As we ventured down the cobblestone street to the Nuremberg Christmas Market, I marveled at its size. With over 200 vendors, Christkindlesmarkt buzzes with contagious energy and draws over 2 million visitors every year.
Germany’s most famous Christmas market was the last stop on my Uniworld Classic Christmas Markets river cruise from Frankfurt to Nuremberg.
While each of the six cities we visited were different, Christkindlesmarkt was the perfect place to swoop up items I’d been meaning to buy and at reasonable prices.
If you can visit only one Christmas market in Germany, this should be it. Nuremberg Christmas Market is successful in part because the local government closely monitors vendor products to ensure that they are both a good fit for shoppers and that quality is present. You can feel good about what you buy here.
Here are things to do at the Nuremberg Christmas Market.
Eat Bratwurst (Of Course)
I adopted a, “When in Germany…” point of view which means that I tried the regional sausage at every single market.
Much unlike other markets (some specialized in giant foot-long brats), Nuremberg’s version includes three incredibly flavorful sausages about the size of my index finger placed side-by-side in a roll.
One then adds a good dose of mustard, another condiment Nurembergers do particularly well.
The other sausage our cruise manager described as a must-try is the German hamburger or fleischkuechle. I think it might have been my favorite!
I left with mustard all over my jacket and camera. Totally worth it.
While collecting gluhwein cups makes for a fun souvenir, the drink really does have a practical purpose. Winter in Germany is cold. Even the best shoes and gloves can’t prevent penetration of that damp cold.
Gluhwein mitigates cold faster than stepping inside a warm department store. Non-alcoholic and other flavored versions are available.
Just do it, even if it’s morning. You only live once.
Buy Nuremberg Gingerbread
Tell me if I’m wrong, but Nuremberg gingerbread or Elisenlebkuchen seems to be softer and sweeter than other versions I tried around Germany.
The city is famous for gingerbread, which has been baked there for over 600 years. It’s delicious and comes in a mind-boggling array of flavors. I opted for several sampler packs from sellers with the longest lines, figuring more people in line equals better gingerbread.
Our guide also said that selecting a good tin is almost as important as the gingerbread itself. Decorative tins also make it easier to transport gingerbread home and are often collected each year by locals.
Look for the Gold Angels (Rauschgoldengel)
The gold angel is a symbol of the Nuremberg Christmas Market and is suspended in the sky at some of the entrances with the largest at the southern entrance.
The angel is said to watch over the market and is modeled after the Christkind, the traditional German Christmas gift giver.
Shop for Ornaments
Newlyweds or those celebrating a first Christmas away from home should probably just book a flight to Nuremberg to stock up on decorations.
I’ve never seen so many ornaments in one place (perhaps with the exception of the Kathe Wohlfarht store in Rothenburg). There were glass ornaments, of course, but lots of hand-carved wood ornaments, and what felt like everything else under the sun.
Explore the Nuremberg Christmas Market of Sister Cities
The Nuremberg Christmas Market of Sister Cities is connected to the main market via a corridor, and also usually a bit less crowded.
After World War II, Nuremberg strove to mend international relations through various outreach programs including the addition of this market. Sister cities 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).
The Atlanta booth was stocked with Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Blow Pops, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Slim Jims, and other slightly eyebrow-raising choices.
Shop for German Souvenirs
This market was dense with beautiful German Christmas decorations made by local artisans. Christmas pyramids thought to be the predecessor of the Christmas tree, make excellent souvenirs. Most vendors also provide boxes by request.
You could opt for nutcrackers that can cost hundreds of euros but if you’re looking for a nice souvenir, this market is a great place to score one without breaking the bank.
Shop for Kids
Oh, how I wish we had a dollhouse after seeing perfect miniature everything in Germany. Other gifts for kids included beautiful wooden toys, wooden puzzles, dolls and then some.
Visit the Children’s Christmas Market (Kinderweinacht)
The kids have their own Christmas market full of fun things to do and trinkets (though most of the toys and gifts await in the main market).
Don’t worry, gluhwein is also available in the Kinderweihnacht!
Watch the Mannleinlaufen at Noon
Mannleinlaufen is a mechanical clock on the Frauenkirche church (pictured in the top photo) that commemorates the Golden Bull of 1356. The clock was installed in the church in 1506.
At exactly noon, what feels like the entire market will come to a standstill with everyone facing the clock, watching the Holy Roman Emperor appear with the prince-electors surrounding him.
I can’t remember how long this goes on for but it felt like at least 15 minutes. It is one of the most famous clocks in the world.
Spin the Brass Rings on the Schoner Brunnen
It was by far too crowded for me to do this (there was shopping to do), but you are supposed to spin the brass rings on the Schoner Brunnen (beautiful fountain) because it will supposedly bring good luck and guarantee your return to Nuremberg.
It is the pointed structure in the photo above and also an excellent meeting spot in case you get separated from your group at the market.
The giant fountain has 40 colorful figures on it that represent the world view of the Holy Roman Empire: philosophy, the seven liberal arts, the four Evangelists, the four Church Fathers, the seven Prince-electors, the Nine Worthies, Moses and seven Prophets (Hosea, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Isaiah and Joel).
Other Things to Do in Nuremberg
Before visiting the Nuremberg Christmas Market, we took a short bus tour of the city passing sites like Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds, St. Rochus Cemetary (built in 1510 to bury plague victims), and the Nuremberg Castle.
Nuremberg’s role in World War II as the site of Nazi conventions and ultimately the Nuremberg Trials can’t be ignored and I wish I had planned for an extra day to visit more sights. The Christmas Market is so big that it can consume up to a full day on its own and I was tired after all of that shopping!
A quick 15-minute or so bus ride from the market to the River Queen ship ended the day. I scurried around the ship taking photos, chatting, and soaking up every last moment on board, right up until the last (of many) glasses of German wine at the spectacular Farewell Dinner.
The 3:30 a.m. wake-up call came much too early, thanks to staying up late with new friends. But, that’s what river cruises are about, right? I’ll be back.
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*Thanks to Uniworld for hosting the river cruise portion of my holiday! Highly recommend.