Toronto Christmas Market, a must-see destination for lights, mulled wine & melted cheese

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A sparkly utopia of twinkly lights textured small cobblestoned streets, and a 50-foot Christmas tree is all a 30-minute walk from the downtown core at The Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District.

In its 8th season, the market is a must-visit destination every year, featuring something quite literally for everyone. We’re talking vendors that sell ornaments, scarves, poutine, German wieners and schnitzel on a bun, shortbread, grilled cheese sandwiches. And that’s just a selection.

The holiday season is laid on thick at the market, with festive touches like a mistletoe kissing area and huge illuminated signs saying both NAUGHTY and NICE.

Our favourite though, like most people’s, in the giant Christmas tree smack in the middle of the market. Will at the information booth tells us it takes about a week to get the tree up and fully decorated. The 50-foot tree holds 800 ornaments and 40,000 lights. That’s right. FORTY THOUSAND lights. We said sparkly. The tree was donated to the market by Forests Ontario and Ontario Wood.

Our favourite vendor is Retro Festive, which calls itself “Canada’s pop culture Christmas store.”

The shop sells everything you can think of with a retro theme, such as hats, figurines, sweaters, and toys from movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Home Alone. Courtney Glover, the manager, is there when we visit, and tells us they get new products every year but the most popular usually is anything to do with Home Alone.

“We all have a Christmas movie we watch every year,” she says. “These are simple gifts that hit the nostalgia button. We try to make people feel like kids again.”

After hitting the rewind button at the 80s vendor, wander over to the raclette vendor.

An employee named Sari stands behind the booth, melting cheese. Is there anything more delicious? Warm cheese on a winter’s day.

“It’s a stellar show,” Sari explains. “People are always filming it. It’s orgasmic.”

She explains the machine, which warms up the cheese, which is placed under the machine by an inch or two. As the cheese bubbles a bit, Sari scrapes it onto a dish of perogies. Yes, perogies. It’s as heavenly and indulgent as you’re imagining. The cheese is Swiss. The dish is $13.95 and is also offered with nachos if you’re not into perogies (we’re not sure why you wouldn’t be, but we’ll try not to judge).

Will tells us the most popular food at the market is the enormous turkey leg (we’re talking GIANT here, like Fred Flinstone style).

The Ferris wheel and the tunnel of light are also popular, Will tells us. The tunnel is exactly as you imagine, a long outdoor hallway, with walls of stringed light. Inside the tunnel, you’ll find a bar and family-style tables where people can mull about and plan their last-minute holiday shopping.

It’s all well and good that these fun things are popular, but Will tells us the most popular question the info booth gets is, “where is the bathroom?”

In fact, as I was walking away from the booth after our interview, I heard the person next in line asking him that very question.

After 5 p.m., the market starts selling mulled wine, another favourite of ours. Spicy and warm for chilly nights, it’s a market staple.

After a bathroom break, time to walk around the market again. It’s only here once a year, so be sure to take full advantage. Now that you filled up on that cheese, mulled wine is in order. Enjoy!


Diana Pereira

Diana Pereira is a journalist, a university journalism teacher, a world traveller, a fair-weather kayaker, and a frequent bruncher. She's working on her mermaid status, travelling to as many countries as she can that include a body of water and when she's home in Toronto, you can find her in a kayak on Lake Ontario.