Whether you’re looking for unique gifts with a European flair, a stein-swinging holiday celebration complete with German music and wine, schnapps or beer, or a taste of traditional sweet and savory foods, the Denver Christkindl Market has it in store.

The 18-year tradition, which transforms Denver’s Skyline Park into an Old World Christmas village, returns Friday and runs through Dec. 23, this year sponsored by German automaker Mercedes-Benz. The biggest annual fundraiser for the German American Chamber of Commerce’s Colorado chapter draws more than 150,000 visitors to the park on Denver’s 16th Street Mall, said Natalia M. Wobst, executive director for GACC’s Colorado chapter.

Vendors fill the park, selling wares from traditional German gingerbread heart holiday ornaments to jewelry, crafts, Christmas trees, gloves and hats, art, sweaters, beer steins and more. New this year are a crepe booth and a European chocolate booth with carved chocolates in different shapes.

“All our vendors, be they local, Coloradan, national or international, they all adopt the Christmas feel in their stands. They have gone out of their way to take on a German Christmas feel,” Wobst said.

Inside the large festival hall in a heated tent, you can ensure a seat by renting a table ahead of time ($75 per table for two hours) for a specific polka band or other featured entertainment. A full list is available at christkindlmarketdenver.com.

“Weekends can get quite busy, but we do accept reservations. We have been getting those starting in the summer,” Wobst said. “People can specify whether they want to be closer to the band or to the bar.”

Visitors can choose from four types of beer imported from German brewer Paulaner, three varieties of schnapps, several flavors of traditional Glühwein, a spiced mulled wine imported from Bavaria, or nonalcoholic kinderpunch along with food vendors’ schnitzel, bratwurst, Danish pastries, pretzels “bigger than your head” and other treats. Enjoy in the festival hall or take your beverage, which can be purchased in the market’s souvenir beer stein or Glühwein mug, and shop the village.

“We pride ourselves on being a sip-and-shop market. You can purchase your mug and walk the perimeter of the park with your drink,” Wobst said.

The days of Denver’s Parade of Lights — which this year runs Nov. 30-Dec. 1 — are typically the market’s busiest. The parade route goes right by the market, making for great viewing.

“Last year, the weekend after the Parade of Lights was just as busy. For those looking for a quiet winter pastime, I suggest visiting during the weekday hours,” Wobst said.

Because parking can be scarce downtown, Wobst recommends parking at a light rail station and taking the train. “Definitely do your research on parking beforehand,” she advised.

MICHELLE KARAS, THE GAZETTE, MICHELLE.KARAS@GAZETTE.COM

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