We had one main goal for our weekend in Toronto. Our goal was to see the Christmas Market. Initially we were just going to do a day trip to Toronto, but I lucked out and found a Hilton Garden Inn City Center hotel for $25 USD a night with my employee discount. I couldn’t pass up that deal! The hotel was in a central location, only a few blocks from the Fashion District. The hotel seemed nice, however it has since closed so it must have had some issues.
We wanted to go to the Christmas Market at night, so we still had the entire afternoon to explore Toronto. We headed out toward the Eaton Center, which was only ten minutes away. Making our way down Dundas St. we got a view of Ryerson University. The campus was so beautiful, a refreshing green space in the city center. Brick and vines replaced the metallic buildings. Here you can escape the busy shopping area that is only a block away.
On our walk, we saw some boys playing hockey on a small skating rink. Only in Canada do you find kids playing hockey anywhere and everywhere. After seeing this small skating rink and weaving in and out of the stores, we decided to check out the big rink, facing old City Hall. I was happy to come across some mechanized window displays on the way like the ones they New York City. The window displays at Hudson Bay were so adorable. The displays depicted Santa and Mrs. Clause, elves working in Santa’s workshop and Christmas carolers.
Across the street from the Hudson Bay window displays was Nathan Phillips Square, where the ice skating rink is. The ice rink was so pretty with the clock tower of Old City Hall in the background. Behind the Toronto sign stood the futuristic New City Hall. The oppositions of the two city halls are the essence of Toronto’s architecture. The old and new are coming together at every corner in Toronto. In some spots, it seems that the new buildings are replacing the old. But there still lies the character of some old stone buildings between the skyscrapers. There were so many people skating, they were lacing their skates while sitting in the Toronto sign. It was a really fun atmosphere. I knew I wanted to come back to see the square under the lights later.
It was starting to get late so we headed to the Distillery District, where the Christmas Market is. We got coffee to keep us warm and checked out the various Christmas displays as we walked the 30 minutes to the market. There was a lot to see so it didn’t seem like a long walk. On our way, we found a gorgeous Gothic revival church, the Cathedral Church of St. James. I wasn’t even sure if it was a famous church but for some reason it got my attention. Every view of it was magnificent, especially against the dark blue sky. I peaked in the door to get a closer look. The inside was illuminating and inviting, even more incredible the the exterior. St. James is the oldest congregation in Toronto. Seeing how beautiful the church is, I can see what keeps bringing the congregation coming back.
As we approached the Distillery District, it began to get dark. The road we walked down seemed quiet and sketchy, we weren’t sure if we were going the right way. It didn’t seem like much of anything was down there. However, we finally saw people and a few stands and we knew we were there.
We must have entered at the end of the market because from first glance it seemed really small, as if there wasn’t much there. In this spot of the you could see the city skyline peaking out beyond the stands. We stopped to get a few free samples; chocolate from Lindt and lip balm from Burt’s Bees. Even though I only got a small sample of chocolate, I got to witness a chocolatier filling the delicious truffles.
The Toronto Christmas market only seemed small. Once we turned a corner, we were hit with Christmas. There were stands selling nesting dolls and Christmas pyramids, those wooden Christmas decorations that move from the flame of a candle. I felt that I was in Bavarian. This is truly a traditional Christmas market.
This year has been a Christmas without snow but stepping foot into this market brought me so much Christmas cheer. The center of the market had a giant Christmas tree and a stage with Christmas carolers. I took a moment to listen to the carolers singing the “Twelve Days of Christmas” as I admired the Christmas lights strung on the tree and throughout the market.
Not only were there lights in the tree, there were lights everywhere. There were lights overhead, strung in a web from building to building. It was magical. I didn’t even know where to look, there was so much to see. I tried to take in every sting of lights and tried to stop at every stand that I could. If the strings of lights weren’t enough, there were actual gas lanterns to illuminate our walk.
Even though it was only 30 degrees out, the restaurant patios were packed. There were outdoor heaters placed all around the patios to keep them warm for the diners. We wanted to eat at one of these restaurants but the line seemed to long and the food didn’t seem that appealing. We didn’t want to waste our time waiting. And why waste room in our stomachs when there was delicious German food all over the market? I ended up getting chili and a large pretzel to eat from a stand. I stood to the shoulder of the market and ate my hearty food. We topped off our meal with a spiked hot chocolate in the beer tent. The hot chocolate was warm and creamy. I sipped on the smooth drink in the “naughty or nice” beer tent.
Leaving the magic of the Toronto Christmas Market behind, we took a cab back to Nathan Phillips Square. We decided to take a cab because it would have been a long, cold walk back. We were able to easily wave down a cab and made our way back to the ice rink. The rink was beautifully lit up and was just as busy as it was earlier. The Christmas decorations seemed to fit perfectly with the modern buildings behind the square. We strolled back to our hotel feeling the Christmas cheer.
Read more from Come Join My Journey about Winter in Toronto: Toronto: Once Upon A Time In Canada