The Centre of the German Renaissance
Just 2 weeks since the last time we’ve been to Germany, in Stuttgart, we return to another of the cities we’ve never been before taking advantage of these really cheap low season flights right before the Christmas peak when the costs increase dramatically. Unfortunately we knew we would not be able to enjoy the world famous Christmas market in this occasion, as it was due for opening in 3 weeks after our visit, but at least we finally managed to come to this beautiful city avoiding a hefty cost.
I must say after this weekend I might have found some of my all-time favourite big cities in Germany, especially for adding the nearby “cake-dream” masterpiece city of Bamberg, an UNESCO World Heritage listed. Nuremberg is one of the most historic and traditional, where bearing the lost of 90% of its buildings during the WWII bombing raids, it was rebuilt afterwards to its pre-war medieval look. Not in full since half of its original historic centre was lost forever, but greatly enough comparing to all other cites of similar size that suffered the same fate. While there are hundreds of smaller cities so beautiful, with their typical timber-frame colourful houses towards the east and south of the country, and the brick Gothic Hanseatic cities of the north; Nuremberg is in the other hand a good combination of both, containing a wide variety of architectural styles from every epoch. In a sense like Bremen is, but larger and even more imposing.
A weekend is perfect and good enough to visit every bit of Nuremberg and nearby Bamberg without any rush but giving you plenty of time to also enjoy some nice food, cake and coffee or some beer at any of the nice Bavarian breweries yet beware of the sizes! In this part of Germany a litre glass is the usual; not that I would mind but it gets you drank without realising.
Food-wise is the same story. Big sizes everywhere, great quality and competitive prices. Of course some tourist traps apply but are easy to avoid by comparing few restaurants / breweries beforehand. The most traditional dish is the Nürnberger Bratwurst (grilled sausage). I love sausages, especial German ones, but this one is not my favourite because of the stronger pork flavour. If you like pork then you will love it. And of course, the Nürnberger Lebkuchen, a kind of gingerbread eaten mainly around Christmas time that you can anyway find all year round.
Visiting the city is easy and straightforward, if you look at the map you will soon realise where the old town is, in a square-ish shape and completely surrounded by its original medieval walls. Over 90% of them survived intact till today with dozens of towers, bastions and gates. They are an unique sight on their own however if you plan on walking the entire perimeter this will take you hours. At the north is the castle and highest point in the city from where you can see all Nuremberg down below, with all the major landmarks in a north-south orientation where the central squares are at both sides of the river. It is by the riverside that you will need to diver west and east to admire the many bridges and that beautiful medieval granaries and old buildings everywhere. Nothing too complicated as you can see in the list below about the sights, I recreated our best route around.
For more information about Nuremberg check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Germany’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Nuremberg
- North of the city The most traditional part of the city with some of the oldest buildings still standing. While I will only list the most important constructions in this list, bear in mind it comes the case where entire streets are completely full of medieval buildings that you will see as you walk though the city.
-Castle Located at the northwestern corner of the historic old town is one of the city’s sights not to be missed. It is composed of more structures other than the palace building itself, all of which coming together at the Courtyard.
-The Round Tower (Sinwellturm) Easy to spot, self described. If you access the castle museum then you can climb this tower to get nice views of the city.
-Five Corner Tower The oldest building of the castle and city, built before 1050.
-Heidenturm (Health Tower) One of the largest towers, right by the corner of the main Palace building.
-Tiefer Brunnen (Deep Well) In the main courtyard.
-Kaiserkapelle (Emperor’s Chapel) Also possible to visit when on a tour in the castle.
-Kaiserstallung East of the castle itself but belonging to the same compounds. it was built as a granary for the city, at 2 floors plus 5 attics, and a tower on each side, the Fünfeckturm at the west (original) and the Luginsland (reconstructed after WWII). Nowadays used as a hostel.
-Bürgermeistergarten The Castle gardens are surrounding the castle itself from the north and west and continue through the city walls and bastions.
-City Walls Surrounding pretty much from the northwest by the castle, then south, turning east towards the train station. They are almost complete with its towers, bastions and gates with just few sections missing.
-Paniersplatz This triangular shaped square not far from the Kaiserstallung contains some nice reconstructed buildings although its appearance does not have the original look once it had. Farther east is already outside from the original old town.
-Burgstraße The main street from the castle heading south towards the political and religious centre of the city, the City Hall Square and the cathedral. Completely filled with beautiful architecture.
-Albrecht Dürer Platz On the parallel street to Burgstraße, this small square provides the northern access to the important Sebalder Platz.
-Sebalder Platz One of the most beautiful squares in Nuremberg, home to glorious buildings on each side.
-Old City Hall One of the most imposing buildings in the city, a rare exception of Renaissance architecture in a mostly Gothic city.
-St. Sebaldus Church Originally built in 1275 in Romanesque style. Expanded from the 14th century, giving a late Gothic appearance, with a 17th century Baroque interior.
-Vicar of St. Sebald Another Gothic masterpiece, with its characteristic pillar and enclosed balcony.
-Weinmarkt Immediatelly west from the St. Sebaldus Church, another great little square leading towards the most beautiful street, Weißgerbergasse.
-Weißgerbergasse Heading west after Weinmarkt and ending by the Maxplatz next to the Pegnitz River. Plenty of traditional bars, restaurants and galleries.
-Schlayerturm This medieval bridge-tower connects both banks of the river interconnecting the city walls. A side path bridge is now in use to cross the river.
-Pegnitz Riverside west Once you reach the Schlayerturm you will have great views of this part of the city, with the little island in the middle and the bridges.
-Maxbrücke Connects Maxplatz to the south of the city. It’s worth to come to the middle of this bridge to get the best picture of the Pegnitz Island and the wooden bridge linking both sides with the towers at both sides.
-Henkersteg This wooden bridge is an attraction on itself connecting the south bank to the middle of the island.
-Unschlitthaus Traditional medieval warehouse on the banks of the river right by the starting point of the Henkersteg bridge.
-Henkershaus The next section of the bridge connecting from the middle of the island to the north bank of the river, is a medieval house-bridge, now a museum.
-Weinstadel The medieval warehouse on the north bank of the river complements this entire area of buildings, bridges and towers.
-Trödelmarkt The Flea Market is the actual little island on the Pegnitz River. Oval-shaped has only a row of houses around the central square. The bridges on the western point are the ones explained above, and a further bridge crosses through the centre (the Karlsbrücke).
-Karlstraße This major street connects the Trödelmarkt with the Weinmarkt at the north. If you walk towards the intersection with Augustinerstraße, this will lead you towards the Main Square (Hauptmarkt), next to the Old City Hall mentioned before, so you can continue through your tour before finally crossing to the south of the city.
-Hauptmarkt This square is world renowned for its Christmas market. Seen everywhere, adverts, movies, etc. The only downside is the reconstruction after WWII, it could have been way better than this.
-Building at N25 Easy to spot, in the corner of this square with the Sebalder Platz, the only one with paintings in its facade.
-Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) A symbol of the city, this fountain was built between 1385, made to look like the top of a church tower.
-New Town Hall Horrible, not sure how they permitted to build such poor architecture, comparing to the extraordinary Old Town Hall just meters north.
-Frauenkirche (Our Lady’s Church) Is the icon in the square. Built between 1352 and 1362 in pure Gothic style at the eastern side. One of its key features is the 1506 clock Männleinlaufen; it commemorates the Golden Bull of 1356 and when activated at midday there is a procession of the electors around the figure of the Holy Roman Emperor.
-Fleischbrücke and Museum Bridges Both crossing the Pegnitz River from the Hauptmarkt. Through the Museum Bridge one reaches the largest commercial street in the city, the Königstraße that runs southwards to the train station.
-Heilig-Geist-Spital (Hospital of the Holy Spirit) On the bank of the river, was founded in 1332. The best views of it is from the Museum Bridge.
- South of the city The other half of the city across the river contains the major shopping and commercial areas. Proposing a triangular-shaped tour here, start heading west and south from Lorenzer Platz, to then return back up from the main train station along the Königstraße.
-Lorenzer Platz One of the most beautiful and well known in the city, completely surrounded in great architecture.
-St Laurence Church The main body was built around 1270, with the late Gothic choir completed in 1477. Bearing the damages suffered during WWII it was rebuilt after the original plans.
-Adlerstraße and Karolinenstraße Both heading west from Lorenzer Platz on Königstraße. Important shopping areas with beautiful architecture.
-Josephsplatz At the end of Adlerstraße you start reaching the main squares in this part of the city.
-Ludwigsplatz The next square, linked to previous Josephsplatz in the north and to Karolinenstraße in the south, is the most important and beautiful in this area.
-Fountain Incredibly elaborated, pay attention at each of the statues and sculptures.
-Weißer Turm Built at around 1250 and originally serving as a tollgate. It has the clock tower itself and the gates on the opposite side.
-Jakobsplatz Right in the behind of the tollgate of the Weißer Turm has some great buildings around and makes for a nice picture of both churches and the Weißer Turm in behind.
-St. Elisabeth Church Built between 1785-1803 in neo-classical style has a dome not to be missed, with the statues of the 12 apostles.
-Jacobs Church A Romanesque chapel in origin in the 13th century. Rebuilt and enlarged through the centuries. It is the starting point for the Middle Franconia Pilgrimage Way to Rothenburg.
-Waffenhof mit Spittlertorturm Continuing behind of the Jacobs Church along the small Ottostraße Street you will reach this tower, gate and garrison from the medieval fortifications. Nowadays it is a branch of the Garrison Museum of Nuremberg.
-Frauentorgraben This avenue at the very south of the historic old town runs parallel to the medieval walls which are still intact and it’s a very worthy walk to enjoy some great views of the fortifications.
-State Theatre Very opulent and grand architecture, opened in 1906.
-German National Railways Museum Right behind the State Theatre, is the best in Germany of its kind and one of the oldest in Europe, included in the European Route of Industrial Heritage.
-Hauptbahnhof The central train station built in the 1900 in neo-baroque style is a great piece of architecture.
-Frauentor The medieval Main Gate to the old city is intact in here, together with the western section of the walls attached. It’s at the front of the train station.
-Königstraße The main commercial street in Nuremberg linking the train station with the river at the heart of the old town. It starts at the other side of the Frauentor.
-St Martha Church A bit hidden but just few meters from the Frauentor on Königstraße, dating originally from 1363, in Gothic style.
-St Clare Church Few meters ahead from St Martha. Built in 1270 in Romanesque style, rebuilt in Gothic style in the 15th century.
-Hotel Deutscher Kaiser Like many buildings in this street, of impressive architecture. One of the top hotels within the old town.
-Mauthalle One of the most important medieval buildings in the city, built in 1498 as the grandest of all the granaries built in Nuremberg. In total there were 12 of such storehouses built back in the days.
- Southeast of the city While there is not much more to see from a tourist perspective outside of the old town core, here you can find the huge Nazi Party Rally Grounds.
-Nazi Party Rally Grounds Planned by Hitler’s architect Albert Speer, bearing and/or forgetting about their original usage for such a terrible regime; their value architectural-wise is huge hence their protected listing. Today they serve as a memorial. The most impressive of them all is the Congress Hall, designed as a Roman Amphitheatre, and the Zeppelinfeld with its Golden Hall inside the tribune. The trams 6 or 9 takes you directly to the Congress Hall (the 9 from the Hauptbahnhof might be handy), or by S-Bahn to Frankenstadion.
The International Airport serves a large amount of destinations both national and European routes. For inter-continental routes you will need to make a stop-over at other major German cities. The airport is the only one in the country to be linked to the city centre by a metro line, the U2 which takes you directly to the central train station where you can interchange to any of the other metro lines of the city.
Coming overland is another good option. High-speed trains criss-cross Germany and Nuremberg is a big junction linking the south to the north, west to the east and beyond into neighbouring countries. But it’s not only the trains, but a huge network of long distance buses and the Pan-European bus routes.
Within the city, bearing the metro, tram and bus networks, all of them using the same ticketing system, there is a modest network of suburban railways to the nearby metropolitan cities, of especial importance to the tourists, the S1 from Hauptbahnhof to Bamberg. As for the historic core of the city you will not need any transportation at all. Half of the streets and squares are pedestrian friendly and walking is you best option. Distances are short, and unless your accommodation is on the outskirts of the city then you will not need any public transportation at all bearing that to/form the airport.
As for any major city and of such importance tourism and business-like, the amount of hotels in Nuremberg is a good reflection of these facts. You have a great selection of any kind from the top of the range to more modest and anything in between. However, remember key dates like summer months and Christmas time, both are the most expensive seasons not only in hotels, but also to find a flight deal.
A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We found a great deal at the Derag Livinghotel, in Obere Kanalstrasse 11, not far south west from the old city centre and near the Gostenhof metro stations on Line 1 and the Plärrer station on Line 2. Great location to be honest, few minutes walking distance to the Waffenhof mit Spittlertorturm and Frauentorgraben Street, right by the southwestern section of the medieval walls. Considering there was not too much choice available when we started to make our research little over 10 days before our arrival date, this came as the perfect choice, a 4* property with nice facilities. It did not come with breakfast included hence I cannot comment on this if it was any good or bad, however the room was nice, large and well maintained, a full kitchenette with all appliances and plenty of space in the living room, separate from the bed itself. The staff were very polite and friendly who took our wishes at first instance, while small details as free coffee/tea and apples in the lobby at any time makes a difference with any other hotel.
Album from the most recent trip
Album from the 2016 trip