Visit one of the World’s Best Christmas Markets in the Historic Distillery District in Toronto

by | Dec 8, 2016 | Canada, Toronto | 3 comments

If you like this blog from 2016, you may be interested in this year’s blog on the Toronto Christmas Market:

What to See and Do at the Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery

The Distillery District is the largest complex of Victorian industrial architecture in North America

The Distillery District is a National Historic Site in Canada.

Forty heritage buildings are organized on 10 streets in this pedestrian area just east of downtown Toronto.

Gooderham and Worts started making whisky in 1832. When they built the Distillery District in 1860, they were the largest distillery in the world. I think you can still smell the spirits in the air!

Gooderham and Worts picked this strategic location for its easy access to world markets. The District is on the Toronto waterfront on Lake Ontario and adjacent to the Canadian National Railway mainline.

The fortunes of the company diminished as consumers’ tastes favoured beer and wine. The distillery ceased production in 1990. By that time, many surrounding industrial and commercial buildings had already been demolished, leaving the Distillery District in a derelict area of the city, surrounded by empty lots. Plans to revitalize the area were de-railed with the recession in the 1990s. If only I had thought to buy one of those empty lots!

The abandoned Distillery District offered a perfect location for the film industry. More than 800 movies and TV shows were filmed here. Chicago is the best know film made in the Distillery District, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger and Richard Gere. It won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Other notable blockbusters include Cinderella Man, starring Russell Crowe; and Blues Brothers 2000 with John Goodman and Dan Aykroyd.

The Distillery District was deserted and abandoned just 25 years ago.


Transformation of the Distillery District did not get underway until 15 years ago

The first thing the new owners did was turn the Distillery District into a pedestrian-only area. They undertook a major refurbishment of the historic buildings and leased them out to art galleries, boutiques, a theatre company, restaurants and bars. They do not lease to any chains or franchises. Each retail business in the Distillery District is unique. The Victorian industrial buildings are alive with shops, restaurants and bars. Plan your visit by going online first:

Tourists and locals flock to the Distillery District all year round.

Mill Street Brewery is a well-known microbrewery. It is located in the Distillery District.

It is good to know that the tradition of making alcohol in the Distillery District continues today. I like this Moosehead sculpture made of moose and empties. I never thought of using my empties to make a sculpture.

There are no cars in the Distillery District, but you may see some bicycles.

Would you buy a condo next to an abandoned distillery?

The first condominiums adjacent to the Distillery District were built in the late 1990s. This was before the distillery was sold and before any refurbishment got underway. Those buyers took a financial risk … it paid off in spades! The first time I visited the Distillery District, I thought it out of the way and surrounded by nothingness. What was I thinking! It is a 15-minute walk to downtown Toronto. You can live in a car-free zone and walk to King and Bay, the heart of the financial district in Toronto. The view from your balcony is the CN Tower. When the condo owners first moved in, they lived next to an abandoned distillery, surrounded by empty lots. Now, they live in the trendy area of Toronto. They have to put up with pink Christmas trees and half a million visitors who flock to the Distillery District for the annual Christmas Market.

Go the the Distillery District and enjoy a Victorian Christmas

The Toronto Christmas Market is one of the best in the World

Fodor’s Travel ranked the Toronto Christmas Market in the Top Ten

World’s 10 Best Holiday Markets

November 14, 2016


Where: Toronto, Canada The Toronto Christmas Market combines Old World charm with modern-day holiday attractions. Hosted in the city’s Distillery Historic District, the market features festive lighting and décor plus musical performances from carolers and Bavarian brass bands. The market’s beer gardens and hospitality lounges are especially popular, as guests can warm up with beer, mulled wine, or hot rum drinks. Visitors can also browse through local, handcrafted products and check out the market’s giant Christmas tree. Those with a competitive spirit can take part in the World Caroling Challenge, a group performance of some of the most well known Christmas tunes.

Here is the list of the other nine markets on Fodor’s List:

    • Where: Nuremberg, Germany
    • Where: Strasbourg, France
    • Where: Copenhagen, Denmark
    • Where: Barcelona, Spain
    • Where: Vienna, Austria
    • Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Where: Manchester, England
    • Where: Tallinn, Estonia
    • Where: Chicago, Illinois


The Christmas Market in the Distillery Distrct is 15 acres of fun and festivities

The Toronto Christmas Market is a huge success

Last year, more than half a million people visited the Christmas Market. On weekends, it is almost impossible to move because of the crowds. This year, the Market added an entrance fee on weekends. This is to encourage visitors to see the Market on a week day, when there is no entrance fee. You can plan your visit by going online: The site is encouraging visitors to leave baby strollers at home on the weekend! Driving to the Market is a nightmare on weekends. Driving in downtown Toronto is always a nightmare, but it is especially nightmarish on weekends near the Market.  The surrounding streets cannot handle the throngs of Market-goers. There are a couple of parking lots nearby but they fill up quickly. Lucky for me, the Market is just a 15 minute walk down Parliament Street. If it snows before Christmas, I will go again and add more pictures to this post.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

European-style kiosks sell food and handicrafts at the Christmas Market

The magic of Christmas is captured in a snow globe I loved snow globes when I was a kid … and I still do.

Poutine is uniquely Canadian

For a truly Canadian experience at the Christmas Market, try some poutine. There is nothing better on a cold night than fresh poutine. This French dish from Quebec takes French fries to the next level. Hot and crispy fries are topped with cold fresh cheese curds and hot, light gravy. Poutine and a beer is a great combo.

Eat and drink around the world at the Christmas Market

This is Jack, my sweet sweet grandson

Toronto is a big city but it feels like a small town when you run into your own family at the Christmas Market! Luckily, I always have my camera with me.

There are lots of family activities at the Christmas Market

My definition of Joy is running into my own family at the Toronto Christmas Market

Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray