Christmas markets in Nuremberg, Germany
Nuremberg (also known as Nümberg in German) in December is like stepping into a fairytale says Lianne Kolirin
By Lianne Kolirin on 12 December 2011 in Travel Articles
Arriving in Nuremberg in December is like stepping onto the set of a Hollywood style fairy tale. Christmas is a serious business here and you feel it from the moment you walk through the gates of the Old Town.
The spacious pedestrian zone is taken up with festive stalls selling everything from traditional mulled wine to hand-crafted baubles. The shops are bedecked with Christmas decorations and popular ice cream parlours morph into ginger bread stalls.
Famed for being one of the largest and biggest in Germany, the hub of Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt is in the Main Market Square. It dates back to the mid-16th Century and attracts visitors from across Germany and Europe.
The Christmas Angel
Steeped in age-old tradition, the market is opened every year by the city's Christmas Angel. Elected for two years by local residents, the young girl who adopts the role represents the figure who delivers presents to German children (in lieu of Santa). Candidates must be between 16 and 19 and born in Nuremberg. Once elected, she performs a host of ceremonial duties – including opening the market – dressed in a white and gold dress and a curly blonde wig. Whatever your thoughts about this unusual custom, it is worth trying to catch a glimpse of this 21st Century beauty queen. She is widely admired and revered by the locals.
By Christmas Eve, more than 2 million international visitors will have passed through the city to sample the seasonal delights. Local officials closely regulate the décor, so the overall effect is more tasteful than tacky. There are some 200 wooden stalls, festooned with red and white cloth, selling a real mix of modern and traditional wares including bakery goods, confectionary, ornaments and craftwork. For a typical, if unusual, gift, buy one of Nuremberg's famous plum people. These wacky figures are crafted from prunes and other dried fruit and nuts.
Just north of the main market square, you'll find the Christmas Market of Nuremberg's numerous twin cities. Here you can buy French jewelry, Italian salami, Scottish kilts, Nicaraguan coffee and much more. Little ones will enjoy the fairground rides in the Children's Christmas Market in Hans Sachs-Platz. There are also hands-on activities, a Playmobil activity centre and plenty for kids to eat and drink. The Christmas Angel makes a special appearance here between 2.30pm and 3.30pm on Tuesday to Friday.
The metropolis of Bavaria's province Franconia is renowned for its Christkindlesmarkt, Kaiserburg (Emperor's Castle), and the house of one of Germany's most famous artists, Aubrecht Durer – all located within the walls of the medieval Old Town. Meanwhile, the glass facades of the business district lie just beyond the historic wall.
And, of course, the city has strong links to Germany's wartime past being home to the former Nazi rally grounds and Europe's first international war crimes court. It is well worth booking a guided walking tour around town and there are many on offer. For more information, check out the official tourism site.
World famous artist Albrecht Dürer lived in Nuremberg until his death in 1528. Today, his well-preserved timber house serves as a museum, informing visitors about his life and work. Entry is 5 euros, but for a small additional fee his 'wife' will take you on a guided tour.
Ride the stagecoach:
Wrap up warm for a ride on the stagecoach – a Christmas market favourite since 1950. The horsedrawn carriage is a reconstruction of a typical 19th Century Berline stagecoach. Rides run between 1 and 7pm daily and you can hop on at Rathausplatz, just north of the town's the Gothic Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain). Tickets are 3.50 euros for adults and 2 euros for children.
Grab a mug of Glühwein:
You'll need to keep your spirits up and your cockles warm while you take in the best of the Christmas markets so grab a mug of traditional Glühwein (mulled wine) along the way. Countless stalls sell this alcoholic winter warmer, which contains lovely festive spices. Beside each stall you will see crowds of locals shooting the breeze over this seasonal beverage. A deposit of 2.50 Euros is required for the specially designed mug, but it's a small price to pay if you'd rather keep it as a souvenir.
Don't leave without:
There are some unique hand-crafted wooden decorations for your tree, as well as traditional candle holders and centerpiece displays. When it comes to stocking fillers, you'll find plenty to fill your suitcase – from classic wooden toys to reasonably priced Playmobil.
And don't forget the food and drink. Wine connoisseurs will appreciate a bottle of Franconian wine, which comes in a variety of weird and wonderful bottles. Stock up on Nuremberg gingerbread, which carries the official EU seal of approval. There are several versions, though most are made from a combination of honey, almonds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg.
It's not so much where you must eat, but what. Do not leave Nuremberg without trying the famous '3 im Weggla'. These high quality sausages, each about the size of a finger, are flame-grilled over beech embers. If you're still hungry, add a side of potato salad or sauerkraut
Uncover the history:
Nuremberg was central to the Hitler's plans for Germany in the run up to the Second World War. Although 90 per cent of the city was destroyed by Allied bombing, the former Nazi Party rally grounds were largely untouched. Today the huge stadium-like building houses the Documentation Centre, home to an extensive exhibition about the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. It gives an invaluable insight into why Nuremberg was selected for these massive propaganda events and how they related to his wider plan for world domination. You need a couple of hours to follow the fantastic audio guide. The centre is open from 9am to 6pm on weekdays and from 10 am to 6pm at the weekend.
It is also well worth a trip to the Memorium Nuremberg Trials. In November 1945, the trial against the leading Nazi war criminals began in Courtroom 600 of the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, which remains a working courtroom. Today the original site houses a permanent exhibition, providing extensive information about the proceedings. Open daily, except Tuesday, 10am – 6pm.
For superb views over the city head for the Imperial Castle. This is one of the most important fortified imperial palaces of the Middle Ages, built on the rocky promontory above Nuremberg by Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa and his successors. Wear sturdy shoes for a steep walk up to the top platform – 385m – for a panoramic view.
We stayed at the Mövenpick Hotel at the airport. Admittedly, it's not in the thick of things, however it was very convenient when arriving for a quick weekend break as it is steps away from the terminal building and a short subway ride into town.
The hotel prides itself on being "passionately Swiss" and serves up a sumptuous buffet breakfast that caters for every possible taste. The rooms are comfortable and stylish and leisure facilities include a sauna, steam room and gym. Prices start from around £140 for a double with breakfast.
If you're planning to take in any of the city's cultural attractions, it's well worth buying a Nuremberg Card. It costs 21 euros and is available in most hotels and at Tourist Information. You get two days free admission to all museums and attractions, plus travel on all public transport.
The newly developed Nuremberg Airport is a 15-minute subway ride away from the city centre. The German transport system is highly efficient, and Nuremberg is no exception. Use the subway (U-Bahn), tram, rapid transport (S-Bahn) or bus. The trains are spotless and some are even driverless. The Day Tripper Tickets Solo and Plus (valid for up to six people) can be bought at ticket vending machines.
We flew with Air Berlin direct from London Gatwick to Nuremberg. Tickets start at £41 one way. For flights to Nuremberg from other airports, use the search engine below:
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