After living in Germany for years, I have finally visited Nuremberg’s Christmas markets and they are as cute, charming and fantastically festive as I imagined. People are in good spirits, buildings are lined with decorations and twinkling lights illuminate the streets. Don’t just take my word for it; the two-week Nuremberg Christmas market extravaganza attracts more than a million visitors each year. Dating back to the 17th century, it is not only one of the most popular markets in Germany, it’s also one of the oldest. In this post, I will describe some of the best markets in the city, what food and drink to try and what goods to look out for.
There are unsurprisingly many Christmas markets to enjoy in Nuremberg during the holiday season, on the main shopping streets and squares, and tucked away down side alleys. The main market is Christkindlesmarkt, which is by far the largest and most impressive in the city, and the biggest attraction for locals and tourists alike. There are around 200 vendors which are heavily vetted to ensure they offer a range of goods and that their stalls fit with the candy cane theme. It is in Hauptmarkt, close to the Rathaus (Town Hall) and many of Nuremberg’s most important historical buildings, so you can easily combine sightseeing and a visit to Christkindlesmarkt. The market can be extremely busy as it is one of the main reasons people visit Nuremberg in the run-up to Christmas. However, even with a crowd, Christkindlesmarkt is a safe, enjoyable experience.
Sister Cities Market
Just round the corner of Christkindlesmarkt is Sister Cities Market, which is very different from other markets I’ve seen. What makes it unique is that it is made up of 24 stands, each representing one of Nuremberg’s sister cities and partner communities around the world. This international market project is one of many ways Nuremberg has tried to develop its global network and community. You can find indigenous arts and crafts and sample food and drink from around the globe. You can find products and local specialities from Antalya (Turkey), Cordoba (Spain), Kharkiv (Ukraine), Glasgow (Scotland), Hadera (Israel), Kavala (Greece), Krakow (Poland), Nice (France), Prague (Czech Republic), San Carlos (Nicaragua), Shenzhen (China), Skopje (Macedonia) and Venice (Italy), Bar (Montenegro), Brasov/Kronstadt (Romania), Gera (Thuringia), Kalkudah (Sri Lanka), Klausen+Montan (Italy), Nablus (Palestine), Santiago (Cuba), Verona (Italy) and Limousin (France).
If you’re visiting Nuremberg with small children, head to the Children’s Christmas market in Hans-Sachs-Platz. There are rides for your little ones such as a small train and double decker carousel. There are also stands selling food and drink (including boozy options for the adults!)
Fürth Medieval market
Though not strictly in Nuremberg, Fürth’s Medieval Christmas market is easy to reach via U-Bahn (underground) and is well worth the detour. Here you will find activities and entertainment to delight people of all ages; musicians, axe throwing competitions, jugglers, fire blowers and stilt walkers. There are cosy fire pits to warm up by, Middle Eastern style chill-out tents and old timey drinks like mead (along with more modern ones). It reminded me of a bazaar mixed with a rave, with some Christmas magic sprinkled in for good measure.
Top festive food and drink to try in Nuremberg
Once you’re at the Christmas markets you will undoubtedly want to sample some of the many festive delicacies available. The sheer number of options could be overwhelming so, to help you decide, here are some must-haves.
Gluhwein (Mulled wine)
Glühwein is THE Christmas market drink: wine heated and spiced with cinnamon, sugar, star aniseed, cloves and sometimes vanilla pods. While red wine is the most traditional, you can also find gluhwein made with white wine, cherries or blueberries (the latter being unique to Nuremberg). Whichever kind you choose, it’s delicious and warms you to your bones – perfect for those chilly Nuremberg nights!
Feuerzangenbowle (Gluhwein with a twist!)
A large block of sugar is soaked in rum and allowed to slowly drip into a cauldron of gluhwein before serving. Fresh rum is regularly poured onto the block of sugar and set on fire, which gives the gluhwein a delicious caramel note. Nuremberg is home to supposedly the largest Feuerzangenbowle in the world, a pot which holds over 9,000 litres and takes 48 hours to warm up!
Other hot drinks
If you want a break from Gluhwein, there are several other tasty Christmas drinks to warm you up. Look out for Eierlikör (similar to eggnog) topped with whipped cream, hot apple juice (alcohol-free or spiked with amaretto or rum), Grog (rum and hot water), Jagertee (black tea mixed with rum), hot chocolate and alcoholic-free Kinderpunsch (spiced juice, seasoned like gluhwein). I also spotted warmed cocktails in Nuremberg, such as hot aperol and hot gin and tonic!
Need to know: Pfand
Prices for drinks range from around €4.50 to €6, but you will also be charged an additional €2-3 more on top of the menu price. This is the pfand, a deposit on the mug that you get back when you return it to the vendor. Often the mugs have the name and year of the Christmas market, along with pretty festive designs and patterns. If you want to keep your mug as a souvenir, you can do so by not collecting your pfand money. I have a small collection of Christmas mugs saved from various markets. They also make wonderfully cheap gifts for loved ones at home.
Lebkuchen are utterly moreish German biscuits synonymous with Christmas markets. It is largely acknowledged that Lebkuchen was invented in Nuremberg, all the way back in the 13th century by some Frankonian monks. It is held in such high regard that it is recognised in Europe as a protected geographical indication and there are all kinds of conditions put on its production. In order to be considered the real deal, the biscuits must be produced within the city’s boundaries, and the most common type Elisenlebkuchen must have at least 25% nuts and less than 10% wheat flour.
Gebrannte Mandeln (Roasted almonds)
You won’t be able to resist the alluring scent of roasted almonds. They come in a variety of flavours but my personal favourite is the classic type, roasted with brown sugar and cinnamon.
It is universally known that Germans love sausages and people from Nuremberg are especially passionate about Nuremberg sausages. They’re small and thin (finger-sized really!) and commonly served in threes in a bread roll, known as “Drei im Weggla” (three in a bun).You can also find bratwursts, kraukaurs, and baurnwursts, as well as ½ meter long sausages at various market stalls. These are usually served in a hotdog bun or with a small bread roll on the side (mostly to use as a mitt for holding the sausage while you eat it, as cutlery isn’t provided). Add your own mustard or ketchup from the pump at the side of the stalls, and make sure you grab lots of napkins.
Similar to hashbrowns, kartoffelpuffer are made from shredded potatoes with white onion, dipped in flour and egg then deep-fried. These crispy delights can be served with different sauces: garlic sour cream, red berry compote or apple sauce. You might be sceptical about the combination of sweet and savoury, but it really works here!
Champignonpfanne (Fried mushrooms)
A favourite for vegetarians or anyone who needs a break from stodgy food. Fried with herbs, these are often served with garlic sauce.
Melted, gooey cheese that is scraped off the wheel and layered onto bread with various toppings such as potatoes, onions, cold cuts and pickles.
Flammkuchen (Tarte flambée)
The German equivalent to a thin, crispy flatbread. The dough is rolled out very thinly and topped with fromage blanc or crème fraîche, thinly sliced onions and lardons. Vegetarians can easily ask for theirs without lardons.
What to buy at the Christmas markets
You might want to take more home with you than just your Christmas mug! Luckily there are dozens and dozens of goodies to purchase at the market. Christmas tree decorations are very popular, particularly elaborately painted baubles, gold foil angels, intricately carved wooden designs and wooden figurines. You can also find nativity figures, snow globes, jewellery, ceramics, hats, scarves, knitwear, lanterns, teddy bears, tea, spices, honey wax candles, biscuit/cookie cutters, glassware, leather goods, wooden toys and homemade natural soap.
Must-visit: Käthe Wohlfahrt (The Christmas shop!)
It might sound strange to list a shop as a must-see attraction, but this shop is the most festive, charming and Christmassy shop imaginable. It’s open all year round and is absolutely bursting with glitzy, glittering Christmas ornaments and decorations. There are so many different styles to choose between and any ornament from Käthe Wohlfahrt would make a great gift or souvenir from your Nuremberg trip. You can find the shop on Plobenhofstraße 4.
Visiting Nuremberg during the Christmas period is truly a wonderful experience. While the city has many sights and attractions to keep you busy and entertained, you could easily spend a couple of days simply visiting the markets, sipping on gluhwein, and eating delicious snacks. For ideas about what to do in Nuremberg, check out my two-day itinerary for Nuremberg. I hope this Christmas market overview helps you with your upcoming stay, or inspires you to visit in the near future. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow