The Vancouver Christmas Market returns for another year, running from November 21st to December 24 of 2018. This is the city’s only Christmas themed event that runs from morning to night (11:30am to 9:30pm), and is the only long lasting market that continues to evolve and add on new vendors and activities year after year. Thus keeping things interesting for all their loyal visitors all the aforementioned years. This year the German themed market will host 80 huts selling “authentic German sweets, treats, and treasures”.
They are ideally located at “Jack Poole Plaza”, home of Vancouver’s Olympic Cauldron. And according to their website, the market combines “colourful décor, authentic gifts, enticing food and drink, and family entertainment”. “This Yuletide celebration creates the perfect atmosphere to mix and mingle with friends and family, to have a quick drink after work, to find a festive photo op, and to take in a wide variety of holiday entertainment!
This year my visit spanned across two different days. We were invited to attend the market’s media and industry night, however weren’t able to stay long. Therefore, I made plans to come back during the next day to take in the market at a more enjoyable pace. Enjoying the setting as it transitioned for day light to twilight. There is just so much to see and do at this market, so I will be covering only points of interest and highlighting what I partook in.
To skip further reading, check out my vlog coverage and find out what’s new, and what’s worth eating and doing at this year’s Vancouver Christmas Market. As a bonus, I also cover the “Fly Over Canada” experience, which is close enough to the market that you can do both when you visit,
For the written review of the “Fly Over”, check out the blog post of my first visit, 2 years ago. There have been some updates in decor and offerings, but you can still get a sense of the experience itself below. And truth be told, seeing the show just once isn’t enough, there are new details you catch upon each subsequent visit.
The market is best known for their erected windmill that centres the event space. A towering monument that captures your attention as soon as you walk in, fondly referred to as the “Christmas Pyramid”. From dusk till dawn it offers event goers a different backdrop to look up at and take a photo in front of. Its upper deck (aka “Flying Stage”) hosts a rotation of musicians and performers. Their ballads and melodies are broadcasted across the event space for a more festive ambience, which starts at 5pm every day.
At its base is a concession stand offering cups of warm beverages. This includes a brewed berry punch, and the ever popular mulled wine. Their first year popularized the now Christmas market staple in Vancouver, Glühwein (mulled wine). Each year you can purchase some in one of their collectable cups to drink it in, then take home with you as a souvenir. This year it was a sharp red number that had the marketplace’s skyline encircling it.
There is also a another variation of mulled wine that includes a cone of sugar fired up for sweetness and show. It is on for the spectating during set times and includes a bright orange flame, at “Wunderbar”.
“Wunderbar” is the new indoor bar at this outdoor market. Here, you can order a charcuterie or a dessert board to pair with your mulled wine and cocktails. This also serves as a great way to stay out of the wet when it rains.
Another popular feature that draws in the crowds year after year is the merry-go-round. A delight for children for all ages, colourful in the day, and ever glowing in the night. You purchase your ride fee at the concession stand, where your money is exchanged for a token.
More newness is the market-wide scavenger hunt. You start at the same concession stand above and read the posted up riddle there to find your next destination. This inadvertently leads you through the entire market space, thus helping you to explore the place. There are even clues should you need the help.
As a cheat, the second destination is the igloo nearby. Past its jagged icy facade and penguin guarded threshold is a tent lit in red. Within, children can participated in some self guided arts and crafts. There are also volunteers available to help in the making of pipe-cleaner snowflakes, origami Christmas trees, and paper fortune tellers.
Once you work your way through all the clues you will end up before the giant advent calendar to pick up your prize. I just do happen to know what it is, however won’t release it, as to not ruin the surprise. But know that going through the hunt is absolutely worth it, to be able to claim this prize!
Throughout the expanded market space there are plenty of photo ops, from a giant nut cracker and a tall Christmas tree that you can walk into, to the igloo above that doubles as a craft hut for kids.
There is a light up tunnel trimmed with mistletoe, and the aforementioned windmill that centres the market of course. The Olympic cauldron is decked in red and green for the season, and a red sleigh is available for you to climb into to take a seat and snap a pic.
You can also take photos with the Christmas Market mascots “Holly and Jolly”, should you run into them. And even meet Santa himself, as he spends some time at the on-site toy workshop.
And a trip to the market wouldn’t be the same without doing some Christmas shopping. Various stalls have vendors hawking their goods. Cross a few names off your list, grab a stocking stuffer or two, and don’t forget to splurge on something yourself. The best part is everything is hand made and as unique as the piece of art that it is. Glass blown ornaments, intricately carved and painted wood figurines, hand knit caps and mitts, and home made soaps and cards.
Not to mention all the edible goods you can get that foodie on your list. Ginger bread cookies decorated in icing, spices for mulling, roasted chestnuts, macrons filled with Christmasy flavoured creams, and everything you need to make your own artisanal charcuterie board. Here, I even got a taste of my first roasted chestnut, and like the song says, they were “roasting by an opening fire”. It was sweet and creamy with a sandy finish.
And seeing as you are spending so much time exploring the above, you are bound to get hungry, and this year you can wet you appetite with even more food stands. Vegan dosas, wild mushrooms in soups and pies, rotisserie roasted pork hoc, stuffed pancakes, and fruit dipped in chocolate spewing from a tower. The following was what I got a taste of, in the order of which I enjoyed it.
At “Mr. Pretzel”, each knot of bread came with a show. Expert hands kneaded and rolled balls of dough into long strands, then with a flick of the wrist they were woven into shape in mid air. After a quick bake in the oven and either a topping of cinnamon and sugar or coarse sea salt and butter, it is ready to be served in their paper sleeves. Warm and comforting snacks like these are a treat on a cold out door market day or night, and bonus points for ease of eating.
Next, was melted Swiss cheese at “Cheese me Raclette”. Here, half a wheel of fine cheese is heated to a malleable state, then the top layer of it is scraped right on to a plate of prosciutto salami, briny olives, slightly boiled potatoes, crusty bread, baby dill pickles and pearl onions. It was like eating fondue, except that instead of dipping ingredients into a pot of melted cheese, said cheese is already slathered over everything. But beware, the cheese does cool down fairly quick, and the result is a gummy glob of, still tasty but hard to share amongst the assembly of aforementioned meat, bread, and veggies. This plate is easiest to enjoy standing at one of the tables provided, under the cover of an umbrella.
If you want something more fulsome, you can’t miss out on having some authentic German bratwurst from the “Freybe Brat Haus”. We enjoyed one of their smokies in a bun with horseradish. But not before dressing it with some ketchup and mustard dispensed from hanging squeeze bottles with a nozzle. These were a juicy mouthful with a nice texture to rip through with your teeth.
We also had some borsch. A beefy stew with root vegetables, served in an edible bread bowl. The booth was run by a young Austrian, who was serving his German’s mother’s recipe by the ladleful. Currently this is the only locale where you can enjoy this tangy bowl of spiced beef with just as much onions and meat and vegetable (the secret to the recipe).
For dessert we went with the market favourite: “Transylvanian Chimney Cakes”. These spirals of dough are woven around a wooden baton that gets a rotating bake in their special oven-like apparatus. Once golden brown it is then dressed in your chosen topping and/or spread with your favourite filling. Cinnamon sugar, crushed nuts, cherry, and Nutella; just to name a few of your options. I went with the crushed coconut and apple cinnamon and took a bite into crispy hot pastry with a crunch. Delicious.
In short, there is so much to see and do at the Christmas Market that you will find yourself returning soon and often. And with so many ways to upgrade your visit, you can purchase your ticket to include the keepsake mug or a seat at “Wunderbar”. For more details and how to get tickets, check out the link below.
VANCOUVER CHRISTMAS MARKET
Jack Poole Plaza
1055 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C 3G3