Christmas is here again, and with it the need to shop for and feed your loved ones. There’s no better place to do it than at your local Christmas market. Originating in the German-speaking part of Europe during the late Middle Ages, Christmas markets are colourful street events held during Advent.
Over the years markets have spread round the world, and Australians have embraced them enthusiastically. These popular events combine shopping, dining and entertainment into an experience that shouldn’t be missed. Here are a selection of 12 of the best Christmas Markets in Australia.
Pyrmont really knows how to ‘do’ Christmas, and the successful Pyrmont Market (November 30) offers something for all ages. There’s a variety of gift and food stalls, so your Christmas shopping experience won’t be complete without it. There are live stage and street performances, a petting zoo and, of course, an appearance by Santa. The event is a fundraiser for local charities; the 2013 market event raised about $62,000.
Pyrmont Market is just a short stroll from the spectacular Darling Harbour, which is the jewel in Sydney’s Christmas crown. Here you’ll find much more than markets; the harbour hosts a month-long Santa Fest (November 28 – December 24) that includes free Santa movie nights, Santa-shaped paddle boats, carol nights, fireworks, and kids’ competitions – and, of course, huge, colourful markets.
Darlinghurst’s Christmas Twilight Market (December 12) offers a real family-friendly atmosphere with local stalls selling a mix of gifts and plenty of food stalls to keep you suitably full. Live performances and a petting zoo a will keep the little ones entertained and – did we mention – the camel rides!
If your favourite thing about Christmas is all the festive food then you’ll want to check out the Christmas Fare (December 18) artisan food market just outside Hyde Park Barracks Museum. Pick up handmade treats (edible and non-edible alike) including tea, cheese, wine, cured and smoked meats, preserves – all the good things!
Nowhere does Christmas like Melbourne, so if you’re in town why not make the most of the city’s markets and get in some extra shopping?
The vibrant Queen Victoria Market is, according to Melbournians, by far the best of its kind in these parts. Affectionately known as ‘Vic Market’ or ‘Queen Vic’, it sprawls over two city blocks and has been running more than 100 years. Here you can shop for everything from Australian fruit and vegetables, local and imported gourmet foods, cosmetics, clothing and souvenirs.
At Christmas the Vic (December 3-24) is even more special. There are festive cooking demonstrations, families can visit Santa to discuss their wish lists, and specialist Christmas traders provide a huge range of festive wares. Stalls are piled high with seasonal produce, and the Vic is decked out in beautiful decorations including a 9m-high Christmas tree that marks the start of the Christmas trail through the market. Follow this trail every market day – pick up a map and follow Rudolph’s footprints on a magical journey.
A quirky hidden gem, Melbourne’s Deutsche Schule German Christmas Market (November 28) dispenses with glamour and instead gives you an authentic Deutsch experience. As well as being the place to be to get your fill of stollen, wuerstchen and lebkuchen, this is the place to go if you’re after traditional European decorations. Here you’ll find traditional hand-made German decorations that are a world away from the tinsel Aussies are more used to. All goods sold here are authentic German items.
The Australian German Welfare Society hosts this market at the Melbourne Town Hall, and it’s so serious about its food it orders Christmas cookies in from Germany especially. It’s quite the occasion and keeps up the spirit of the original Christmas markets.
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Flinders Street Market and Etsy Adelaide put on a wonderful Christmas Grand Bazaar (December 6-7). Its three undercover areas in the heart of the city are full of fabulous local gifts. The pop-up-style market runs over two days and showcases Adelaide’s best artists, crafters, illustrators, makers, designers, foodies and vintage sellers. There will be entertainment galore, a gift wrapping bay and lots of great food to sample, lovingly made by local foodies and chefs who’ll be more than happy to share their tricks of the trade with you. If you’re lucky you may even get a goody bag or hamper to take home for Christmas.
What the Perth Christmas Markets lack in history and ‘olde world’ charm, they more than make up in local colour and the talent of the participating artisans. Even the most discerning shopper will find something to suit here. Plus you’ll be supporting local businesses. Among the best offerings is the Bazaar Christmas Market (December 5-7), held in Fremantle Art Centre’s gardens. Inspired by European Christmas markets, Bazaar was established in 1985 and many locals consider it the leading Christmas craft market around Perth. There’s an exquisite range of work by Perth’s top artists and designers on display and for sale. Local designers have unique Christmas gifts stitched up at Perth City Christmas Markets (November 22); choose a special one-off gift from a varied selection of quality products made and designed locally. The 40 stalls here overflow with men’s and women’s fashion, gourmet food, designer wares and art, among other things. Entry is free.
Brisbane and the Gold Coast
Described as hand-made heaven at Christmas, Brisbane’s biggest hand-made market, the Brisbane Twilight Christmas Market (December 5), is a night of twinkling lights, music and shopping. Held at King George Square, it boasts more than 80 of the city’s best artists and craftspeople showcasing their amazing work. This is the place to come for sterling silver jewellery, modern home wares and stylish clothing gifts, and you’ll be spoiled for choice. You can also see the light displays on City Hall, and listen to carols and a jazz band. Just what you need to get you into the Christmas spirit. King George Square comes alive for this special Christmas market and it’s always such a friendly and energetic event.
Join us for the Brisbane Twilight Markets in King George Square this Friday from 4pm!!! More than 100 different stall holders will be selling their unique and handmade wares! Perfect for Christmas presents! #brisstyle #twilightmarkets #brisbanetwilightmarkets #brisbanemarkets #shoplocal #handmade #brisbane #brisbaneanyday #teambne A photo posted by BrisStyle Inc. (@brisstyle) on
The Eco-Elves Night Market (December 5) is held especially for Christmas at the Canberra Environment Centre. As the name suggests, this unique market caters to the environmentally conscious. It sells organic, free range, Fair Trade and local produce, and upcycled and eco-friendly gifts including wall-hangings, clothes, home wares and decorations.
You will also find solar panels, rainwater tanks, compost bins/worm farms, seedlings, natural and chemical free cleaning products. If you want to buy your loved ones some sustainable gifts and off-set the wastefulness often attached to Christmas, Eco-Elves market is a must-visit.
Alice is pretty isolated, and if you put in the effort to get here for Christmas the locals will make it worth your while. Its Christmas Carnival (December 12) is packed with activities and live entertainment for people of all ages. Magicians, circus performers, buskers and balloon twisters stroll through the family-friendly event. Enjoy vibrant beats from some of Alice’s best local musicians as you browse market stalls selling arts and crafts, fresh produce, plants, clothes, books, jewellery and global foods.
The Secret Solar Garden in Todd Mall is full of activities to keep the kids entertained for hours, plus there’s face painting and fair rides. Don’t miss the official lighting of the giant Christmas tree as night falls, followed by a glowing firework display.
Featured image by James Horan for Sydney Living Museums