A cherished Chicago tradition celebrating its 20th anniversary this Christmas season, the Christkindlmarket is the perfect way to escape the Northwestern bubble and get in the holiday spirit. We braced the first snowfall and reviewed the best food and gift vendors so you know what to check out when you visit. Take the intercampus shuttle to downtown Chicago, then walk 10 minutes to the Daley Plaza in the Loop to fulfill all of your holiday fantasies and effectively procrastinate on studying for finals!
Gifts and Speciality Items:
Arrow Mattick is a family-owned company that sells beauty products made from natural ingredients. The price range is perfect for any college student with a bruised budget; small and medium size products range from $8-25. The Wickless Soy Candle is the perfect way to freshen up your dorm room without breaking any fire codes (no flame required, and the smell lasts for weeks!)
One of the most famous Christmas stores in Germany, this shop is a must-see at the market. Don’t let the long line to enter the shop discourage you from checking it out! Inside you’ll find everything from handmade wooden menorahs to glass-blown ornaments. This store offers a wide variety of holiday goodies, and signs explain the family history behind each product. One of the best stories shared is the history of Erzbirge Crafters, a woodturning business started after supplies of pewter, copper and lead were almost exhausted after the end of the 18th century. Woodturning, the art of shaping and polishing wood into art and other goods, enjoys a rich history in Germany.
I recommend stopping at Frank’s after touring Käthe Wohlfahrt of America, since the two are located right across from each other. Frank’s offers a wider variety of ornaments than the latter, and specializes in Chicago-themed trinkets (my favorite ornament was the one of the Chicago Bean, naturally.) The prices at Frank’s were phenomenal; the majority of the ornaments were priced between $10 and $20.
Bavarian Pewter sells all the whimsical Christmas decorations you would typically see in your grandparents’ foyer, from cherub-like angels, intricate Nativities and handpainted ornaments from Munich, Germany. The employees running the shop were very helpful in explaining prices and making gift recommendations for loved ones. This shop is a little more pricey, just because all the goods are handpainted and imported from Munich. However, the products are worth the splurge!
Obviously, first you need to make a beeline for the hot chocolate with whipped cream served in the adorable souvenir mugs shaped like boots. This iconic beverage can be found at numerous stalls all over the market, including Dinkel’s Bakery, which also happens to bake up some of the best stollen around (bread dotted with sweet dried fruit). Sip on the warm drink as you wander around, shop, take in the sights and, of course, work up an appetite. Pro tip: For those lucky enough to be over 21, fill up that cute boot with some alcohol instead, such as hot spiced wine or beer served at various kiosks all over the market.
While you’re busy wandering, you might start to feel your tummy grumbling. Grab a snack – a pretzel from Pretzelhaus is perfect. They won’t fill you up before your giant German meal, but they come in enough exciting flavors to tickle your fancy. Try a savory pizza or jalapeño pretzel, or break the rules and indulge in dessert before dinner with a pumpkin or cheesecake one.
Once you’ve sufficiently snacked and explored the market, it’s time to get down to business. Hit up any one of the Traditional German Food, Inc. stalls to grab some deliciously greasy potato pancakes, called Kartoffelpuffer in German, with sour cream or applesauce as a tasty appetizer. Then, feast on a classic, juicy bratwurst from the same stand, or head to a different one for a crispy schnitzel sandwich. Just don’t forget the sauerkraut!
Your best bet for a sweet dessert after your heavy meal comes from the Sweet Swabian kiosk, which offers a wide variety of candied and glazed nuts. The heavenly, sugary smell coming from the stand will make you swoon. But be careful, your head might explode from all of the different options – vanilla pecans, cocoa almonds, caramel cashews, the delicious list goes on and on.
Hopefully your fun-filled night exploring the flavors and artistry of Germany gets you in the holiday spirit. Auf Wiedersehen!