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Holiday shopping and history lesson on the Southside

Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem is one of the signature holiday attractions in eastern Pennsylvania, drawing thousands each year.

No doubt, many Times News area readers have attended the market on the Southside of Bethlehem, which is located next to the iconic blast furnaces of Bethlehem Steel, now called SteelStacks, a music venue and historic attraction.

Christkindlmarkt features hundreds of vendors, hawking their wares for holiday shoppers, music and food.

While the market is the focal point of the Southside of the city for a month, one would be remiss if not branching out from the market to other parts of the Southside.

Even if you don’t want to go too far from the market, there is plenty to do, and history to learn, just steps away.

In fact, one could spend a good chuck of time just checking out the SteelStacks and the history of Bethlehem Steel’s towering blast furnaces and accompanying buildings, which now sit idle, but speak volumes about America’s industrial past.

There is a catwalk that goes along the blast furnaces, which gives a thorough but easy reading history of the steel industry in Bethlehem and the country.

I highly recommend giving yourself enough time to do the catwalk, not once but twice. Side note: There is an elevator up to the catwalk, so it is handicap accessible.

Do it in the light of day when you can see all the nooks and crannies between the old structures, and the expansive, and really cool looking, inside of the Blower House.

I’d say give yourself a good 30-40 minutes to take it all in.

Then hit the market, which is next door.

Also plan your trip so you leave the market at sunset if possible because you will want to see the SteelStacks at night.

I live in Bethlehem and often go to the Stacks at sunset and walk the catwalk as the sun sets.

It makes for great photos and really brings home the thought of workers toiling away at an extremely dangerous job. Look to the houses on South Mountain, that’s where they lived.

It’s a step back in American history.

And if you budget more time, such as spending the day in the city, the Southside Greenway Path is nice for strolling. And if you’re in for more of a rigorous walk, head up to Lehigh’s campus and wander around. (On the other side of the Lehigh River from the market is the D & L Trail).

For a drink or meal that won’t break your budget, the Steel Pub is right down from the SteelStacks (I recommend the beef stew), while Game Time sports bar is about a mile from the Stacks but features outstanding food, namely the sauteed pierogies, good beer and dozens of televisions, featuring a wide variety of sporting events.

Musikfest and Christkindlmarkt are the core of Bethlehem’s attractions during the year, but the Christmas City has a lot more to offer visitors than those two events.

The blast furnaces that once hummed at Bethlehem Steel's plant on the Southside of Bethlehem. It is now the backdrop for a music venue, SteelStacks, with the Christkindlmarkt next door. TOM DeSCHRIVER/TIMES NEWS
Sunset from the catwalk at the SteelStacks.
Sunset from the catwalk at the SteelStacks. TOM DESCHRIVER/TIMES NEWS
View of the blast furnaces from ground level, with the visitor center to the left.
The inside of the Blower House as seen from the catwalk.
As the sun sets, it's reflected off the windows of an abandoned building across from the SteelStacks. This photo was taken from the catwalk.