The lights hanging on the houses, lighting up the longer nights. Snowflakes on the windowsills. Scarves around our faces and hot cocoa in hand. Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and presents filling up the room.
These are the images that I associate with my New England Christmas experience. As I’ve written about before, my family is also German and we also celebrate German traditions. In 2012, when I lived in Heidelberg, I got to partake in one of these very special Christmas traditions: The Christkindlmarkt (also known as the Christchild market)!
The Chriskindlmarkt is a Christmas market with various shops, wine, and sometimes even ice skating. One of Germany’s oldest (dating back to the 16th century) and famous ones is in Nuremberg.
And here are some reasons for you to make it part of your Christmas To-Do List
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
An old city
You should just visit Nuremberg anyway, outside of the fact that the Christmas market takes place there. The old city is completely surrounded by walls. The houses are old. There’s a castle and the famous artist, Albrecht Duerer, used to live here (so definitely visit his house). Step into Nuremburg and you are stepping into a fairy tale. It’s that simple.
My friend, Kat, and I in Albrecht’s house. The doorways are so small (for reference I’m 5’4”)
Delicious spices and sugar will fill your nostrils and it’s likely the Gluehwein. On a cold evening, there is nothing better than the hot mulled wine which has become a trademark of the Christmas market. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try Feuerzangenbowle. This is also hot wine, but they light a cone of sugar on fire and let it drip into your drink.
Look at that cute mug! And all that wineeeee ❤
Bonus points: you get to drink it out of an actual mug! Each town with a Christmas market has its own mug, which you can return to receive your 2 Euros back or keep as a souvenir. The city is often depicted in a Christmas setting.
Visit the Christchild
In German culture, the Christchild brings the gifts on Christmas Eve. At my house, the Christchild was Jesus. In Bavaria, the Christchild is a blond girl with curly hair. The children have to wait upstairs for a bell to ring before coming downstairs (which is really brilliant strategy on the parents’ part to get adult time).
Ready for some Christmas time!
A girl is chosen every year in Nuremberg to portray the Christchild. She visits the market Tuesday-Friday at 3pm.
One of the biggest draws of the Christmas markets is the extensive shopping you can do. Wooden booths line the market space. You can buy ornaments, cookies, and homemade items, which is perfect for getting your Christmas shopping done.
Pro Tip: Watch out for the prune men. These are a unique gift, made out of old prunes and wire. Legend has it that these were created in the 18th century by a man trying to get gifts for his children (with very little supplies)
Market of the Sister Cities
Right next to the Christmas market, Nuremberg features gifts you can purchase from its sister cities around the world. These include:
(Turkey), Atlanta (USA), Kharkiv (Ukraine), Gera (Thuringia), Glasgow (Scotland), Kavala (Greece), Krakow (Poland), Nice (France), Prague (Czech Republic), San Carlos (Nicaragua), Shenzhen (China), Skopje (Macedonia) and the French region of Limousin as well as the partner communities Bar (Montenegro), Brasov/Kronstadt (Romania), Kalkudah (Sri Lanka), Klausen+Montan (Italy) und Verona (Italy)
This is also very German
Gingerbread and Lebkuchen
To be honest, I’m not a huge gingerbread fan. But some of the most famous gingerbread is made in this region. Try Lebkuchen (special gingerbread cookies) along with your Gluehwein.
If you are familiar with Germany, you are probably familiar with the concept that Germany and sausage go hand in hand. And if you are familiar with the blog, you may know that I am a vegetarian. But as a German (and a former meat eater), I recommend you try these.
Not longer than your finger, the Nuremberg Bratwurst has become world famous with numerous legends. Some rumors say that they were made so small so innkeepers could continue to sell them through keyholes during off hours. Another rumor says that these were snuck through holes of the wall in prisons. Historians say that it more likely had to do with price, but why else would the German jail here be named Lochgefaengnis (translation: prison with a hole)?
When to visit:
Opening day (December 1):
10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Last Market day (December 24):
10.00 am – 2.00 pm
What’s your favorite Christmas market? Anything we missed? Leave it in the comments below