas Market
STEAL OUR TRIP
Marche Allemand Nöel – Hôtel de Ville de Québec. Only open Thursday – Sunday. Free entry. The website has a lot of good information concerning opening times and events, such as carolers and Santa visits!
Vieux Port du Québec – St-Pierre & St-Paul, Quebec City, Quebec G1K 7R3, Canada. The market is open daily. Free entrance. The Christmas decorations here last longer than the German Christmas Market.
Toronto Christmas Market – Toronto’s Distillery District. Closed Mondays. Open from early December through approximately December 20. There is a CAN $5 charge for entry on Saturday and Sunday now. Parking and public transportation information on their website. As this Christmas Market appears to have become a lot more commercial since I visited, I recommend confirming opening times and dates on the website before visiting.