A Local’s Guide to the Toronto Christmas Market
By Arienne Parzei. If I had to choose only one thing I look forward to most in Toronto during the holiday season, without skipping a beat, I’d say the Toronto Christmas Market. Located in the city’s Distillery Historic District, a pedestrian-only area ideally suited to hold a festival of this size, it’s my go-to place to get into the holiday spirit. Walking along the cobblestone streets, my senses go into overdrive with the sights of twinkling lights overhead, the sounds of carollers bouncing off the old Victorian industrial buildings, the tastes of warm, mulled wine, and the unmistakable smell of wood burning somewhere in the vicinity. It’s a magical experience.
Today, Christmas Markets are found all over the world and the Toronto Christmas Market is one of the largest holiday festivals in North America. When it first opened, the Toronto Christmas Market ran for only 10 days. Now in its 7th year, the Toronto Christmas Market is bigger than ever and is open for 5 weeks, running from November 18 to December 22.
At the centre of all the action is a massive 50-foot white spruce tree, decorated with more than 18,000 lights and decorations. From here, the Christmas Market fills every nook and cranny of the Distillery District. The main thoroughfares of Gristmill Lane, Trinity Street and Tank House Lane are lined with wooden cabins housing various vendors selling all types of one-of-a-kind gifts from hand-carved wooden figurines to artisan Christmas ornaments and even handmade soy wax candles. If you’re looking for unique gifts, this is the place to be!
Of course, one of the best aspects of any Christmas Market is the food and there’s no shortage of tasty choices here! Fuel up on artisan grilled cheese sandwiches, turkey legs, classic Canadian poutine, potato tornados (an entire potato spiralled onto a skewer and topped with your choice of seasonings), Vienna-style schnitzel sandwiches, and my personal favourite, spicy chorizo or Oktoberfest sausages grilled on a huge circular grill perched atop a wood-burning fire pit.
Those with a sweet tooth won’t want to miss the maple fudge, strudels, Belgian-style waffles, or the chimney stax (hand-rolled, baked rotisserie style, and rolled in various toppings such as cinnamon, Oreo crumbs and even Skor bits).
No Christmas Market would be complete without a beer garden to wash all that tasty food down, and the Toronto Christmas Market has a handful to choose from. Snuggle up with your loved one beside a fire pit and grab a traditional glass of Glühwein (mulled wine) and soak in your surroundings. If mulled wine isn’t your drink of choice, you can opt for a hot toddy, holiday spirits, or good ol’ fashion beer from Mill Street Brewery. Their Vanilla Porter or Coffee Stout are great choices on a cold winter day.
Santa’s Elves and carollers roam the market, breaking out into song and dance. Or, you can enjoy more than 350 free performances at the main stage this year. Each day of the week has themed performances including Traditional Tuesdays, Classical Thursdays, and Pop/Variety Saturdays. Kids will love the daily Santa’s Elves Sing-Along, an interactive stage-show featuring Santa’s Elves, plus the ferris wheel, carousel and even an opportunity to meet Santa himself!
With over 500,000 visitors at the Toronto Christmas Market last year and more expected this year, it’s become a must-do during the holidays. I recommend visiting the market on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings when there are smaller crowds. If you can’t make it during the week, admission to the market on the weekends, starting on Friday at 5:00pm, is $6.
About the Author
Arienne Parzei is a travel writer, videographer and photographer from Toronto, Canada who loves learning about different cultures first hand. In 2009, she moved to South Korea and taught English for two years and followed that up with an eight-month backpacking trip through China, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. She shares her travel experiences, advice and tips on her website, SeeYouSoon.ca, inspiring others to get out and explore our incredible planet.