If there’s ever a time in the year where you’d truly indulge, it’s at a Christmas market.
Let’s be honest – no one is ever really done with Christmas shopping. And here in Asia, we’re not talking about just any bazaar with a mishmash of discounted products—we mean classic markets inspired by their European counterparts, city-wide festivals that attract hordes of tourists with flashy light shows, as well as laidback, hipster-worthy affairs that feature homegrown brands and promote sustainable shopping.
See this year’s best Christmas markets or festivals in Asia below. Spoiler alert: Japan aces the game with three markets in this list alone!
At the Roppongi Hills Christmas Market, you can splurge on sausages, hams, craft beers and sweets that will keep you well-fed as you peruse stalls selling delicate glass trinkets, luxe brass ornaments, limited-edition curios flown in from Germany, gingerbread figures (from JPY ¥900), and advent calendars (from JPY ¥1,280) you’ll want to open prematurely. From 21 Dec, Santa will make his appearance at various locations in Roppongi, so bring the kids for the requisite all-I-want-for-Christmas chat. To commemorate the event, the market releases a collectible Christmas mug with an exclusive design every year—it’s a cute souvenir for everyone!
Here’s another one in Tokyo! Formerly held at Hibiya in Ginza, the Tokyo Christmas Market is moving to Shiba Park near Tokyo Tower this year. The difference? At the Shiba Park edition, you get views of the iconic Tokyo Tower in the background (bring your cameras, obviously). Row after row of stalls built à la classic German Christmas markets sell food, drinks, decorations and gifts for the whole family. What you should do is grab a few roast turkey legs, snatch up hotdogs, call for a few pints of beer or mulled wine (non-alcoholic versions available), and sit down with your motley crew of market-goers at the public tables surrounded by heaters. FYI, it’s considered impolite to walk while eating or snacking in Japan, so be sure to find a spot to settle down.
Also, don’t forget dessert! Since we’re talking about Japan, fluffy pancakes are a must if you see stalls selling them, but if you want something a little more traditional, frosted yule log or fruitcake is the way to go.
We promise, this is not just another Japanese Christmas market. Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse is over 100 years old, and went through a turbulent 20th century before restoration works took place in the 1990s and 2000s to turn it into the Japanese port city icon we know today. During the holiday season, the historic building is transformed into a merry festival, and is specifically modelled after Nuremberg’s traditional Christkindlesmarkt, which any Christmas market aficionado will know is the perfect specimen of its kind. There are two themed sections this year: one is dedicated to the German yuletide atmosphere—that’s where you’ll find your delicious meats and mulled wine; the other is a romantic space overlooking the Minato Mirai waterfront, where you can indulge in seafood and make champagne toasts in front of the 10m-tall Christmas tree. There’s plenty of information on the website, including prices for certain food and beverages, so you can plan ahead.
Light sculptures, carnival rides, faux snow, Supertree light shows—Singapore knows how to turn its pride and joy into a very classy Christmas fiesta! Granted, it’s a ticketed event—better not pout, we’re telling you why—but with the array of attractions in store, it’s worth it. The Gardens by the Bay will have you indulging your inner child with carnival games and rides, Santa Claus workshops, and theatrical performances, in the very same space they filmed a wedding party in Hollywood box office success Crazy Rich Asians. Shop ‘til you drop at the Festive Market, where you’ll find irresistible snacks and gifts you’ll want for yourself, all while taking in the grandeur of the iconic Supertrees. By evening, you’ll be whipping out your cameras to photograph the faux snow by the Luminarie Light Sculptures. Some of the activities like the carnival rides require an extra fee, but what better time to splurge? To kids (and kids at heart), a day at Christmas Wonderland is a gift itself.
Let’s take the festivities outside the confines of a Christmas market for a change. This year in Taipei, Civic Plaza and Banqiao Station Square become Christmasland, where eager visitors will be kept occupied with beautiful decorations and light installations. Of course, it’s also a shopping affair, with a three-day market running from 6–8 Dec in Civic Plaza around a modern, colourful Christmas tree. And if you’re a fan of Taiwanese superstars, there’s the Super Star Christmas Concert (14–15 Dec) and Folk Music Concert (21 Dec) where you can jostle crowds who are out to enjoy Taiwan’s cool year-end weather and some truly flashy stage special effects. There’s even talk of a floating colour screen and AR technology—that’s Taiwan for you! Artists who will perform at the concerts include Jam Hsiao and Hong Kong’s G.E.M. For something relatively sedate, the New Taipei City Holy Night will happen on 22 December, where various religious groups from the city will come together to spread the joy and warmth of Christmas.
Kuala Lumpur has a thriving homegrown fashion and arts scene, and APW Bangsar, a former commercial printing factory, is one such event space that actively promotes local fashion and accessories labels, budding food businesses and upcoming musicians. At the upcoming Christmas market, there will be stalls running workshops and selling fashion items or gifts that will make you everyone’s favourite Santa. The full list of vendors have yet to be unveiled at the time of writing, but as with all other bazaars at APW, you’re sure to find something you want as a gift to yourself, if not for someone else.