Initially envisioned as a way of promoting bilateral trade between the US and Germany, Chriskindlmarket has since come a long way, attracting a wide range of visitors that range from Santa Claus (the one and only!) to caroling groups to average college students like you and I.
This outdoor market holds a few heated stores and sitting areas, but primarily comprises open stalls to purchase food, drinks, and seasonal gifts, which means that if you’re heading over in the wintertime to do some holiday shopping, you better bundle up!
Where you’d normally find a towering building at the corner of a busy intersection, you’ll instead find a German holiday market, with a friendly 25-foot-tall Christmas tree looming on the sidelines, just begging to be in the background of your picture.
Top 3 reasons to visit:
3) Gifts – this place has something for everyone in your life, but the variety persists in their selection of Christmas ornaments from Bavarian Tradition, elaborate wood carvings from Dancing Wolf, cuckoo clocks from Fehrenbach, and Nepalian trinkets and accessories from Himalayan Chai.
2) Drinks – Chriskindlmarket wants you to have a good time, but if customers passed out, it would kind of ruin the holiday spirit, no? That’s why the market is known for Bitburger, Köstritzer, and Sternthaler Glühwein, which sell cold beer, cold wine, and hot spiced wine in cute little souvenir cups.
1) Food – you’ll find German vendors selling a litany of foods, such as marzipan desserts, schnitzel, potato pancakes, and chocolate-covered everything. Ever the food enthusiast, I purchased three items:
Potato pancakes, 3 large ones for ~$7. These were mashed potato and dough patties, fried until crispy and served up with sour cream and applesauce. My favorite, as is anything with a potato base. The internet reveals that these are often referred to as Kartoffelpuffer or Reibekuchen, a staple for outdoor markets like Chriskindlmarket, served both sweet and savory.
A Leberkäse sandwich (? – not sure if that’s what the correct name is) is sort of a German bologna made with beef and pork, baked off in a loaf pan until it develops a brown crust! Mine came in a thick slice sandwiched in a cornmeal-dusted bun, topped with sauerkraut. Simple but fulfilling, though it imparted a tangy aftertaste from the vinegar in the sauerkraut that became so astringent and awful in my mouth that I had to brush my teeth after I got back home. ~$7
I wish I could judge the German food a bit more accurately, but I haven’t had the pleasure of eating enough to tell if it was exceptional. However, out of everything that went into my mouth that afternoon, the potato pancakes were my favorite! At the end of the day, however, the experience proved to be more meaningful than the food itself.
Finally, I opted for a chocolate-covered pear slice! At $2, it was pretty average, in my opinion. If you like chocolate-covered things though, they also have strawberry and bananas, apples, the whole lot!
In a little shop called Sweet Castle, which was jam-packed with all sorts of people, there is a freaking cookie carousel, with decorated cookies hanging all festive in the center of the store. Here, I bought some more chocolate-covered things to be consumed later.
The chocolate-dipped macaroons ($4 for ~30 or so quarter-sized ones) were moist and chewy, and a hit with my friends back on campus. However, the chocolate-covered gingerbread tasted like a stale Moonpie, in that it was dry in texture and didn’t remind me at all of anything gingery or festive.
Next year though, I’ll be sure to check out some of the roasted nuts and popcorn that this place is apparently famous for.
Other highlights that I didn’t get the chance to try because I’m a college student on a budget: Wisconsin cheese from Brunkow, sweet cheese fritters from the German Grill Company, toffees from Pemberton, and goulash soup from Schnitzelhaus.
Hurry over today! It closes Christmas Eve.
Daley Plaza – 50 W Washington St, Chicago IL, 60602