Best known for important historical landmarks like the famed Imperial Castle and Nuremberg Trials Memorial, it’s no secret that Nuremberg rises to the top of every history-lover’s bucket list. Yet this fascinating metropolis—founded as an important commercial hub from the Middle Ages—offers many surprises beyond its headline attractions. Filled with medieval architectural treasures, thoughtful WWII museums, a traditional Christmas market, culinary touchstones, and much more, Nuremberg stands out as a place where the past truly comes to life, whether you’re eating a sausage dish from a 700-year-old recipe or exploring the charming walled Old Town.
All this history remains easily accessible to travelers, thanks to Nuremberg’s convenient location. Within one hour by train from all major Bavarian cities, it’s also a popular stop for Danube river cruise passengers. Here are the ways travelers can connect with Nuremberg’s rich heritage during their visit.
1. Enjoy breathtaking views from a Medieval marvel
Perched on a sandstone ridge overlooking the city center, the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg ranked as one of the most important castles of the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages, serving as a residence for the German Kings who had been crowned by the Pope and symbolizing the significance of the church and the outstanding role of the Imperial City of Nuremberg. Visitors can wander the halls of this massive complex on their own or with a guided tour. Must-see highlights include the Deep Well, the castle’s most important source of water in times of siege, state rooms decorated with late medieval and Renaissance paneling, and the double Imperial Chapel—one of the oldest remaining parts of the castle, dating all the way back to 1200.
2. Celebrate a beloved Nuremberg tradition Held since the early 17th century, Christkindlesmarkt, one of Germany’s oldest and most famous Christmas markets, features hundreds of stalls each year in front of the famed Gothic Frauenkirche in the city’s main market square. Expect to find plenty of irresistible treats like mulled wine, sausages, spiced almonds, and feuerzangenbowle (a red wine and rum punch). Nuremberg is especially famous for its own delicious take on gingerbread—Nuremberg Lebkuchen—which has been baked for over 600 years. Looking for a souvenir? Take home a Rauschgoldengel, a shining Christmas ornament made of delicate golden paper, or a whimsical, festive figure made of dried prune called Zwetschgenmännle.
3. Remember—and never forget—the lessons of the past
For a sobering look at Nuremberg’s connection to WWII, head to the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds, a museum located in the unfinished remains of the “Congress Hall” where the National Socialists held their Party Rallies in Nuremberg from 1933 to 1938 and staged annual propaganda shows. The current exhibition Nuremberg – Site of the Nazi Party Rallies. Staging, Experience and Violence, showcases a diverse selection of photos, maps, videos, original documents, biographies, and eyewitness accounts to teach guests about the causes and consequences of Nazi Germany, as well as lend a more personal, local perspective to these events of worldwide importance.
4. Experience living history Between 1946 and 1949, Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice served as the meeting place for the well-known international trials that ultimately convicted many infamous figures from the Nazi regime for the atrocious war crimes they had committed. Today, you can visit the onsite Nuremberg Trials Memorial to hear historical audio and video recordings of the criminal proceedings, learn how the events had a huge impact on the development of international law that is still being felt to this day, and step inside the still-active Courtroom 600, the room where it all took place.
5. Stroll around one of Germany’s most walkable—and fascinating—city centers
Packed with half-timber houses, centuries-old bridges, and a maze of narrow streets, Nuremberg’s charming center, Old Town, marks the original medieval section of the city that was walled for protection. Best explored on foot, take a walking tour here and stumble upon a seemingly endless run of historic treasures, including Hauptmarkt, the center of local commerce since ancient times, and Rathaus, Nuremberg’s city hall. Afterward, grab a bite to eat at Restaurant Heilig-Geist-Spital, a former hospital and beautiful example of medieval architecture that once housed the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire. At Handwerkerhof, a recreation of a medieval shopping village, you can watch the age-old crafts of glass-blowing, toy making, and more.
6. Take a crash course in German history For a deeper understanding of German culture and history from prehistoric times all the way through the present day, don’t miss the Germanisches National Museum. Boasting the world’s largest collection of artifacts from a German-speaking region, the museum contains more than 1.3 million objects, including a Stone Age hand axe, the Golden Cone of Ezelsdorf-Buch, the oldest surviving globe, and Renaissance master painter Albrecht Dürer’s imperial portraits.
7. Savor a taste of the past
In Nuremberg, some history is edible. Nuremberg sausage, for instance, has a fascinating, 700-year-old story. While one legend maintains that the sausages’ small size came about when clever innkeepers wanted to sell them through the keyholes of their taverns after hours, the truth more likely has to do with economics. When commodity prices rose in the 16th century, the butchers of Nuremberg were forced to shrink their product to maintain quality. In 2003, the European Union awarded the Nuremberg bratwurst a Protected Geographical Indication (the first sausage in Europe to receive such an honor). Today, you can take a bite of the local delicacy at one of six bratwurst kitchens throughout the city, including Bratwursthäusle and Zum Gulden Stern.