Toronto Christmas Market: ‘Tis the Season at the Distillery District Christmas Market, An Annual Toronto Tradition

Toronto Christmas Market - Distillery District Christmas Market

You won’t only find Christmas markets in Europe. This German tradition has migrated to the Americas. One of the best Canadian Christmas markets is the annual Toronto Christmas Market at the historic Distillery District. If you love Christmas, you don’t want to miss the Toronto Christmas Market. It’s a (mostly) free festive event in the city. I visit the Distillery District Christmas Market every year as it’s the best Christmas festival in Toronto.

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About the Toronto Christmas Market

Traditional Christmas Markets originated in Germany and Austria during the Late Middle Ages. They are street markets and festivals that celebrate Christmas during the four weeks of Advent.

The Toronto Christmas Market opens from the end of November through the weekend before Christmas. And this Distillery District Christmas Market takes place in one of the best spots in the city.

Christmas festival in Toronto at the Distillery District

The Distillery District was once home to the Gooderham & Worts Distillery, which represents the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North America. This revitalized pedestrian-only city block has boutiques, galleries, restaurants, cafes, and microbreweries.

The Toronto Christmas Market is exactly what you would expect of a European Christmas Market, except that it’s in Canada.

What to Expect at the Toronto Christmas Market

The Toronto Christmas Market is lined with dozens of wooden huts, each selling a unique variety of handmade gifts and goodies. There are imported treats from across Europe, Christmas decorations, nesting dolls, knit winter wear, and so much more. We saw sweets and local delicacies from Germany, the Netherlands, and England, among others.

Christmas ornaments in Toronto - Distillery Christmas market treats
Cookies and treats at the Toronto Christmas Market

It’s one of the best places to go shopping for Christmas ornaments in Toronto. I added a new Christmas ornament to our growing collection, a little wooden owl decoration. You’ll be able to find unique holiday gifts here for loved ones…or yourself!

Nesting dolls at the Toronto Christmas Market - Wooden booths with gifts and Christmas ornaments in Toronto

I also love that there’s always a countdown to Christmas at the top of one of the historic buildings. It’s a great reminder as to how many days are left until the big day.

Toronto Christmas Market - Countdown to Christmas sign

The Distillery Christmas Market Tree

What’s a Christmas Market without a Christmas tree? The Distillery Christmas Market tree at the Toronto Christmas Market is massive and beautifully decorated in red and silver ornaments. The tree looks extra special with the old, industrial buildings in the background. Of course, it looks even better as the day quickly turns into night (as early as 4:00pm it seems!) and the lights start to twinkle in the twilight.

Toronto Christmas Market tree in the Distillery District

The Toronto Christmas Market tree is one of the best places to gather your loved ones and snap a selfie or two. Otherwise, be sure to gaze up at this magical tree and savor the moment.

Toronto Christmas Market Restaurants & Food (Vegan Options)

Over the years, I haven’t found that the Toronto Christmas Market was very vegan-friendly, aside from the alcoholic beverages. However, that’s all changed this year. I’m now able to put together a little vegan Toronto Christmas Market guide for you because there are lots of plant-based meals and treats.

First, if you’re looking for dinner, head straight to the wooden booth that sells the Beyond Meat bratwursts. By default, it comes with a “crusty bun” that is not vegan. The vegan version is the pretzel bun, and you’ll have to ask for it. Top it up with caramelized onions, ketchup, and spicy mustard. Although a little pricey, it’s absolutely delicious.

Toronto Christmas Market Vegan - Beyond Bratwurst
Toronto Christmas Market Vegan - Beyond Bratwurst

Next, I’m sure you’d like to indulge your sweet tooth. There are a couple of options here. You can go to the Eva’s Original Chimneys booth for many vegan treats. Everything that’s vegan is marked with a “V”. Many of their chimney cakes are vegan or can be made vegan. I opted for a traditional cinnamon chimney cake (known as Trdelník in Czech or Kürtőskalács in Hungarian), which is a fried dough pastry rolled in cinnamon and sugar.

Chimney cakes vegan menu at the Distillery District Christmas market - Eva's Original Chimneys
Vegan at the Toronto Christmas Market - Eva's Original Chimney Cakes

Another booth at the Toronto Christmas Market with vegan treats is Tartistry. They have one vegan butter tart that’s super tasty. I couldn’t resist bringing home a couple of vegan butter tarts for later.

Vegan butter tarts at the Distillery District Christmas Market

Another snack around the Toronto Christmas Market that’s vegan is the Tornado Potato. It’s thinly sliced fried potatoes on a big stick. While there are many Toronto Christmas Market restaurants that are regularly in the Distillery District and open for business, you can easily find vegan options out on the street.

If you’re looking for some hot chocolate, most of the regular vendor booths don’t have vegan-friendly cocoa. Instead, you’ll have to wander over to Balzac’s Coffee Shop for a vegan hot chocolate made with your choice of plant-based milk (soy, almond, coconut or oat milk).

Balzac's Coffee has lots of vegan drinks, vegan hot chocolate and vegan coffee with plant-based milk.

Toronto Christmas Market Warming Lounge & Drinks

After you’ve walked around for a little while at the Toronto Christmas Market, you might feel a little chilly. You can warm up with a delicious beverage at the Toronto Christmas Market Warming Lounge. Enjoy alcoholic (or non-alcoholic) hot beverages outdoors on the heated patio.

Naughty or Nice? The Toronto Christmas Market Warming Lounge and bar for mulled wine and other beverages.

A seasonal favorite of any festive market is the mulled wine, also known as Gluhwein. There are also Hot Toddies, complete with a cinnamon stick for garnish. If you’re not into drinking alcohol, there’s no shortage of hot apple cider or hot chocolate.

Feeling more like a cold beverage? Mill Street Brewery is right in the heart of the Distillery District, and you’ll have lots of opportunities to taste their beer. You can enjoy it inside their brew pub and restaurant or outdoors at the Toronto Christmas Market Warming Lounge. They bring out some of their seasonal varieties, like the Vanilla Porter, too.

One of the Best Toronto Christmas Events

Wandering around the Toronto Christmas Market really puts you right in the spirit of the holidays. There are people dressed up in costumes singing Christmas carols. There are snowman statues and photo opportunities with Mrs. Claus. For the little ones (or the young at heart), you can get your photograph with Santa and tell him what you’d like for Christmas.

Toronto Christmas Market - Distillery District Christmas Market - Gooderham & Worts historic pedestrian area

Fodor’s Travel rated the Toronto Christmas Market as one of their Top 10 Christmas Markets in the World. You should definitely visit this Christmas festival in Toronto if you love traditional markets, want to go shopping for Christmas ornaments in Toronto, wish to enjoy warm and comforting food and drink, looking to spend time with friends or family at a festive event, or if you happen to be traveling to Toronto over the holidays.

If you’re looking for more ways to celebrate Christmas in Toronto, check out my full listing of Christmas events in Toronto, including the Aurora Winter Festival at Ontario Place.

Visiting the Toronto Christmas Market

The Toronto Christmas Market is an annual event. The market typically runs from the end of November throughout December. Allow me to warn you ahead of time: as it gets closer and closer to Christmastime, the market gets busier and busier. Even though you might think that a random Tuesday night won’t be busy, think again!

Toronto Christmas Market Hours

Toronto Winter Market hours, parking information, and travel details

The Distillery District Christmas Market is very hectic on weekends. While it is free to visit throughout the week, there is a $5 charge on weekends in an attempt to alleviate the crowds (starting at 6:00pm on Friday). Trust me, it doesn’t work. I went on a weekend a couple of years ago and decided never to do it again. If you love crowds, visit on a weekend. Otherwise, try to check out the Toronto Christmas Market on a weekday and save your sanity.

As for the Toronto Christmas Market hours, it’s open from 12:00pm – 9:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. On Friday and Saturday, it’s open from 12:00pm – 10:00pm. This Christmas festival in Toronto is closed on Mondays.

If you are looking to attend the market for free on weekends, you’ll need to arrive before noon. The Distillery District shops open at 10:00am on weekends. If you’re already wandering around this pedestrian area of the city, no one is going to force you to leave and re-enter at noon. Once you’re in, you’re in!

Public Transportation and Parking Near the Distillery District

Tunnel of Christmas Lights at the Distillery District historic market

I recommend leaving your car at home and taking public transit to the Distillery District. However, if you are driving, there are some nearby parking lots:

  • Green P parking lot, south of Front Street between Trinity and Cherry (entrance south from Front Street)
  • 333 Lake Shore Blvd East – at Parliament Street and Lake Shore Blvd East 

If you’re taking Go Transit or you’re arriving at Union Station, it’s only a 20 minute walk to the Distillery District. If you’d rather not walk from Union, you can take the 121 Fort York-Esplanade bus to Parliament Street and walk one block south to Mill Street. You can also take the 504A King streetcar from King or St Andrew stations, exiting at the Distillery Loop.

Where to Stay Near the Toronto Christmas Market

One of the best hotels in Toronto (and the official partner hotel of the Toronto Christmas Market) is the Fairmont Royal York. It’s conveniently located right across the street from Union Station (and easy to access from both Toronto airports). It’s a historic hotel with amazing amenities, world class restaurants, and friendly staff. Book your stay at the Fairmont Royal York and read more reviews from fellow travelers who have stayed there.

What’s your favorite Christmas market in the world?

25 Responses

  1. Antonina
    | Reply

    Very interesting! I liked “matryoshka” type Santa the most :)

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      Yes, it is quite cute! They also showed me one that was many cats stacked and the final one was a tiny mouse.

  2. Karyn @ Not Done Travelling
    | Reply

    I’d love to go to a Christmas market like this one day! We have a few Christmas markets here but because the weather is warm they’re more like summer markets. I’d love to go to one with snow and hot drinks and stuff like that. :)

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      That’s true – they wouldn’t really be the typical snowy market would they! I hope you can make it out to one on future adventures :)

  3. Peak District National Park – Our top 7 activities in the first National Park of England! | SELIMS RAASTA
    | Reply

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  4. Shaun
    | Reply

    This looks wonderful! I missed going to the German Christmas market in Vancouver this year but may check this out when I pass through TO this next week!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Shaun
    www.thislifeintrips.com

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      Unfortunately, it ended on December 22nd…but maybe you’ll catch it another time!

  5. Jessi
    | Reply

    I love Christmas markets! I haven’t been to any in Europe (or Canada, for that matter) but my parents live near Frankenmuth, MI, which is home of the largest Christmas store in the U.S. They make a huge deal out of Christmas and visiting the market has always been one of my favorite holiday activities. I’d love to check out Toronoto’s sometime!

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      Ooh I didn’t know that! Good to know – I’d like to visit that one. I think it would be within driving distance…

  6. Michele {Malaysian Meanders}
    | Reply

    I’ve never visited a European style Christmas Market but would really love to one year. I really like all that woodwork in the 2nd photo. I’m not sure if I’d rather go when it’s quiet so I can do some browsing without getting bumped or when it’s jumping so I can feel that holiday vibe.

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      Even if you aren’t in Europe, there are some other ones in North America and even in other countries around the world! It’s really fun and great for the whole family!

  7. Hannah
    | Reply

    Ahhh this looks like so much fun! I’ll have to add it on my list for next year for sure! :) Great pics!

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      Hopefully you can make it out next year!! I think it will be an annual event for me so let me know if you end up coming down!

  8. Marisol@TravelingSolemates
    | Reply

    Hi Lauren, didn’t know about this Christmas market in Toronto. Look very festive indeed. It certainly has the holiday vibes of the markets in Europe. Will definitely keep this in mind when I visit Toronto during the holiday seasons. Lovely photos.

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      You should definitely check it out next year if you’re around for it!

  9. Upasna
    | Reply

    What a gorgeous Christmas Market! And here I thought it was only Europe that did the Christmas Market tradition so beautifully!
    Lovely post Lauren :) Seasons Greeting to you…!

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      Seasons greetings to you as well!

  10. Rhonda Albom
    | Reply

    What a fantastic Christmas market. I love your colorful photos and now want a gingerbread cookie. Thanks for including the love locks photos – they are really cool.

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      I really liked seeing the love locks, too! I realize that in some places they can damage bridges, etc but it seemed like this was a grate that was put up just for them. So, it’s a win win :)

  11. Elaine J. Masters
    | Reply

    Just loved Toronto on my first visit during TBEX a few years ago and the Christmas Market is another wonderful reason to return. So wish we had something like this in San Diego – but then we’d probably need to have winter too! Thanks for the post and stellar photographs.

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      Yes, there could be one in San Diego but it might not have the same feeling without the chill in the air and some snow! You’ll just have to return to Toronto :)

  12. Carmen | Carmen's Luxury Travel
    | Reply

    Looks like a fun place, very festive. I’ve never been to Toronto but it’s certainly on my list of places to go visit.

  13. Lyn - A Hole in my Shoe
    | Reply

    Great post. I haven’t visited a Christmas market yet, but my plan is to visit many of them in Europe in 2015 as we are planning a Rhine River cruise in December form Frankfurt to Basel, Switzerland.

  14. Nina | Lemons and Luggage
    | Reply

    Yay for the vegan options, and I’m really surprised they didn’t have that many in previous years. But it kind of sucks that the bun with the Beyond Meat sausages is not vegan unless you ask for it. I would think that at a Christmas market the only people who will go for a vegan sausage will be vegetarian or vegan anyway.

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      Yeah, exactly! The bun had egg in it, so it would be suitable for a vegetarian but not a vegan. I’m glad they at least had a pretzel bun as a replacement, which was not exactly shaped for a hot dog but probably tasted better than a regular bun anyway!

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