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Day in Nuremberg, Germany: A Beautiful City with a Dark History

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I never cared much for history class in school. Never had a great memory for dates or names. Nor was I good with geography back then. It’s amazing how much travel changed my interests. As the world became my classroom, I found myself seeking out significant historical locations to learn the lessons of the past. In all my travels, I’ve never found a lesson more relevant, important, and heartbreaking than the one taught in Nuremberg, Germany.

Pinterest Image for Nuremberg Germany (1)

We were on our epic road trip across Europe, finishing off our bucket list before moving to the US. As we had already traveled a lot in Germany, we only reserved one full day to see Nuremberg. Though we felt this was enough time to do what we wanted, this city could easily fill two days.

Staying overnight in Nuremberg makes you eligible to buy the NÜRNBERG CARD + FÜRTH. We rarely recommend tourists cards, but this one is a good deal. It includes all the attractions we mention in this post and more. Plus, it includes public transportation. You can buy the card at the Tourist Information Center and many hotels in the area.

Where to Stay in Nuremberg

Most of Nuremberg’s main attractions are located in the historical old town, Altstadt. If location is important to you, then this is the area to stay in.

Both of our suggestions are just off the main square, Hauptmarkt. Both require paid parking, but it’s not that expensive compared to a larger city.

  • Hotel Five – Large clean rooms with a nice restaurant.
  • Hotel Central – The rooms are nice and clean, and they often have budget rates.
For accommodation with a bit more character or maybe you just want something outside the city center, consider Aston’s Hotel.
  • Aston’s Hotel – Large beautifully decorated rooms in an historical building. Free parking. Plus, the train station to the city center is a five-minute walk. The train into the city takes about twenty minutes. 
Restaurant in the old town of Nuremberg, Germany

Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds

Though we were keen to see Nuremberg’s historic old town, the main reason we were in this beautiful city was to learn more about its dark history. We started our day at the Documentation Center in the former congress hall. This is next to the former Nazi Rally Grounds, just outside the city center.

We felt this museum was very different to other WWII museums, memorials, or places of remembrance we have been.

The exhibition begins by describing the conditions and tone in Germany after WW1. Germany went through hard economic times. In general, many felt bitter towards the government and the Treaty of Versailles.

The museum explains Hilter’s motivations and how he took advantage of the social conditions. It demonstrates the methods the Nazi party used to take power, mostly through manipulation and propaganda.

Tastefully put together, we listened to every word on the audio guide as it led us through events from the end of WW1 to the Nuremberg Trials. The exhibit used photographs, videos, models, and relics of propaganda to tell the history.

Eye-opening, moving, heartbreaking, and extremely disturbing it’s one of those places we wish everyone could visit.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
George Santayana
Writer and Philosopher

The exhibition ends with a view over the partially constructed coliseum-like congress hall. After seeing it in the propaganda videos it gave us chills.

Apologies for no photos. We now regret not getting photos of the buildings, but honestly at the time, it wasn’t something we wanted photos of.

2021 Update

The Documentation Center is doing a major refurb and only has a temporary exhibition on display. If you are in the area, it is still worth going. Otherwise, it may be worth waiting until the construction finishes.

Zeppelinfeld

Before leaving the area, we walked to the other side of the large lake behind the Documentation Center. It’s here we found Zeppelinfeld or the Nazi Rally Grounds. This is the field and giant stone grandstand where the Nazi’s once held their large rallies.

Impressive and chilling, the site is free to visit. There’s no requirement to visit the Documentation Center, but we do recommend it. There are only a few signs at the site to explain the history of the location.

A Lighter Afternoon in the Old Town of Nuremberg

Starving and a bit weary from all the intense history, we needed a lighter afternoon. So, we headed into the old town center.

If we had an extra day, we would have also gone to the Memorium Nuremberg Trials. This is the courtroom where the actual trials took place. It takes around two hours to visit and focuses completely on the trials. As we were a little worn out from the Documentation Center, we skipped it on this trip.

Castle area within Nuremberg's old town Altstadt, Germany

Food and Drink

As we made our way through the old town center, there were plenty of adorable restaurants with outdoor seating to relax and grab a bite.

If you’ve never tried authentic German food, you’re in for a treat. Most of it can be quite heavy, but so delicious.

In Nuremberg, the famous food to try is the Nuremberg Bratwurst. You’ll find they come in multiples as they are quite small compared to a regular sausage. However, they are known for their quality.

Don’t forget to try the German beer. Local beer in Nuremberg includes Tucher, Schanzenbräu, and Hausbrauerei Altstadthof. Hausbrauerei Altstadthof brews a special red beer, Rotbier, which dates to the Middle Ages. 

Two Tucher beers in Nuremberg, Germany

Imperial Castle of Nuremberg

After lunch we strolled over to the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, whose large towers loomed above the city. It was free to walk a lot of the castle grounds. From the top of the castle walls were great views over the city. 

We also felt it was worth going into the castle. The museum had tons of artifacts with a lot of historical information. They also had an impressive amount of medieval armor and weaponry. It took us about an hour and a half for the visit.

Gated walls in the Imperial Castle, Nuremberg, Germany
Turm Luginsland building within the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, Germany-2
Views of the city from the Imperial Casle, Nuremberg, Germany

Churches of Nuremberg

After the castle, we wandered Nuremberg for hours. Like most European cities, there’s so much history in the architecture, the cities are basically giant outdoor museums.

Churches are heavily tied into European culture. Not only are they places of worship, but they are also usually elaborately decorated inside and out. Plus, they are one of the best places to find historical artwork.

On our tour of Nuremberg, we popped into the grand medieval church of St. Lorenz (St. Lawrence) and the Gothic Frauenkirche Church.

St. Lawrence's Church, Nuremberg, Germany
St. Lorenz (St. Lawrence) Church
Frauenkirche Church near Hauptmarkt, Nuremberg, Germany
Frauenkirche Church

Bridges of Nuremberg

Another thing we quickly noticed when wandering Nuremberg, were all the beautiful bridges. Though, it’s not just the bridges, it’s also the views from the bridges.

Walk along the Pegnitz River and you surely won’t be disappointed. A few bridges to keep a look out for.

  • Museum Bridge with the view of the Holy Spirit Hospital.
  • Henkerhaus covered wooden bridge.
  • Max Brucke Bridge for its views of Henkerhaus Bridge.
  • Kettensteg Bridge for its views of the arched bridges surrounding it.
View of Heilig-Geist Hospital from Museum Bridge, Nuremberg, Germany
View from Museum Bridge

Hauptmarkt Square

Finally, we found ourselves in Hauptmarket Square. If you come for Nuremberg’s very popular Christmas Market, it is held in this square.

In one corner of the square, a large, gated fence guarded a tall golden spire. Built at the end of the 14th century, Schöner Brunnen is an elaborate fountain and a popular meeting place.

Instead of throwing coins in this fountain, you’ll need to find the magical ring with no seam to make a wish. Once a golden color, today’s tarnished ring is a little harder to spot. Look for it along the top section of the fencing.

They say if you spin the ring, you get to make a wish. However, we were also told it improves fertility, so be careful what you wish for. 

Schöner Brunnen fountain, Nuremberg, Germany

Books on Nuremberg

If you plan on spending more time in Germany or Nuremberg, we recommend having a travel book for the area.

If you’re interested in learning more on Nuremberg’s history, here are a few books we suggest.
  •  The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials: A Personal Memoir – Written by Telford Taylor, a member of the American prosecution staff and eventually chief counsel at the Nuremberg Trials. A detailed first-hand account telling not just the technical details, but rather the story of the trial and its participants.
  • Nuremberg Diary – Written by the psychologist of the Nuremberg Trials, Dr. G. M. Gilbert, this book publishes his detailed notes from interviews with the Nuremberg defendants. Each quote from these notorious war criminals, dives the reader deeper and deeper into their inner thoughts and motivations.

Following us through our epic road trip of Europe? Make sure you’re all caught up.

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