When travellers look for destinations in Bavaria to visit, the city of Nuremberg is sure to be first among them. Best known for its world-class Christmas markets and ties to the darker chapters of German history, that’s not all Nuremberg is. Before my most recent visit, I’d actually visited Nuremberg once a long time ago as a child. Although I only had feint memories, I remembered the Old Town leaving an impression on me. Makes sense of course, given that’s where so many of the sights to see in Nuremberg are.
With that past connection, visiting Nuremberg is one of my priorities on my latest trip through Germany. Not only did I want to see which Nuremberg sights were familiar to me, I wanted to confirm all the good things I’d heard from fellow travellers. While nowhere sparked any clear memories for me, I definitely saw what all the fuss was about. I failed to really explore beyond the Old Town due to time constraints, but it was enough for me. So, here’s what to do in Nuremberg if you want to see the Old Town’s best sights.
Old Town Walls
When visiting the Old Town of Nuremberg the first thing you’re going to see is the giant town walls. Running a ring right around the city’s historic centre, the stone walls and frequent towers tell you that you’re entering somewhere important. If you get the chance, don’t just head through the nearest gate, but instead wander along the walls a bit. I think they’re more impressive from the outside, especially with the pleasant park that follows them.
The Nuremberg Old Town occupies the centre of the city and is divided in half by the Pegnitz River. Chances are you’ll enter the southern half of the Old Town, known as Lorenzer Altstadt. While part of the historic centre, includes a considerable number of modern buildings. That’s not to say it lacks atmosphere, it just feels a bit more like a practical city centre at times.
There’s certainly plenty of things to see in this part of Nuremberg if you take the time to wander about. As you go, you’ll come across several big squares mixed in with all the shops and department stores. One stand out is the Weißer Turm, a lone tower away from the others that encircle the city centre.
St. Lawrence Church
Honestly though, the one big sight you won’t want to miss in Lorenzer Altstadt is the St. Lawrence Church. With its twin steeples, gothic facade and massive rose window it’s quick to make an impression. Thanks to its design, you’d never question that this is a church from medieval Nuremberg. However, while it was finished in 1400, you might be surprised to learn that it was almost completed restored after WWII. A beautiful sight nonetheless.
Even with so many man-made landmarks adding to the splendour of Nuremberg, perhaps the city’s most important is the Pegnitz River. The river carves through the centre of Nuremberg Old Town and provides some of the best views in Nuremberg. I could have created this travel blog solely with photos of Nuremberg’s riverfront it’s so enchanting.
Since Nuremberg’s riverfront is so important, it’s only natural that plenty of bridges have sprung up to cross it. Not only are they useful for getting from one side of the Old Town to the other, they’re each quite picturesque in their own ways.
Even though the Fleischbrücke and Museumsbrücke are more central and prominently used, the most photogenic bridges lie at the western end of town. The old-fashioned Henkersteg Bridge is arguably the prettiest bridge in Nuremberg, seen above. Downstream of that you have the Maxbrücke and Kettensteg bridges, both quite scenic and also good view points.
Having torn yourself away from the picturesque riverfront, it’s time to explore the other half of the Old Town. The northern side of Nuremberg’s historical centre is known as the Sebalder Altstadt. This is where you get that quaint character you’ve been waiting for! Rather than modern buildings and name-brand stores, the narrow city streets are lined with classic half-timbered houses. To see this particular spot, head to Weißgerbergasse, but I encourage you to wander about.
It probably seems strange that we’re only now getting to the Main Square of Nuremberg. That’s simply because, with its central location, you need to walk through a lot of the Old Town to reach it. It also happens to be lined with quite a few modern buildings, making it a little less spectacular. But there are two stunning landmarks here that make it a must to visit.
The first is the glamorous gothic architecture of the Church of Our Lady. This 14th century church on the square’s eastern edge is magnificent, both inside and out. And yet, it somehow gets out-shined by the Schöner Brunnen fountain. Incredibly ornate in design, this golden-coloured fountain boasts figures from Christianity and the Humanities. I’m hard pressed to think of anything like it I’ve ever seen in Europe.
Of Nuremberg’s main sights, I feel like this is one the I least explored. Nuremberg Castle is lofted above the rooftops of the Old Town on a hill at its northern end. Because of the shape of the Old Town, you often don’t realise it’s there until you get up close. It’s the last steps as you reach the paths leading into the castle that you begin to appreciate its presence and size.
There’s two entrances to the castle and I personally think the farther one is the more interesting. It takes you through this stone channel lined with trees and brings you to the castle’s panoramic terrace. The views here look out over the city’s rooftops and are as far-reaching as you might expect. Were it not for all the cranes when I was there, you might be seeing a photo of it.
Further adding to my disappointment, parts of the castle were closed due to renovations when I was there. To what extent that’s still going I don’t know.
All around the western end of the castle, there’s a series of garden terraces known as the Burggarten. Beautifully designed and bursting with life, they’re a peaceful place to stroll about. They also happen to be perched on top of the fortifications of the town walls, which means some superb views looking away from the Old Town. It’s also through the gardens that you reach the final and my favourite sight on this list…
Beim Tiergärtnertor Square
Possibly my favourite of the sights to see in Nuremberg is part of the historic ramparts that overlooks Beim Tiergärtnertor Square. This square below the castle and inside the Tiergärtnertor gate just has everything you could want in terms of scenery. Half-timbered houses sit along the edges of the square that aren’t old city walls. In the square, you have outdoor seating for restaurants and one big leafy tree in the centre. It’s basically medieval Nuremberg distilled into one classic spot.
But I think the view down into the square is even better than what you get at street level. The ramparts, which you access through the Burggarten, run right over the Tiergärtnertor gate and really let you see everything. Not only do you get to see the square all at once, you also can properly see the castle over the rooftops. No wonder I came back again to this spot to see it in the late afternoon light.
Tips for Visiting Nuremberg Old Town
You won’t have any problem finding places to stay in Nuremberg thanks to its popularity with tourists. Typically, accommodation outside the town walls is a little cheaper even though it doesn’t take much effort to walk into the Old Town. Two mid-range options I’d recommend within the town walls are the extremely well-located Gideon Hotel and the spacious and stylish Holiday Inn Nurnberg City Centre.
As for getting to Nuremberg from elsewhere Germany, you shouldn’t have any problems there. The city is the second largest in Bavaria and is a pretty big regional hub. You’ll find connections by both bus and train to big cities like Munich and Frankfurt, plus smaller ones such as Bamberg and Regensberg.