Germany's favorite Christmas markets: Nuremberg & Rothenburg

Germany's favorite Christmas markets: Nuremberg & Rothenburg

by Amanda Palumbo
Stripes Europe

There is an unmistakable pride that runs through Bavaria that makes the rest of the world stand up and take notice. Bavaria does things big and sticks to tradition like how “salz” sticks to “brezel.” That same fervor is true for the area’s Christmas markets, namely Nuremberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Nuremberg Christmas Market

Bavaria’s second-largest city has been doing Christmas markets for more than 400 years. To call them experts seems preposterous because they are so much more than that.

Food and Drink

All Christmas markets have glühwein but Nuremberg’s mulled wine is an EU protected designation that has to meet special quality standards and be manufactured in the city. A crowd favorite is Gerstacker’s blueberry flavor or “heidelbeer-glühwein.”

Nuremberg has a serious sausage game spanning 700 years. For a sausage to be called the ‘original Nuremberg’ it has to be produced in the city and weigh exactly 23 grams. The sausages are also the size of your fingers and spiced with marjoram. Order “Drei im Weggla,” which translates to ‘three in a bun.’

From something salty to something sweet -- look for lebkuchen, or gingerbread. “Elisenlebkuchen” is a special gingerbread cookie made without flour. It is huge, flat and often dipped in chocolate or powdered sugar.

What to buy

If you’re looking for something truly Nuremberg, keep an eye out for “Zwetschgenmännle,” or prune men. Dating back to the 18th century, these dolls have a wire skeleton with a walnut head, arms and legs made of prunes and a body made of figs.

Also grab a “Rauschgoldengel,” or gold rush angel. These 17th century dolls are made of folded gold paper. They will be a treasured Christmas figure to pass on through the family

The Children’s Market

Nuremberg is the Disney World of Christmas markets. Just around the corner from the adult fun in a market just for kids. There are rides, visits from Santa and hands-on activities like baking, making ornaments, even a children’s post office.

Dates and times:

Nov. 29 – Dec. 24

Monday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

December 24: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Getting there:

From Kaiserslautern: 3.5-hour drive or 4-hour train ride

From Garmisch-Partenkirchen: 3-hour drive or train ride

From Stuttgart: 2.5-drive or 3-hour train from Stuttgart

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg is a medieval town that transforms into a winter wonderland with 500 years’ worth of traditions. From deep-fried balls of sugary goodness to some of the most elaborate decorations, this historical market is one of Bavaria’s gems.

Food and Drink

I’m sure ‘deep-fried balls of sugary goodness’ peaked your attention so let’s talk about those first. A “schneeball,” which translates to snowball, is a short crust pastry dough, deep-fried and covered in a delicious topping like chocolate, powdered sugar or nuts.
There will, of course, be glühwein but you should also try a glass of Franconian wine, a wine as dry as my humor and often made from small Mom-and-Pop wineries.

What to buy

Rothenburg is a Christmas decorator’s dream city. Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Village is headquartered here, with the largest selection of Christmas decorations year-round. If you’re not interested in buying anything, just taking a walk around will get you in the holiday spirit.

Adding to its charm, Rothenburg has very few big chain stores. The city square is lined with lots of local shops, including a stuffed animal store!

Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum

Rothenburg is also home to Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum, Germany’s Christmas museum. Located right next to Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Village, you can see some of the oldest and most elaborate Christmas decorations.

Town Hall Tower

If you want that Instagram worthy shot, head to Town Hall Tower. Open until 8 p.m., you can get a bird’s eye of the market. Don’t even get me started if you’re lucky enough to take that photo after it snows. It will be the cover of next year’s Christmas card.

Dates and times:

Nov. 29 - Dec. 23

Monday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Friday - Sunday: 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Getting there:

From Kaiserslautern: 3-hour drive or 4-hour train ride

From Garmisch-Partenkirchen: 3.5-hour drive or 5-hour train ride

From Stuttgart: 1-hour 40-minute drive or 3-hour train from Stuttgart

Christmas is all about tradition and there is no shortage of that in Bavaria. These are the markets that’ll make you want to pack your family in the station wagon for your version of “Christmas Vacation.” I guarantee you it’s a memory they will hold onto for life.

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