Nuremberg is a beautiful medieval city in Bavaria I have visited several times. This was my first trip there in December and I was excited to experience the city's world-famous stunning Christmas market first hand. The market draws over 2 million visitors each year and dates back to the 17th century. Open December 1 until December 24th from 10 am to 9 pm., the market closes at 2 pm on the 24th.
There are four features I found that set Nuremberg's Chriskindlesmarkt apart from so many others I have visited in Germany.
The market is known as the "little town from Wood and Cloth" (Stadt Aus Holz und Tuch) which refers to the red and white striped cloth roofs on the roughly 180 regional spruce wooden stalls (some over 100 years old!) that make up the main market. There are no plastic decorations allowed and each vendor is encouraged to make their booth as attractive and special as possible. Each year selected vendors are awarded a gold, silver or bronze Prune Man award for the best booths.
Incidentally, the Prune man is a Nuremberg specialty you can purchase in the market. These are fun figurines made out of wire and prunes. Unfortunately, they are not edible but considered good luck for a house. The Nuremberg saying goes, “Hosd an Zwetschga im Haus, gäid dir es Geld und Gligg ned aus” meaning, “With a prune man in your house, money and happiness stay, too”.
Vendors are only allowed to sell handmade wares. Increasingly over the last years, Christmas markets throughout Europe are carrying toys and good from China one can find in any big city which is a little disappointing. Not so in Nuremberg. You are sure to find unique and delightful gifts for your friends, family and yourself.
I bought several of these handmade cookie molds.
The opportunity to taste and buy the famous Nuremberg gingerbread. Because the city was part of an ancient trading route, exotic spices like cloves and cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and almonds were available to the local people.
Elisenlebkuchen is the most famous variety and baking it is a 600-year-old tradition. Legend has it, the baker who created is named it after his daughter Elizabeth who was ill. The baker created a treat without flour and his daughter got well again. Today, Elisenkuchen can contain no more than 10% flour and a minimal of 25% nuts.
Sweetened with local honey, glazed or chocolate coated, Nuremberg lebkuchen is a must try, especially at holiday time. The packaging is so beautiful, you don't even need to wrap it before giving it away as a gift.
The most famous event is the appearance of the Nuremberg Christkind, a Christmas angel who first appears in the evening of the first night of the Christmas market and recites a poem by to officially open the market. She subsequently appears several times weekly for the duration of the Christmas market to distribute sweets to the children.
Originally played in the past by actresses. The Christkind now is chosen every two years. Criteria for applicants is they have to be young women from Nuremberg between the ages of 16 and 19 years old, at least 5'2" (160 centimeters) tall and not afraid of heights.
Her responsibilities go way beyond the market. She becomes a national media star with appearances on TV, print, and radio. She also travels to other German Christmas markets, nursing homes, kindergartens and other charitable institutions.
First mentioned in 1628, the Christmas market itself has a fascinating history. For the centuries following, the market represented all types of Nuremberg craftsmen. In the late 1800's, after changing locations several times, the market petered out.
National Socialism spurred on a big revival of the Nuremberg Christmas in the 1930s. IT was relocated back to the center in 1933 and used by the national socialist to showcase Nurenberg as "German's Treasure Chest" The market was closed completely during world war two.
Post world war two, the city center was completely destroyed. In 1948, the market was revived again among the ashes of the battered city.
There are a few other offshoot Christmas markets to explore in Nuremberg.
One is dedicated solely to children. It presents activities, rides and of course, sweets and food targeted for children.
At the Market of Nuremberg's Sister Cities, an international collection of stands sell goods from their countries.
Booths represent Nuremberg's official cities from around the globe. See Sri Lanka to Scotland showcase beautiful wares.
Individual booths outside of the market cater to modern tastes.
I fell hard for this local blueberry glüwein.
There are so many other interesting and wonderful places to visit in Nuremberg besides the Chrismas market. To explore what else Nuremberg has to offer, check out the city's tourist website.
Near the train station, I slipped into this charming side street. It was like going back in time.
The Handwekerhof is a charming collection of shops and restaurants centered around one of the old gates of the city.
It seems small but there are a lot of eateries and stores to poke around in.
And of course a wishing well.
Well worth the detour.
Know before you go:
Read: My top 10 tips for visiting European Christmas markets
My Travels to other European Christmas Markets:
A Christmas Market with a Conscious - Tollwood in Munich, Germany
Aachen, Germany Christmas Market
Cologne, Germany Christmas Market
Freiburg, Germany Christmas Markets
Hamburg Has the Sexiest Christmas Market in Germany
Munich Christmas Market Roundup
Munich - Tollwood, A Christmas Market with a Conscious
Colmar, France Christmas Market
Strasbourg, France Christmas Markets
Maastricht, Holland Christmas Market
Valkenburg Holland Christmas Market in the Caves
Basel, Switzerland Christmas Market
A few friends I made in Nuremberg: