Christmas City Nuremberg, GermanyExperience Christmas like no where else on Earth
By Andy Hayes
One of Germany's largest and most popular Christmas markets happens to be located in the backdrop of one of its most storied historical settings, Nuremberg. Last year I had the opportunity to see it for myself, and it was a wonderful way to experience Nuremberg putting its best foot forward. The city is a wonderful place in itself but the magical atmosphere of the market really makes for a special getaway.
Nuremberg’s long history began under the Holy Roman Empire, as the city became an important stop on the trade routes between northern and southern Europe. In the 15th and 16th centuries, arts and culture experienced a renaissance as locals such as Albrecht Dürer, whose studio you can tour today, gained influential reputations.
The first German steam-powered train departed from here in 1835. In more recent times during World War II, the city was the home to the Nazi party rallies and over 90% of the historic town center was destroyed. However, Nuremberg has been painstakingly rebuilt and today it is a major tourist destination year-round.
A Christmas market in one form or another has been in Nuremberg since the 1600’s. Today the market sprawls across multiple squares, with a special section for children and an international fair. Locals call it the “little town from wood and cloth”, a reference to the traditional red-and-white colored tents that cover each of the market stands.
Each of these stands is immaculate and lavishly decorated, which is not surprising given that a contest is held every year to award prizes to those with the most pleasant stalls. Nuremberg’s most famous Christmas export, lebkuchen (gingerbread) should probably be your first purchase; it is so good and so popular it can be found in Christmas markets all across Germany and in shops throughout Europe during winter. Nuremberg sausages, sweet roasted almonds, potato pancakes and mulled wine are other treats in plentiful supply.
You will pay a deposit for your mugs, but do as the locals do and keep them as a souvenir. Although not edible, tiny figures made out of dried plums called Zwetschgenmännele are one of the more popular shopping highlights. Christmas decorations, candles, and children’s toys of all shapes, colors and sizes can also be found.
A word of warning: with over 2 million visitors to pass through the market during its month long stance, the public squares can get quite crowded. Tourists should be mindful of pickpockets, although I had no troubles during my stay. I might suggest doing any ‘major’ shopping during the early afternoon when queues are shorter, but do not shy away from the wonderful atmosphere of the candlelight and Christmas decor once nightfall arrives – there is simply nothing like it.
Beyond the Christmas festivities, Nuremberg has a number of attractions that should not be missed. The three castle buildings towering over the city offer excellent views. The former Reich Party Rally Grounds gives one a clear impression of the gigantic buildings that were planned but not finished, and the adjacent Documentation Center is very informative – non-German speakers should pick up a complimentary audio guide.
The three main churches (Lorenze Kirche, Frauenkirche and St. Sebaldus Kirche) are all worth a visit. And do not forget to rub the ‘Nuremberg Ring’ that is welded into an iron fence surrounding the Schöner Brunnen (beautiful fountain), located on the corner of the main market square – doing so is said to bring good luck.
Your focus on food and drink should of course be the market itself. However, there are plenty of options should you find yourself in need of a change of pace. I highly recommend the Barfüßer (Hallplatz 2), a gigantic beer hall with friendly service and a bit of German flair.
The dishes are traditional and there are a number of beer choices, most brewed locally, to suit any palette. For wine lovers, nothing beats Heilig-Geist-Spital (Spitalgasse 16), a 650-year old wine house with excellent dishes to match the lengthy wine list.
In retrospect, it is easy to see why Nuremberg’s Christmas market is so famous. With such a historical, scenic setting and top-notch goods on offer, it is hard to think of anywhere better to spend a winter evening soaking up the Christmas spirit.
Nuremberg is easily accessible via train, airplane, or car. However, due to the large size of the pedestrian zone within the city center, using public transport from the edge of the city into the market is all but absolutely necessary.
Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. To get in touch, visit his website at http://andyhayes.com.
Nuremberg Christmas Market: http://www.christkindlesmarkt.de/english/start.php
Nuremberg Convention and Tourist Office: http://tourismus.nuernberg.de/v04/pub/index.html?navID=en1
German Railways: http://www.bahn.de/international/view/en/index.shtml
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