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While Germany is probably best known for its beer and castles, Christmas Markets aren’t far behind on that list. While planning a winter holiday in Europe, it is highly unlikely that a visit to at least one German town isn’t a top priority on your list of things to do. Markets big and small, spread across the country during the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, and Nürnberg is one of the most popular and my personal favorite.
Residing in Germany’s largest region of Bavaria, Nürnberg is the second largest city behind much more crowded Munich. Don’t miss out on exploring the entire town as you will find castles, colorful houses, quiet streets and extraordinary views of Medieval architecture. As Germany is popular for its meats, Nürnberg is home to the Nürnberger Bratwurst, a much smaller creation of the traditional sausage. Each Christmas display across Germany is incredible on its own, but Nürnberg hosts a display unlike any other.
November 27th – December 24th, 2020
Everyday from 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
The Christmas scenery is spread through out the city, but the main display is located in the center of Nürnberg’s old town at Nürnberger Hauptmarkt. Here you will find an abundant amount of vendors, selling various German gifts and cuisine. This open air market can be seen through out the year, selling items based upon season, but Weihnachtsmarkt during Christmas time is the main event. The stalls sit below the beautiful Gothic facade of the Frauenkirche, a church dating back to the 14th century.
Located a few blocks away from the Weihnachtsmarkt is my personal favorite market in the city, The Sister Cities Market. If you’re looking for a little break from the traditional German market scene, then this is the place to be. The Gothic styled St. Sebald Sebalduskirche plays host to this international market, presenting stalls from each of Nürnberg’s sister cities. In just a few steps you can visit the likes of Italy for some Tuscan mulled wine before visiting Nicaragua for a fresh brewed coffee. Each of the international stalls is run by habitants of the country in which they are from. This allows visitors the opportunity to experience different cultures in one destination. It is not difficult to spend hours here, trying delicacies from various countries while searching for the perfect souvenir to take home. Your international adventure will include:
Antalya (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 (Rumania), Kalkudah (Sri Lanka), Klausen+Montan (Italy) and Verona (Italy)
German specialties are the name of the game here. If you love German food, then these stalls are right up your alley. You will find bratwurst in every direction as well as some different kinds of sausages. The amount of people walking around with a brat in one hand and hot wine in the other actually becomes quite comical.
The most popular food item in Nürnberg is the Nürnberger bratwurst. These “finger sausages” can be found just about everywhere through out the city and are a great snack. Whereas a traditional bratwurst is much bigger and typically eaten as a full meal, a small order of Nürnberger’s is the perfect amount to pop into your mouth before heading to the next vendor and ordering more. The flavor is different from other German sausages as they’re seasoned with fresh marjoram. They are typically grilled over an open fire and accompanied by sauerkraut, potato salad, horseradish, and a Franconian beer. This one of a kind sausage is so important that it is protected under EU law, stating the it can only be produced in Nürnberg.
Another staple of Nürnberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is Nürnberger Lebchuken. This German cookie is not just Gingerbread, its historical significance and fame is much more. As Nürnberg was once utilized as one of Europe’s most important trading centers, exotic spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg and foreign almonds were always accessible. Since the 14th century, recipes have been handed down from generation to generation to create the famous baked good. Since July of 1996, the cookies have been recognized in Europe as a “protected geographical indication”. The ever so important cookies can only be dubbed as Nürnberger Lebchuken when containing no more than 10% flour and at least 25% nuts. Don’t miss out on eating a piece of history when visiting Nürnberg.
Throughout German markets, you will find a lot of Dresden Handbrot. This pastry is baked in a brick fire oven, like a mini calzone. You can watch as they make them all across the food stalls. The bread is handmade, then stuffed with meat and cheese before being covered in a bit of cream.
Another popular option during the holiday season that you cannot pass by is Dresdner Christollen . This bread is very popular to this region and is stuffed with nuts and raisins that have been soaking for days in rum. The thick and heavy bread is covered with a dusting of powdered sugar on top. It goes perfect with a cup of coffee in the morning or for dessert with some Gluhwein.
Mushrooms, or champignons, are very popular throughout the German Markets. The mushrooms are fried in a lot of garlic and butter in massive pans or cauldrons, on an open flame. They are then served with a gigantic dollop of a heavy, garlic cream with a piece of bread or meat. They smell delicious and will only cost you about 4 euros in every direction.
You will also find plenty of other Christmas specialties such as gingerbread and chestnuts. Chestnuts truly do roast on open fires in Germany, that is not just a song. The Germans also love their chocolates, so if you’re a chocoholic, this is a good place to be. These markets are about snacking, not having a meal, so it is best to not explore them on an empty stomach.
Christmas trees are displayed throughout the town, but the two biggest sit at the base of the Frauenkirche at the forefront of the Weihnachtsmarkt in Hauptmarkt Square. Another tree, with a quieter crowd, can be found outside of Albrecht Dürer’s House, one of the cities most recognizable landmarks. The house was once home to one of Germany’s most famous painters and dates back to the early 1500’s. The distinctive house is located just beneath The Imperial Castle, which sits upon a hill, overlooking the entirety of the city. Dating back to the 14th century, this gorgeous castle is worth visiting on its own.
If there is one thing that the Germans excel in with their markets, it is handmade souvenirs. Each market has its own specialty, but the Germans truly do it the best. You will find everything handmade from wooden toys, to glass orbs and even ceramic mugs being cooked before your eyes. The souvenir stalls are a bit overwhelming, which makes it difficult to find the exact item that you want, but the expedition for a gift is always fun.
When in Germany, it is hard to go wrong with a handmade, wooden Santa, creature or troll. There are thousands of different varieties, each awesome in their own manner. Have an idea in your head before going in or you might leave without anything at all. The most common themes around the season include nutcrackers, snowmen and Santas, but the traditional German figures are awesome as well.
One of the most unique items that you will find in every German Market is a Rauchmannherstellung (good luck saying that). These are handmade people, trolls and creatures created from German wood. They come apart at the waste, where there is a spot for incense. They are commonly seen with their mouths wide open to allow the smoke to escape. Some may only have an open mouth while others have a pipe in hand to add to the release of smoke. They are all fun to look at, have fun choosing the perfect one for you.
Other items that are often seen throughout Germany, whether it is during the holiday season or not, are cuckoo clocks and Wiehnachtspyramide (Christmas Pyramid). These items are priceless and absolutely stunning. The woodcarvings are an absolute work of art and the movement of each is unique on its own. However, these items are very delicate and may not be the best thing to take home on a plane. Shipping is always an option for anything too delicate. The last thing you want to do is break your one-of-a-kind souvenir on your journey back home to your own Christmas Tree.
A Glühwein mug collection is another great option for a souvenir. You can find many different mugs through out the different markets, each providing the name of the market in which you bought and drank the wine. A wine, including the mug, goes for about 6 euros on average. If you just want the wine, you can return the mug after to receive euros back, or you can just continue recycling the mug while using it again and again for each wine you purchase.
There is no doubt, the German souvenirs are a bit pricey. However, you can definitely budget yourself and get something small like a wooden star for 2 euros, but where is the fun in that? Most items range anywhere from 20 to 150 euros, depending on size and overall quality. A 30 euro purchase is a good budget as anything in this price range will be of very good quality. Remember, these souvenirs will last for life, so don’t be too stingy, you are in Germany after all.
The atmosphere of any German market is incredible, but I believe Nürnberg is Germany at its best. Not only will you have the opportunity to find that perfect German gift, but be able to explore quiet and colorful streets with one of a kind, historic food items in hand. This German town boasts one of the best market experiences as crowds are small, culture is diverse and a medieval castle commands the scene.
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