Xmas in Franconia

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Home Page > Features > Germany > Christmas Markets in Franconia

Christmas Markets in Franconia

Franconia is the lesser-traveled northern part of Bavaria, generally following the Main valley and the mountain ranges north of the Danube.  It doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves, as it has absolutely gorgeous castles and lovely villages.  Its Christmas Markets, on the other hand, get lots of attention... especially Nuremberg's, which is the largest such Market in all of Germany.  The markets in this chapter were visited by Tom in 2002, and we visited Nuremberg together in 2003.  This is a region we hope to hit in 2004 -- especially Rothenburg and Wuerzburg, whose markets are reknowned.

Nuremberg -- La pièce de resistance of all Christmas Markets!  Nuremberg's market was huge and crammed with people, despite being hit by a driving rainstorm when Tom went in 2002 (thankfully 2003 was a little better, overcast but not raining).  Nuremberg is famous for its bratwurst, which is a spicy breakfast-sausage-sized variety of the popular German staple, and the lebkuchen, which is a finely-ground form of fruitcake that is baked atop a sugar wafer (helping it retain its shape).  Nuremberg's Christmas-Tree-shaped Frauenkirche adds that special 'look' to the market, too! (The Nuremberg travelogue is available here)

Munchies:  Traditional lebkuchen (fruit and ginger cake) and three Nuremberger bratwurste (small pork sausages) in a bun.

This is a popular shot of the main market square, taken from one of the platforms on the south side.  You can see the red and white striped canopies that cover the densely-packed wooden huts.  What you can't see is the density of people in between.

This is a shot of the Schönenbrunnen and the Frauenkirche at the northern entrance to the market.  We took this from a restaurant window overlooking the frenzy below.  Virtually all the restaurants had a seasonal menu... yum! 

The main square hosted only one of several Markets, each of which had a distinctive flavor and purpose.  Plus, as this shot shows, huts also lined along the streets in between, especially along Koenigstrasse, the main street connecting the city across the river.

When you cross the river and turn right, you will encounter the Kinderweihnacht, which is a whole Market for the kiddies.  It had all the rides -- carousel, ferris wheel, train rides -- plus all the usual foodstuffs and mulled wine (including options for kiddie-portions).  A large number of families endured the rain to partake in the festivities. 

The Handwerkerhof at the base of the Koenigstor was also home to a special Market, this one for locally produced handcrafted or antique items.  This tiny tucked away square at the city's southeast must be sought out, even if the crowds are a tight fit.

The base of the Rathaus square is also home to a specialized market, this one celebrating Christmas as held in all of Nuremberg's many partner cities.  Each hut sells ethnic wares from the various countries represented, which come from all around the world.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber -- Rothenburg is one of Germany's most visited (and most festive) locations.  However its Christmas Market, called the Alt-Rothenburg Reiterleinmarkt, is among the smaller events hosted in this city, designed primarily for the locals.  Unlike its other festivals that make use of its main cobblestone streets, this event concentrates in the small maze-like section of tiny streets near the Cathedral.  With all the main stores still open seven days a week (especially Rothenburg's famous Kaethe Wohlfahrt Christmas chain), this is a Christmas location not to miss.  (The Rothenburg travelogue is available here)

Munchies:  Waffle topped with (huge mounds of) whipped cream and blueberry sauce.

We must have over a dozen shots in our library of the Rathaus square facing the old and new town halls.  The entrance to the Christmas Market is in the back, but this square was still used for lively Christmas music and traditional dance.

Using the lesser-traveled older sections of the city, the Rothenburg market draws people to parts they might not ordinarily go.  The wares sold are very international, but there was plenty of gluehwein and other warming concotions available.

Bamberg -- Bamberg was one of Tom's favorite stops during the early days of his travel hobby, and was one of the inspirations for trying to build a website in the first place!  Residing on a series of islands on the Main-Donau Kanal Regnitz, Bamberg is a beautiful city with an Imperial Holy Roman past, but nowadays is better known for its Franconian friendliness.  It's Christmas Market is very charming.  (The Bamberg travelogue is available here)

Munchies:  Waffle topped with (huge mounds of) whipped cream and blueberry sauce.

The bulk of the market is on the Maximilianplatz in the middle of the island city, or Inselstadt.  Here you see the city hall with its colorful flags in the background.  The huts were arranged in long rows like the ones you see here.

A number of cities like to include their own interpretation of the Nativity, and include it as a centerpiece of their Market.  (Most of them were 'artistic', which was euphemistic for 'cheap and awful'.)  Bamberg's interpretation was absolutely wonderful, very 18th Century with the Franconian-Swabian style half-timber house and colonial-dressed Holy Family.

Fürth (Bayern)-- The city of Fürth has the unfortunate problem of being utterly in the shadow of its big neighbor, Nuremberg.  However, Fürth has a lot of attractive architecture and activity all its own, and its Christmas Market was certainly on par with many other smaller cities.  People looking to escape the massive throngs of visitors to Nuremberg needed only take an eight-minute train ride west.

Munchies:  Hungarian fried dough with garlic sauce brushed on and topped with mozzarella.

What was most interesting about the Fürther Weihnachtsmarkt was the way it was constructed -- something that can't be seen in the photographs Tom took.  Unlike most, that were built in rows of huts or a simple-to-navigate grid, the interior of this market was a maze, clearly designed so that when you entered one side and exited the other, you were sure to pass by every single hut.  Clever!

This horse drawn carriage ran a route through parts of the Market, then around the entire old town.  It was always packed full whenever it passed Tom.

Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2004 Tom Galvin



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