12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Nuremberg
The ancient city of Nuremberg (Nürnberg) is an important center for arts and culture, as evidenced by the popular National Germanic Museum with its impressive collections of coins, paintings, archives, and decorative arts. The city has also long been associated with advances in science and technology, particularly in printing - it was home to Europe's first printing press - and astronomy (Nicolaus Copernicus's most famous work was published here in 1543). Despite having been severely damaged in WW2, many of the city's old medieval buildings have been painstakingly restored to their former glory. If possible, plan to visit during one of Nuremberg's popular festivals. Two favorites are the famous ten-day Old Town Festival musical and folk event, and International Organ Week from late June to mid-July.
See also: Where to Stay in Nuremberg
1 National Germanic Museum
The National Germanic Museum (Germanisches Nationalmuseum) is home to the country's largest German art and culture collection. The museum has more than 1.2 million items relating to the region's artistic and cultural history, including historical documents on parchment, a collection of 17,000 seals, and a superb fine arts archive. Other notable highlights include a collection of 300,000 prints and drawings, paintings representing all the major schools, historical musical instruments, a sculpture collection, and a fascinating display of antique toys and dollhouses. The same bright building houses the Industrial Museum (Gewerbemuseum), while for art lovers, the nearby Neues Museum Nürnberg has a large collection of modern and contemporary art.
Address: Kartäusergasse 1, D-90402 Nürnberg
2 Nuremberg Castle
To the north of the old town rises the Castle of Nuremberg, an impressive 351-meter-tall structure that dominates the skyline. One of the most important surviving medieval fortresses in Europe, the castle was the residence of all legitimate German kings and emperors from 1050 to 1571. At the lower end are the old imperial stables built in 1495 (now a youth hostel), and the Pentagonal Tower, dating from 1040. Higher up is the Kaiserburg, built in the 11th century (although much altered in later centuries), along with the Sinwell Tower with its wonderful panoramic views. Castle tours take in a number of fine rooms, including the 12th-century chapel and numerous notable works of art.
Address: Auf der Burg 13, D-90403 Nürnberg
3 The Town Walls
Nuremberg has the unique distinction of having preserved most of its circuit of old walls, many dating from the 14th-15th century and later strengthened in the 16th and 17th centuries. Highlights include numerous gates and towers, many of which can be explored. The finest stretch of walls is on the west side of the town, between the massive Spittlertor and the former Maxtor, while the best views of the walls, the old town, and the Burg are from the Fürther Tor.
4 The Nuremberg Transport Museum
Just outside the old town walls is the superb Nuremberg Transport Museum (Verkehrsmuseum Nürnberg) with its many displays relating to the country's railroads. Highlights include numerous scale models, as well as a variety of interactive displays. One of the oldest such museums in Europe, its collection also includes royal trains and perfectly restored steam and diesel engines, as well as a working replica of Germany's very first train. The museum also offers a varied program of tourist and charter trips on mainline rails, so be sure to check for such opportunities prior to your visit.
Address: Lessingstraße 6, 90443 Nürnberg
5 St. Lawrence's Church
In Lorenzer Platz, the spectacular twin-towered 14th-century Gothic church of St. Lawrence (St. Lorenz) is the city's largest church. One of its many notable features is a large rose window, nine meters in diameter, above the beautiful west doorway. Inside, its many works of art include the Annunciation by sculptor Veit Stoss from 1517 in the choir, its late 15th-century tabernacle, the crucifix on the high altar, the Krell Altar with the oldest surviving representation of the town, and the superb stained glass in the choir dating from 1477. Nearby highlights include the Fountain of Virtue from 1589, and the 13th-century tower-like Nassauer Haus.
6 The Hauptmarkt
The Hauptmarkt is home to the aptly-named 14th-century "Beautiful Fountain" with its ornate decorations and figures. It's also where you'll find the Old Town Hall (look behind its much newer 20th-century counterpart) built in 1616 and notable for its magnificent doorways, dungeons, and torture chamber. Between the two buildings is another famous fountain, the Gänsemännchen, built in 1555 and depicting a Franconian peasant carrying two geese, with the water flowing from their beaks. It's in the Hauptmarkt that Nuremberg's famous Christmas Market is held, a two-week extravaganza attended by more than a million visitors that sees the marketplace transformed by festivities and lighting as well as stands selling ornaments, Christmas foods, and gifts. It's also here that you'll find St. Giles' Church, the city's only Baroque church.
7 Church of Our Lady
The Roman Catholic Gothic Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) dates back to 1352 and is a must-see when in Nuremberg's Hauptmarkt. Above the porch with its rich sculptural decoration is the Männleinlaufen, an old clock with mechanical figures representing the seven Electors pacing round Emperor Charles IV (performances daily at noon). Notable features of the interior are the Tucher Altar from 1440 and two handsome monuments by Adam Krafft. In the pedestrian-friendly Jakobsplatz is another interesting old Roman Catholic edifice, the domed St. Elizabeth's Church built between 1785 and 1806.
8 St. Sebaldus Church
Protestant St. Sebaldus Church, built from 1225-73, boasts a magnificent Gothic east choir dating from 1379 featuring the Schreyer-Landauer tomb, a masterpiece by Adam Krafft. Inside, on a pillar in the north aisle, is the Madonna in an Aureole dating from 1420, while in the east choir is the famous tomb of St. Sebaldus from 1508, a masterpiece in bronze by Peter Vischer and his sons (a silver sarcophagus from 1397 contains the saint's remains, and Vischer himself is depicted with his leather apron and chisel). Other church highlights include a Crucifixion group by Veit Stoss dating from 1507, and a huge organ with 6,000 pipes. Another protestant church of note is the 14th-century St. James's Church (Jakobskirche) in the Jakobsplatz pedestrian area.
Address: Winklerstraße 26, 90403 Nürnberg
9 Albrecht Dürer's House
Just a stone's throw from Nuremberg Castle is the 15th-century Albrecht Dürer's House where the famous German renaissance artist lived from 1509 until his death in 1528. Now a museum dedicated to Dürer's life and work - he was especially famous for his printed maps - the building displays copies of some of his creations. Also of note is the nearby Tiergärtner Tor, a perfectly preserved little medieval square. Another famous old home is the late 16th-century Fembohaus, the town's best preserved old merchant's house now occupied by the Heimatmuseum with its domestic interiors and displays relating to the town's history.
Address: Albrecht-Dürer-Straße 39, 90403 Nürnberg
10 Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds
The Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds is one of Germany's most important museum's dedicated to the bleakest period in the country's history. In a wing of the Congress Hall where Nazi Party rallies were held, it's most notable exhibit is called Fascination and Terror and deals with many facets of the Nazi's time in power. Covering an area of 1,300 square meters, it deals specifically with the impact of the regime on Nuremberg (the Congress Hall was part of a vast 11-square-kilometer site), as well as the Nuremberg Trials that took place here after the war. Guided tours are available in English with advance notice.
Address: Bayernstraße 110, 90478 Nuremberg
11 Königstrasse and the St. Lawrence Side
Nuremberg's St. Lawrence Side, or Lorenzer Seite - named after its principal church, St. Lorenz - lies on the south side of the river Pegnitz. One of the busiest parts of the city, it's worth exploring for its famous Frauentorturm and Handwerkerhof Alt Nürnberg districts, two small enclaves of wonderful old half-timbered houses renowned for their traditional craft workshops. From Bahnhofsplatz, the busy Königstrasse runs northwest into the old town of Nuremberg. Highlights of this historic old street include the 14th-century St. Martha's Church (Marthakirche) with its fine stained glass.
12 For the Kids: The Toy Museum
Nuremberg's excellent Toy Museum (Spielzeugmuseum) is a fun attraction for kids of all ages. Highlights include unique toys from many different countries and periods, plus a large model railroad layout. Many of the older toys, some of which date back to medieval times, were made in the town, which was famous for centuries for its doll makers. Also of note is the world's largest collection of toys made by EP Lehmann, one of the country's best-known toy manufacturers famous for their line of model trains. Another excellent outing for kids is the Nuremberg Zoo, home to more than 2,000 animals and boasting an excellent and always popular dolphinarium. Covering 170 acres, it's one of the largest (and oldest) zoos in Europe and boasts Siberian tigers, lowland gorillas, and African buffalo. Finally, for those with an interest in the stars, the Nicolai Copernicus Planetarium is worthy of a visit.
Address: Karlstrasse 13-15, D-90403 Nuremberg
Where to Stay in Nuremberg for Sightseeing
If you're visiting Nuremberg for the first time and want to see the main sights, the best place to stay is in the Altstadt (old town) of Nuremberg, preferably within the old city walls. From here, you can walk to many of the city's top attractions, including the Hauptmarkt, the National Germanic Museum, and Nuremberg Castle. Here are some highly-rated hotels in this central and convenient location:
- Luxury Hotels: Within the old town walls, near the main train station, the historic Hotel Victoria and the charming boutique Hotel Drei Raben are both steps away from the Hauptmarkt. In the latter hotel, each room is uniquely themed with a story that celebrates the city's heritage. If you prefer big hotels, the Sheraton Carlton Hotel Nuernberg is outside the old town walls but still within walking distance to the historic attractions and the main train station.
- Mid-Range Hotels: In a fantastic location right on the Hauptmarkt, Sorat Hotel Saxx accommodates guests in cozy, contemporary rooms, a five-minute stroll to shops and restaurants and less than ten minutes on foot to Nuremberg Castle. Another great-value boutique option is the art & business Hotel, with bold, modern art and contemporary spaces, just outside the old town walls near the main train station. With a fitness center and a free hot breakfast, Hampton by Hilton Nuremberg City Centre is also outside the city walls, but still within walking distance to the old town attractions.
- Budget Hotels: On a quiet side street within the old town walls, the family-owned Hotel Garni Probst offers clean, bright rooms with comfy beds and a wonderful cooked breakfast. A hop, skip, and a jump away, the Ibis Nuernberg Altstadt offers clean basic rooms in the heart of the old town, while the B&B Hotel Nuremberg-Hbf is less than 15 minutes on foot from the Hauptmarkt and a short hop from the main train station.
Day Trips from Nuremberg
Just nine kilometers north of Nuremberg, Schloss Neunhof is a lovely old moated and fortified manor house first mentioned in 1246. One of the best preserved of the mansions of the Nuremberg patricians, it is one of 60 such structures dotted around the city as a defensive line. The building boasts a moat and drawbridge, lovely decorated interiors, as well as a splendid garden.
The small Baroque town of Erlangen lies a few kilometers north of Nuremberg and is famous as a university town. Its most notable building is Erlangen Schloss, built in 1704 and occupied since 1825 by the Friedrich Alexander University. To the rear of the building is the Schlossgarten, partly in French and partly in English styles, with its lovely yet curious Huguenot Fountain, and the beautiful Orangery dating from 1706. On the north side of the gardens are the Botanic Garden and the Margravial Theater, as well the University Library which possesses valuable manuscripts and works of graphic art, including self-portraits by Dürer and Grünewald.
Address: Postfach 3520, D-91023 Erlangen
Less than an hour's drive from Nuremberg, the Domplatz in the town of Eichstätt is home to the Romanesque/Gothic Eichstätt Cathedral dating from the 11th-14th centuries. The cathedral is one of Bavaria's finest medieval churches. Behind its Baroque west front is a choir with a canopied altar containing the remains of St. Willibald, the first bishop of Eichstätt, as well as a seated figure of the saint by local sculptor Loy Hering. Other cathedral highlights include the stone Pappenheim Altar in the north transept by Veit Wirsberger (circa 1495); a two-story cloister, dating from 1420-30; and the splendid two-aisled hall of the 15th-century Mortuarium on the cathedral's southeast side.