Nuremberg is the second largest city in Bavaria, southern Germany. It’s a city famous for its Imperial castle, half timbered houses and cobblestone squares, and somewhere I’d long wanted to visit. One Friday evening a few weeks ago my wish finally came true as we took a Ryanair flight from London Stansted to Nuremberg’s Albrecht Dürer airport for a short break.
Getting into the city centre couldn’t have been easier as it was just a 10 minute hop on Metro Line U2 (single tickets €3.20) into the centre. Our accommodation for the weekend was at the Leonardo Royal Hotel located close to the central railway station (Hauptbahnhof) and ideally situated for exploring the city.
After settling in to our stylish room we enjoyed an evening stroll through the old town finding an inn called Restaurant Augistiner for a late supper.
The next morning we were up bright and early and after a hearty breakfast in our hotel we set off for a day’s sightseeing. We’d arranged Nuremberg Cards (€28) valid on two consecutive days, covering admission to the city’s museums and attractions plus free public transport within the entire Nuremberg region. These can be pre-arranged ahead of arrival or purchased from the tourist office in the market square.
Our first stop was at the Craftsmen’s Courtyard located just across the road from the railway station beside the medieval walls and towers. We entered through the Konigstor (Kings Gate) which led us into a charming courtyard of small half-timbered houses. Here we found handicrafts on sale alongside small inns and bakers offering traditional Franconian delicacies such as local bratwurst sausage and gingerbread.
Moving on from there, it was then just a short walk to the Altstadt (old town) which has been lovingly restored after wartime devastation. The Altstadt is divided into almost two equal parts by the Pegnitz River which flows through the city centre. We paused to admire the beautiful views of the old town from the Museum Bridge along Königstraße with its characterful buildings dating back to the Middle Ages.
From there we could see the beautiful Heilig-Geist-Spital (Holy Spirit Hospital). This was the largest hospital in the former Free Imperial City of Nuremberg. The building holds importance as at one time it held the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire.
From there, it was just a few steps to Lorenzkirche (St. Lawrence Church). Built in 1250, it has been an Evangelical Lutheran church since 1525. Restoration work began in 1952 following severe damage inflicted on it during the Second World War. As with all Nuremberg’s churches, it’s free to enter to view its elaborate interior, a huge rose stained glass window and one of the world’s largest organs.
Soon we had reached the large cobblestone Hauptmarkt (market square) where a daily market takes place with stalls offering items such as fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and bread.
Dominating the square is the Gothic Frauenkirche (The Church of Our Lady) which was built as an Imperial court chapel between 1352-1362 on the instruction of Emperor Charles IV and is among the three most important churches in the city. Taking a look inside the church we viewed the Emperor window containing the three oldest stained glass windows in Nuremberg and the Tucher painted altarpiece.
One of the most notable features of the church is its mechanical clock (glockenspiel) commemorating the Golden Bull of 1356. The clock mechanism is activated at midday so it’s a good idea to be in the square then as at 12.00 noon a bell is rung. This starts the sequence followed by the trumpeters and a drummer continuing with a procession of the electors around the figure of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Located next to the town hall in one corner of the market square stands the magnificent 14th century Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain). The fountain is 19 metres tall and in the shape of a Gothic spire. Legend has it that if you make a wish and then turn the Golden Ring, it will come true.
Hauptmarkt is home to the annual Christkindlesmarkt, one of the oldest and most famous Christmas markets in the world. It would be hard to think of a more beautiful location to wander around the enchanting wooden huts sipping mulled wine, eating gingerbread and bratwurst. Gingerbread isn’t just available at Christmas time though as overlooking the square is the Wicklein Gingerbread shop and cafe filled with tempting treats and who also run activity workshops learning how to create your own delicacies. We enjoyed looking around and hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to participate in one of their workshops on a future visit.
Our tour of the city then took us along the riverside over to Trödelmarkt, a small island in the Pegnitz River that takes its name from the second-hand market which used to take place there. Going back even further in medieval times it was home to a pig market. Nowadays, it’s home to beautifully restored historic homes, many of them now cafes and boutiques.
Along the western side of the island stands one of Nuremberg’s most picturesque sights, that of the Hangman’s Bridge (Henkersteg). This wooden footbridge dates from 1457 and between the 16th and 19th centuries the hangman lived in the round tower and reached the town by crossing this bridge.
From there we followed the path along to the Max Bridge (Maxbrücke) a triple arched old stone bridge from where we had splendid views on one side to Weinstadel (a former wine warehouse). This is one of Germany’s largest half-timbered houses dating between 1446-1448. The interior of the building has now been transformed into student accommodation boasting beautiful vistas across the old town.
Our stroll then took us across Kettensberg, which is thought to be the oldest surviving iron chained suspension bridge in Europe. The bridge led us to Weißgerbergasse, a winding street of beautiful half-timbered houses along which we paused several times to take photos. Known also as Tanners’ Lane, these old craftsmen’s houses reflect the wealth created by the leather working trade in this part of Germany.
Continuing from there it was just a short distance to the Nuremberg Toy Museum. Regular readers of my blog will already be aware of my interest in toys, so visiting this museum had been on my wish list for some time. Entrance to the museum is €7 and as with the majority of the city’s museums is included in the Nuremberg Card.
Nuremberg has been well known for its toys for over 600 years with its tradition going back to medieval doll makers through to pewter figurines and tin toy makers. The city is also home to the International Toy Fair, the world’s largest trade show of its kind.
The most important collection of Lehmann tin toys is the focus of one gallery depicting the history of the company including a large collection of cars, trains and steam engines. Other exhibits include dolls, dolls houses, board games and a model railway. The museum is a treasure trove of childhood for visitors of all ages and I would definitely recommend a visit.
Located quite near to the Toy Museum stands the Church of St. Sebald, so we decided to take a look there next. This late Romanesque basilica is notable and visible from a distance due to its two tall towers. It’s Nuremberg’s oldest parish church and one of the most prominent in the city boasting three naves and high arched ceilings.
Exploring the old town had made us hungry so we popped into Bratwurst Roslein for a little rest, a bite to eat and glasses of the local red beer which is a special type of bottom-fermented beer that has been brewed locally since the Middle Ages. It was the first time we’d tried a red beer and we found it to our taste and a very refreshing drink.
Feeling refreshed, it was time to visit some more of Nuremberg’s excellent museums starting with the newly opened Deutsches Museum – the museum of the future (standard admission €9.50). The focus of the museum is what the future may look like in the world of science and technology, effectively the world of tomorrow.
The galleries provide an insightful look into ways technology may develop and the effects it may have on us, from digital robots in the home, Hyperloop transport solutions and our future habitat on Earth and in space.
Leaving there we headed across town to the DB Railway Museum located close to the central railway station (standard admission €7). This museum is one of the world’s oldest railway museums having opened its doors in 1882 and is based in Nuremberg as it was in this city that the first ever German rail journey took place.
It’s a fascinating museum telling the story of the railway in Germany from its origins to the present day. We enjoyed touring the exhibition halls where we viewed a large number of engines and carriages including the Royal saloon car of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and the Adler, the first working steam locomotive used in Germany.
There’s also a huge amount of memorabilia on display ranging from uniforms and station clocks to tableware used in dining cars through the years.
Across the street we explored the outdoor section where we viewed a selection of trains, signal boxes and platform shelters. Back indoors, we viewed a large model railway that’s operated several times each day and on the top floor explored the Museum of Communications (entrance included in the DB Museum ticket).
Yet another interesting museum, its four exhibition rooms focus on sounds, images, texts and the internet with lots of fun, hands-on activities. Included in the display is the first German telephone, postal delivery vehicles through the ages and a selection of equipment.
What a day we’d had exploring this historic city and the good news was we had two more days to see even more. Back at our hotel we rested in our comfortable room awhile and then later enjoyed a meal in one of the traditional styled inns in the Craftsmen’s Courtyard nearby.
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