Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is one of the oldest and most famous of its kind. Visiting it was our highest priority in Germany. We booked our Deutsche Bahn tickets more than a month early to guarantee seats and an affordable price (the German rail network is excellent but far from cheap). We were going to Nuremberg come rain or shine.

Come rain, as it turned out. After disembarking at Nürnberg Hauptbahnhof, we simply followed the crowds up Königstraße to find the market. Stands began appearing even before we got to the center; mulled wine and roasted chestnuts confirmed we were headed in the right direction.

At the foot of Frauenkirche, we stumbled into the sea of red-and-white roofed booths that filled Hauptmarkt Square. The light rain kept some people away, but bright lights and enticing smells maintained a festive atmosphere.

Last-minute gift-shoppers were out in force. We decided to hold off on investigating the ornaments, nutcrackers, and scarves until after we ate. A plate of Nuremberger sausages (small brats the size of breakfast links) and a freshly fried batch of curry beef both filled and warmed our tummies.

Lebkuchen (gingerbread) made the perfect dessert. It’s not a taste we usually go in for, and we were warned that Nuremberg’s soft and chewy rendition was particularly “love it or hate it.” But is was actually pretty okay.

A short walk from the main square was the international market, a more recent addition that invites vendors from sister cities as far away as China, Nicaragua, and the United States to share their unique versions of Christmastime treats.

Though the markets were our main focus, we had plenty of time to further explore the sights of Nuremberg. Keeping with European tradition, peeking our heads into churches never failed to be worth our while.

The holiday decorations inside St. Sebaldus were especially interesting. From there we continued north up an incline until we reached Nuremberg Castle.

The ancient stronghold built upon a rock hill checks every box for central German castles. Various towers and keeps impressed, but not as much as the views. Even on a dreary day, pastel homes and church spires shone through the thick blanket of gray.

The Old Town under the castle walls manages to retain an ancient feel despite only being rebuilt after World War II. Many of the traditional-looking Bavarian homes now conceal hotels or pubs, while other corners house more unusual surprises.

The climb did little to rebuild our appetites, but a stop into Brot Schwarz had us salivating anyway. The collection of cured meats and sausages on display was truly incredible. A steady stream of locals filtered in and out for holiday hors d’oeuvres, confirming the perceived quality wasn’t an illusion.

Our eyes ate more than our mouths ever could, but we didn’t leave without a sample. Communicating our (admittedly obnoxious) order of two slices of bread and a handful of lunch meat took some doing, but the result was maybe the top dish of the day. The rain let up, the daylight faded, and the streets grew more crowded. We found a spot by the banks of the Pegnitz River to enjoy a hot chocolate and punch from the World’s Largest Feuerzangenbowle.

With the daylight waning, decorative lights finally reached their full potential. The contrast between gloom and glitter recalled the true meaning of midwinter festivals – warming the heart in a disheartening season.

Night really was the best time to be at the market. Brilliant collections of glass-blown ornaments were even more impressive in the stark incandescent glow of electric light.

We found some solace from the growing crowds at a well-placed balcony bar. They sold the same glühwein as everyone else, with a much better view.

With the streets only growing more crowded and a long ride home↗ ahead of us, we decided to make our way back toward the train station. Along the way we passed through the Children’s Market. The colorful rides were simple and traditional, some still even human-powered. But to those kids, experiencing their first Nuremberg Christmas? It was magic.


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