Shopping

The Best Holiday Markets in NYC

’Tis the gifting season. Which merry-and-bright bazaar is right for you?

Even if you usually hate shopping, there’s something kind of magical and communal about strolling the aisles of New York City’s festive holiday markets. You can sip hot cocoa or cider while you browse; bump into old friends who are also trying on hand-knitted scarves and winter hats; and get all of your gifts without ever having to set foot in a mall. Plus, with extras like ice-skating, performances, and tasty food, they’ve become an event on their own. Our favorites this year:

BEST PEOPLE-WATCHING

Union Square Holiday Market
Getting lost in the maze of busy aisles at this bazaar is an annual tradition for us. Yes, it can get crowded, but that’s the beauty of it: New Yorkers united by their love for beeswax candles and handmade soy soap! And on cold days, the press of humanity helps keep you warm. New to the market this year: an Urbanspace Provisions aisle with a curated selection of New York–produced food and drink; Little Brooklyn, a section devoted to goods made 100 percent in the hip borough; a warming station; and a kids’ craft studio hosted by the Children’s Museum of the Arts. 14th Street (between Union Square East and Union Square West), Union Square; through December 24

BEST LAST-MINUTE GIFTS BEFORE YOU CATCH THE TRAIN HOME

Grand Central Holiday Fair
Located right inside the historic train station’s Vanderbilt Hall, the longest-running holiday market in the city caters to commuters and visitors. But locals shouldn’t overlook it: Where else can you shop more than 40 quality vendors, not to mention Grand Central’s permanent posh retailers, then refuel with oysters and Muscadet at the Oyster Bar? 89 East 42nd Street (between Vanderbilt and Lexington Avenues), Midtown East; through December 24

BEST FOR A FRIEND DATE

Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar
Catch this Gowanus showstopper while you can. For just two days inside the gorgeous Green Building (perhaps you’ve attended a wedding there?), Brooklyn makers show off their one-of-a-kind wares, from jewelry and handbags to ceramics and stationery. Nosh on authentic pierogi and homemade desserts while you browse to the beats of a live DJ. Kids and nonshoppers will appreciate the music, the photo booth, and the arts-and-crafts table. 452 + 501 Union Street, Gowanus; November 25 and 26

BEST FOR FAMILIES

Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
Bryant Park’s magnificent 17,000-square-foot ice-skating rink and 150-plus shopping kiosks and food purveyors make this the best bets for families. In addition to the skating, there’s a heated observation deck perched just above the rink where kids can make art and play board games and chess (though it is sometimes closed for private events). And when the troops get peckish, there are food kiosks to suit every taste: Dulcinea Churros, Casa Toscana, Baked Cheese Haus, Kimchi Grill, Home Frite, Max Brenner’s, and Wafels & Dinges.
Sixth Avenue (between West 40th and 42nd Streets), Midtown; through January 2

BEST FOR HOLIDAY PHOTO OPS

Columbus Circle Holiday Market
Created by Urbanspace, the same folks behind the Union Square Market, this corner-of-the-park fair feels similar to its downtown sister, but with a variety of classic New York backdrops against which to snap your selfies. There are the majestic American elms of Central Park; the towering Art Deco buildings of Central Park South; the skyscrapers of Columbus Circle; and the golden Columbia leading her seashell chariot atop the Maine Monument. Oh, and there’s shopping! Our favorite vendors here include CaraCruz Brooklyn jewelry, Joyfullook tights, Lotus Skin Care, and No Chewing Allowed treats. West 59th Street (at Central Park West), Midtown; November 28–December 24

BEST FOR DESIGN LOVERS

FAD Market
Need a gift for your fashionable boss who has impeccable taste? This is where to get it. The FAD (Fashion, Art, Design) Market at City Point in downtown Brooklyn features stylish, modern accessories; home goods; art; and more from more than 60 designer-makers. Dibs on the chunky-knit hooded infinity scarf from Muddy River Knits! And if you haven’t yet been to Dekalb Market Hall, the very Brooklyn-ish food court, just head downstairs to grab lunch from Katz’s Deli, Pierogi Boys, Bunker, Daigo Hand Roll Bar, Fletcher’s BBQ, and more. City Point, 445 Albee Square West, Downtown Brooklyn; December 16 and 17

BEST FOR DAY DRINKERS

Astoria Market
Shopping is always more productive with a bit of a buzz, don’t you think? Enjoy a pint or two of Czech ale at Astoria’s Bohemian Hall, the oldest beer garden in NYC, before browsing the handmade and baked goods. The offerings here trend more toward kitsch than cool, but the setting can’t be beat. 29-19 24th Avenue, Astoria; December 3, 10, and 17

BEST FOR RESISTERS

Bust Craftacular
Last year at this juried craft fair sponsored by Bust, the feminist lifestyle magazine, hand-knit pussy hats were the biggest sellers. This year, expect fair-trade coffee, gender-nonspecific apparel, feminist statement tees, She Persisted jewelry, and more. Some of your favorite nonprofits will be there, too; stop by to say hello to the good folks at the Planned Parenthood booth. Aside from the shopping, Bust has added lectures and workshops, courtesy of the Bust School for Creative Living, to the lineup this year. 72 Noble Street, Greenpoint; December 9 and 10

BEST FOR ANIMAL LOVERS

Vegan Shop-Up
Is a holiday meal still a holiday meal if you take away the turkey, ham, and the butter? The organizers behind this one-of-a-kind food festival sure think so. Taste for yourself: Sample vegan everything, from seitan stuffing and brisket to pumpkin macarons and pecan pie. Best part: Bloody Marys, everyone’s favorite brunch drink, vegan or not. Pine Box Rock Shop, 12 Grattan Street, Bushwick; December 2 and 16

BEST FOR GROWN-UP GOTHS

Oddities Holiday Flea Market
Have a family member or friend with a love of all things peculiar? Head to the Oddities market to sift through an unusual assortment of medical history ephemera, anatomical “mysteries,” osteological specimens, taxidermy, and jewelry made from the above items. A $5 entry fee gets you access to three full floors of vendors and the restaurant and bars inside Brooklyn Bazaar. The organizers say all ages are welcome, but your tot may not enjoy the visit from Krampus. Brooklyn Bazaar, 150 Greenpoint Avenue, Greenpoint; December 2 and 3

BEST FOR SOPHISTICATED FOODIES

Il Buco Vita Pop-Up
You’ll want to fill your kitchen with Donna Lennard’s Italian-Mediterranean housewares inside her East Village hideaway. And, for the first time, you’ll be able to stock up on goods from her friends inside their limited edition holiday shoppe. Leather-bound goods from RTH, From The Road‘s cashmere bandanas and throws, cold-pressed skincare products from emerginC, and Santimetre Studio‘s handmade porcelain plates will be readily available to place underneath your loved ones’ Christmas trees. Holiday shopping-till-you’re-dropping has the tendency to leave you with a well-earned appetite; fortunately Lennard’s rustic Il Buco is right downstairs. 51 Bond Street, 2nd Level (between Bowery and Lafayette Street), East Village