Christkindlesmarkt - Christmas Market, Nürnberg
In its own little section of the market platz is the “Markt der Partnerstadte” which are special vendor stalls from each of Nürnberg’s sister cities from around the world. Each stall had unique items from their country and/or city.
We were a bit excited to find the U.S.A. had a stall with Atlanta, Georgia, being the sister city. We ventured over to this stall and had a chat with the two ladies running the stall, one of whom had come from Atlanta just for the market. It was fun to see things from “home” and Hubby had a special hot chocolate (with a shot of Jack Daniel’s). They also sold chocolates from the U.S. and souvenir items.
Similar to the U.S.A. stall, the other sister city stalls each had specialty items of their own, as well as foods from their home countries. Although this is part of the Christmas market, it had its own feel to it and a person could easily spend several hours looking through the stalls and enjoying the variety of foods.
Nürnberg is famous for its annual Christkindlmarkt, the Christmas market that brings visitors from around the world to the central market square every day during the month of December to eat Lebkuchen and drink Glühwein as well as shop for Christmas ornaments and gifts. This market has more than 180 vendor stalls topped with red and white cloth roofs and is opened each year by Nürnberg’s own Christmas Angel from the terrace above the west portal of the Frauenkirche.
I knew that at least one of the Christmases that I spent in Europe would have to include a visit to this Christmas market – it was on my must-see list. And I was not disappointed! I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive about going since it is one of the largest and most famous, which means it would be crowded and had the potential to be ‘touristy’. But I was surprised at how un-touristy it felt. It was just bigger than other Christmas markets I’d been to, but it somehow still had that home-town feel to it.
We knew that the evenings and weekends were more crowded than other times, so we arrived on a Friday afternoon and enjoyed walking around before the heavy crowds arrived. As the evening approached, more and more people came to the market and it was getting difficult to walk around – but by then we had seen everything and didn’t feel the urge to have to walk up and down the rows of stalls. We simply enjoyed the moment!
The Christmas market also has a Children’s version of the Christmas market and a special area with stalls from Nürnberg’s ‘sister cities’ from around the world. There are horse-drawn carriages, carolers singing, food and drinks galore, and just a wonderfully festive atmosphere to get you in the mood for Christmas.
The Christmas market usually begins the first weekend of Advent and runs through the final weekend before Christmas, opening daily.
World famous apparently. Well, not my kind of thing but worth a wee look.
It centres on the Hauptmarktplatz, but spreads out all around and particularly in the street between there and the main railway station.
Leaving aside any presents you might buy - plenty to choose from there - the idea is to meander up and down between the lines of stalls, stopping to eat and drink frequently.
We started with shashlik (traditional, apparently), then tried the real Nürnberger sausages with Sauerkraut and finished with a meatball the size of an ice hockey puck, served on a bun with curry flavoured fried onions. Oh, plus chocolate dipped pineapple on a stick. Oh, and then roast chestnuts for the train.
I had sloe flavoured Glühwein, then cherry flavour, white wine flavour and then an egg liquor one. Finally, traditional red wine flavour.
Yes, my taste buds & gastric system took a beating.
I’m glad I went to see for myself what all the fuss is about, and to be able to compare it to smaller markets I’ve been to elsewhere. Too busy and touristy to be 100% fun.
Christkindlmarkt is an obvious magnet for children, but what surprised (and delighted) me is that the children would have their own separate little section (the Kindermarkt).
The Children's market is only a couple of hundred metres from the main market, but has a focus on kiddy related activities. There are traditional carousels and a big wheel, as well as activities such as making your own lebkuchen (highly recommended - see my other travel tip) and the timewarp atmosphere will transport you back to an earlier, gentler, less automated age (albeit presided over by a robotic Father Christmas and a pair of automated snowmen)!
Just be warned that December in Nuernberg is very cold ... and I suspect worse if it is just cold and damp rather than snowy. Just in case you haven't had the opportunity (or inclination)to read my Christkindlmarkt tips, IF YOU AND/OR YOUR KIDS ARE COLD, YOU ARE GUARANTEED TO HAVE A MISERABLE TIME. Smaller people have a larger surface/volume ratio, and so lose heat even quicker than adults, so the rules of engagement are as follows.
The Christkindlmarkt and the Kindermarkt are open air, so if you're cold, quite frankly, you'll miss out. If you're coming from warmer climes and don't want to invest in buying all the ski gear new, we bought ours for half nothing on eBay. Even more important, invest in some thermal underwear (the ski stuff is the Rolls Royce, but for good reason as they keep you toasty warm) as well as hats that cover ears, scarves, gloves and WATERPROOF footwear ... if your feet are wet, you are guaranteed to be miserable!
One of the good things about Europe in winter (from a parental point of view) is that sunset is very early. Thus, you can feed your kids an early supper, take them to the market to enjoy the twinkling lights and the nighttime atmosphere and still get them back into bed at a very respectable hour! An absolute bonus for the travelling parent!!!!
I visited the Christkindlesmarkt 3 times in 2008 and have a few tips to get the most out of your situation, especially if you're on a budget. Though it is very crowded, it is worth the visit.
- If possible, go on a weekday, since weekends are extremely busy! Days are probably less crowded, but nights are more magical. Since the sun sets so early, you could technically go at 4:00, stay for 2 hours, and have the best of both. I might recommend 3 hours to really take in everything - walking past all the booths, etc., but you can spend much shorter periods of time there, especially if you've seen other Christmas markets.
- Food is expensive! (Note: these are the prices from 2008). Most food items will be priced the same in all booths, but not necessarily (I found out the hard way). The Bratwurst stands tend to sell at either €2 or €2.50 for the basic meal. Also, I paid €0,70 for a slice of Früchtebrot (fruit bread), and then saw it for €0,50. Know that in some other cities, food is cheaper. I believe I paid €1,50 for Glühwein in Weimar, while here it is €2,00 or €2,50. However, there are many other cities where it is the same. If you know you're going somewhere generally cheaper (eastern Germany, for example), try to try some of the treats there instead!
- Lebkuchen in particular seem so expensive to me, at €1,50 a piece. If you want to save money, but still try Lebkuchen, as you walk towards the market from the train station along Königstrasse, there is an Aldi. Aldis sell packs of several Lebkuchen for under €1.00 (this probably is the same at other grocery stores). Maybe they're not quite as "authentic," but they still taste good.
- I believe that Glühwein is consistently priced, but know that you pay a downcharge for your mug. Return it to get back the Pfand. Or, you can keep the mug as a souvenir.
- If you have children with you, make sure you hold on to them in the main area because it is so crowded! A few streets down from the main Christmas market is one for children that has a few little rides, displays, etc. This is calmer and I believe it has some of the same booths as in the main market. Look for the glowing light strand above the street to your right (as you're walking down Königstrasse), right before the main market, that says something with "Kinder" in the name. Walk in that direction to get to it.
- If you are looking for somewhere else to eat in the area, move beyond Königstrasse, the street which leads directly to the Christmas market. Just a street or 2 over there are other options which are probably less crowded! The train station also has lots of cheap food options.
- There are booths along Königstrasse around Lorenzkirche full of fruits, vegetables, and other Christmas stands. This is the normal city market which has been displaced from the main square.
- Though you mostly just see the roofs of the booths, if you want an overhead look, as you enter the Christkindlesmarkt from the direction of Königstrasse, look to your left and there are metal stairs going up. There are some restaurants up there, but it is perfectly fine to just walk up along the balcony there.
- If you continue walking straight once you enter the market (coming from the direction of Königstrasse, train station, Lorenzkirche), past the Frauenkirche and the little stage, you'll see another angel overhead and some stairs which lead to another street. Go up there and there is an international Christmas market, though of course, experience the German one first.
- Look beside the main stage for a schedule of when the concerts are.
- The big Lebkuchen frosted hearts which are hanging from everywhere supposedly do not taste very good (I've heard this from multiple sources), and are mainly meant for decoration. The ones to eat are the round circular ones. As for food, everything I've tasted has been delicious, from the almonds to the breads.
- Note the little people made out of prunes and walnuts and the stiff metal angels. These are Nürnberg traditions and I've only seen them there. The Lebkuchen, the Bratwurste being sold everywhere, and I think the Früchtebrot are also Nürnberg specialties but can be found elsewhere.
Huge array of market stalls all around the centre of the city. Just about anything connected with Christmas can be bought here. Runs from early December until 24th. Far more information on the website
This is the largest Christmas Market in the world. There are rows upon rows of booths that sell gingerbread cookies, wood-carved toys, sausages, beer. Some history:
The Nürnberg Christmas Market can be traced to the year 1628. The evidence is found in a 19 cm oval wooden box that bears an inscription on its base describing it as sent by one Susanna Eleonora Erbsin to Regina Susanna Harßdörfferin on the occasion of the Christkindle Market of 1628.
Before Christmas, during November and December, one of the most traditional Christmas Street Markets in Germany is open in Nuernberg.
I went there on beginning of November with my classmates from the University and we had a great time tasting specialities, buying marzipan or simply walking on older Nuernberg.
Take a one-day trip if you have time.
The Christmas market of course!
We spent hours wandering around the different markets. There's gifts for everyone, from candles, wooden toys, CDs, lots and lots of traditional German sweets. Hot dogs 20' long (no joke!) and you have to try the hot wine ( ). I didn't like this myself, but my boyfriend couldn't get enough of it! Mind you, we got to keep the cups which make great souvenirs. For children, there's a market dedicated especially to them, including a Father Christmas. We also saw local childen sing Christmas carols, which was lovely!