A tour through the history of Nuremberg
14 April, 2014
Nuremberg is one of those cities that allows you to organise an interesting tour through history without leaving town and no need for a time machine. A city that was bombed in 1945 and rebuilt shortly afterwards, its leading role throughout medieval, modern and contemporary history has left it with many historical attractions.
It was the capital of the German Empire between the 11th and 14th Centuries, a key centre during the German Renaissance and the main setting for the Thirty Years War (1632). Thanks to its importance during the imperial époque, Hitler made it the headquarters of the Nazi Party Congress and it was also in Nuremberg where various Nazi war criminals were tried and sentenced in Court Room 600 in the Palace of Justice .
Its history has left the city with many interesting monuments to be visited and Bavarian artists, such as Albercht Dürer have given Nuremberg an artistic heritage not to be missed. This tour offers a route through the city so you can find out all about in just one day.
Nuremberg Palace of Justice (Justizpalast)
Our tour of Nuremberg starts at this seat of judicial power, which today remains fully operational. It was here that the Nuremberg Trials took place that lasted almost one year and where the sentences handed out to some of the heads of the Nazi regime became a landmark in the history of international law.
The Court Room 600, the scene of these historic trials, is still used as a courtroom today and at the weekends, when it is not in use, offers guided tours. As an alternative, if you find the room closed, you can visit the “Memorium Nuremberg Trials” exhibition which can be found in the East Wing of the building.
German National Museum (Germanische Nationalmuseum)
Although this involves a large chunk of time and patience, as you have to queue up to get in, the visit to the German National Museum is well worth it as it is possible to see one of the greatest collections of modern German art to be found in Nuremberg, Germany and the world, all under one roof. Until 2 September, you can see “The Early Dürer”, a retrospective exhibition of the early works of German artist Albercht Dürer, a son of Nuremberg and the greatest exponent of the 16th Century German Renaissance.
On your way in or after your visit, opposite the museum entrance, is the Street of Human Rights , 29 commemorative columns that bear the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights . One curious thing, there are 29 columns and 30 articles (in 30 different languages) because the last column, in Spanish, had to be taken away because it was blocking the exit for the fire station. They said they’d replace it but…
Marriage Carousel (Ehekarussell)
Going into the city centre, at the foot of the Weißer Turm (White Tower), you will find a fountain that is not suitable for the recently married: the Marriage Carousel was sculpted in 1984 by Jürgen Weber. Its figures were inspired by the poem “Bittersweet Married Life” by Hans Sachs. The sculptures depict falling in love at the beginning, the routine of living together and ends up with… well, you’ll see for yourself.
Church of St. Lawrence (Lorenzkirche)
The Church of St. Lawrence, built in the 13th Century, is an example of the Hallenkirche (hall churches), the typical German Gothic churches, with three aisles of the same height. Most of it was rebuilt following the Second World War bombardments and among its curious details that catch your attention are the nets that protect the statues in the portico so that birds can’t make their nests there or the Braille information panel we came across at the entrance.
Hospital of the Holy Spirit (Heilig-Geist-Spital)
This is one of the most well-known postcards of the city of Nuremberg, photographed from the bridge opposite. On the banks of the River Pegnitz, the building was constructed between 1332 and 1339. Having fulfilled its duties as a hospital, it is currently a municipal home for the elderly.
Market Square (Hauptmarkt)
Another of the must-see spots you simply must not miss on any tour of Nuremberg, is dominated by the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) built in 1358 by order of Emperor Charles IV. Its famous marketplace (particularly well-known for its Christmas Market but also offers a fresh produce and traditional food market during the rest of the year). Here you will find the Beautiful Fountain (Schöner Brunnen) that dates back to the 14th Century . The square is encircled by innumerable souvenir shops and the city tour bus stop is located right beside the historic fountain.
At this stage in the tour, we suggest a rest and something to fuel the stomach chance by sampling some traditional German food. Opposite the old Town Hall we found the Bratwursthäusle restaurant, where we could try the traditional German bratwurst accompanied by the equally emblematic pretzel. So sit down on the terrace and guten appetit!
Albercht Dürer’s House (Albercht Dürer Haus)
Fed and watered and after a short rest, you will be ready to walk to the highest area of the city. Before you leave the city walls, we recommend a visit to the house-museum that used to be the home of Albercht Dürer that includes in its exhibition, a chance to see the process carried out by Dürer when creating his famous etchings . Interestingly, in the square opposite the house, we discovered a curious sculpture reminiscent of one of the most well-known works by Dürer, the hare.
Imperial Castle of Nuremberg (Kaiserburg)
When you pass through the walls, you might be surprised to see gardens and orchards in the moat. The city hall rented the space out to the citizens of Nuremberg who use it as an urban vegetable patch or garden… Following the wall along for a few metres, we reach the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg from which point you can see the entire city (see the panoramic view at the start of this article). It was the residence of the German emperors from 1050 to 1571 and as well having preserved some of its original living quarters that are open to visitors, many other parts of the castle are still inhabited today.
Zeppelin Field (Zeppelinfeld)
To conclude this tour, we leave the city centre and to do this, if you haven’t done so already, we recommend you use the city’s public transport, specifically, the No. 36 bus route. You have to take this bus from the stop that is fairly near the castle then get off at the last stop on the line, that will leave you right opposite the Documentation Centre , inaugurated in 2000, the former Nazi Party Congress.
The original project for this building was to construct a half section of an amphitheatre in the style of the Roman Coliseum , with a conference auditorium in its centre. Now the building houses an interesting and modern information centre that can be visited, with a permanent exhibition documenting the history of the precinct and the ruthless abuse of power by the Nazi regime.
From there, you have to border the lake to reach the Zeppelinfeld itself: an enormous grandstand inspired by the Pergamon Altar from which Hitler directed the parades and Nazi Party congresses. Today, the area is very run-down and the city of Nuremberg only uses it for a >rock music festival held at the start of June (reminiscent of the 1970s) and a car race that takes place during the first week of July. Strange, isn’t it? Even so, you should pay a visit even if it is only to say “I’ve been there” before you go back into the city. Talking of the return, close to the Zeppelin Field there are two stops for the local train (S2) which will drop you off at Nuremberg’s central station.
As regards transport, other than the cases we’ve mentioned, the rest of the tour can be done on foot. However, our advice is to pick up the Nürberg Cardfrom any of the city’s Tourist Offices that, for 21 €, gives you two-day access to all the museums and public transport. Children under 12 can get their card free of charge.
Another option to think about for getting around the city is NorisBike, a public bicycle hire service available to both residents of and visitors to Nuremberg. You can find more information about this service (in German) at aquí.
We’ll be there. If you want to come too, check out our flights here.
14 April, 2014