If you’re planning to go and discover Nuremberg, Germany, you are in for a travel treat. Historic Nuremberg, with the Pegnitz River running through it, offers a picturesque Old Town complete with half-timbered buildings, winding lanes, a landmark castle, little shops, hanging flower baskets, and beer gardens.
As the second-largest city in Bavaria, Nuremberg is big enough to provide many choices for dining, stores with anything you may want, and a modern transportation system. At the same time, it’s small enough to feel cozy. Within the medieval walls, you will soon learn your way around and easily walk anywhere. The friendly people are a plus, too.
Here are things to know before your visit, so that you can fill your time with what interests you most. It’s an easy city to navigate, so your planning will involve less practical information and more about which sights you want to see. If you are lucky enough to stay even two days, you will be able to experience much of Nuremberg.
Center Your Visit In The Old Town
The 3-mile medieval wall finished in 1400 surrounds the Old Town, with 2.5 miles of it intact. Stay within the walled area for the atmosphere, cobblestone streets, and old pubs. You can opt for modern hotel chains that lie just outside the wall, but why not experience historic Nuremberg instead?
I stayed at an inn that dates to 1342, the Hotel Elch. The character of the building is preserved along with contemporary updates. The family-run inn features not only comfortable lodging but also helpful front desk people who can recommend restaurants within walking distance.
Put A Tour Of The Imperial Castle Of Nuremberg At The Top Of Your List
The stone tower, visible from anywhere in the Old Town, is part of the Imperial Castle, a must-see in Nuremberg. This stately castle was built in sections beginning in the year 1037. For centuries it housed German royalty who would travel from castle to castle, having no permanent residence.
Much of the Imperial Castle fell victim to World War II bombs. It’s been restored in the original style. The impressive Sinwell Tower miraculously escaped destruction. You can climb the winding wooden staircase inside to the top and know that those stairs likely date to the 18th century.
Other notable castle areas include the garden outside the castle walls. Note the circular bed in the middle of the garden, with its blooms surrounded by maple trees.
The Bower building in the courtyard houses the Imperial Castle Museum. Explore the history of the castle, military aspects of that history, and archeological findings from the castle grounds.
The deep well next to the tower displays the method of assuring a water supply. In case of a siege, a castle’s access to water meant life or death. The well goes down more than 160 feet into solid rock. Imagine pulling off that feat of engineering in the 14th century.
Pro Tip: Climb to the top of the tower if you are able to handle the stairs and take in the breathtaking view of Nuremberg. The sea of red tile roofs below is quite a sight.
Go Underground At The Art Bunker
You can go under the Imperial Castle as well as touring it above ground. And this is a fascinating tour that allows you to see the Art Bunker as it was during World War II.
Since the 14th century, according to the records, the rock beneath the castle has covered underground vaults and passageways with a total area of about 82,000 square feet. When you make your way along the tunnels, remember that these are not natural caves. Workers laboriously dug them out of the native rock. And the purpose involved beer. Because of their cool temperature, these cellars — going as far as four stories down — were ideal for making and storing beer.
When WWII broke out, Germans searched for hiding places for art, stained-glass windows, jewels, and other treasures. The tunnel system under the castle was the perfect hideout. Guards on duty round the clock ate and slept in the tunnels. You will see their bunks still there today. At war’s end, the valuables were returned to other countries or kept in Nuremberg. The stained-glass windows from cathedrals, for example, were put back in place.
To tour the bunker, buy tickets around the corner. Check the website for hours, as tours may be offered only once a day.
Shop Till You Drop In Nuremberg
Nuremberg is a shopping mecca for people who live anywhere nearby. And when you visit, you too can shop to your heart’s content.
Find stores with name brands and trendy merchandise along Nuremberg’s best-known shopping street, the Karolinenstrasse. The Kaiserstrasse is an elegant section of luxury stores and designer fashion. If you’re looking for something quirky or eccentric, shop along the Breite Gasse.
Check the city’s website for more information on shopping.
Pro Tip: Head to Karolinenstrasse to find items you may not have packed but need for your trip. I arrived in Nuremberg in October and wasn’t prepared for the chilly temperatures. I ran into a store and picked up a merino wool scarf that I ended up wearing every day, as well as a merino wool sweater that kept me warm.
Explore World War II History At The Documentation Center And Rally Grounds
Nuremberg holds a remarkable place in the history of Germany in WWII. One reason is that Adolf Hitler built rally grounds here where he conducted massive Nazi Party rallies from 1933 to 1938. The acres of grounds sit vacant, and you can walk around them and imagine what took place there. Adjacent is an excellent museum. Together these sights are known as the Documentation Center and Rally Grounds. The exhibitions give a comprehensive picture of the National Socialist dictatorship as well as the history of the rallies. The museum occupies a building Hitler started but never finished. The museum was created with the hope that by showing what happened, such horror would never happen again.
Visit The Courtroom Where The Nuremberg Trials Took Place
If you are interested in WWII history, plan to go to the Palace of Justice, where the Nuremberg Trials took place in 1945 and 1946. The Nuremberg Trials Memorial, an information and documentation center, is on the top floor of the courthouse. And the actual location of the trials, courtroom 600, is still in use.
On A Rainy Day, Head To The Train Museum
If rain is in the forecast, spend time inside at the German Railway Museum. Nuremberg has been a rail hub for two centuries. This museum is built on old tracks and contains full-size retired train cars as well as displays on trains through the decades. A viewing gallery provides seating while you marvel at the large model railroad. Check times for a demonstration by the master engineer. You are sure to enjoy the romance of the vintage trains in this fine museum. And you’ll be dry and warm, too.
Relax With The Efficient Transportation Options
Public transportation options both to Nuremberg and within the city are extensive and efficient. If you are coming by train, you can choose either the Inter-City-Express (ICE) trains, which are the fastest and most luxurious, or the Inter-City (IC) and Euro-City (EC) trains. These regional trains are often slower but cost less. Plan your journey using the Deutsche Bahn website.
The Nuremberg Airport is a few miles out of town. You can take an underground train from the airport to the central train station.
You can walk from the train station to your accommodations if you are staying in the Old Town. If you would rather not walk with your luggage, opt for public transportation or a taxi.
Once in Nuremberg, you can take buses, the underground, and the tram to go wherever you like. Find information and tips and plan your routes at the VGN website.
With the Nuremberg Card, all public transportation is free. Look on the website to see what other attractions you plan to visit and calculate whether this would be a good buy for your trip.
Pro Tip: Buy your train ticket for the next leg of your Europe journey when you arrive by train in Nuremberg. If you wait until you leave, the ticket may be more expensive.
Come For Magical Christmas Cheer
The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is world famous. It’s one of the oldest and most popular Christmas Markets. Wooden booths form “the little city of wood and cloth” and take over the cobblestone streets to form a magical holiday celebration. Mulled wine, gingerbread, and roasted almonds smell delicious. More than 180 stands offer sweet treats, drinks, toys and games, and decorations.
The Christmas Market on the Main Square of Nuremberg’s Old Town opens the first Sunday in Advent. Plan your visit far ahead, if possible, so you can find lodging. Then go and enjoy a sparkling holiday.
Nuremberg is a pleasant blend of centuries of history and modern life. You can savor a meal at the Goldenes Posthorn, built in 1498 and still serving delicious dishes. Wander on ancient lanes and shop for the latest model designer watch. Stay in an inn dating back hundreds of years with convenient Internet and same-day laundry services. Walk in the shadows of St. Sebaldus Church and its twin steeples. Take a day trip to nearby Rothenburg. You’ll have no problems filling your stay with amazing memories.
I first went to Nuremberg as a late addition to a European itinerary. It was a convenient stop along the train line from point A to point B. I later went back because I fell in love with Nuremberg. I think you will love it, too.
Centuries of history blend with modern life in this quaint German city, one of many idyllic destinations in Bavaria: