One of the first trips I began dreaming about when I moved to London last January? Exploring Europe’s Christmas markets. Even though it’d be almost a year before the trip happened, I looked forward to visiting some of the famed markets I’d heard so much about from friends who’ve visited Europe during the holiday season.
At the top of my list? Markets in Germany.
German Christmas markets are like stepping back in time, usually set outdoors in charming town squares. Each market has dozens of wooden booths filled to the brim with crafts, food and drinks.
Nowhere is the yuletide celebration more evident than at German Christmas markets. It is, after all, the country where a lot of present day holiday traditions started.
As it would happen, a friend’s engagement party prompted planning a trip to Munich in early December. When planning the trip, I knew I wanted to try and visit more than just the market in Munich. Nuremberg seemed like a good option because the train ride was short enough to make it a day trip. We also did two days in Vienna, but more to come on that in future posts. 🙂
In actuality, we almost didn’t make it to Nuremberg. The day I arrived in Munich, I hadn’t been feeling well (food poisoning), and didn’t quite like the idea of sitting on a train for several hours the next day, plus finding the energy to explore a new city.
But, I’m so glad we did. Everything I’d imagined German Christmas markets to be we found in Nuremberg- gingerbread, gluhwein, wooden booths selling homemade crafts, giant pretzels and bratwursts, caroling- all the elements that make a Christkindlesmarkt great.
Visiting Nuremberg’s Christmas Market
If you’re arriving on train from Munich, it’s an easy 15 minute walk to the heart of Nuremberg, where you’ll find the main market.
On your way there, you’ll walk through a smaller market before crossing the river. Highly recommend stopping for gluhwein, red wine spiced with cinnamon and cloves, at the pop-up with a fire place. It’s so cozy and the perfect way to kick off your day in Nuremberg if you arrive on a late morning train like we did.
As you walk down the cobblestone street to the main market, you can’t help but be impressed by its size. With over 200 vendors, it’s one of the most famous Christmas markets in the world, drawing over 2 million visitors annually.
Once you get to the market, take your time perusing the stalls. We stopped a few times for gluhwein to help us warm up, and because we wanted to collect a couple mugs.
Each market has its own variation of a mug, which are designed for each year. I’m normally not one for souvenirs, but loved the idea of taking a few home to drink mulled wine from while watching Christmas movies. At each stand, you’ll pay a few euros for the gluhwein (~3-4), and then a few more euros for a mug deposit (~2-4), which you’ll get back if you return the mug.
As we continued our way around the market, we tried Nuremberg’s gingerbread- it’s thought to be softer and a bit sweeter than other places in Germany. We tried the classic flavor, as well as a few different types- citrus and chocolate glaze were both yummy.
If you’re in the market for new holiday decor, you’re in luck- there’s no shortage of glass and wooden ornaments, nutcrackers, or other festive decor.
Fun fact: Most Germans don’t decorate their trees until December 24th!
And, there’s even non-Christmas goods for sale. Honey (and products made from honey) are everywhere at German Christmas markets. Another commodity among markets? Christmas village miniatures- think small models of German buildings you can take home with you.
At one point while perusing stalls, I looked up and noticed a few people on the balcony of the town square’s Gothic church, Frauenkirche. For a few euros, we climbed ~50 steps to join them for overhead views of the market. While we were admiring the candy-cane striped stalls, the band below started playing traditional Christmas songs, and the snowfall grew heavier- literal perfection.
The main market is connected to Nuremberg’s Christmas Market of Sister Cities via a corridor. Albeit smaller, it’s also less crowded and has a few fun rides for kids.
While walking between markets, we stopped in Käthe Wohlfahrt to pick out a few glass ornaments for my mom (she collects them). Even though market stalls sell ornaments, this place has every kind you could ever imagine (and they’re a bit more affordable).
Tips for Visiting Nuremberg’s Christmas Market:
- Wear warm layers, the weather may be frigid or unseasonably warm (all markets are held outdoors)
- Wear comfy shoes, suited for rain or snow
- Bring cash, only a handful of vendors take credit cards
- Christmas markets tend to close early, often around 8 or 9 pm
While You’re in Nuremberg
We didn’t have time to see the castle or visit the Nazi Party Rally grounds, but we did wander outside the Christmas market to see a bit more of the city.
Bergbrand is a cozy cafe, excellent for people watching and a coffee warm up.
In the same alleyway as Bergbrand, you’ll find Weißgerbergasse (Leather Craftsmen’s Lane), a row of medeival artisan homes. Colorful timber beams and design details made this one of the most beautiful streets I’ve ever walked down- especially in freshly fallen snow.
Nuremberg is said to be home to the pretzel, and we’d heard no one does them better than Brezen Kolb. After trying their classic one, we can vouch they’re very good- dense and chewy.
As you’re walking back to the train station, pop in the medieval shopping area, Handwerkerhof. It’s a bit touristy, but also very cute, and a great last chance for a final mug of gluhwein ;).
Have you ever visited the Christmas markets in Germany? Which ones were your favorites?