As the second-largest city in Bavaria, Nuremberg (Nürnberg, as it is called by locals) often gets overshadowed by Munich. With a recorded history dating back to 1050 and a plethora of political events throughout the ages—notably rallies, and later war trials—there’s no reason for this charming Franconian city to be humble. Visitors flock to Nuremberg year-round for its open-air markets, world-class museums celebrating local culture, and culinary specialties of sausage and gingerbread. The fact that there’s an explorable Medieval castle and a legendary Christmas market only sweetens the deal. Here are five reasons why Nuremberg should be on every Germany visitor’s itinerary.
The best way to get a sense of Nuremberg is by wandering the Hauptmarkt, the main market located in the center of Old Town. There are colorful stands here throughout the year, but the real attraction—drawing two million visitors during each Advent season—is the Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg’s famed Christmas market.
Christkindlesmarkt translates to “Christ Child Market,” reflecting the city’s biennial tradition of electing a young Nuremberg-area woman to be the Christkind. Besides serving as the Christmas market’s costumed ambassador and paying visits to the local youth and elderly, the Christkind delivers an opening prologue for the event from the balcony of the Frauenkirche in which she proclaims, “You men and women who once were children, be young again.”
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It’s not hard to let the inner child out here. Under the sea of a thousand lights illuminating the market stands, visitors browse traditional ornaments and toys, hand-crafted Christmas decorations like tinsel angels and wooden nutcrackers, and nativity figurines. The wafting spice aromas lead to stands selling Nuremberg’s famous beloved gingerbread (Lebkuchen), which is best enjoyed with some mulled wine while shopping the 180-plus market stands for new holiday treasures to take home.
Diverse Shopping Districts
Outside of the main market, Nuremberg is a diverse and exciting shopping destination. The most traditional artisans in the city set up shop near the market in northern Old Town. A jury of Nuremberg Master Traders awards the distinction of Nürnberger Meister Händler (“Nuremberg Master Trader”) to any business in this district whose wares and services reflect the kind of quality and originality that make for an optimal shopping experience. This means that visitors can’t go wrong when they stop in to a business touting a red Master Merchant Seal.
The Breite Gasse shopping mile, from the Hauptmarkt to the train station, offers access to a wide array of shopping. Along Königstraße, and in the side streets and alleys, there’s a range of retailers from bargain to traditional, luxury to Lego Store. One of those side streets, running parallel to the Pegnitz River, is Kaiserstraße, where there’s even more high-end shopping to be found—fine leather, home accessories, and one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces are some of the best finds here.
Visitors looking for a hip scene can visit the trendy Gostenhof (GoHo) district on the edge of the city’s center. Stores full of unusual antiques, secondhand goods, and vintage home décor characterize the neighborhood, ensuring a unique change of scenery from the nearby locales.
Views from the Castle
Situated on a hill overlooking the winding streets below, Nuremberg’s castle, Kaiserburg, has been a symbol of the city since the Middle Ages. There are three sections of the complex: the imperial castle fortress, the burgrave (headquarters of Medieval regional administration), and the municipal buildings of the Free Imperial City of Nuremberg (when Nuremberg was a city-state).
Visitors can pay admission to explore the interior of the castle, including its residential Palas and double chapel, well house, and Sinwell Tower, but some of the best views of the Old City of Nuremberg can be seen from the courtyard, which is free to explore—comfortable shoes are a must for the uphill climb to get there.
Famous Nuremberg Sausage
In a country known for its bratwurst, many German cities have their own specialty sausages, including Nuremberg. An authentic Nürnberger Rostbratwurst is made from low-fat pork enclosed in a lamb casing, twisted into sausages that measure from 7 to 9 centimeters long—and it has to be made within city limits, per a 2003 EU ruling that that deemed that particular bratwurst a vital part of Bavaria’s culinary heritage.
As the sausages are small and thin, restaurants commonly serve them in sets of six or more with horseradish and sauerkraut or potato salad; street vendors sell them “Drei im Weggla” (three in a bun). For the ultimate Nürnberger Rostbratwurst dinner, go to the Historische Bratwurst-Küche Zum Gulden Stern, the oldest bratwurst restaurant in the world. Here, the sausages are always roasted over a beechwood fire, never pre-boiled or pre-fried, and all ingredients come from local family farms.
Home of Albrecht Dürer
Considered the first indisputable genius of the Renaissance in Germany, Albrecht Dürer lived in a massive Nuremberg house, now called the Albrecht-Dürer-Haus, from 1509 to 1528. Visitors can enjoy the reconstructed living areas and kitchens, view copies of some of his prized paintings, and take a costumed guided tour with an actress playing the artist’s wife, Agnes Dürer. And if touring Dürer’s home and workshop isn’t enough, even more of his works can be found at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, an enormous cultural history museum of the German-speaking countries.