A Genuine French Christmas Market Just Opened in the Middle of New York
For the first time ever, France shipped 30 wooden chalets directly from Alsace to Manhattan to recreate what you’d find at the traditional European Christmas markets in Strasbourg or Colmar.
New York is famous for its Christmas traditions: There’s the massive Rockefeller Christmas tree and the over-the-top holiday window displays along Fifth Avenue, as well as The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center and the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.
But anyone who has visited Europe in December knows that New York’s Christmas markets have nothing on the traditional ones you’ll find in France. Now for the first time ever, the tourism board of Alsace, France, is bringing that magic directly to Manhattan by building a small-scale version of an authentic French Christmas market right downtown.
Earlier this season, they shipped 30 authentic wooden chalets over and rebuilt them at Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan. The French Christmas Market—or Marche de Noel—will be open every day from Friday, December 6, through Sunday, December 22, 2019.
I still need to do my Christmas shopping. What can I buy at the French Christmas Market in NYC?
Similar to the Christmas markets you’ll find in Strasbourg, Colmar, and Mulhouse, each chalet features different handcrafted products as well as culinary specialties from this region of eastern France that borders Germany. There are definitely more booths to shop for presents here than food stands, but overall, it’s smaller than the Christmas markets in Union Square and Bryant Park and feels much less overwhelming to navigate. Plus, you’ll find things here that you can’t get at any other Christmas market in New York since everything is from France.
There are ornaments and ceramics handmade in Alsace, as well as chocolates shaped like Santa (or a stork, which is the symbol of Alsace). Don’t miss the jam booth to try the confitures shipped over from Strasbourg with unexpected flavors like champagne and lemon, gingerbread, and quetsch, a type of plum.
There are activities for kids, too, including Santa’s House, children’s choir concerts, and a stand shaped like a train where you can buy hot chestnuts.
I’m in it for the snacks. What’s there to eat?
Most importantly, the food is all things you’d find at Christmas markets in Strasbourg. Of course, there’s a stand for pretzels—called bretzels in Alsace—and sausages, but you’ll want to wait in line for tarte flambées, which is like a pizza but instead of dough and tomato sauce, it has a cracker crust smeared with sour cream and topped with bacon and onions. Buy a big one and share with a friend.
For sweets, head over to Mireille Oster’s gingerbread stand. This Strasbourg shop makes gingerbread unlike anything you’ve ever had before. Served in small cubes instead of as a loaf or a cookie, this gingerbread is also made with lemons and dates in addition to the regular cinnamon and ginger spices. (Someone at the market told me that if you want to try it the true Alsatian way, you eat the gingerbread cubes with foie gras. Pour quoi pas, right?)
But is there hot mulled wine?
Bien sur! Other Christmas markets in New York tend to focus on the shopping aspect but have slim offerings when it comes to beverages—especially of the alcoholic sort. Thankfully, the French Christmas Market in NYC brings its boozy traditions to town. You can sip a souvenir cup full of hot mulled white wine (as is the tradition in Alsace), as well as French champagne and wine at the market.
How do I get to New York’s French Christmas Market?
If you take the 4 or 5 train to Bowling Green, you’ll exit directly into the middle of the Christmas Market located at Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan. The Christmas Market is open every day between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Friday, December 6, 2019, through Sunday, December 22, 2019.