If you’re looking for a picturesque German city, full of fairytale whimsy and half-timbered houses, Nuremberg is the place for you. However it’s not just a pretty face; the city has layers, and a tumultuous past intertwined with war, politics and genocide. I recommend spending at least two full days in Nuremberg and in this post, I share the top things to do and see while you’re there. I will also suggest two easy day trips, in case you can extend your trip. I was lucky enough to be there in late November for the Christmas markets; a fantastic time to see the city at its most festive. However, Nuremberg would be a great place to visit all year round.
The Imperial Castle
Nuremberg’s most popular tourist attraction is the Imperial Castle, an imposing structure upon a hill which offers fantastic views of the city. It was once the heart of the Holy Roman Empire, flaunting the wealth and power of the Empire. It later served as the residence of all German kings and emperors between 1050 and 1571. Inside, you can find a wide variety of artefacts dating back to the Middle Ages, including weapons, suits of armour, paintings and clothing. There are lots of information boards (in English and German). There’s even a chapel inside, built in the year 1200.
The Imperial Castle is excellent value for money with different tickets available. I recommend the combination ticket which you can use for the castle and Sinwell Bell Tower (built in the 2nd half of the 13th century). The combination ticket also gives you access to the famous Deep Well, which plummets to a depth of 50 metres. The well can only be visited with a tour guide (tours every 30 minutes).
After you’ve finished exploring the castle, why not stop in for lunch and a local red beer (Rotbier) at Hausbrauerei Altstadthof? This traditional brewery/restaurant has its own tap room and distillery. It’s best known for its organic red beer and single malt whiskey.
Imperial Castle tickets: Adults 7 euros / 6 euros reduced. Open April to October 3rd: daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. / October 4th to March: daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m
Strolling around the Old Town
One of the nicest things to do in Nuremberg is just wander, appreciating the beauty of the city around you. This 950-year-old-city was heavily bombed during World War II, but thankfully many of its mediaeval buildings in the Old Town (Altstadt) have been painstakingly restored. Everywhere you look there’s something pretty to photograph.
Make sure you don’t miss the following:
- Handwerkhof, an adorable cobbled courtyard built in the 1970s (despite its old timey appearance) full of shops selling handcrafted products.
- Old Town Hall (Nurnberger Rathaus) in the main market square, which also hosts the annual Christkindlesmarkt Christmas market.
- The 14th-century “Beauty Fountain” (Schöner Brunnen). A 19-metre Gothic fountain was built between 1385 and 1396. Superstitious folk touch the fountain’s gold ring for good luck!
- Fleischbrücke, Heubrücke and Museumsbrücke (three bridges which are ideal photography – or selfie! – spots).
- Hangman’s Tower (Henkerturm), a wall tower built between 1320-1323.
Memorium Nuremberg Trials
This fascinating exhibition goes into incredible depth about the Nuremberg trials, which took place between December 1946 and April 1949.The trials were for Nazi war criminals prosecuted after World War II. With a very detailed audio guide, you can learn who the defendants, judges and prosecutors were, the final sentences and how the world reacted before, during and after the trials. The building is still an active law court, but if there’s no session in place, you can sit in Courtroom 600 where the trials took place.
Memorium Nuremberg Trials tickets: Adults 7 euros / 5.50 euros reduced. Open Wednesday to Monday 9am/10am-6pm (seasonal opening times). Closed Tuesdays
Nuremberg has many beautiful churches, but three particularly stand out:
- St. Sebaldus Church (Sebalduskirche). This church embraces different design styles; the west side was built in the 13th century and combines Romanesque and early Gothic. The east side was built 100 years later in the Late Gothic style. Inside you can find sculptures, stained glass windows and the tomb of Saint Sebald, Nuremberg’s patron saint. Open daily 9.30am-6pm.
- St Lorenz church (Lorenzkirche). A spectacular twin-towered Gothic church, which dates back to the 14th century. Inside you can find a three-part organ (said to be one of the largest in the world), made up of 12,000 pipes. Open Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm. Sundays 1-3.30pm.
- Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche). This Gothic Roman Catholic church dates back to 1352 and can be found in Nuremberg’s main square, Hauptmarkt. Open daily 9.30am-6pm.
Congress Hall, Documentation Centre and Zeppelin field
It is very eerie visiting the site where Adolf Hitler held a series of Nazi party rallies between 1933 and 1938. I visited the Congress Hall (Kongresshalle), built to amplify the megalomania of the National Socialist regime. Covering 11 sq km and designed for 50,000 spectators, this huge structure would have been larger than Rome’s Colosseum if it had been completed.
I didn’t go to the Documentation Centre (Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände) as the permanent exhibition is currently closed for renovation. Instead I did a self-guided 1hr 30 tour of the grounds, stopping at information boards to learn what once stood there and its historical significance. You can also visit the Zeppelinfeld, a former site of Hitler’s rallies which was designed by Albert Speer.
Documentation Centre tickets: Adults 6 euros / 4.50 euros reduced. Documentation Centre open daily 10am-6pm. Congress Hall & Zeppelin field 9am-6pm weekdays, 10am-6pm weekends.
Day trips from Nuremberg:
- Bamberg. Only 40 minutes’ away by train, Bamberg is an absolute gem. Don’t miss the colourful Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) with facades full of frescoes, or the dramatic cathedral (Dom) which looms over the city. Visit the rose garden near the Dom for stunning views across the city. For lunch, visit Schlenkerla, Bamberg’s most famous restaurant and brewery known for its smoky beer and traditional Franconian cuisine.
- Munich. One of Germany’s most popular cities is only an hour away by train. Highlights include the town hall (Rathaus-Glockenspiel), St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche), Frauenkirche cathedral, the Englischer Garten park, the BMW museum and the outdoor market Viktualienmarkt. Make sure to order a traditional Weisswurst breakfast at Viktualienmarkt – thick, white sausages, served with pretzels, Bavarian sweet mustard and half a litre of wheat beer!
I hope this post has given you a lot of ideas about how to spend two days in Nurembeg. If you have any questions or recommendations to share, please leave them in the comments.
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow