Nuremberg is a beautiful city located in Bavaria, Germany. Despite being the second largest city in Bavaria, Nuremberg often loses out on visitors due to the main attractions such as Munich and Schloss Neuschwanstein. However, if you are planning a trip to Germany soon, I am here to show you why Nuremberg should be your next destination!
Where is Nuremberg?
Located in Bavaria, an incredible state in Germany, Nuremberg is an hour north of Munich. Due to Germany’s excellent public transport system and Autobahn, the city is easily accessible. For example, a train from Stuttgart or Frankfurt will take you 2 hours, or 3 hours from Berlin. Visit the Deutsche Bahn website to find out more on train schedules. Alternatively, the city has an airport you can fly directly into from various cities across Europe, including London and Paris.
History of Nuremberg
Before we dive into the best things to see and do, it is important we understand this city’s long and fascinating history. Despite being fairly small, Nuremberg has been a pivotal city in Europe throughout the years.
Nuremberg was home to one of the most important medieval castles in Europe and became a seat of the Holy Roman Empire. During this period, numerous landmarks were built, including the Church of Our Lady and Hauptmarkt.
Towards the end of the 15th Century, Nuremberg became the centre of the German renaissance. Due to this, numerous artists, sculptors and other creatives moved into the city. Among them, Albrecht Dürer, a prominent figure across Europe thanks to his high-quality woodcut prints.
Many years later, in the 20th Century, the city rose to international prominence as it became the centre of Hitler’s National Socialist Party. Here they held their annual congresses and built half of the planes and submarines used in the war. After the end of World War Two, the infamous Nuremberg Trials where held here (more about this later).
Best Things to Do in Nuremberg
There is plenty to see and do here, and so I recommend spending two full days here to really appreciate the city. If you are staying overnight, then you are eligible to purchase the Nürnberg card. Undoubtedly, this card gives you best value for money, with free access to all museums, attractions and public transport. Additionally, the tourist office website has free city maps- download here.
Imperial Castle of Nuremberg
Firstly, let’s begin at the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg! The castle was first documented as a royal palace and became popular among many rulers throughout the region. As a result, in 1356, Emperor Charles IV’s ‘Golden Bull’ named Nuremberg as the place where all new rulers were to hold their first Imperial Diet. However, during World War 2 much of the castle fell to ruin thanks to the heavy bombing of the city. In spite of this, many of the important Romanesque and Gothic structures remained intact. So, after the war the damaged parts of the castle were rebuilt to it’s original state.
The Castle offers visitors incredible views of Nuremberg, as well as beautiful gardens and courtyards to stroll around. The castle is open year around from 9am to 6pm during April til October 4th, and 10am to 4pm the rest of the year. Additionally, entrance is either free with the Nürnberg card or €5.50 each (these rates are subject to change).
Hauptmarkt is the main town square in the city. Despite being industrialized over the years, Nuremberg still holds onto it’s medieval roots. This glorious town square sees weekly markets and the famous annual Christmas Market is held here. In addition to that, some of Nuremberg’s top sights are based right here in the square:
Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)- built in 1352, in the height of the city’s power, this church became the place for imperial ceremonies. As you enter the church, it is adorned with many medieval works of art to enjoy. However, the main attraction of Frauenkirche is outside- the Männleinlaufen. After Emperor Charles IV’s ‘Golden Bull’ of 1356, the city commemorated this with a mechanical clock. Even now, everyday at noon the clock activates and a golden bull comes out followed by a procession of the Holy Roman Empire. So, make sure you don’t miss it!
Schönner Brunnen- directly translated as beautiful fountain. Another stunning addition to Hauptmarkt is this 19m high, 14th century fountain with a gothic spire. If you look closely to the top of the fountain, you will see 40 colourful figurines, all of which representing the world view of the Holy Roman Empire. In addition, there are two brass rings on the fence of the fountain, legend has it that if you spin these rings, it’ll bring you good luck!
Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds
For the history buffs, this next site is an absolute goldmine. Personally, I think this is the most important attraction in Nuremberg and mustn’t be missed. During the 1930’s and 1940’s, the city became the epicentre of the Nazi party. Hitler had big plans for “The city which most represented Germany”, and commissioned the construction of some large monuments. Despite his ambitious plans for Nuremberg, most of these did not get past the groundworks. However, some were complete, including the Zepplinfeld and the Congress Hall.
The Documentation Centre is a museum located in part of the unfinished remains of the Congress Hall. In line with Hitler’s megalomania, the Congress Hall was modelled on the Colosseum in Rome. I have visited hundreds of museums over the years, including many dedicated to the Second World War and the Third Reich, but none came close to how excellent this museum is.
The museum houses a permanent exhibition called ‘Fascination and Terror’, which is a comprehensive insight into the rise and fall of the National Socialist party. Upon arrival into the museum, you will be given an audioguide in your chosen language, then it will take you around the museum in chronological order. For example, you will learn why the Nazi party rapidly rose to prominence as well as the terrors throughout the 1930’s with the concentration camps. After, the exhibition will take you through the fall of the Third Reich and the justice of the Nuremberg Trials after the war. Finally, the audioguide will lead you outside to look at what would have been the the rally ground. As you look out into the stadium, you will find yourself reflecting and processing all you have just learned.
The Museum is open all year round from 9am-6pm and entrance was €5 (or free with the Nürnberg card) and includes the audioguide. However, please check opening times in advance, just in case of national holidays. I advise spending at least 2 hours here.
Another site to not miss whilst visiting the Museum is the Zepplinfeld. As already mentioned, Hitler wanted to turn Nuremberg into the grand centre of the Third Reich. Subsequently, one of the only other structures which actually got built was the Zepplinfeld. Much like the Congress Hall, Hitler designed it in the style of Ancient Greek temples with the grand columns. However, the main feature was the ‘Cathedral of Light‘, high-powered lights beamed miles into the air which could be seen from Prague!
It is free to enter Zepplinfeld and walk around imagining the horror of a time history will never forget. I recommend dedicating an hour here.
The Albrecht Dürer House
Albrecht Dürer was Germany’s most famous artist, who resided in Renaissance Nuremberg. Nowadays, you can visit the house where Dürer lived and get a tour from his ‘wife’ Agnes (an actress, obviously!). The house was built in 1420, and fortunately survived the bombings of the Second World War. As a result, this has made it the only surviving medieval artists house in northern Europe!
The house is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am til 6pm, and entrance is €6 (or free with the Nürnberg card). You will get to see the house, Dürer’s work and medieval printing demonstrations.
Walk the City Walls
Built between the 12th and 16th Century, Nuremberg was fortified with 5km of wall. Today, about 4km of the walls still remain. The walls, and the Imperial Castle was considered to be the most comprehensive medieval defence system in Europe! Spend time walking the walls and admiring the tower gates and panoramic city views!
Discover Nuremberg’s Bridges
Nuremberg is the city that keeps on giving! As you walk through the city and admire it’s beauty, you might notice there are a lot of bridges here! The most significant bridges you mustn’t miss include:
- Hangman’s Bridge– built in 1595, the bridge leads to a small island in the city. On this island lived the city’s executioner! Due to his job, he would not be allowed to mingle with the residents of Nuremberg and so lived in isolation here.
- Kettensteg- this 68m long footbridge is the oldest surviving iron suspension bridge in contintental Europe.
- Fleischbrücke- translated to meat bridge. This bridge connected people to the Hauptmarkt!
Nuremberg Trials Memorium
Firstly, I recommend you visit the Documentation Centre before coming to the Nuremberg Trials Memorium. After the Second World War, Nuremberg rose to global prominence. International tribunals were held here to see that senior Nazi party leaders were held accountable for their crimes. So, from November 1945 until October 1946 many senior leaders of the party were sentenced to death or life imprisonment here.
Nowadays, you can visit this historic site. Courtroom 600, where the trials were held, is open Wednesday til Monday from 10am-6pm (check in advance). Entrance is €6 (or free with the Nürnberg card) and I recommend spending 1-2 hours here.
Finishing up my top sights in Nuremberg, is a visit to the Toy Museum! Nuremberg was famous for it’s medieval toy makers over the years. The collection began when a lady named Lydia Bayer and her husband began collecting toys in the 1920’s. After Lydia’s death in 1966, the city took over her collection. Nowadays, the museum has 87,000 objects and explores the sociopolitical relationship with toys throughout time. The museum is free to enter with the Nürnberg card and is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am til 5pm.
Best places to eat in Nuremberg
You will not be disappointed during meal times here in Nuremberg! The city is famous for it’s sausages! Therefore, you mustn’t leave without trying some Nürnberg Rostbratwurst, a long, finger-like sausage. Many restaurants and bars offer the sausage, but I recommend visiting ‘Zum Golden Stern’, the oldest sausage house in the world! This place has been serving Nürnberg Rostbratwurst since 1419! You can get a platter for two to share for €15. Don’t forget to wash it down with a stein of beer!
I also recommend grabbing a burger at the BEST burger place ever, Kuhnmuhne. Honestly, grab a bite to eat here you will not regret it. I had the Poultry Slam- a turkey burger which has been slowly cooked with onions and green pepper mayo. Make sure you go!
This has been my favourite guide to write so far. I have traveled extensively throughout Germany over the years, and I think Nuremberg is my favourite city. Despite having so much history and culture present here, the city is often overlooked by tourists. I encourage anyone visiting Germany to not skip Nuremberg, and give it the attention it truly deserves. If you like history, excellent food and picture-perfect towns, then Nuremberg is the place for you.
Happy travels, Amy x
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