Denver's favorite German holiday market is back and bigger than ever. Returning to spread holiday cheer and treats for the 22nd year in a row, Denver Christkindlmarket
is now open at Civic Center Park through December 23. While some come to shop, my first priority is eating and drinking, so I recently grabbed my gloves and, along with my very pregnant girlfriend, headed there to explore.
Upon arrival, the aroma of candied nuts and smoked salmon filled the air. Unlike in the past, there was no line to get in, partly because of the entrance that's been added on the Broadway side of the market.
Longtime favorites including Andy's Kitchen, Bob's Roasted Nuts and, of course, all the glühwein you can drink are back. To add to the fun, this year the market includes an open space with large format-style games such as Connect Four and the bar classic Hook Toss, along with half a dozen fire pits. Head to the S'mores Haus, located directly behind the game area, to pick up some varieties of sweet treats to roast over the open fire.
I went with a traditional s'more along with the peanut butter variety, which included two peanut butter cookies, a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and two marshmallows. Each s'more is around $7, and there are other flavors to choose from, including cotton candy and peppermint.
Pick up a sweet treat at the S'mores Haus.
Next we walked over to the bar area, where I got this year's souvenir stein ($20) and filled it with apple cinnamon glühwein ($8) and a shot of apple schnapps ($6). The glühwein is also available in blueberry and the classic red wine. If you don't want to spring for the stein, smaller festive mugs filled with glühwein are $15.
Following our noses, we ended up at the Frederick-based Kaiser Bakery, where I grabbed a fresh, soft hot pretzel ($9) with housemade cheese dip ($3) — the perfect food to stroll around with while you check out the artisan shops. (The dip was a bit watery, however; next time, I'd stick with good ol' spicy brown mustard.)
As I did a lap, pretzel in one hand, glühwein in the other, we landed at La Montagne des Saveurs, a must-stop for any cheese lover. This year, after trying nearly all of the cheese options, we decided on the Truffle Gouda and the Red Witch, a Swiss alpine cheese recommended by the friendly cheesemonger. A quarter-pound of each totaled $40, and they were worth every cent. The Truffle Gouda is the perfect balance of funky, creamy and earthy, while the Red Witch was extremely pungent, with a deep, nutty boldness ideal for a wine pairing or enjoying with some good bread.
Warm pretzels from Kaiser Bakery are a must.
Our next stop was the Syria Catering tent, which offers mouthwatering smoked salmon and tender brats. This year, we opted for the Nürnberger sausage sandwich, which includes three small roasted pork sausages with mustard and sauerkraut ($14). Definitely different from your traditional bratwurst, it was peppery with hints of smoke.
We ended the trip with a stop at Bob's Roasted Nuts for a medium bag of roasted almonds ($15). The sweet scent of this stall lingers over the market at all times, and the warming aura that is provided by the continuous roasting of nuts is hypnotic. I usually come back on the market's last day for a large bag ($25) to hold me over for a few weeks.
While we skipped the Festival Hall this year, I strongly suggest checking it out if you visit. Inside, you'll find a lively atmosphere, full of steins of beer and live German folk music. You can also reserve tables
and add on drink packages, which makes it quite the holiday gathering spot.
Some of my other favorites that I plan to visit on another day this year include Andy's Kitchen for speck, Pierogies Factory and Kogler's Bakery for pastries.
And although she had to skip the glühwein this year, my girlfriend enjoyed the war offerings from both Coffee & Cocoa Haus and Tea With Tae, the latter of which offers two cups for just $5.
Denver Christkindlmarket in Civic Center Park is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday through December 23.