This is the last part of a German Christmas market series. Part 1 (Aachen) can be found here. Part 2 (Monschau) can be found here. Part 3 (Köln) can be found here.
For the final leg of this whirlwind Christmas market tour, I made my way to Nürnberg, home to one of Germany’s oldest and most famous markets.
Nürnberg’s market is known as the Christkindlmarkt (Christ child market), held on the Hauptmarkt square in the old town.
The “Rauschgoldengel” (gold foil angel) is a symbol of Nürnberg’s Christmas market. In one of the legends involving the angel, a father was grieving over the death of his daughter. One night, she visited him in a dream, appearing angelic in a golden dress. When he woke, he crafted a doll made of metal to preserve the memory. It later became tradition for people to place the angel decoration on top of the Christmas tree.
Nürnberg’s market is big on tradition.
The Frauenkirche is where, on the Friday before first Advent, the Christkind delivers her famous prologue that officially opens the market. In the square, there are 180 stalls decorated uniformly with red and white striped awnings, live green garland, and white lights.
There are strict rules about what can be sold here: only traditional food and handcrafted items. Let’s talk about the food first.
Another thing Nürnberg is known for: bratwurst. There are rules about the bratwurst produced here, too. Each sausage link must be between 7-9cm, weigh between 20-25 g, and be made within the city limits to be called Nürnberger bratwurst.
Some more of the sweets found here:
A popular souvenir from the Christkindlmarkt: the prune men. These originated sometime in the 18th century, said to be the creation of a father who wanted a gift for his children but only had some wire and the plum tree in front of their house.
Of the four markets I visited on this trip, I would say Nürnberg offered the best shopping for gifts and traditional souvenirs.
A short walk from the Christkindlmarkt is the imperial castle Kaiserburg, offering lovely panoramic views of the city.
It was good having two days in Nürnberg. A few more would’ve been even better.
One thing I liked about the Christkindlmarkt is that, rather than having multiple markets spread out in different areas, everything is right there in the old town. Walking is easy. No need to look at a map.
Just north of the square, there is the smaller Market of the Sister Cities with two dozen or so stalls offering international goods. Then there is also the really well-done Kinderweihnacht market featuring a beautiful, two-tiered carousel, ferris wheel, and numerous hands-on activities geared to small children.
If you go: in case I didn’t rave strongly enough earlier in this post, the bratwurst and lebkuchen are a MUST. Seriously. No lebkuchen I’ve ever had either in the States or even in Germany compares. It’s that good. As with the printen in Aachen, you can buy the lebkuchen in packages of six, so they’re great to bring home to give as gifts or hoard them all for yourself. :)
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After two days in the beautiful city of Nürnberg, it was time to head home. Four markets in five days…far too short, but the trip still exceeded my expectations. Not only did I enjoy experiencing a variety of markets ranging from cozy and romantic to the mother of all markets and everything in between, but I learned that with Christmas markets, it’s not a case of seen-one-you’ve-seen-’em-all. Each city or town had its own vibe, unique traditions, and culinary specialties.
So, which would be my favorite? Here’s how I’d rank them:
- Aachen—love the vibe here. It’s a city that’s just the right size, so it feels a little cosmopolitan without being so big, it’ll swallow you up. Friendliest crowd. And the printen are something special!
- Monschau*—this one narrowly edges out Nürnberg for me. So romantic and charming. The atmosphere is hard to beat. As mentioned in a previous post, it’s like stepping back in time. Silly perhaps, but I had the strongest sensation of déjà vú I’ve ever had in my life here. Something about this place seems to draw me back.
- Nürnberg*—I loved the city and the easy layout of the market. I also like how traditional it feels. Though I didn’t travel with children, the kindermarket was impressive.
- Köln—Cool city. Requires more than one day to fully appreciate all seven markets, I know. But the crowds were a little too overwhelming for me. The main market disappointed in that it was impassable.
Have you been to any Christmas markets? Which is your favorite?