NYC’s 6 Best Holiday Markets


An aerial view of the Union Square Holiday Market

There are obviously hundreds of great places in this amazing city where you can find exactly the right gift(s) for your friends and loved ones this holiday season, from boutiques to big boxes, chain stores to pop-ups. Another increasingly ubiquitous option, and one especially well-suited for the procrastinators among us: the so-called Holiday Markets, which ten years ago numbered one or two in all of NYC, but can now be found, in various guises, suddenly appearing in neighborhoods all over town. And although all have different vendors (for the most part), the mix of hand-crafted items, vintage finds, and themed gift "shops"–also: plenty of food–remain pretty consistent no matter where you wind up. Most important, all really come in handy when you need some inspiration. Here's a look at six that stand out.


A vendor selling bags at Union Square's Holiday Market

Union Square Holiday Market 

The granddaddy of them all, Urban Space's Union Square Holiday Market has been taking over the south end of the park for some 19 years now, and the 2014 edition shows no sign of slowing down. Here you'll find literally dozens of red-and-white-striped booths with vendors from all over the world, though because this is the most New York-y of the big Manhattan markets (as opposed to the more touristy pop-ups uptown), there always seems to be an emphasis on local–read: Brooklyn–crafts people and artisanal food here. Open weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays from 10:00 to 8:00; Sundays from 11:00 to 7:00. Note: Closed on Thanksgiving. Through December 24.       

An interior shot of the vendors Artist and Fleas in Chelsea Market.

Artists and Fleas: in Williamsburg and at the Chelsea Market 

The Artists and Fleas concept began in a warehouse in Williamsburg, back in 2003, when that neighborhood was still loaded with gritty, artsy, DIY appeal. Today Artists and Fleas is not only fully ensconced on North 7th Street there across the river, but has also found a permanent home on the southwest corner of the Chelsea Market. Here in Chelsea you'll find 30 rotating vendors all festively packed into the high-ceilinged space, hawking both vintage goods and clothing (the "fleas") and hand-designed and -crafted jewelry, accessories, t-shirts, and the like (the "artists"). No food, but there are plenty of good eats in the Chelsea Market proper. Artists and Fleas Chelsea is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 10:00 to 8:00. Closed Thanksgiving. Artist and Fleas Williamsburg is weekends-only, from 10:00 to 7:00. Both are open year-round. 


Grand Central Holiday Fair 

For a mix that includes more high-end items (and, given its location in commuter-ville, one that has a more suburban feel to its offerings than, say, the market in Union Square), the Grand Central Holiday Fair might be the better way to go. Now in its 15th year, and with more than 75 different vendors taking over the entire Vanderbilt Hall, the Grand Central market also has the advantage of taking place indoors, in case the weather gets nasty on the afternoon you've set aside to get all your shopping done. Definitely worth checking out if you work nearby, or combined with a trip to the Holiday Train Show in the nearby Transit Museum annex. The Holiday Fair is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 11:00 to 7:00. Closed Thanksgiving. Through December 24.  Photo courtesty MTA on Flickr. 



A customer with bear paw gloves shopping at Bryant Park's Winter Villageq

Winter Village at Bryant Park 

Bryant Park used to just be kind of desolate this time of year (and don't get me started on what it was like in the 1970s and '80s!). Then they started warming things up in the winter by laying down a huge, free ice skating rink. Then they shrunk the skating rink to make room for dozens of holiday-market booths, some of which are actually indoors Then they added lots of food kiosks (yay!), and even a trying-to-be-trendy bar and restaurant (yay?), the two-story Celsius, complete with VIP area. And today we have the Winter Village, generally jammed with tourists, but still exceptionally festive and even pretty, what with the back of the New York Public Library presiding over things. And despite some obvious lapses in good taste, the vendors are always more appealing than I expect. Worth a trip at least once before the New Year. The shops are open through January 4, on Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., on Saturday from 10:00 to 9:00, and on Sunday from 10:00 to 6:00. Closed Thanksgiving. For ice skating info, see here. 

The food court at Columbus Circle's Holiday Market

Columbus Circle Holiday Market 

If the Columbus Circle Holiday Market feels a little (or a lot) like the one in Union Square, well, that because this is yet another Urban Space venture. And, I must say, they really have this pop-up market thing down. First opened in 2010 and now an established part of the West Side holiday landscape, the Columbus Circle Holiday Market may be smaller than its elder sibling downtown, but the line up here is strong, filled with boutique-style booths, gifty goods from local artisans and designers, and, of course, lots of food, both the packaged sort to give away if you can bear it (think chocolates, and exotic jams), and the cooked-right-there-to-eat-right now variety, to enjoy at some of the tables they've set up, or to take across the street into the center of Columbus Circle itself, which is always a surprisingly pleasant place to sit for a bit. The Market is open through December 24, on Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 10:00 until 7:00. Closed Thanksgiving.   

nyc-holiday-markets-2014-hester-streetChefs preparing food at Hester Street Markets

Hester Holiday Market at One Penn Plaza

The folks behind the Hester Street Fair–NYC's other OTHER ever-expanding food-and-goods-market empire (after Urban Space and Brooklyn Flea)–are setting up shop this season with 30 booths in the heart of Herald Square. True, this part of town is usually a must-avoid zone during the holidays, but if you DO find yourself at Macy's (visiting Santa?), or Koreatown, or if you happen to work nearby, know that the Hester crew almost always has the best food (like the okanomiyaki at Oconomi, above), and the most unusual and unique vendors of them all. The Hester Holiday Market will run from December 1 to December 21, and is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Also note: there will be a variety activities throughout the month, including "open-mic" caroling and origami classes. 

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