Boston Joins the European Christmas Markets

Boston has joined the international community of Christmas Markets.

For the second year, Boston has opened what officials call “Boston Winter,” a holiday marketplace and ice skating path. Located on the great brick wasteland known as City Hall Plaza, this crafts market and ice skating path (because why just skate in circles?) also includes an enchanted castle and a Santa house. What a great way to use the plaza!

Hliday markets like this, known as Cristkindlemarkts, pop up in cities all over Europe every December. No small affairs, they spread over enormous parks and plazas with mini-wooden chalets selling goods of all kinds as well as hot mulled drinks, holiday treats, and snacks,

Le Marché de Noel in Paris

Christmas market, Paris, marche de noel, Christkindlmarkts, Viking River Cruises

Chalet at the Marche de Noel

In 2015 we visited the Marché de Noel in Paris at the end of our “Chateaux, Rivers and Wine” tour with Viking River Cruises. I heard that Parisians turn their noses up at this déclasse event and refuse to mingle with the unsophisticated tourists.

Nevertheless, crowds filled the stretch of the Champs Elysée from the Ferris Wheel at the Place de la Concorde to the Avenue de Marigny. I doubt that everyone around us was a tourist, particularly parents with happy children.

Note: Sadly, Parisian authorities canceled the Christmas market this year due to a disagreement with the main vendor.

salmon roasting, marche de noel, Paris, Viking River Cruises, Christmas markets

Salmon roasting on an open fire

We had a great evening walking through the brisk night (winter temperatures in Paris are similar to those in Boston), picking up some Christmas presents for our granddaughters, eating sausages and waffles and generally taking in the atmosphere, the multitude of colored lights and the Christmas music. Had I known about Susanne’s Belgian frites at the time, I would have found a chalet that sold them.

We saw meat and salmon grilling over open fires, browsed in chalets with elaborate Christmas displays, and watched the Ferris Wheel rotating behind the Luxor Obelisk. (No, we did not take a ride.)

Parisians also sniff at prices in the Marché de Noel, complaining that they are too high. They probably are. But you go for the experience as well as for access to unusual and hand-crafted goods, not for bargains.

Boston Joins the Community of Christmas Markets 

I’m delighted that Boston is joining the international community of Christmas markets, even though our more diverse population means we won’t actually use the word, you know, “Christmas.”

Christmas markets, marche de Noel, Ferris Wheel, Luxor Obelisk, Place de la Concorde

Ferris Wheel and Luxor Obelisk at the Place de la Concorde

According to this article by Claire Tran in Boston magazine, not only do the vendors make money, but the Boston Winter market pulls in people who fill the local restaurants as well. That makes it a win-win for the city.

If you can’t put a visit to Europe on your Christmas list this year, you can certainly make your way to City Hall Plaza by car, MBTA or foot to visit “Boston Winter.” After all, now that winter is coming, you may as well pick up some presents, have lunch or a hot chocolate, and enjoy it.

Note: If you are interested in visiting the European Christkindlemarkts, Viking runs a variety of Christmas Market cruises in Hungary, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Poland, and France.  There’s no better way to taste the local flavor and experience the Christmas cultures without the stress and hassle of moving yourself and your luggage from place to place. Plus, winter is the off-season so you can get some great bargains.

PS: I would love to visit a Christmas market in Austria some year.