We all know how stressful it can be shopping for Christmas gifts; criss-crossing the city in an attempt to find the perfect present for everyone on your list, and not stopping until the growling of your stomach overtakes the sound of carols blaring through the store speakers. Well thank goodness for New York’s amazing holiday markets, which have gotten the process of shopping down to a science. You’re practically guaranteed to find great gifts for almost everyone you know, and from Union Square’s Christmas Stollen courtesy of Momofuku Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi to the outpost of BrisketTown at Brooklyn Night Bazaar, you won’t even have to starve in the process!
The Union Square Holiday Market
Forget about Santa Claus appearing at the end of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade: We really know that Christmas is coming when Union Square erects their canopy of red and white-flocked tents. Their seminal holiday market attracts over 1 million visitors each year and it’s easy to see why. In addition to cozy, walk-in stands selling handcrafted jewelry, accessories, beauty products and more, they’ve got a consistently great line-up of food vendors, like Mayhem & Stout, Wafels & Dinges and Liddabit Sweets. In fact, Union Square’s outpost of Momofuku Milk Bar is the only place you’ll find Christina Tosi’s delicious Christmas Stollen, studded with toasted pistachios, candied lemon zest and ginger.
The Columbus Circle Holiday Market
Also run by UrbanSpace (the company behind the Union Square Holiday Market, Madison Square Eats and London’s seminal Camden Lock), it’s hard to beat the glorious location of this seasonal pop-up, situated along iconic Central Park. But before you start shopping, sustain yourself with a bowl of Bibimbap or plate of Double Fried Chicken Wings from Seoul Lee Korean Barbecue, a Coconut Curry or Pulled Pork-filled pastry from La Sonrisa Empanadas, or a stack of spicy cookies from Lekerlee, which specializes in Lebkichen, traditional German Gingerbread.
The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park
You could (and should) plan a day full of holiday activities in Bryant Park’s festive Winter Village, starting with a whirl around their seasonal ice skating rink (admission is free!), and ending with a snack and a shopping spree at the surrounding, glass-enclosed kiosks. We’re particularly enamored with Chimney Cake’s Rolling Pretzels (salty coils of dough formed around a rolling pin), hearty containers of Colombian Chorizo, Creole Chicken or Maine Lobster-topped Grits from Daisy’s Grits, and impossibly rich Hot Chocolate from East Village chocolatier, Max Brenner, practically thick enough to eat with a spoon.
The Grand Central Holiday Fair
Situated in the stunning Vanderbilt Hall, The Grand Central Holiday Fair is back for its 14th year and going strong. And while the 76 vendors sell non-edible items only (fine art, silk scarves, high-end pet products), you’ll hardly need to leave the station hungry. Excellent dining options abound in every direction, including a branch of Danny Meyer’s popular Shake Shack, The Campbell Apartment, a classy cocktail bar tucked into the restored private offices of a 1920’s tycoon, and of course, the always celebratory Grand Central Oyster Bar, serving an extensive selection of pristine under-the-sea delicacies.
Brooklyn Night Bazaar
After a successful inaugural season last year, the Brooklyn Night Bazaar is back, boasting free admission, live music, mini golf courses, artisan goods, beer stations, and 12 vendors serving terrific food every Friday and Saturday evening. You’ll definitely want to check out BrisketTown’s Smoked Meat Sandwiches, Littleneck’s Lobster Rolls, Arancini Bros. gold standard Rice Balls and Ample Hills Creamery’s best-selling Crack Caramel Ice Cream. Can’t make it to Greenpoint before the end of the holidays? No worries, the market has proven to be such a hit that it will remain a permanent year-round installation in its current, 23,000 square foot space — the site of a former bakery.
Brooklyn Flea Winter Holiday Market
Traditionally, the massively popular all-food festival known as Smorgasburg has remained a warm weather-only event, shutting down for the winter and giving way to Brooklyn Flea (an indoor market with a more traditional ratio of antiques dealers to Japanese taco stands). But this year, they’ve combined forces in one oversized Williamsburg warehouse, allowing holiday shoppers to browse through racks of vintage clothing while still enjoying an array of unique eats, like Lonestar Empire‘s Cup o Pho, Chickpea and Olive‘s Beetball Parmigiana Sandwich, and the brioche/muffin hybrid known as the “Bruffin,” which is angling to steal a bit of buzz from Dominique Ansel’s incomparable Cronut.