When visiting Nuremberg, firstly it’s important to understand a few things about the history of this special part of Bavaria. Nuremberg, established around 1050, is the biggest city of Franconia region, which in the Holy Roman Empire times was called Franconian Circle and had different kinds of administrative units, including three Prince Bishoprics and five free Imperial cities, among others. Nuremberg was one of these free Imperial self-ruling cities with a certain autonomy and was subordinate only to the Holy Roman Emperor.
As a consequence of the Napoleonic wars, Franconian circle became part of the kingdom of Bavaria. In the 20th century Nuremberg was home to many Nazi rallies before World War II, and to the world-famous Nuremberg Trials afterwards. Now Nuremberg is an unofficial capital of all Franconia, comprising three regions of Bavaria, namely Lower, Middle and Upper Franconia. Despite the fact that the city was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War, now it’s well restored with many things to see.
So there are top things not to miss in Nuremberg for your travel inspiration:
Discover the heart of Nuremberg visiting the Main Market Square
Nuremberg’s Main Market Square (Nürnberger Hauptmarkt) is a historic landmark that has been the centre of activity in the city since medieval times. Stroll around the market Monday through Saturday and pick up fresh fruits and vegetables and admire the historic architecture that surrounds the square. The Main Market Square hosts a seasonal Easter Market. Prior to Christmas, you can experience the spectacular Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Markets). Other events held there regularly include the Nuremberg Flea Market and Nuremberg Old Town Festival.
Spin a ring of Schönen Brunnen
When admiring ornate details of the 14th century fountain Schönen Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) located at the Market Square, remember that for locals and tourists alike, twisting a ring is an absolute must when passing this beautiful fountain in Nuremberg's main market. There is a belief that if you spin one of the rings of the fountain three times clockwise, your wish will come true.
Admire awe-inspiring Facade of the Frauenkirche
Look up at the breathtaking symmetrical design of the Gothic façade of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) at the Market Square dating back to the 14th century. Visit the church at midday to watch the procession of medieval figurines on the central tower of the church and listen to the bells. Notice the porch and balcony where the emperor would sit during ceremonies. Walk inside the church to appreciate its grand interior. Stroll up the aisles and see the emperor’s tribune. The church is free to visit, but be respectful of worshippers and service times.
Glance at sculptures above the doors of the old town hall
Old Gothic Nuremberg Rathaus was built in the early 14th century. With time, Nuremberg became more important and therefore Rathaus was extended by a new building in the early 17th century. It features three grand doorways with Baroque portals decorated with heraldic motifs and on a truly grand scale. The central one bears the imperial eagle and the city's two coats of arms.
Enjoy river views of the city from Kettensteg
This 68 meter long pedestrian bridge built in the early 19th century is the oldest surviving iron suspension bridge in mainland Europe and thus a milestone in industrial history. So pay respect to the history and enjoy the views.
Admire timber framed houses of Weissgerbergasse
The customary method of construction of the buildings in Germany until the 15th century was timber framing. Then a transition to sandstone was made. The best place to see beautiful timber framed houses in Nuremberg is in 'Weissgerbergasse' (Tanner's Lane) where a whole row of half-timbered buildings dating from 15th and the 16th century managed to escape the Allied bombings.
Find the final resting place of Nuremberg's patron St. Sebaldus
Perhaps the most notable feature of St. Sebaldus Church built in 14th century is the fact that the reliquaries of a Catholic saint are kept in a Protestant church. The final resting place of Nuremberg's patron saint, St. Sebaldus, is an extraordinarily beautiful shrine created by the Nuremberg sculptor Peter Vischer. Besides enjoying the interior, take note of the interesting construction of the roof of the church.
Look at the details of modern statues of Nuremberg
Nuremberg has a lot of interesting statues so keep your eyes open when you are walking around. Make sure you notice two sculptures of Jürgen Weber, namely the "Ship of Fools" and "Marriage Merry-Go-Round". The "Ship of Fools" is a bronze statue of a boat carrying seven people, a skeleton, and a dog. Based on a popular sixteenth-century book by Sebastian Brant, this gloomy sculpture shows a scene of the destruction of the world.
This grotesque sculpture located next to the Weisser Turm (White Tower) is the "Marriage Merry-Go-Round". This image of the journey of the married couple from courtship to skeletons was created in 1984. It is based on a poem entitled “Bittersweet Married Life” by 16th century Nurnberg poet Hans Sachs. It is one of the largest European figure fountains of the 20th century. It is also interesting to know that the fountain masks a subway ventilation shaft!
Walk uphill to Nuremberg Castle
The Imperial Castle located above Nuremberg was one of the most important fortified imperial palaces of the Old Holy Roman Empire. Explore within the sturdy walls of this fortified hilltop castle that has defined the Nuremberg cityscape for almost a thousand years. Look up to the two towers of the Castle: the Heidenturm (Heathens’ Tower) and the Sinwellturm (Sinwell Tower). The castle and the city served as the location for numerous imperial assemblies. Moreover, from the beginning of the 15th century, the imperial regalia were safely kept in Nuremberg. Take your time to explore and enjoy the views of the city rooftops from the castle hill.
Spend your evening listening to music
Nuremberg has a lot of cultural and musical events so you might be spoiled by choice. Check a calendar of the events and make your choice according to your taste. I attended a classical open air music concert at the Market Square dedicated to acknowledging the end of an international competition of singers.
What I did not do but you should
You should know that today nearby Fürth city has become contiguous with the larger city of Nuremberg, the centres of the two cities being only 7 km apart. Unlike Nuremberg, Fürth survived the Second World War with much less damage. The city is more than 1000 years old, with a very high density of historic buildings and monuments. So don’t forget to include it into your itinerary when you visit Nuremberg. Unfortunately, I learned all that only after my trip. Also, since Nuremberg is located on the river Pegnitz and on the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, if you have time you can take a river cruise from Nuremberg to Amsterdam or to Budapest.
To get a deeper insight into Nuremberg history and its present, take a guided walking tour of the city in English at 1 pm. It starts at the tourist information centre at the Main Market Square. I was really impressed by the deep knowledge and interesting stories of the guide of our small group.
Special thanks go to Convention and Tourist Board Nuremberg for the informative support and providing me with Nuremberg and Furth card, giving you free admission to all museums & attractions and free travel on all public transport within the entire region of Nuremberg, Fürth, and Stein for 2 consecutive days. As always, all opinions and thoughts are my own.
Want to see more of Germany? Go visit Cologne!
What did you think? Have you been to Nuremberg? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting there in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
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Author: Anita Sāne
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveler, passionate photographer and a mature career woman from Latvia, traveling mostly solo for more than 10 years. She is a skilled travel planner planning and executing her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her also on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Bloglovin.