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Is the NYC Union Square Holiday Market worth checking out? My shopping guide in photos.

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union square holiday market new york christmas 2013 outside The Union Square Holiday market is New York’s closest thing to a traditional European Christmas market.

Like a European market, the Union Square market is held outdoors, its pathways lined with festive bough-trimmed wooden stalls. Hot drinks like gluwein are on offer to take an edge off the chill and local crafts abound.

But unlike a European Christmas market, the Union Square market is a holiday market– you’ll find Hanukkah themed items next to Christmas ornaments, along with plenty of non-holiday specific items and even different ethnic items. It makes for a unique mix and is a fun way to while away an afternoon.

The Union Square Holiday market is conveniently located in Union Square park (at 14th Street) and is practically on top of the subway entrance.

union square holiday market new york christmas 2014 shoppingBetween Thanksgiving and Christmas eve, over a million people pass their way through the market. That means the market can get insanely crowded. I had family in town so we went on a Saturday, quite possibly the worst time to go–  I recommend heading to the market during the work week if you can. If you work during the week like we do, then at least try to avoid the stalls near any of the market’s entrances– these are gridlock zones.

After dodging the crowds and working your way into the much emptier belly of the market, pick up some gluwein (non-alcoholic only) and get ready to shop.

The thick crowds kept us from hitting every stall, but from the stalls we did see, I can confirm that the overall quality and diversity of the items is much higher now than in years past.

The first vendor we checked out was a proper German stall selling handmade wooden Christmas goods, like these candle-operated rotating pyramids, made in a village outside of Dresden.  They also sell authentic stollen (a german fruitcake rolled in sugar), gingerbread and other German goodies here.

What else caught our eye?

union square holiday market new york christmas shopping gift scarf 2014Warm furry scarves.

union square holiday market new york christmas shopping gift puppet 2014 crafts union square holiday market new york christmas shopping gift puppetPuppets that looked like they walked right off the set of Seseme Street.

union square holiday market new york christmas shopping gift hatA holiday market staple, crazy looking animal hats.

union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift hat union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift foodA French hot chocolate stall.

union square holiday market nyc what to buyColorful home decor items from a friendly local vendor.

union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift pillow

union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift best

union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift jewelry necklaceAs with most New York street markets, there was lots of jewelry.  Despite being handcrafted, much of the jewelry tended to look the same and was meh IMO.  But there were some standouts.  I liked this vendor’s glittery rope necklaces.union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift hatAnd these orchid necklaces from Hanami.

union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift hat warmCan you guess what these are?

union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift hat fur Yep, that ball of fluff is for wearing on your head.  All faux fur.

These bug and butterfly shirts, all made locally by BugsDeluxe, would be a great gift or New York City souvenir for a bug-obsessed kid.

union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift toysKubiya games had a variety of wooden puzzle toys available at different levels of difficulty.  The friendly staff here will show you how to use them.

union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift jewelry

We spotted this jewelry along with other items made from diffused Vietnamese landmines.

union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift sweatshirtLots of novelty items like these good-for-one-laugh-and-then-what sweatshirts.

union square holiday market nyc christmas shopping gift hat woolA selection of handmade woolen trapper and newsboy hats.

union square holiday market nyc christmas  dog outfitBest-selling Christmas dog outfit at Yoyo dog.

union square holiday market nyc christmas ornamentsunion square holiday market nyc christmas ornamentSurprisingly few stalls sold Christmas ornaments– but those that did had lovely ones.

union square holiday market nyc christmas craft artisanMy sister-in-law Chris admired these clocks– but instead of buying one she contemplated her own DIY project.
union square holiday market nyc christmas craft artisan giftAnd my niece Liz demonstrates how great these frames will look with a photo inside.

union square holiday market nyc christmas craft artisan shopping gift union square holiday market nyc christmas craft artisan shopping gift woolNot sure what this colorful item is– a pot rest maybe?

union square holiday market nyc christmas  shopping gift menLove these trays for travelers– they lay flat for transport and snap together to form a catchall so you don’t lose stuff like your keys in a hotel room.  I stocked up on a bunch of similar silk trays in Japan.

Fatty Sundays is smart to hand out samples of their chocolate covered pretzels–  after tasting there is no way you’ll ever confuse them with those bland snacks from the big box stores .  The charming owner showed me all the different varieties they carry, like banana cream, pumpkin pie and gift-ready treats like “gelt-y pleasure” and “gobblegobble”.

union square holiday market nyc christmas gift charm

Liz looked for her home state of Virgina in the bins of handcrafted charms offered by Brooklyn charms.

These dead sea salt scrubs were offered by an especially enthusiastic vendor.

union square holiday market nyc christmas food gifts shopping spices

We all loved the spices from Spices and Tease. Sniffing spices is encouraged and the cheerful vendors will definitely keep you entertained.

momfuku union square holiday market nyc christmas food gifts

Hipster vendors man the Momofuku Milk Bar stall.

Momofuku milk bar is the one vendor I seek out every year for my holiday sugar fix.  Sure I can buy their cookies at one of their New York City shops anytime of the year, but I’d rather save them for a holiday treat– that way I can indulge guilt-free “because it’s the holidays.”  Also, the market location has holiday items not available in the shops like stollen and peppermint cookies (I’ve tried both and they’re delicious).

We bought the six cookie variety pack in a gift tin for $12.  We immediately pried it open and sampled my favorite cookie, the compost.

momfuku compost cookie union square holiday market nyc christmas food gifts Fortunately the compost cookie only has a healthy sounding name. It’s a full-on combo of yummy bits like pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch and chocolate chips, all smothered together in a satisfying bite.

We had a great day at the Union Square holiday  market, but the one thing we missed from European Christmas markets were the bratwurst and weissewurst (ok and maybe the wine in the Gluwein).  So we hopped a train downtown and hit my favorite Austrian spot, Blaue Gans, for a late lunch of sausages and pretzels.  Now it was the perfect day.

New York’s Union Square Holiday and Christmas Market 2014 opening times and hours:
Market runs from November 20-December 24, 2014
Opening hours: weekdays 11-8, Saturdays 10-8, Sundays 11-7
Closed on Thanksgiving Day.

Have you been to New York’s Union Square Holiday market? What are your favorite vendors?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

Want to read about more Christmas markets?
Read about a Real Life Swedish fairy tale at the Swedish market in Stockholm
Check out the Budapest Christmas Market here for the shopping
And here for the Budapest Market’s mouth watering-eats

Munich, Germany’s Medieval Christmas Market: Corny or Cool?

Special thanks to my junior editors Liz and Colin for assistance on this post!

All Photos by Souvenir Finder, Copyright 2014, all rights reserved and may not be used without express permission.

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10 Responses to Is the NYC Union Square Holiday Market worth checking out? My shopping guide in photos.

  1. sueslaght 12/01/2013 at 6:26 pm #

    I am exhausted just traveling virtually through the market! I particularly liked what look like ‘nesting’ zipped baskets? That fit inside one another?

    • Kristin Francis 12/01/2013 at 6:32 pm #

      Now you know how I feel today then! Which photo are you looking at? I didn’t know what all the stuff was I took pictures of– some vendors were chatty, some not.
      This month is all about markets– heading out this week to Stockholm, Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna! But I find European markets much more low key– the gluwein helps!

      • sueslaght 12/01/2013 at 6:35 pm #

        Have a fabulous trip! I was looking at the small photos after the colourful skulls. The one on the left look like zippered containers and on the right maybe headbands?

      • Kristin Francis 12/01/2013 at 6:48 pm #

        Oh yes, it’s the way I took the photo– those are actually very small skull containers, like pill boxes. Thanks so much! It won’t be all shopping! : )

  2. lmjapan 12/02/2013 at 7:34 am #

    Great post, all the pictures made me feel like I went shopping there myself! I would have definitely been all over the French hot chocolate stall, looks like it was a chilly day.

    • Kristin Francis 12/02/2013 at 4:45 pm #

      Thanks for your comment I didn’t realize until I got home how many photos I took. It was frigid, we had multiple hot drinks but didn’t get a chance to try the hot chocolate– I’m sure I’ll make it there again though.

  3. Sue 12/03/2013 at 7:23 am #

    It looks like such a fun market! I showed my inner geek trying to guess what the fuzzy items were -my first thought was Tribbles (Star Trek reference). 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 12/03/2013 at 10:02 am #

      Thanks for commenting! I’m not a big trekkie but of course I love tribbles! I plan to cover “geek” souvenirs too– comic books stores, etc.

  4. wanderingeducators 04/16/2014 at 1:30 pm #

    What fun! I love the spices part!

    • Kristin Francis 04/20/2014 at 11:01 am #

      The spice guy is hilarious- he kept joking with the kids and making funny faces when I tried to get a shot! A must visit!

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