Leveled to the ground in WWII, Nuremberg rose from the ashes to become a dynamic city abuzz with life, cultural happenings, and gastronomic hot spots.
Walking down Nuremberg’s quaint cobblestone streets could cause somewhat of a dissonance – most buildings surrounding you have all been there for barely 7 decades, contrary to what the medieval ambiance and ubiquitous half-timbered houses may have you believe.
Much of the Altstadt (Old Town) had to be carefully re-built from scratch after the city’s near-annihilation in the final years of the war. What results is a brilliant manifestation of German dedication to preserving historic heritage – a meticulous re-creation of what Nuremberg used to look like in forgone times.
The Imperial Kaiserburg Castle towering over the city hadn’t evaded the fate of being damaged either – a fact truly difficult to grasp seeing it in its modern-day glory. Once the showpiece of imperial Nuremberg, the castle was a prominent edifice of the Holy Roman Empire, a temporary home to traveling royalty and host to numerous stately events and functions.
Today, the castle’s Sinwell Tower is the best vantage point for taking in sweeping views of the entire city. If time allows, we recommend you stroll through the Castle Gardens, take a tour of the Deep Well and a quick look around the on-site Kaiserburg Museum.
In the city below, beautiful examples of carefully restored architecture abound. Perhaps the best way to hit most attractions at once is to start your tour by walking down Koenigstrasse, the city’s animated thoroughfare that runs perpendicular to river Pegnitz, which divides the Old Town in two.
Must-sees en route include (from south to north) the Frauentorturm (right at the Old Town entry point), Lorenzkirche church, Nassauerhaus, and the striking Heilig-Geist-Spital – which might just be the world’s most unique operating retirement home.
Once off the Museumsbrucke bridge, you are only a few steps away from the Hauptmarkt – Nuremberg’s splendid main square, one that is, perhaps, most known for its fabled, world-renowned Christmas Market – Christkindlesmarkt.
Other times of year see the square host a daily Farmers’ Market, teeming with all manner of local vendors selling everything from produce to fresh-off-the-grill Franconian sausages with a side of Sauerkraut (a German take on coleslaw).
Once here, you simply won’t be able to miss the beautiful (quite literally – as translated from German) fountain of Schoener Brunnen – a construction that looks less like an actual fountain than it does some manner of Gothic shrine, towering against the backdrop of Frauenkirche – Nuremberg’s most remarkable church, which makes an appearance on most postcards sent from the city.
There was, however, a much more sinister time in Nuremberg’s history, a time when the now picture-perfect, tranquil city was turned into rally grounds for the then-almighty Nazi Party. The former party rally grounds are now open to visitors and serve as a sobering vestige of the party’s devastating presence. Those interested in uncovering the less joyous parts of German history will definitely find the original podium Hitler spoke to crowds from (pictured below) and the permanent exhibition (tellingly titled “Fascination and Terror”) revealing.
In the city center, the so-called Way of Human Rights (consisting of 30 pillars citing an article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights each) leads up to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum (German National Museum), the largest museum of cultural history in the German-speaking world.
It is all the more amazing to see how well Nuremberg dealt with and moved on from the difficult subject matter of its 20th century. The Franconian capital of today is anything but grim – streets teem with people, sounds of music fill the air (Nuremberg annually plays host to grand-scale music events such as Klassik Open Air and Bardentreffen), and the culinary scene is graced by excellent cafes and restaurants.
One festival to rule them all is the traditional Altstadtfest, which will happen for the 47th time this coming September (from the 14th to the 25th). The annual festival brings together hundreds of musicians, entertainers, street food vendors, and – most importantly – thousands of excited visitors.
After a full day of sightseeing, we suggest you have a sit-down meal at one of Nuremberg’s many excellent eateries – these range from those specializing in organic products to even Michelin-starred restaurants. The offer extends far beyond just the classic pork knuckle listed on menus as Schäuferle (pictured below) to include offerings of international cuisines, paired with an outstanding selection of quality Franconian beers. The night can then go on at one or more of the city’s busy bars and clubs.
One very special insider tip we can give you (see here for more) is to write the neighborhood of Gostenhof (also known as “GoHo”) into your itinerary – this really is a unique part of town, dotted with hip boutiques, vintage stores, and quirky designer shops, which are all a great alternative to the no less exciting, but slightly more classic Handwerkerhof (Craftsmen’s Courtyard) – ideal for browsing through traditional crafts and souvenirs (more good shopping locations listed here).
The list of things Nuremberg has to offer its visitors can keep going: visit the actual home of celebrated artist Albrecht Duerer, take time to explore the Nuremberg Transport Museum, or even pay a visit to one of the world’s best Toy Museums, detailing the development of toys through the ages. And if you happen to be visiting in the summer, make sure to pack a picnic and crash on Nuremberg’s very own Love Island (Liebesinsel) – it will quickly become clear that resistance to falling in love with the city is positively futile.
Written in collaboration with Tourismus Nürnberg.