Nuremberg is a perfect blend of the old and the modern, with a heaping serving of delicious food to enjoy. It is tucked away just off the German Autobahn, offering a relaxing place to visit that’s more compact than other German cities such as Munich and Berlin. It borders the Danube River, so cruise ships often dock here for the day. Many people have just one day here and will want to make the most of their time.
Before you go, you’ll want to know a bit of the recent history of Nuremberg. During World War II, it was a German center of activity, and it was bombed heavily. About 90 percent of the city stood in ruins at the war’s end. Much of what you see today is reconstructed in the original style. This contrasts with some cities that chose to start over with modern buildings. So, Nuremberg appears as medieval Germany did, and if you’re interested, you can search out what genuinely dates back centuries.
Much of the stone wall around the old town survives. The central area of Nuremberg is walkable and will keep you busy. Here are some highlights within the circular wall to help you plan out your day.
Imperial Castle Of Nuremberg
The Imperial Castle of Nuremberg dates to 1037. Through the years, residents added onto the structure. German kings traveled from castle to castle, having no permanent home, so for centuries this castle housed royalty who would come and go. Many emperors of the Holy Roman Empire stayed at the castle between 1050 and 1571. One of them, Charles IV, published a decree that every newly elected ruler of Germany would hold their first administrative assembly in Nuremberg.
The castle was updated and redecorated several times. Heavily damaged during World War II, the castle is now restored to its pre-war, medieval style with touches of Romanesque and late Gothic architecture that survived the bombing.
You’ll first come to a pleasant garden, then you climb a short path to the top of the hill and enter the castle courtyard. A small museum is housed here and displays artwork, including stained glass with battle scenes. If you’re up for a few stairs, climb Sinwell Tower using the spiral wooden staircase. The views from the top over the orange-colored roofs of Nuremberg are worth the huffing and puffing.
The castle is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is under 10 euros. Allow about an hour to see the castle.
Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds
Nuremberg hosted massive Nazi rallies and other activities in the 1930s, just prior to World War II. The Documentation Center, next door to the rally grounds, is now a museum that explains in depth what took place here. Exhibits also tell of Germany’s history during World War II. Those who run the museum say that they hope by educating people on the Nazi regime, such horror will never happen again. As about a quarter of a million visitors come from all over the world each year, the center’s message of tolerance and compassion enjoys a wide reach.
A little background: Beginning when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Nuremberg hosted Party Rallies on these grounds. At the museum, you’ll find yourself standing where the crowds stood and hailed Hitler as a hero. You’ll be at the center of a dark era of history. As you tour the excellent displays in the brick structure, you’ll learn about the growth of a dictatorship. Portions of the tour focus on the Holocaust. The resistance is honored. The final rooms tell about the post-war trials of Nazis, also held in Nuremberg. Spending a few hours in the Documentation Center will give you an overview of events during the war and an enriched outlook on the triumph of freedom.
The Documentation Center is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. A ticket is under 10 euros. Allow about two hours for your visit.
A warren of tunnels runs under the old town of Nuremberg. You can tour the Art Bunker, which is in a tunnel system directly under the castle that was originally built to store beer. It served as a hiding place for art during World War II. Hitler and just a few of his trusted men knew about the Art Bunker. Paintings, jewels, stained glass windows from cathedrals, and other valuables remained hidden here until the end of the war. Guards stayed in the bunker round the clock to protect the collections. An air-conditioning system and moisture-proof rooms helped preserve the art.
When the war ended, some of the treasures went back into place in Nuremberg, while other items were sent by the Allies to different countries. For example, you’ll see a photo of the crown jewels kept here in wartime. These are now in Vienna.
If you’ve seen the movie The Monuments Men, you know the story of the Art Bunker. It’s fascinating to go underground to wind through the tunnels and imagine the riches that once lined the walls of this cellar.
Tours run every day at 2:30 and in addition Friday at 5:30, Saturday at 11:30 and 5:30, and Sunday at 11:30. The tours are in German, but audio guides are available. A tour in English is offered Saturday at 3:30. Tickets are under 10 euros and are available at the train station and the Albrecht Durer House. Be sure to purchase tickets before showing up to your tour, as no tickets are sold at the entrance to the bunker. The meeting place is Obere Schmiedgasse 52. Plan for about an hour and a half.
Another underground tour to enjoy is Red Beer in Deep Cellars. Beer is a tradition in Germany, and even today Nuremberg produces a signature barley deep red beer. First mentioned in the 1300s, beer making took place under the city in cellars dug out of sandstone.
This tour is offered every day at 5:30. The ticket price -- under 15 euros per person -- includes a mug of Nuremberg’s finest at the end of the tour.
German Railway Museum
Do you enjoy the romance of trains? Then you will want to include the German Railway Museum in your plans. Today, Nuremberg is a rail hub with a bustling station, and it has quite a history with the railroad. The first train in Germany puffed along the tracks from Nuremberg to nearby Furth in 1835. Called the Adler, this steam train sometimes ran on coal and was sometimes pulled by horses when coal ran out. A replica of the Adler is displayed in the museum.
This museum is built on old tracks and contains full-size retired train cars as well as displays on trains through the decades. It’s also home to a large model railroad involved in demonstrations by the master engineer. If you visit Nuremberg on a rainy day, duck into this museum for an hour or two, stay dry, and be transported to an era when trains ruled the world of transportation.
The German Railway Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. A ticket is under 10 euros.
Albrecht Durer House
Near the castle you’ll find a large, half-timbered house that’s marked as the home of Albrecht Durer from 1509 to 1528. Durer is Germany's most famous artist, and his house is the only surviving 15th-century artist's house in Northern Europe. An actress playing Durer's wife Agnes leads tours. Exhibits include items from the city's art collections, along with copies of Durer's paintings. In the workshop, you can view a demonstration of historical printing techniques.
The Durer House is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, it is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are under 10 euros.
Eating In Nuremberg
Lunch at the Goldenes Posthorn is a delight. In the center of the historic Old Town, this restaurant opened in 1498. Famous people including Albrecht Durer and Richard Wagner dined here. And if the history of the place doesn’t entice you, come for the food. The macaroni and cheese dish I ordered was heavenly.
You can also find restaurants offering various types of cuisine if you stroll along the Kaiserstrasse and Karolinenstrasse shopping areas in the Old Town area. Venture down side streets for more choices and a view of the canal.
Shopping In Nuremberg
Whether you want to shop till you drop or just run in a store and pick out something you need, you will be happy in Nuremberg. From everyday clothing to luxury watches and jewelry, the outdoor shopping district running through the Old Town will offer it. I hit Nuremberg during a cold spell and picked up a wool scarf and a sweater for reasonable prices. The streets lined with shops are Kaiserstrasse and Karolinenstrasse.
Where To Stay In Nuremberg
On my first visit to Nuremberg, I chose a hotel that turned out to be the oldest standing hotel in the walled Old Town area, built in the 14th century. The outside may be historic, but the inside is modern and staffed by friendly folks. Hotel Elch is only a block from the medieval wall and a couple of blocks from the castle. The buffet breakfast is luscious. I returned for a second visit and it felt like a home away from home.
Nuremberg offers winding lanes lined with half-timbered buildings, a pleasant canal off the Danube River, plenty of good food, historic places to explore, and shopping. It just may become one of your favorite cities!
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