Are you planning a visit to Nuremberg in Germany? Here are my top ten things to do when visiting the city’s beautiful Aldstadt or Old Town.
I visited Nuremberg as a guest of Tourismus Nürnberg.
Are you planning a visit to Nuremberg? It’s a modern city with a thriving Aldstadt or Old Town, which is worth a visit in its own right.
I visited the city recently, and found that I was spoiled for choice when planning my itinerary. So what are the top things that you should see when visiting Nuremberg?
Read on for my suggestions:
Introduction to Nuremberg
Nuremberg is the second largest city in Bavaria, in the South-East of Germany. It is the unofficial capital of the Franconia region of Bavaria, and the 14th largest city in Germany.
It’s easy to fly to Nuremberg from the UK, with low-cost flights to Nuremberg taking off from Manchester and London. It’s then just a short ride by U-Bahn or taxi from the airport into the Old Town.
Alternatively, you could combine your visit to Nuremberg with other southern German cities such as Munich or Frankfurt, and arrive by train. The main station, or Hauptbahnhof, is just a few minutes walk from the Old Town.
Once you are in Nuremberg, there are hotels to suit all budgets and tastes. I stayed at the Hotel Drei Raben, which is a boutique hotel in the heart of the Aldstadt.
The Nuremberg Card
There’s no lack of choice when it comes to things to see and do in Nuremberg. In fact, you’re more likely to have the opposite problem – deciding which to leave out!
The Nuremberg Card is a great value way to see the city. It is valid for two days, and covers public transport and entrance to the city’s many museums and attractions.
So here are my suggestions for the best things to do when visiting the Old Town in Nuremberg:
Nuremberg City Museum at Fembo House
Many people will associate Nuremberg with the Christmas Market, motor-racing at the Nurembergring circuit, or the horror of the Third Reich rallies in the 1930s. But the city has played an important role in Germany’s history for nearly 1000 years.
So if you are visiting Nuremberg for the first time, then I would highly recommend calling into the Stadtmuseum (City Museum) at Fembo Haus. It’s quite a small museum, located in Nuremberg’s only surviving Rennaissance merchant’s house, and only takes an hour or two to look around. But it packs in a lot of history into its rooms, and is well worth a visit.
The exhibits include this amazing throne used by Germany’s emperors, as well as staged rooms showing how a merchant would have lived in the Renaissance Era.
This fabulous Baroque stucco ceiling dates from 1674, and is the most impressive example surviving in Nuremberg.
It is themed around love and friendship, and would have been intended as an impressive show of wealth in the 17th Century. It certainly took my breath away here in the 21st Century!
The museum also has a number of 3D scale models of Nuremberg, showing its development through the centuries.
You start your visit to Fembo House by travelling by lift to the 4th floor, where you’ll see the “Sounding City Model.” This is a linden-wood model of the Old Town of Nuremberg created by four master wood-carvers. After four years of work, it was completed in 1939 and is among Germany’s most precise city models.
Later in your visit, you’ll see this model of the city…
This shows the damage suffered by the city during World War II, and it’s quite sobering to see. In the image above, you can see the reflections of photographs which surround the model. These show the city in the aftermath of the war, and bring this vast devastation down to a more human level.
It’s amazing to think that much of the Nuremberg that you see today was rebuilt in the decades after the war.
The City Museum at Fembo House opens Tuesday-Sunday, and also opens on Mondays during the Christmas market. Admission is included in the Nuremberg City Card, or on its own costs 6 Euro for adults.
Coming Soon: The Nuremberg City Card
Nuremberg Imperial Castle
A little further up the hill, overlooking Old Town Nuremberg, is the Imperial Castle. And this is surely a must-see when you are visiting Nuremberg!
The castle has been a key feature of the city since it was first mentioned in the 11th century. It is one of Europe’s finest medieval castles, and illustrates the importance of Nuremberg during the years of the Holy Roman Empire.
In the Middle Ages, German Kings were also titled Holy Roman Emperors by the Pope. They didn’t have a capital city as we know it today, but travelled around from one imperial castle to another. Nuremberg was a site for Imperial diets (or assemblies) until the 17th century.
Nuremberg castle was largely destroyed in the Second World War, and the renovations took around 30 years to complete.
Reaching the castle takes a few minutes walk up a steep hill from the centre of the Aldstadt. Once you reach the outer walls of the castle, you’ll be rewarded with a glorious view out over the rooftops of the Old Town.
It’s fun seeing the city’s landmarks from this vantage point. In the photo above you may be able to spot the double spires of the Lorenzkirche and St Sebalduskirche, as well as the TV tower in the distance.
When I visited the castle, some of the inner courtyard areas were closed off while work was being carried out. But I was able to walk around the Outer courtyard, and past these Himmelsstallung or celestial stables.
You can also view the castle gardens, climb the Sinwell Tower for an even more elevated view of the city, or take a look down the Deep Well which dates back to at least the 14th century. The Deep Well is at least 50 metres deep, and its water supply would have been vital for the survival of Nuremberg in times of siege.
Nuremberg Imperial Castle is open daily, and there are a number of tour packages that you can choose from.
Germanisches Nationalmuseum and the Toy Museum
The Germanisches Nationalmuseum (National Germanic Museum) was founded in 1852 and is Germany’s largest museum of cultural history. It was intended to display the unity of German-speaking cultural areas following the failed attempt at political unification of German states in 1848.
The museum’s main entrance is the impressive glass and steel structure that you can see in the photo above. But personally, I have a soft spot for the older entrance to the study collections, which is on Kornmarkt (below).
This museum houses permanent collections covering areas as diverse as prehistoric artefacts, clothing from the 18th century, and 20th century art. There are also special exhibitions – see what’s on during your visit by visiting the museum’s website.
This is a large museum, and you could easily lose yourself in here for several hours. If you need refreshment during your visit, the museum has a spacious cafe that sells a fabulous selection of cakes. There’s also a gift shop for you to buy a souvenir of your visit.
Entrance to the permanent collection at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum is included in the Nuremberg City Card, or on its own costs 8 Euro for adults. Additional charges apply for the special exhibitions.
The Toy section of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum is housed in a separated museum a little further down the street from the main museum.
Nuremberg has been famous for making toys for over 600 years. This tradition stretches back to the city’s medieval doll makers and today the city hosts the International Toy Fair, the world’s most important trade show of its kind.
And if you enjoy looking around this, you’ll also enjoy Nuremberg’s Toy Museum. There you’ll find dolls, tin figurines, traditional wooden toys and a large model train layout. Modern toys like Lego, Barbie dolls, Playmobil and Matchbox are also represented, and there is a children’s area overseen by teaching staff.
In the summer you can visit a large outdoor playground and the Toy Museum has its own cosy cafe.
Nuremberg Toy Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, and also opens on Mondays during the Christmas Market. Opening hours are extended during the International Toy Fair – check the website for full details.
Entrance to the Toy Museum is covered by the Nuremberg Card, or on its own, entrance for adults is 6 Euro.
The Way of Human Rights
Since the end of the Second World War, Nuremberg has worked hard to transform its reputation from being the city of the Nazi Party rallies.
It has reinvented itself as a ‘City of Peace and Human Rights’ and this is marked by the Way of Human Rights, which is situated outside the main entrance of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum.
This monument is also the location for the award ceremony for the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award, which is awarded every two years.
The sculpture was created by Israeli artist Dani Karavan, and opened in 1993. It comprises a gate at the northern end, mirroring the medieval city gate which is located at the other end of the street. In between the two gates stand 27 large pillars, each engraved with one article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in German and one other language.
This monument is both visually stunning and also something that people walk past without really noticing. It’s a renouncement of the Nazi crimes of the past and also acts a permanent reminder that human rights are still regularly violated around the world.
I definitely recommend taking a few minutes out of your visit to Nuremberg to take a look at this sculpture.
Admire the Art and Architecture
For me, the architecture of a city is always one of the main attractions. I love nothing more than wandering around a new location taking in its character and history.
And Nuremberg is no exception to this. Although the Aldstadt was heavily damaged by Second World War air-raids, the following decades have seen it restored to its former glory.
So take a while during your visit to admire the architecture of Nuremberg, like its stunning churches such as St Elizabeth (above) and St Sebaldus (below).
Many of the churches are open for visitors, and entry is free. A donation of 2-3 Euro per person is suggested, so be sure to have some change handy. Or alternatively you could sign up for a guided tour. These will tell you more about the church’s history, and perhaps show you areas that aren’t open to the general public.
Other impressive buildings include the Altes Rathaus, or former Town Hall, which lies in the heart of the Old Town. This was partially designed by famous Nuremberger, Albrecht Dürer – more about him later!
But part of the charm of Nuremberg Old Town lies in the little side streets and alleyways that you find yourself wandering around.
My planned route for walking around the Old Town seemed to take twice as long as I expected. I just kept on getting distracted by yet another beautiful building!
And there are various walking tours of Nuremberg that are ideal to book onto, if you prefer to have a guide show you around your new city.
Nuremberg is also home to several impressive statues, sculptures and fountains, like the Ship of Fools (below)
And perhaps the oddest fountain is the Marriage Carousel. This can be found by the Weißer Turm (White Tower) U-Bahn stop, and is a surreal portrayal of marriage
The statue starts off with an optimistic portrayal of love, but things get darker. The couple eventually age, grow fat or frail and then both end up portrayed as gruesome skeletal figures.
There are also animals including a goat and a grotesque giant lizard!
It’s a controversial piece of public art, but one that is definitely worth seeing during your visit to Nuremberg!
Hauptmarkt and the Beautiful Fountain
One area of the Old Town that you absolutely have to see is the Hauptmarkt, or main market square.
I took the photo above on Sunday, which is why it looks so empty and quiet. But the rest of the week, it’s a thriving market square full of fantastic food stalls and street food vendors.
It’s also where the famous Nuremberg Christmas market is held every year, which is opened by the Christkind from the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).
The Hauptmarkt is also the location of one of Nuremberg’s most famous landmarks, the Schöner Brunnen or Beautiful Fountain.
This fountain was built in around 1385, and its 40 stone figures represent the world-view of the Holy Roman Empire.
The fountain is surrounded by iron railings which feature a seamless brass ring. This has been replaced several times since the railings were installed in the late sixteenth century.
And tradition says that if you make a wish while you are spining the ring, your wish will come true.
Is the tradition true? You’ll certainly see plenty of tourists clinging to the rails to take their turn at spinning the ring!
Another site in Nuremberg that you simply must visit during your stay in the city, is the famous Weiβgerbergasse.
This means Tanners’ Lane, and this pretty road would once have been filled with tanners making leather. It was obviously a profitable business, as many of the half-timbered houses had their own well and garden.
Nowadays, the lane is full of cafés, bars and small boutiques.
It’s a very picturesque part of town, and definitely somewhere you will want to visit while you are in Nuremberg.
But be prepared to wait for quite a while to take a photo with no people in it!
Try the local Food and Drink
And of course, while you’re in Nuremberg you will need to try out the local specialities.
These include the famous Nuremberg sausages, which apparently have to be skinny enough to fit through the keyhole in the city gates.
They’re big on flavour though, and three in a bread roll (Drei im Weggla) is a great snack on the move. Or head to one of Nuremberg’s many Bratwurst speciality restaurants, and order a pile of sausages with a heap of sauerkraut.
Nuremberg is also very famous for its Lebkuchen, or gingerbread. You can buy it in the UK, but I’m convinced tastes even better in its city of origin!
You can either buy this from the Lebkuchen Schmidt shop, or from their stall in the Hauptmarkt.
And there are many other delicious specialities to try out during your visit. One thing’s for certain, you certainly won’t go hungry!
Coming Soon: Nuremberg Food and Drink
Artisanal Shopping at the Handwerkerhof
And the Handwerkerhof, or Craft Workers’ Courtyard, is a charming taste of what Nuremberg may have been like in the past.
The Handwerkerhof sits in the shadow of the city walls’ Women’s Tower. It opened in 1971, and is full of little artisan workshops housed in half-timbered buildings.
Here you can buy handmade gifts such as personalised gingerbread delicacies, stained glass or intricate pewter jewellery. And you can often watch the artisans at work creating their products in their workshops.
There are also places to eat, if you are craving more of those delicious Nuremberg bratwurst!
But do be aware that like much of Nuremberg, a lot of the Handwerkerhof is closed on Sundays. I found a couple of the restaurants were open, but very little else.
The last stop on my list of things to do in Old Town Nuremberg is one that I actually had to miss out of my first trip to the city. Time just ran away from me…
Albrecht Dürer Haus
The German artist Albrecht Dürer is one of Nuremberg’s most famous sons, and you’ll see his likeness throughout the city. In fact, the city’s airport is named after him, and you’ll see his face in the U-bahn station on your way into the city!
Dürer was a highly influential artist during the Renaissance period, and is well known for his self-portraits. Before Dürer, artists didn’t generally paint images of themselves, or if they did they were anonymous portraits.
Dürer’s most famous self portrait hangs in the Munich Alte Pinakothek museum. But while in Nuremberg you can visit the house where he lived for nearly 20 years from 1509 onwards.
The Albrecht Dürer Haus museum offers a glimpse into life in the 16th century, and tours are provided by an actress playing the part of Dürer’s wife Agnes. Copies of Dürer’s work hang throughout the house and you can also see demonstrations of historical printing techniques.
Albrecht Dürer Haus is located near the Tiergartnertor, and there are plenty of good places to eat nearby.
The Albrecht Dürer Haus is open Tuesday-Sunday all year around. It also opens on Mondays in the summer months and during the Christmas market. Entrance costs 6 Euro for adults, or the Nuremberg Card covers admission to this museum.