After Thanksgiving, the bloke and I jetted off to Germany to spend a few days visiting Nuremberg and its famous Christmas market (Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt). We arrived on Friday evening, the opening day of the Christmas market. We headed into the city's main square (Hauptmarkt) after dropping off our luggage at the hotel. As it was the opening day, the market was exceptionally busy.
On the way to the main square, we walked through Ludwig Platz where we saw a living nativity with donkeys, goats, an alpaca, and a camel. The Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus were not living, of course. We saw the animals here almost every day that we walked past the nativity, though they do take them away at night.
The Christmas Market in Nuremberg consists of the main market, a children's market, and a sister city market. The sister city market is based on Nuremberg's twinned (sister) cities, and each has its own market stall that specialises in its country's products off of the main square. For example, shortbread and whisky were available to buy in the Glasgow stall. American sweets were available from the Atlanta, Georgia stall.
The Christmas market is huge, and it took us about half of a day to go through it and see everything. We did visit it a few times over the few days that we were there, but we had a proper look around all of the stalls on one of the weekday mornings when the market was quieter.
The market gets incredibly busy as the day goes on, and dusk is the busiest time to visit the market. At times, such as the weekend and the opening night, it was too busy to browse. I do not enjoy browsing busy places as it is impossible to have a proper look.
The fountain in the Hauptmarkt is called Schöner Brunnen, and during the Christmas market, all but one side is surrounded by stalls. A gold ring is located on the railing of the fountain, and turning this three times will make wishes come true. The fountain was always surrounded by tour groups during our visits to the market.
Upon entering the square, visitors will see a large gold tinsel angel. This is one of the symbols of Nuremberg. The golden tinsel angel is made of thin metal and is made to be a tree topper. It is a symbol of the Christkind, translated Christ Child. The Christ Child is a Nuremberg tradition. She is a giver of gifts and became a tradition for the market in the early 1930s.
Every year, young women between the ages of 16 and 19 can enter the competition to be the Christmas Market's symbol, Christkind. In this tradition, they open the Christmas Market each year with a speech and also visit the market nearly every afternoon. The ChristKind is popular with children, and every child and some adults wanted their photograph taken with her.
Another area of the square, in front of the Church of Our Lady, is sectioned off and contains the antique nativity scene.
One of the most popular items for sale are Christmas ornaments and Christmas craft items. Some of these are so beautiful but also so fragile as they are made of delicate glass. I loved looking at them, but I am put off buying them because I am afraid that they would not make the journey back in one piece, and if they did, I would be worried that they would break in storage or fall off the Christmas tree.
One tradition is the pickle tree ornament. Each year, the pickle is hidden on the tree. When the child discovers it, he/she will receive a special prize. The size of the pickle varies. For younger children, the pickle is larger so that it is easier for them to find. As the children get older, the pickle becomes smaller and more difficult to find.
The market stalls were covered in ornaments. It was impossible to see all of them. There were so many that I loved.
In addition to the traditional glass ornaments, visitors could buy ornaments that were cookies baked and then painted into Christmas designs. I remember making these types of ornaments when I was younger.
Food is also popular at the Christmas market. Sausages, candy apples, chocolate, gingerbread, and Christmas cake were all popular. Nuremberg is most known for its special Nuremberg sausage and gingerbread. I had some gingerbread, and it was nice, but it was not the type of gingerbread that I am familiar with. A mulled wine drink is also popular, and this goes well with the gingerbread. Gingerbread, known as lebkuchen, dates from medieval times.
One of the most interesting stalls sold chocolate items that were shaped like tools and other everyday items. At first, I thought that these were antique items because they did look real. However, all items were made from chocolate with a dusting of cocao powder to make them look 'worn' and slightly rusty. Scissors, wrenches, faucets, bottle caps, horseshoes, clothes pegs, cameras, locks, keys, and scissors were some of the items.
I also had a wander to the Christmas Children's Market, which was extremely popular with school groups of children. A small ferris wheel, carousel, and other games and crafts were available for the children. Children could make their own candles or ice and decorate their own gingerbread. Between the two markets is also a nativity trail with some nativity scenes. A large model train set with a few running trains was also at the far end of the Children's Christmas Market. Each of the market stalls in the Children's Christmas Market had a decoration on top of it. These varied from a family of bears making treats, a family sitting in a Christmas room, snowmen, Santa and reindeer, and a group of bakers.
Snowglobes were a popular item in the Christmas markets.
A couple of stalls also sold a large range of dollhouse items.
The best architectual structure (and oldest) was Frauenkirche, Church of Our Lady. Visitors could listen to church services here, and they had special advent services. Visitors could also climb up part of the way to the balcony to have an elevated view of the Christmas market, and this is the balcony that the Christkind stands on for the opening ceremony of the Christmas Market every year. At noon each day, the clock on Frauenkirche moves and little figures move around the clockface.
I took a few photographs from the balcony of Frauenkirche. The market was not the busiest at this time but the crowds were growing.
Another traditional item to buy at the Nuremberg Christmas Market at the prune men (Zwetschgenmännle). These little men and women are made from prunes and have a walnut head. A few stalls around the Christmas Market were selling these novelty items.
There are many different designs for the prune men, and a few of my photographs are below. They are said to bring happiness and luck.
Springerle is another Nuremberg traditional food. It is an embossed white biscuit design, and it is translated to "little knights". This cookie is from Renaissance times, and it is made with egg white and anise. Some of the deisgns have been coloured, otherwise they are simply embossed. I did try these, and they are a wafer-like biscuit with a slight anise taste. A few of the different designs can be seen below.
Nutcrackers were amongst the popular Christmas crafts.
Around the Christmas area (though not inside the actual market square itself) and main streets were a couple of different buskers dressed as Santa with small, cute dogs.
Last but not least, a twenty-minute dash around the Christmas Market and streets of Nuremberg is possible in the German post (Deutsche Post) stagecoach. The men driving the horse would blow a horn to signal the approach of the carriage as we were taken around the market, and everyone would stop to look. I felt like a celebrity for those twenty minutes.
Also, if you love postcards and stamps like I do, do not forget to visit the special Christmas market stall for German Post. This is located across the road from the fountain. Tickets for the stagecoach rides mentioned above can be purchased here as well as stamps and postcards. Even if you have written your postcards, stamped or not, you can take your postcards here to receive one of two special Nuremberg German postmark stamps. I went back to this stall several times to receive the special postmarks.
Last but not least, I have put together a list of tips for visiting the Nuremberg Christmas Market. The list below mentions good points and what to avoid.
Tips for Nuremberg Christmas Market:
- Some of the stallholders are dishonest and rude. I gave money for a glass of mulled punch across from the horse stagecoaches, and the stallholder tried to deny I had given her money even after I kept insisting, and she and her boss were extremely rude to me. I eventually got my money, but I had to make a scene by arguing. Make sure that the stallholder has your full and undivided attention throughout the transaction and force them to make eye contact with you.
- Prices vary greatly for the same item and change as the market gets busier. Again, some of the stallholders are dishonest and will charge more. Look around first and note the price. If the price is not on display, ask and then continue to look for the best price. Prices can vary greatly fort he exact same item. Also, as I did visit the market several times, I noticed that the stalls changed their prices during busier times. I saw one stall sell one particular item for 2.50, and this price was raised to 3.50 as the day progressed and market got busier.
- Watch your money and possessions as there are pickpockets. I did not have any trouble, but this was advice given to me.
- Visit in the morning when it's quiet. The evenings and dusk gets extremely busy, and it's not possible to browse when it's too busy. The market opens at 10:00am, but some stalls open a little later, and the market is relatively quiet then.
- Try new things. Sausage, mulled wine, and gingerbread are a few items to try.
- Get a map of the Christmas Market. A map of all stalls in the main Christmas Market, the Children's Christmas Market, and the International Christmas Market is available in the Tourist Information building on the market square. This is located near the church.
- Look for prune men. The map available from the Tourist Information centre includes locations of the stalls for the prune men separately.
- Get your special stamps and postmarks. For those sending postcards, visit this stall opposite the fountain and receive a special postmark. Postcards and stamps can also be purchased here.
- See Christkind. She makes an appearance daily at approximately 3:00 in the afternoon on most days. The brochure in the Tourist Information can provide more information as the timing and availability is subject to change.
- Have fun!