The second-largest city in Bavaria after Munich, Nuremberg has long been one of the country’s most important centres for the arts, culture and science. Although it’s often still associated with the Nazis, Nuremberg rallies and the famous trials that took place here, over the last few decades it has worked hard to change its image and challenge its past.
Lying along the Pegnitz River and Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, it initially flourished in the Middle Ages and later served as the Holy Roman Empire’s unofficial capital for centuries. Despite suffering heavy bombing during WWII, its Altstadt still contains pockets of attractive half-timbered houses. Presiding over everything is the immense Nuremberg Castle, one of Europe’s largest along with its city walls.
Dotted about are interesting museums and historic sights, some of which unflinchingly examine the horrors inflicted by the Nazi regime. One of the best things to do in Nuremberg is attending its magical Christmas market. With astounding artworks by Durer to see and numerous folk festivals to take part in, Nuremberg is a great place to visit at any time of year.
Map of Tourist Attractions in Nuremberg
In this post, we'll cover:
One of the most picturesque parts of the city, the wonderful Weinstadel lies by the Maxbrucke along the north bank of the Pegnitz River. The largest half-timbered house in Germany, it makes for some fabulous photos, what with the glinting waters before it.
Built in 1446, it was originally used as a hospice before later serving as a wine storage facility. Now a student dormitory, the historic building was heavily damaged during WWII though has thankfully since been restored.
Together with the old stone bridge and sturdy tower alongside it, the handsome house creates some perfect photo opportunities. Just one of the Old Town’s many architectural treasures, it is located not far from countless other attractions and museums.
22. Walk the City Walls
One of the most fun things to do in Nuremberg is to walk along the incredibly old city walls that encircle its atmospheric Altstadt. Aside from enjoying the enthralling history and architecture, you can drink in fine views from the ramparts.
Remarkably well-preserved, the phenomenal red brick fortifications stretch roughly four kilometers in total and are punctuated by a stunning seventy towers and gates. Continually strengthened between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries, they were only ever bested once; by the Americans in WWII.
Although they were smaller and less imposing than we imagined, ambling along the top of the walls was still fun. The best part for us was along the city’s western side, leading up to its colossal castle complex. Here too, you pass medieval gates and look out over gorgeous gardens and rooftops.
21. German Railway Museum
Just to the south of the Old Town’s extensive walls is the excellent German Railway Museum. Full of fascinating artifacts, equipment and, of course, old trains, it covers the history of the railways in the country from the 1800s up to the present day.
The oldest museum of its kind in the world, it was established in 1882 and features interactive exhibits and vintage locomotives sprawled across a massive site. On display are loads of scale models and full-sized replicas, antique engines and quaint communications equipment.
In addition to seeing restored steam trains and resplendent royal carriages, there are sometimes relaxing rides to enjoy in classic trains outside. Although everything is mostly in German, this doesn’t detract from the experience of examining engines up close. There are also fun simulators to try out and a colourful kids’ area for young ones.
20. Memorium Nuremberg Trials
For those interested in history, the Memorium Nuremberg Trials are an absolute must. Very poignant and powerful, the photos and videos highlight how the Nazi high command was brought to justice in the actual courtroom where the trials took place.
Located in the east wing of the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, the important exhibition opened to the public in 2010. It was here in 1945 that 199 of the Nazi’s most influential military leaders, politicians and propagandists were put on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Most were deemed guilty and 37 were sentenced to death, among them Goring, Ribbentrop and Rosenberg.
Informative displays explain the context of the trials, how they were held and the horrendous crimes brought before the judges. Entering Courtroom 600 and seeing where the high-up members of the SS and Gestapo were found guilty really is an eerie experience. Despite the heavy atmosphere, we would certainly recommend visiting as it covers such a momentous moment in time.
19. St. Sebaldus Church
Quite unique looking, the spectacular St. Sebaldus is both Nuremberg’s oldest church and one of its most important. Lying right in the historic heart of town, it exhibits some extraordinary architecture and has an art-filled interior to explore.
Completed over decades, the large Lutheran church dates to 1225 though much had to be restored following WWII. While the two tall towers and nave at its western end are Romanesque in style, the hulking great hall at its eastern end is instead Late Gothic.
After taking some pics of its unusual outline and inspecting its intricately-carved Schreyer Landauer epitaph, check out its Baroque interior. As well as soaring columns and stained-glass windows, it has some amazing altars, paintings and statues to see. Its prized possession, though, is a sparkling silver casket thought to contain the remains of Saint Sebaldus himself.
18. Way of Human Rights
A nice contemplative spot to pass by, the Way of Human Rights is a street-long monument dedicated to the Universal Declaration and world peace. Situated in between the new and old buildings of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, it connects the city wall to the center.
Unveiled in 1993, its giant sculptures are part of Nuremberg’s efforts to shed its Nazi-era reputation and instead be known as the ‘City of Peace and Human Rights’. Designed by esteemed Israeli artist Dani Karavan, it consists of a huge arch and thirty pillars. Made of white concrete, they are engraved with one article each from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These are both in German and other languages too.
While the monument isn’t particularly impressive, it repudiates past crimes and serves as a reminder to protect human rights.
17. Day Trip to Bamberg
If you have the time, it is worth taking a day trip to beautiful Bamberg so you can see some more of Bavaria. Just a forty minute train journey north of Nuremberg, the historic town is renowned for its attractive Altstadt and architecture.
Spread across seven hills, each crowned by a delightful church, it straddles the Regnitz River in Upper Franconia. Thankfully unscathed after the Second World War, its picture-perfect medieval streets are enclosed by Europe’s largest intact old city wall. Here you’ll find some wonderful historical buildings and romantic riverside walks.
As it was an important ecclesiastical center for centuries, highlights include its marvelous cathedral and Michaelsberg Abbey. Bamberg’s Rathaus which hangs rather dangerously over the river is another must as is trying its distinctive smokey Rauchbier.
16. Toy Museum
Back in the center of Nuremberg’s Old Town is another of its top attractions: the terrific Toy Museum. One of the most highly rated in the world, its artifacts and exhibits take you right from antiquity up to the present day. It also proudly examines the city’s reputation for producing lovely toys that have been around since medieval times.
Occupying a historic townhouse that dates to 1517, the museum has been a firm favourite with families since 1971. Its holdings now number a staggering 87,000 objects in total, only a fraction of which are on display. These include tin soldiers, elaborate dollhouses, wooden rocking horses and a large model railway, among many others.
Texts also cover their cultural significance and different periods and places around the world. It also looks at more recent toys like Lego, Barbie and Playmobil. Fittingly enough, there is also an exciting area for kids where they can do handicrafts, play and experiment.
A chilling place to visit, Zeppelinfeld is a ginormous grandstand where the Nazi party once held their infamous Nuremberg rallies. Only fifteen minutes southeast of the center by public transport, its vast steps serve as a sobering reminder of what happened here in the thirties.
Now overgrown with weeds and almost appearing abandoned, it was built in 1935 by architect Albert Speer. Over the next few years, the Nazis put on carefully planned propaganda events here in front of hundreds of thousands of party members.
Standing in the exact same spot where Hitler spewed hate-filled speeches is a creepy, uncomfortable experience. Its immense size and scale also creates an oppressive feeling. Especially if you’ve seen photos or videos of the endless crowds of people who attended the rallies. Taking a tour around the grounds was invaluable as the guide provided so much information we didn’t know about Nuremberg and the Nazi’s rise to power.
14. Albrecht Durer’s House
One of Germany’s most exalted artists, Albrecht Durer hailed from Nuremberg and produced many of his finest paintings, prints and theoretical works here. At his former home and workshop, guests can learn about his life and see some of his most famous masterpieces.
From 1509 to 1528, the master engraver occupied this gorgeous timber-framed Gothic house in the northwest of the Altstadt. Now a museum, it contains period furnishings and a recreation of Durer’s workshop. You can also observe old printmaking techniques in practice and take a guided tour of the whole house.
Besides learning about the revered German Renaissance artist, there are rare paintings, etchings and drawings done by Durer to admire. The five-story building and its cozy interior also look impressive, having been erected in 1420.
13. Hospital of the Holy Spirit
Another of Nuremberg’s prettiest parts is down by the river alongside the Hospital of the Holy Spirit. Now a restaurant and care home, its ruddy red brick walls and well-preserved facade make for some fantastic photos, reflected in the Pegnitz.
Built back in 1339, its extensive buildings once formed the largest hospital in the Free Imperial City of Nuremberg. From 1424 to 1796, its chapel also housed the Imperial Regalia – the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire.
Nowadays, you can enjoy some delicious German dishes in its handsome historic tavern overlooking the river. After washing down your meal with a draft of beer, snap some pics of the hospital partially hanging over the Pegnitz. Take a look at its charming courtyard and the carved fountain outside too.
For yet more traditional German restaurants and cute crafts shops, head to the Handwerkerhof. Like traveling back in time, its enchanting medieval streets, bars and artists’ studios are nestled away in the southwest of the Altstadt, along the city wall.
Also known as the Craftsmen’s Courtyard, its rustic-looking shops sell everything from ceramics and sweets to glassware, leatherwork and toys. All delightfully decorated, they lie alongside atmospheric restaurants and beer gardens. This makes it a great spot to stop for a meal or drink while picking up some souvenirs or gifts.
Altogether, its half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets and the castle tower rising above them certainly paint a pretty picture. The ambience is also just as pleasant as its aesthetic. Although it is not nearly as old as it seems, wandering around the Handwerkerhof was one of our favorite things to do in Nuremberg.
11. Nürnberg Zoo
Another big hit for us was the historic Nürnberg Zoo which is often listed among the most beautiful in Europe. Set amidst lush forests in a former sandstone quarry, its spacious enclosures are located just a fifteen minute tram ride east of the center.
One of the continent’s largest and oldest zoos, it was established in 1912 with over 2,000 animals of some 300 or so species now inhabiting its natural exhibits. While ambling about, you’ll therefore see everything from giraffes and rhinos to Siberian tigers, lowland gorillas and snow leopards. It also has an amazing Manatee House and Dolphin Lagoon to check out.
Perhaps because it is so leafy, its residents appeared much more active and happier than many zoos we’ve been to. Plenty of picnic areas and playgrounds are also dotted around while feeding sessions and informative keeper talks regularly take place.
10. Historische Felsengange
Just around the corner – or rather under the ground – from Albrecht Durer’s House are the Historische Felsengänge. The largest series of rock-cut cellars in Southern Germany, their dimly lit passageways are fascinating and fun to explore.
Hewn out of the soft sandstone over centuries, the labyrinth-like caverns riddle the hill beneath the castle and northwestern corner of the Old Town. First mentioned in documents dating to 1380, they were later used by citizens to shelter from bombs during WWII.
Quite cold and claustrophobic, the rock passages can be visited on tours that take you around all the tunnels and teach you more about their past. Their cool confines are also still used for ripening and storing the city’s famous brew. After emerging from the dark, you can taste some of their beers and whiskeys before heading off.
Certainly one of the city’s most striking buildings, the phenomenal Frauenkirche dominates one side of the Hauptmarkt. Other than its richly decorated facade, the church contains numerous important works of art from the Middle Ages.
An excellent example of brick Gothic architecture, it was constructed back in 1362 on the initiative of Charles IV who was Holy Roman Emperor at the time. Instantly catching the eye, its elaborate facade features a fetching portal with a mechanical clock at its top. Rising overhead are dozens of small spires and a central octagonal tower.
Inside, loads of fine sculptures and religious artworks can be found beneath its vaulted ceilings and colourful stained-glass windows. The highlight though is definitely seeing its ornately-crafted portal and watching all the clock’s little figures whir around.
8. Nuremberg Christmas Market
Right in front of the Frauenkirche is where the city’s most anticipated event takes place each winter: the Nuremberg Christmas Market. Over two magical weeks, millions pack into the huge Hauptmarkt to enjoy its fun festivities and food.
Now one of the largest and most famous Christmas markets in the country, its origins are thought to date to the early 1600s. Since then, it has grown considerably with more than 180 wooden stalls now dotting the square. Delightfully lit up against the dark December sky, its stands sell handcrafted gifts, gingerbread, gluhwein and more.
Known in German as Christkindlesmarkt, the market is opened each year with a solemn speech by a young local lady from the church balcony above. A very popular event, it is attended by thousands as the festivities begin right afterwards.
With so many great gifts and decorations to pick out and so many tasty traditional treats to sample, Nuremberg’s Christmas market really is one of the best around. You’ll want to dress up warm though as it gets very, very cold later in the evening.
7. St. Lorenz Church
Arguably even more impressive than Frauenkirche are St. Lorenz Church’s soaring twin spires and its stupendous facade. Situated on the opposite side of the Pegnitz, the gigantic Gothic structure has a similar design to that of St. Sebaldus.
Dedicated to Saint Lawrence, the city’s largest church was mostly completed in the fifteenth century, with funding from rich citizens. Thanks to them, it boasts a breathtaking facade, designed to reflect their wealth and the city’s power and prestige. Its eighty meter-high bell towers and intricately-carved west doorway certainly achieve this though its wonderful rose window steals the show.
Despite being Lutheran, its enormous interior houses many lavish artworks with its terrific tabernacle and stained-glass windows being the pick of them all. There is also one of the world’s largest organs to see and a stunning sacrament house made by Adam Kraft. For us, its unique architecture and art pieces made it one of the best buildings we saw in Nuremberg.
6. Germanisches Nationalmuseum
Not far away too is the must-visit Germanisches Nationalmuseum which investigates the art, history and culture of the German-speaking world. Covering prehistoric times up to the present, its collection includes everything from armor and instruments to books, paintings, toys and more.
Now spread across a couple of buildings, both modern and historical, the vast museum was founded in 1852. Since then, it has amassed over 1.3 million objects of which 25,000 are on show at any one time. There are also sections of a sixteenth-century charterhouse and an old abbey to see too.
Almost endless, its well-done exhibits look at not just medicine and the Middle Ages but fashion, folk art and scientific achievements too. As it has so many captivating paintings, photos and altarpieces to inspect, you can easily spend half the day here.
5. Playmobil FunPark
A must for families with younger ones, the Playmobil FunPark lies a fifty minute public transport trip west of Nuremberg. Its fun-themed areas and all the oversized toy figures can be found just outside the small town of Zirndorf where the company’s headquarters are based.
Sprawling across a giant green area, the amusement park has large replicas of Playmobil characters and their specific worlds to stroll around. Sure to stimulate the senses, they feature playgrounds and paddle boats, climbing walls and ropes courses. Suitable for the ages three and up, it also has some rides and go-karts for older ones to enjoy.
One minute you can be exploring a cool pirate ship or castle and the next an American Indian village, treehouse or dinosaur area. Alongside all its trampolines and slides, there are plenty of food options to choose from. The park also has a massive store selling all the latest Playmobil sets to stop by.
The city’s main square, the historic Hauptmarkt is home to some of its most impressive monuments and buildings. Located right in the heart of the Old Town, it is here too that the Nuremberg Christmas Market is held.
Overlooked by the Frauenkirche’s fabulous facade, its worn cobblestones have been at the center of life, commerce and celebrations in the city since around the thirteenth-century. Once swampland, and then part of the Jewish ghetto, it later hosted large Nazi party rallies in the 1930s. As it was severely damaged during WWII, most of its buildings look quite modern in contrast to the old church.
The square’s other standout sight is the spectacular Schoner Brunnen or ‘Beautiful Fountain’ that lies in its northwest corner. Towering nineteen meters, the iconic landmark is a replica of the gorgeous Gothic spire that stood here in the fourteenth-century.
Other than the Frauenkirche, seeing its forty colorfully painted figures was our favorite thing about the Hauptmarkt. These depict Prince-electors, prophets, philosophy and liberal arts; all things that represented the worldview of the Holy Roman Empire.
3. Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds
As it was one of the most important cities in the empire and the German-speaking world as a whole, the Nazis chose Nuremberg to host their enormous annual rallies. At the outstanding Documentation Center, you can learn about their rise, rallies, propaganda techniques and brutal time in power.
Established in 2001, its moving artifacts, exhibits and photos are fittingly located in the colossal but unfinished Congress Hall. This was just one of the imposing buildings that the Nazis planned for the city and their rallies. Only a few, though, like the nearby Zeppelinfeld, were ever actually completed.
Its exhibition ‘Fascination and Terror’ perfectly explains how their propaganda and rallies had such a grip on people and the violent, tragic consequences thereafter. Although we’ve been to loads of WWII museums over the years, the Documentation Center is definitely one of the best. This is because it deals with the horrible reality of life under Nazi rule and its aftermath in such an analytical, engaging manner using eye-witness interviews.
Nuremberg’s main symbol and sight, the Kaiserburg dominates its Alstadt from its prominent hilltop position in the northwest corner. Besides boasting lots of incredible old architecture, artifacts and exhibits, the immense castle complex offers phenomenal views over the city.
One of Europe’s most formidable medieval fortifications, the castle and its walls were built from the eleventh-century onwards. Back in the times of the Holy Roman Empire, it often hosted the emperor who also had to hold their first Imperial Diet here. Clustered about its charming central courtyard are a palace, chapel and castle museum. These present more information about the castle, all the kings who ruled here and the Holy Roman Empire itself.
Presiding over everything is the thirteenth-century Sinwell Tower; one of Nuremberg’s defining landmarks. Its cylindrical shape and colourful red roof make for some marvelous photos, what with the half-timbered historic houses around them. One also contains a deep well, the castle’s only water source, that plunges fifty metres down into the ground.
Appearing as if out of a fairytale, Weissgerbergasse is, without doubt, one of the most attractive and atmospheric streets in the Old Town. Lined by dozens of colourful half-timbered houses, these now contain tons of cozy cafes, unique boutiques and little artists’ workshops.
Numbering around twenty in total, its beautiful buildings were miraculously missed during the heavy air raids over Nuremberg in the Second World War. Dating to the Middle Ages, their facades look very picturesque and perfectly frame the cobblestone street between them.
Aside from ambling along and snapping some photos, you can enjoy a coffee or meal at the lovely terraces lining it. Along with the Kaiserburg, it created some of the most romantic images of our time in Nuremberg.
Where to Stay in Nuremberg
As almost everything is within walking distance or a short public transport journey away, you’re best off staying in Nuremberg’s Old Town. Several hotels can also be found just outside the walls, not far from the train station. Here are a couple of options you may want to consider.
Right by the Hauptbanhof but still within the city walls is the outstanding Hotel Victoria. Occupying a renovated nineteenth-century building, the four-star hotel has clean, comfy rooms for visitors to stay in. Offering up the perfect mix of tradition and modernity, it also lies right by all the Handwerkerhof’s romantic restaurants and cool artists’ studios.
A more budget-friendly option is the three-star Hotel Five, right in the heart of the Altstadt. Other than its convenient location alongside St. Sebaldus Church and the Hauptmarkt, it has spacious, modern rooms and all kinds of amenities to enjoy. Friendly staff members and fantastic breakfasts out on its terrace are an added bonus.
How to get there
Quite well-connected to the rest of Germany by train, Nuremberg can be reached in just an hour from Munich. Frankfurt and Stuttgart both also lie roughly two and a half hours away. Each of these are serviced by a couple of busy airports with the city’s own Albrecht Durer Airport lying just north of the center.
From Nuremberg, the autobahn heads in the direction of Czechia one way and Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands another. Straight to the south and southeast is Austria; around three and a half hours drive away.
Once you arrive, most tourist attractions in Nuremberg are within walking distance of the main train station. Otherwise buses, metros and trams can whisk you to them in no time at all.
Approximate travel times:
- Bamberg – 40 minutes by car, 25 minutes by train
- Regensburg – 1 hour by car, 1 hour by train
- Munich – 2 hours by car, 1 hour 30 minutes by train
- Frankfurt – 2.5 hours by car, 2 hours by train
- Stuttgart – 2.5 hours by car, 2 hours by train
- Prague (Czech Republic) – 3 hours by car, 3 hours by train
- Vienna (Austria) – 4.5 hours by car, 4 hours by train
- Berlin – 4.5 hours by car, 3 hours by train
Best Time to Visit Nuremberg
Lying along both the Pegnitz River and Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, Nuremberg has a slightly continental climate with quite cold winters and warm, sunny summers. This is the best time to visit as temperatures hit 22 to 24°C (71 to 75°F) perfect for ambling about the Altstadt and exploring its nearby parks and forests.
Countless fun events create a lively atmosphere though the city is quite crowded and prices are at their highest. Sudden rain showers can put a bit of a damper though on the Rock im Park and Bardentreffen music festivals.
Although cooler at 14 to 20°C (so 57 to 68°F), both spring and autumn are also pleasant times to visit. In April the Volksfest attracts millions of visitors, as does the two-week Altstadtfest in September. Displaying plenty of Franconian traditions, these both have music performances, markets and games to enjoy.
While the rest of the year is quite drab weatherwise, its famous Christkindlesmarkt entices millions in December with all the festive Christmas markets. You’ll need to wrap up warm as temperatures plummet to just 3°C (37°F).
In fact, it’s always a good idea to take a jacket to Nuremberg as each month sees between 12 and 18 days with at least some rain.