Vancouver Christmas Market Review + Guide: Is It Worth Going?

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When it comes to Vancouver holiday activities that locals love to hate, there’s probably no event more divisive than the Vancouver Christmas Market.

With humble beginnings outside Queen Elizabeth Theatre over a decade ago, the Vancouver Christmas Market has grown over the years to become one of the most popular (and most criticized) festive events in the city, taking place in downtown Vancouver’s Olympic Cauldron hotspot, Jack Poole Plaza.

Taking inspiration from traditional German Christmas Markets, this event is home to over 90 huts selling all kinds of goodies, from traditional German Xmas eats like potato pancakes and bratwurst to stalls crammed with beer steins, ugly Xmas sweaters, and handmade soaps… all with the very North American addition of plentiful ‘made for Instagram’ photo opps.

But with a hefty entry fee of 20+ dollars (including no food or drink), critics are quick to dismiss the market as overpriced, overrated, and overcrowded…

So you might be wondering: is visiting the Vancouver Christmas Market worth it?

My answer is an irritating “yes, but….”

And welcome to that but!!! Below you’ll find my full review and guide to the Vancouver Christmas Market to help you make the most of your visit, with an honest take from someone who has visited several times over the years, most recently in 2023.

Save this Vancouver Christmas Market Review & Guide for Later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

Vancouver Christmas Market 2024: Basic Info

Before we dive into my ranty, long-worded review, here are the basic pieces of information you need to know to coordinate your own Vancouver Xmas Market visit. 

Vancouver Christmas Market Dates & Location: Not yet announced, but 2023 dates were daily from Nov 16 – Dec 24 and you can expect 2024 to be similar. Click here for a full list of Christmas market dates in Canada

Vancouver Christmas Market Hours (2023):

Nov 16 – 30

  • Monday – Thursday: 4:00 pm to 9:30 pm
  • Friday & Saturday: 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
  • Sunday: 11:00 am to 9:30 pm

Dec 1 – Dec 23:

  • Friday & Saturday: 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
  • Sunday – Thursday: 11:00 am to 9:30 pm

Dec 24: Sunday: 11:00 am to 6:00 pm

Vancouver Christmas Market Admission/Price Info: Click here

Long line-up at entrance of Vancouver Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada
Saturday line-ups be like…

A Quick Review of Vancouver Xmas Market

Let’s start on a positive note: even after my most recent 2023 visit (during which I was determined to hate the event), I ended up enjoying the Vancouver Christmas Market a lot more than I expected. After all, I spent 5+ years living in Germany, and have developed a bit of Christmas market snobbery as a result.

But comparisons to the real deal aside, the Vancouver Christmas Market is pretty atmospheric. Plus there’s no setting more quintessentially Vancouver than Jack Poole Plaza, with its glowing Olympic Cauldron and glassy skyscraper backdrop.

That said, there are a few fatal flaws that you need to overlook in order to really enjoy the Vancouver Xmas Market.

First – it’s overpriced. That’s just the reality. With alcoholic drinks at $12, individual food items in the $12-$20+ range and let’s not forget, the entrance fee of $20 per adult, it’s definitely not a cheap day out. You kind of need to just accept that.

Second: it gets tremendously crowded, creating back-ups of line after line after line. I highly suggest you visit outside of the weekends and early evenings to ensure you have the best possible time.

Lastly, the market’s “authenticity” borders more on corny copycat vs. authentic replication. 

For instance, many of the stalls just tack “Das” and “Haus” on everything to make it seem vaguely German, and the stalls that DO tout typical German products like wooden nutcrackers and elaborate beer steins have cheesy “MADE IN GERMANY” signs all over them.

But, that said, some of the vendors are actually German-run (like the ever-popular sausage stall for instance).

So what’s the final verdict then?

Overall, I would say the Vancouver Christmas Market is worth a visit IF you go during a quieter off-peak period and take advantage of the deals they offer, preferably with some good company in tow.

While it’s not quite the same as the real deal in Germany, it comes kinda close, and really how bad can it be if there’s cheese, potatoes, mulled wine and Christmas lights involved?

Given the steep prices, the crowds and the shameless German cliches, you really shouldn’t compare this to an actual European Christmas market, but if you take it for what it is – a nice atmospheric outing, then it’s good fun and a great way to get into the festive mood while in Vancouver.

Christmas stall at Vancouver Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada
“Das Pickle”? Hmmmm…

Vancouver Christmas Market Must-Knows Before You Go

So if you’ve decided that YES, this outing is for you, let’s chat about how to make the most of your experience! Before your visit to the Vancouver Xmas Market, here are some must-knows to keep in mind.

1. Avoid the Vancouver Christmas Market on weekends and peak periods (e.g. right after work)

I’ve heard of a lot of people being disappointed with the Vancouver Christmas Market experience, but almost unanimously, these people went when there were huge crowds.

The main complaint? Gargantuan line-ups, stuffy human mobs and other claustrophobic woes.

I walked by on a Saturday evening and the line-up to get in was so horrible, it snaked around and around, and even had to be split in two for an “overflow line” a few metres away.

Yuletide Hunger Games, you know.

In contrast, on a previous visit, I went on a Wednesday in the late afternoon and there was SOOO much free space, I could have cartwheeled the entire thing.

This made the experience infinitely more enjoyable! So, if you’re at all able to avoid peak times like weekends and weekdays after work, then do it.

2. Get tickets in advance

While tickets are available at the door, in busier periods they can sell out, so you’re better off buying tickets in advance. This is usually also the cheaper option.

3. Look into discounts and special promos

Once upon a time, there’d be a million Groupons and discount codes available whenever you Googled “Vancouver Christmas market discount”, “Vancouver Christmas Market Promo Code” or “Vancouver Christmas Market Groupon”.

These days, with the popularity of the event growing every year, that’s no longer the case… but there are still some ways to save money!

Promos vary year by year, so it’s best to lurk on the official social media pages of the Vancouver Christmas Market, but here are some examples of deals in the past:

  • Date Night: A discounted bundle for two tickets and two drinks on Tuesdays
  • Season Pass: A pass that pays off after just two visits – can really reduce the price per visit by a lot and make your experience feel more worth it
Date night promos in 2023 even came with a love lock!

4. Want to visit multiple times? You can get stamped for re-entry

If you’re especially extra like I am, you might want to visit the market twice in one day like I did.

Why? Well, the market gets a lot more atmospheric at night, but the downside of that is the crowds arrive too…  so it might be smart to split your visit in two so you can enjoy the stalls without crowds and line-ups, then return later for the pretty romantic atmosphere by night.

On one of my visits, I personally arrived at 3:30pm, enjoyed the relative quiet, browsed some stalls, ate some food and then came back later in the evening for the ambiance.

All you need to do is get stamped on your way out and you can show your stamp at the admission gate.

NOTE: The stamps are not great, and mine had practically rubbed off by the time I returned. The lovely girl at the Admission box was nice enough to let me slide back in though, no questions asked.

 Night time overview shot of the Vancouver Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada

5. Pick less popular food stalls to try

The sheer length of some food lines I saw on my last visit were… to be honest, frightening.

I’m talking lengthy lines that wrapped around the stall and out into the rest of the market for metres and metres. The two main culprits? Predictably, the potato stall and the sausage stall.

Let me be clear: if you spend your entire Vancouver Christmas Market experience lining up for potatoes, you will be miserable. In fact, the Twister Potatoes that are so popular at the market can be found at tons of food trucks and other events in town – it’s not like the old days when you couldn’t get them anywhere but the night market… so don’t spend your entire evening lining up for them.

Instead, for a much more tolerable experience, try planning your food picks around wait times. I did this and ended up getting some delicious Spaetzle. Short lines don’t necessarily mean poor quality here, so remember that your time is money and branch out beyond just the most popular stalls.

NOTE: You can try to time your visit for the end of the evening to enjoy shorter lines. I did this and secured the literal last Bavarian smokie at the market, but this can be risky as popular items do sell out… which I learned the hard way at the potato stall!

This black forest cake was pretty good too!

6. Specify when you want the cute mug

Is it a good thing or a bad thing that my #1 gripe with the Vancouver Christmas Market has to do with mugs?

Anyways, the usual system in Germany is you get your mulled wine in a cute mug, that you pay a small deposit for it when buying the wine.

You then get that money back when you return the mug in all its sticky glory, or if you sneak it off in your purse, you’ve kinda paid for it through your deposit.

I love this system – it reduces waste and drinking from a real mug is just 1 million extra cozy points.

Unfortunately, the Vancouver Xmas Market works like this: you pay $12 for your mulled wine and it comes in a paper cup… If you want the cute souvenir mug, you buy it for an additional cost (I got a package which made the mug $5).

In other words, don’t assume the cute mug is automatic like I did. It may upset you more than it rationally should 😉

Vancouver Christmas Market Food

Alright – now let’s get to the good stuff. Obviously, as one of the most vibrant foodie cities in the world, one of the main things to do at the Vancouver Xmas market is eat until implosion. Here are some of the market’s food items  that I (or some of my friends) personally tried:

Mulled Wine (Glühwein)

There is no treat more synonymous with Christmas markets than sweet, sweet Glühwein, AKA mulled wine.

A cup of this is a must-have while strolling around the market, and while the price tag is a little steep in my opinion, (and let’s not forget the aforementioned #MugGate I mentioned earlier), the Glühwein at the Vancouver Christmas Market was actually decently tasty… even in a paper cup.

 Mulled wine at Vancouver Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada
Paper cup from my 2018 visit. Womp womppp…


I admit, this is an odd inclusion for the top of the list, because they’re far from “traditional German Christmas market food” but wow let me tell ya, the churros at the Traditional Spanish Churros stall were THE best I’ve had  in a long time – even better than ones I’ve tried in Spain.

These tubes of deep fried dough are perfectly crispy and dusted to perfection with sugar, cinnamon and optional chocolate drizzle for an extra dollar. They’re glorious and you need to try them.

Churros at Vancouver Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada
Churros from the 2018 Vancouver Christmas Market with chocolate drizzle, AKA heaven sticks


It’s a German market, so duh there’s gonna be sausages, and because it’s Vancouver, there will probably be a line-up for these sausages.

Fret not, the line moves quickly thanks to an uber-efficient system, so I didn’t wait more than five minutes to get my claws on some sweet sweet wurst.

At the stall, I had a Bavarian smokie served with sauerkraut in a bun. It was pretty tasty, although the picky critic in me felt like the skin was a little tough and the bun a lil limp BUT hey I’m pretty much in a relationship with IKEA hot dogs so how can I really be an authority on sausages?

Sausages at Vancouver Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada
Stop drooling on your keyboard


One of my favourite German dishes ever!

Basically, think of Spätzle as bouncy little egg noodles, and at Das Spätzle Haus, you can get them fried and served with one of two toppings: the classic Käsespätzle, with emmentaler cheese and onions or with wild mushroom cream sauce and pickled purple cabbage.

I tried one of these on my most recent 2023 visit and can confirm it was tasty, although the portion isn’t huge for the $20ish bucks you pay.


The Vancouver Christmas Market is one of the only place sin Vancouver that you can get the Central European wonder-food: raclette.

Basically it’s when you scrape a layer of melted cheese straight off the wheel as a cozy blanket for toppings like meat, potatoes, bread, pickles and onions.

It is honestly the tastiest creation on Earth, and while I didn’t try the Vancouver Xmas Market version myself, it’s such a uniquely delicious delicacy that I needed to include it on the list.

2018 prices, before you get too excited

Pork hock (Schweinshaxe)

Schweinshaxe, pork knuckle or pork hock as it’s called at the Vancouver Christmas Market is one of the staple foods of Oktoberfest, and therefore a sight now synonymous with Germany itself.

These juicy slabs of roasted pork will surely taunt you with their hypnotizing spin, and as an avid consumer of Schweinshaxe back in Munich, I implore you to try this Bavarian classic for yourself.

Friends who visited me once for Oktoberfest tried the Haxen Haus at the Vancouver Xmas Market and said it was great!

Pork hocks at Vancouver Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada

Other Vancouver Christmas Food Items To Watch Out For

I didn’t get to personally test these, but while we’re on the topic of food, they’re worth a mention. Here are some other yummy items to try at the Vancouver Christmas Market:

Chimney Cake (Kürtöskalács): A popular Hungarian treat served at Christmas markets around the world – it’s basically a sweet doughey spit cake with a kind of has a subtle almost lemon-y flavour – great if you don’t want anything too sweet.

Hurricane Potatoes: Deep-fried spiralized potatoes that are served on a stick and powdered with different flavours. While they’re definitely not German, they’re a favourite of mine from the Vancouver Night Market. If you’ve never tried them before, you can get them at Das Kartoffelhaus, and I would recommend these over the Kartoffelpuffers, which I found pretty underwhelming (they were very thin, limp and not crispy enough).

Perogies: I didn’t try them at the Vancouver Christmas Market but perogies are my favourite foods ever so I needed to include them! They’re amazing dumplings usually with a cheese and potato filling.

Kartoffelpuffers at Vancouver Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada
My sad, limp kartoffelpuffers with sour cream and apple sauce

Shopping at Vancouver Christmas Market

In true Vancouver fashion, the Vancouver Christmas Market is packed wall to wall with an eclectic mix of products from around the world, and of course, from beautiful BC too.

This is a one-stop shop if you want to hop from booth to booth exploring a wide range of things from craft ciders and alpaca wool sweaters to handmade ornaments, soap,  jewelry, candles, and more.

While prices are overall of course a little higher than average, the stalls are still a lot of fun to browse. With over 90 of them, you’re bound to find at least one thing you like!

Click here for a list of Vancouver Xmas Market vendors for this year. 

Ornaments at Vancouver Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada
I couldn’t resist buying one of these!

Other Things to do at Vancouver Christmas Market

Okay, lastly, besides eating and shopping, there are plenty of other things that can occupy your time at the Vancouver Xmas market, such as…

Have a cozy drink

If you’re looking for a cozy sort of chalet setting for a few drinks and nibbles, be sure to check out the Vancouver Christmas Market’s ski-themed Alpen Haus.

Here, you’ll find waterfront views and a warming menu of food and drink. I didn’t get to visit the Alpen Haus this year but I have been to the event’s Wunderbar in the past, and found the cocktails rather disappointing.

That said, the ambiance of the place was nice, with twinkly lights, decorated trees, wooden benches and even a roaring (fake) fireplace – a great place to escape the madness of the market for a while.

In 2023 they also introduced a Schnapslplatz which sold other alcoholic beverages but there weren’t many places to sit or enjoy said drinks.

Enjoy some glistening photo opps

Let’s face it – it’s not a real Vancouver event until there’s some good ol’ fashioned vessels for millennial narcissism.

One of the more unique features of the market is the abundance of designated photo spots, from a glittering Lover’s Lane arch and a walk-in Christmas Tree to a glittery Christmas frame, some big nutcrackers and of course, little light figures by the Olympic Cauldron.

In other words, yes, this is the perfect place to snap those carefree holiday candids.

 Vancouver Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada
Candid posing 101: laugh into the distance even if people are staring at you off-screen, concerned

Attend a special themed day/event

All throughout the season, Vancouver Christmas Market spices things up with different specials and themes.

Click here for a list of the Vancouver Xmas Market’s season events.

Ride the Christmas carousel

One of the fan favourites among kiddos and kiddos a heart is the Christmas carousel.

Thanks to this year’s sponsor, Aeroplan, rides on the carousel are free! Which probably means huge line-ups, so be warned.

Get photos with St Nikolaus

Santa’s photo hut is another highlight for those visiting the Vancouver Christmas market, certainly with kids. Be warned though that this costs extra ($19.99 for adults!) and also only takes place on select Wednesdays. More info here.

Remember it’s for Santa though, so it’s worth it! Clearly he needs money for a gym membership after those billions of milk and cookie combos.

Enjoy some live performances

Last but not least, one of the coolest things I noticed was that the large Christmas Pyramid in the center of the Vancouver Christmas Market actually acts as a stage for performances throughout the evening.

I realized this as an ominous Game of Thronesy sounding violin tore through the air, and I looked up to see an actual man enthusiastically jammin’ on his festive, elevated stage.

Definitely something to look forward to!

 Vancouver Christmas Market in Vancouver, Canada

My Personal Experience(s) at Vancouver Christmas Market

Alright, lastly, if you’re feeling bored, here is a more detailed description of my experiences over the years at Vancouver Christmas Market.

My first revisit was back in 2018, fresh off of a whirlwind tour of German Christmas markets including Düsseldorf, Essen, Stuttgart, Frankfurt & Munich.

After so much rolling around “the real deal”, I (honestly) assumed that no Canadian copycat could compare, so I avoided going for a little while, opting instead to go for solo Ferrero Rocher dates and repeat viewings of the Princess Switch... both definitely NOT cries for help.

But, cursed as I am with a millennial mindset, I got FOMO quicker than you can say ‘avocado toast’ or ‘can’t afford to buy property’.

After all, the Vancouver Christmas Market is one of the most festive traditions in Vancouver during Christmas time. Even after all this time, many still consider the Christmas Market in Jack Poole Plaza a must-do Vancouver Christmas activity (as never-ending lines will confirm).

… And of course, who am I to reject an excuse to gorge on mulled wine, and potatoes in various shapes?

Grinchy skepticism in tow, I made my visit on a chilly Wednesday afternoon.

Having visited the market years ago in its original location by Queen Elizabeth Theatre, I didn’t have super high hopes for the Vancouver Christmas Market this year. All I remember is bouncing from line-up to line-up, drowning in a claustrophobic mob of humans hangry for sausage.

I was pleasantly surprised though to find that the new Jack Poole Plaza location was a million times better and more enjoyable than its sad predecessor. If you’re put off by outdated reviews, know that the location was changed in 2016 and the market was made bigger and better from that season onwards.

I ended up enjoying my time there (after I got over the prices) and enjoyed a crowd-free experience for a little while before the post-work crowds rolled in.

Fast forward to 2023, and I decided to give the market another try. It was my first time in years that I was spending the holidays at home in Vancouver, so I figured I’d go… but with even lower expectations than before, given all the criticism and hate I’d heard about prior to my visit.

Because guess what? 2023 prices were MUCH steeper than the (already atrocious) 2018 prices I had paid years prior… and the thought of paying $20 to simply enter the Christmas market filled me with rage.

Nonetheless, I went for research. And to update this Vancouver Christmas Market guide, which I admit got very outdated as the years passed (can you believe the market used to be cash-only?!)

Anyways, this time I was far less prepared than my 2018 visit. I went on a weeknight, first of all, just after work. I also went much closer to Christmas (which is when the market gets considerably busier).

The result? A huge line to get in, though it moved relatively quickly after our time slot opened… and then huge lines inside.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled at first with this visit. The crowds were sweltering, and the line-ups for certain stalls were so long, it verged on comical.

But we stayed until closing, and by the end of the evening, after the crowds had cleared and I had gotten some food in me, I could once again see the appeal. So long as you plan around crowds, the Vancouver Christmas Market is pretty and atmospheric. The food is even pretty good if you can ignore the prices!

All that said, if you want a substitute for a European Christmas Market, Vancouver’s will probably disappoint you… but if you go in with your expectations in check (and try to suspend your horror for the prices and line-ups), then this is definitely an event worth doing at least once.

Any other questions about the Vancouver Christmas Market?

Fire away in the comments below! I hope you enjoyed reading all about Vancouver’s German Christmas Market. Auf wiedersehen, and have a safe trip!

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