With its medieval architecture, hilltop castle, lively markets and long history, there are plenty of fun things to do in Nuremberg, Germany even if you only have time for a quick day trip.
The Bavarian city (sometimes seen as Nürnberg vs Nuremberg, which are the respective German and English spellings) boasts a historic old town, one of Europe’s best Christmas markets and notable landmarks which are particularly interesting for war buffs.
Its storied past has earned it a dark place in history: ties to the Nazis. Adolf Hitler considered Nuremberg as the most German of any city in the country, thus choosing it as the de facto headquarters of the party during their terrifying reign.
Today those same spots lie in ruin, as local officials try to decide if they should spend millions of dollars to maintain them, or use that taxpayer money for a more noble cause.
Nuremberg’s history is the main reason many tourists visit the city, to see first-hand where the propaganda that changed the world forever started. However, it’s worth noting that many of the city’s main buildings were flattened in 1945 by Allied bombers, meaning much of what people see today has been completely reconstructed.
While there’s no denying the sombre tone of many of the city’s landmarks, it’s still a wonderful place to visit as a day trip to see the half-timbered homes, cute cobblestone laneways and spectacular viewpoints.
Here’s what to do in Nuremberg, Germany.
Explore the medieval Imperial Castle of Nuremberg
When it comes to the top places to visit in Nuremberg, most people start with Nuremberg Castle.
This medieval wonder is perched high on a hill, surrounded by a moat and fortified by the 13th century walls and defensive towers that surround the Old Town (Alstadt).
Guests can wander along the fortress’ winding stone pathways, which link spots like the well house and museum.
The castle is also where you’ll find best view in the entire city, and throngs of tourists jockey for position along the walls to catch a mesmerizing glimpse of Nuremberg spread out below.
Weißgerbergasse (Tanners’ Lane)
Just down the hill from the castle is Tanners’ Lane, home to those charming half-timbered buildings.
The historical homes used to house the city’s wealthiest residents, and now serve as cafes, restaurants, boutiques and bars. Don’t miss the Tiergärtnerplatz, an enchanting square that features a steepled tower, well and bronze statue.
Continuing the tour of the Old Town, a short walk from Tiergärtnerplatz brings visitors to the city’s main square, Nürnberg Hauptmarkt.
The plaza is anchored by the beautiful Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) which is a shining example of brick gothic architecture, as well as Schöne Brunnen, a 19 metre high fountain that is said to bring good luck.
Get into the festive spirit at the Nuremberg Christmas market
Most of the year the square hosts a market, but its real claim to fame is that it serves as a stage for the annual Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt, which is the oldest and most famous Christmas market in all of Europe.
Nowhere else will you find such a dizzying array of handicrafts, sizzling bratwurst, tasty gingerbread (lebkuchen) and steaming gluhwein (hot, spiced red wine) to be enjoyed while listening to carollers or a band on the main stage.
It’s an incredible atmosphere, and even Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge would get into the festive spirit here!
Globe Guide tip: Head into the Frauenkirche and head up to the balcony for an amazing view of the market below. It costs a few euros, but is totally worth it.
Take a moment of silence at St. John’s Cemetery
Usually cemeteries are avoided, but good luck staying away from St. John’s Cemetery.
Found just outside the city walls, Johannisfriedhof Nürnberg mit Johanniskirche is without a doubt one of the prettiest burial grounds you’ll ever see.
Graves are marked with baskets overflowing with bright blooms and foliage, making it look more like a well-maintained garden than a final resting place.
Get a history lesson at the Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds
The more sobering spots in Nuremberg are found near city limits, starting with the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände.
This location was used by the National Socialists for their party rallies from 1933-1938, and upwards of 50,000 people were in attendance for the propaganda shows.
The complex has a rally ground modelled after Rome’s famous Colosseum, which is now crumbling and eerily quiet, save for the odd tour bus that pulls in to do a quick loop of the complex.
History buffs can explore the exterior, then head in to Congress Hall which now serves as a museum. The exhibition area details the history of the National Socialist party, as well as their path to war and the consequences of their power.
A short distance away is the Zeppelin Field, featuring a sprawling grandstand area that can hold 100,000 people. U.S. forces blew up a swastika that was affixed to the main grandstand back in 1945, and little has been done with the area in the decades since.
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Visit the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg
One of the other key places to visit in Nuremberg is the Palace of Justice, site of the famous Nuremberg Trials.
It was chosen to host the trials of war criminals from the Nazi regime during an international military tribunal from 1945-1946, as it was not damaged during World War II and has a large prison nearby.
Visitors can see Courtroom 600 (which is still a working courtroom) provided there are no trials going on, and there’s also an exhibition about the trials and prosecution.
Nuremberg: Things to do on guided tours
While the old town is easy enough to get around on foot, there are some city passes and guided tours that make it even easier to see the Nuremberg attractions.
Pick up this Nürnberg Card to enjoy free public transportation, admission to select museums and discounts on activities for 48 hours after activating it.
Families may want to consider this hop on/hop off bus with a two-hour circuit of six different stops, the cute 40-minute audio tour on this sightseeing train and visiting the nearby PLAYMOBIL FunPark.
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Where to stay in Nuremberg
Design Hotel Vosteen: Located just a 15 minute walk from the main attractions in the old town, this pet-friendly, boutique property is one of the top-rated hotels in Nuremberg. Guests love the clean, spacious rooms that maintain the original character, and the free breakfast. Click here for pricing
How to get to Nuremberg:
Nuremberg has its own airport (NUE); however, there are more international flight connections at the Munich airport (MUC) which is about a one hour train ride away.
It takes an hour to get to Regensburg, and 2 1/2 hours by car or train to Frankfurt.
If you’re staying in Munich and just want to visit for the day, book this guided tour from Munich to Nuremberg which includes a train ticket and a guided tour of the best things to do in Nuremberg.
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