Christkindlmarkt Nuremberg-Style

By Marilyn Heimburger
Photos by Marilyn and Don Heimburger

When you think of Christmas markets in Germany, Nuremberg usually comes to mind first. It has a very long history and is considered the “queen” of the Christmas Markets.

The Christkindlmarkt of Nuremberg was first called “Kindelsmarkt” in an inscription on a wooden oval box dated 1628.

The main market square between the Schoener Brunnen (beautiful fountain) and the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is the site of this famous Christmas market. The 180 market stalls with their red and white-striped canvas roofs are arranged in rows and fill the area with the aromas and lights of the holiday season. The popular Christkindlmarkt has been called a “Little Town of Wood and Cloth.”


Vendors offer the beautiful craft wares and decorations found in many markets. But one special item you can find here are prune men: figures 6-8 inches tall with arms and legs made of dried prunes and heads made of walnuts.

An edible specialty of Nuremberg is its tiny sausages, which weigh exactly 23 grams and are about the size of a little finger. According to legend, they were made small enough to fit through the keyhole of a door, just in case someone was locked out of the city gate after curfew and needed something to eat!

Another treat is Nuremberg’s famous Lebkuchen (gingerbread). Lebkuchen Schmidt ships its goods all over the world, and is available in beautifully decorated tins, even music boxes (

Unique to the Nuremberg Christmas market is Christkind, who officially opens the market at 5:30 p.m. on the Friday before the first Sunday in Advent. The Christkind, or Christmas Angel, represents the Christ Child as the one who gives gifts on Christmas, as opposed to St. Nicholas, who delivers gifts into the waiting shoes of good children on December 6.

Every two years since 1969 a young girl is elected by a combination of popular vote and jury selection to represent the Christkind. Strict rules govern the age and height of a Christkind candidate. She must also be a good student, since her many appearances force her to miss school, and she must not be afraid of heights, because she must stand on a balcony near the top of the Church of Our Lady to deliver her market-opening pronouncement!


Nuremberg is understandably proud of its Christkindlmarkt. In order to protect the market’s reputation, war toys are banned, as are decorations of plastic firs, products displayed in cardboard boxes, and canned Christmas music.

A short walk away from the main market square is the Rathausplatz (Town Hall Square) where you can find 14 vendor stalls from Nuremberg’s partner cities offering their unique wares.

In addition to the Christkindlmarkt in Nuremberg’s main market square, a special Kinderweihnacht (Children’s Christmas Market) on the Hans-Sachs-Platz has entertained families since 1999. A 100-year-old steam Ferris wheel, a steam railway and a merry-go-round offer rides. Vendor stalls have lower counters to invite children to see and touch, decorate cookies and candles, and have pictures taken with Santa. Across from the children’s market is the Sternenhaus (Star House), which serves as headquarters for the Christkind and offers cultural programs for children.

One very special market open all year round, but is especially magical during the Christmas season is the Handwerkerhof. Located across from the main train station, the stone and half-timbered structures look as old as the King’s tower and fortification walls that surround them. But the entire little town was built in 1971 as an additional attraction during the Albreacht Durer 500 anniversary celebration. It has remained a year-round attraction highlighting craftsmen who work with pewter, leather, glass, candles, precious metals, gingerbread and dolls.

You can watch bakers make Lebkuchen, shop for tin toys, wood and glass ornaments, have a mug of hot spiced wine, and then eat at the Bratwurstglocklein, a wonderful wood-paneled, low-ceilinged pub with waitresses dressed in traditional dirndls, and food served on pewter plates. Try the tiny sausages each of three ways: cooked with vinegar and onions, smoked and grilled. Served with potato salad, saurkraut and beer, it’s a tradional Nuremberger treat. The Handwerkerhof is open six days a week (seven days a week during Christkindlmarkt) from the middle of March through December 31 (  

Wonderful accommodations for your Christkindlmarkt visit can be found at the Maritim Nuernberg ( It is conveniently located just a short walk from the main train station, and across the street from the Handwerkerhof. Another short walk takes you to the main market square and the Christkindlmarkt in the shadow of the Schoener Brunnen.

One more suggestion: before leaving the main market square, look carefully at the Schoener Brunnen until you find the gold ring. Make a wish and turn the ring three times to make your wish come true. Perhaps you will wish to return to this beautiful market again next year!

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