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Nuremberg Old Town, Germany just won me over with its maze of historical lanes connected by stunning bridges over the river,1000-year-old castle, and great Franconian food and beer. I could walk around the medieval center for hours and never get enough.
Located about two hours from Munich, Nuremberg (spelled Nürnberg in German) is the second largest city of Bavaria, Germany as well as the unofficial capital of Franconia. This 950-year-old town features plenty of sights and history. In this article, I’ll tell you what to see in Nuremberg and how to make the best out of your visit.
Interested in exploring Bavaria? Check out my other article Best day trips from Munich here.
Things To Do in Nuremberg Old Town
Nuremberg Old Town is the best explored on foot: with its gorgeous streets and half-timber houses. All you need are comfortable shoes, a backpack, map, and camera, and to just get out there and explore; on one day of my trip I managed to stay out for 9 hours without going back to my hostel.
With its majestic city walls, it is easy to differentiate the Nuremberg Old Town from other parts of the town. Pretty much all places located within it are worthwhile; you can always discover a new bridge or alley.
If you are arriving from Main Station, I would recommend that you start your walking tour near the Frauentorturm and continue in the direction of the Imperial Castle. The following are my favorite things to see in Nuremberg Old Town.
TOP 10 Things to do in Nuremberg, Germany
- St. Lawrence church
- Hospital of Holy Spirit (Heiling-Geist Spital)
- The Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche)
- Main Market Square
- Beautiful fountain, featuring a golden ring to turn and make a wish
- St. Sebaldus church
- Weissgerbergasse (Tanner gasse)
- Albrecht Dürer House
- Nuremberg Imperial Castle (also see the Deep Well, Simwell tower and gardens)
If you are spending at least one night in Nuremberg, you can buy the “Nürnberg Card.” It costs 25 € and it is a good thing to have because it includes free admission to 49 museums and attractions and free travel on all public transportation services in Nuremberg (as well as neighboring Fuerth) over a two-day period.
Nuremberg Imperial Castle
With its rich history dating back to the times of the Roman Empire, this medieval castle is truly one of to best things to see in Nuremberg. A classic landmark, this place offers some of the best views and photo opportunities in town.
The weather during my visit was simply too good to spend much time in a museum, so I skipped the guided tour through the interior. However, there is an incredibly interesting presentation that takes place in the Deep Dwell in the first court of the castle. The dwell is 50 meters deep and was built over the course of 10 years. During the presentation, the guide sent a camera down there so we could experience it on the TV. The presentation only took about 20 minutes and was both interesting and entertaining. It takes place once every hour.
An amazing panorama can be observed from the 13th century Sinwell Tower, the highest point of the castle. Both the Sinwell tower and Deep Dwell are free to enter, as long as you have the Nuremberg card. If you have some more time and good weather, I recommend spending extra time in the castle gardens. They are free to enter and incredibly peaceful: enjoy some rest before further exploration.
Sights Related to World War II & the Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg has been an important place at several times in German history: once the cradle of the German Renaissance, it was later one of the main centers of the Third Reich (Nazi Germany). It was in Nuremberg that the Nuremberg Laws denying German citizenship for Jewish people were passed.
Needless to say, the city paid a high price: systematic bombings in 1945 resulted in 1800 victims and a further 100,000 people losing their homes. The bombing destroyed the Nuremberg Old Town nearly completely: within one hour, 90 percent of the town was erased from the map. In total, about 6,000 Nuremberg residents are estimated to have been killed in air raids.
When World War 2 ended, the Nuremberg Trials were held (between 1945 and 1949, 13 trials in total). One of the darkest chapters of German history were openly discussed here, resulting in major penalties for the leaders of the regime. Nowadays, the Nuremberg trials are considered a milestone in the establishment of a permanent international court, which deals with topics like genocide and other crimes against humanity).
What are the best places to visit in Nuremberg to learn about World War 2 history? Most important sites are museums such as the following:
Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice – a place where the 1945 Nuremberg trials were held. Unless there is a trial going on, it’s possible to see legendary courtroom 600 where 21 Nazi war criminals were tried and convicted.
Former Nazi Party Rally Grounds – the largest still intact monumental structure built by the National Socialists. It was completed in 1933 and hosted six of Hitler’s biggest Nazi Party rallies.
World War 2 Art Bunker – the Old Town’s deepest medieval sandstone beer cellar preserved many priceless art treasures from the bombs of WW2. It served as a bunker and was later transformed into an art gallery.
Kongresshalle – the headquarters of the Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds, which was a meeting place of the Third Reich. Here, you can gain further insight into Nazi Germany and the Nuremberg Trials.
Underground World: Touring the Rock-Cut Cellars
It is pretty surprising, but there is another complete world awaiting under the surface of Nuremberg Old Town. This extensive labyrinth of subterranean passageways and cellar vaults has a long history going back to the 14th century. It’s connected to the Nuremberg’s traditional red beer tradition: the beer was stored in the subterranean cellars, which had been cut into the castle sandstone.
This maze of a halls and passageways has been used during the air raids of World War II, and many citizens found shelter there. Nowadays, it is possible to visit the rock-cut cellars and the guided tour is one of the best things to do in Nuremberg. Big thanks to my guide Jürgen, who explained all about the city’s history and without whom I would probably never have found my way out.
The tour takes about one hour. It’s free with the Nuremberg card, and there is a beer tasting included in the end. You can make a reservation in the tourist office to secure your spot. The meeting point is at Hausbrauerei Altstadthof. It is good idea to bring along some warm clothes; it’s pretty chilly down there. More info here.
Where to stay: Best hostel in Nuremberg
There are not so many hostels in Nuremberg, as one would expect. During my visit, I stayed at the Five Reasons Hostel, conveniently located in Nuremberg Old Town inside of the city fortifications. All the main sights were just short walk away. They offer spacious rooms, clean bathrooms and a shared kitchen. You can order breakfast, too. That’s why I think it’s one of the best hostels in Nuremberg.
The hostel is just around the corner from Germanisches Nationalmuseum and a place called Way of Human Rights (Straße der Menschenrechte), a monumental outdoor sculpture and interesting place to visit. I passed there every day on my way from the hostel to the sights in the old town. There are signs in many languages; I even found a Czech on there.
What to eat and drink in Nuremberg Old Town
Nuremberg is pretty famous for its culinary delights and beer. With a variety of great restaurants in Nuremberg Old Town, you will never go hungry on your trip. You should definitely try the legendary sausages called Nürnberger Bratwürste. On the street, it is common to buy them in a roll, and restaurants usually serve them with Sauerkraut or potato salad.
Other Franconian local specialties such as a crispy “Schäufele” pork shoulder or pan-fried carp are also worth a try. This food is pretty heavy, so make sure to get really hungry before. Of course, beer is always the right accompaniment. Trying out some of the beers produced by local Franconian breweries is one of the coolest things to do in Nuremberg. I was surprised the restaurants and bars were serving more bottled beer than beer from the tap.
Gaststätte Trödelstuben: my favorite place to eat in Nuremberg. It’s a traditional restaurant with a cute terrace. The best time to eat is the late afternoon, so that you can enjoy the last of the sunshine. Inside the restaurant is interesting, too. The food is simply amazing.
Albrecht-Dürer-Stuben: located in a in a hidden passageway near the main square. Great food, cool location. For lunch, they offer a large outdoor terrace. Sometimes it’s very popular, so it is a good idea to make a reservation.
Bratwursthäusle: this is the best place to try traditional sausages. The restaurant is located in the old city at Rathausplatz 1. You can see many tourists there. € 5.50 for six sausages.
FINAL TIP: Best place to rest and enjoy the sunshine
Visiting cities is not about endless hours of sightseeing; it is a good idea to find some time to rest and enjoy the atmosphere. During my trip, the weather was close to 30ºC and I found an amazing place to enjoy the sunshine: Schütt Island. It is a green island located within the center where locals go to read books, walk, or just enjoy the fresh air. It is one of the best places to visit in Nuremberg in spring and summer; I was one week too early, but there is a beach with real sand. So pack your bikini and start planning your trip to Nuremberg. The city is truly worthwhile!
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