Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Nuremberg
A vast tract of untended land southeast of Nuremberg's medieval city center, the Nazi Party Rally Grounds were once the stage for some of Adolf Hitler's most infamous and dangerous speeches during the rise of the Third Reich. The nearby Documentation Center museum chronicles the terrors inflicted by the Nazi party during World War II.
Built in 1120, Imperial Castle of Nuremberg (Kaiserburg) was once a residence for kings of the Holy Roman Empire. Despite suffering damage over the years (especially during WWII), the castle has been carefully restored to showcase its original Gothic and Romanesque architecture.
The Hauptmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany is the city's main square, and it is located near the Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady. Crowds gather here at noon to witness the clock's figures performing Männleinlaufen, or Little Men Dancing, up in the clock tower. One of the main features of the square is the Schönen Brunnen fountain with intricately detailed sculptures carved onto the sides. The church and the fountain were built in the 14th century and are important pieces of the square, although the fountain you see today is a replica. The original is held in the German National Museum for safekeeping.
This is the city's main outdoor market where you can find fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses, bread, flowers, crafts, and other local goods. Several cafes and restaurants are located on and near the square, and several pedestrian streets lined with stores connect with the square, making this a nice area to go shopping. In December you'll find Christmas markets set up in this square.
The ornate Schöner Brunnen is a landmark fountain in the cobbled Market Square (Hauptmarkt) of Nuremberg’s medieval Altstadt (Old Town). Created by local stonemason Heinrich Beheimby, it is a highly decorative, three-tiered masterpiece of religious imagery, adorned with 40 gaily colored, sculpted figures representing characters from the Holy Roman Empire.
At 62 feet (19 meters) high, the fountain has been restored several times over the centuries, and most of its original stone carvings are now preserved in the German National Museum (Germanisches Nationalmuseum). The wrought-iron fence that surrounds the Gothic fountain was designed by Paulus Kühn of Augsburg in 1587 and has a famous golden handle that must be twisted for good luck.
The Market Square itself is lined with multi-gabled townhouses and the ornate façade of the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche), the site of a daily food market, as well as the famous Nuremberg Christmas Market (Christkindlesmarkt), which sees visitors pour in from all over Europe.
The city of Nuremberg is one of the most walkable cities in Bavaria, and its second-largest. The old city (Altstadt), which was bombed flat during WWII, has since been completely restored to its original state. Unlike many other German cities rebuilt in the 1950s with ‘modern’ architecture, Nuremberg captured its original, quaint atmosphere during the rebuild — but with beautiful new buildings. Most of the city’s attractions are located in the compact Altstadt, which is located inside the city’s medieval walls.
In the middle of the Altstadt is the central square (Hauptmarkt), home to the Frauenkirche: a 14th-century Gothic church. The Hauptmarkt also has a gorgeous gilded fountain with tiers of figures called the Schöner Brunnen. At noon every day, you can watch the church clock’s figures do a little dance. Be sure to touch the golden ring on the wrought-iron gate for good luck. The Altstadt is rich with restaurants of all calibers: from the humble Donair-kebab to the Michelin-starred, there’s something for every palate.
Famous for his delicate and anatomically precise etchings, woodcuts and prints, Albrecht Dürer was a Northern Renaissance artist who lived all his life in Nuremberg between 1471 and 1528. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the city became one of Germany’s most successful commercial centers and also the focus of a great artistic flowering. Dürer was at the heart of this creative movement, visiting the great Renaissance cities of Italy, regularly attending courts of European royalty and revolutionizing printmaking. His iconic works include The Apocalypse, a number of self-portraits, books on the human anatomy and many sublime animal prints as well as friezes for civic halls in Nuremberg and altar pieces in Prague.
The Albrecht Dürer's House is afachwerkhaus, a half-timbered townhouse with a steep wooden roof and of an architectural style seen all over Bavaria. This is where he lived for many years and has been restored to its original 16th-century state; a costumed guide in the guise of his wife takes English-speaking tours from room to room, explaining the mechanics of life in the Dürer household. Printmakers work in the top-floor studio and reproductions of Dürer’s art are on display throughout the museum.
With a lacy rose window and delicate religious statuary, the fancy Gothic façade of St. Lorenz Lutheran Church dominates Nuremberg’s Altstadt (Old Town) with its landmark copper-topped twin spires and began life as a Catholic church. When the Reformation came in the early 16th century, St. Lorenz soon became one of the most important Lutheran churches in Bavaria and also one of the very few with its rich hoard of treasures still intact.
Construction began on the church in 1270 and lasted for more than two centuries; its interior is a mass of pale-gray marble with a net-vaulted ceiling and soaring columns, with three aisles liberally stacked with masterly artworks. Light floods in behind the choir through the delicate stained-glass windows and the pulpits gleam with gold and gilt, but of most note are the intricate sculpture of the Annunciation above the altar by 16th-century artist Veit Stoss, who also created the figure of Archangel Michael standing proud in the nave. The painted panels on the choir are the work of Michael Wolgemut, a printmaker whose most famous pupil was Albrecht Dürer.
Badly damaged during WWII bombing raids by the Allies, the church was restored and re-consecrated in 1952. Midday organ and choir recitals are often held here and tours of the towers are available.
Founded in 1852, the home of the German National Museum has extended over the years as the collection has increased; it was originally housed in a 14th-century former monastery, to which a Neo-Gothic extension was added in the 1900s. Extensive bomb damage in World War II led to architect Sep Ruf designing glass-and-brick replacements for demolished galleries in the 1960s and the last addition was the glass entrance foyer, which is approached via thought-provoking sculptures in the Avenue of Human Rights by Jewish artist Dani Karavan.
Today the multi-story museum contains some 1.3 million artifacts showcasing Germanic culture and art, all on show in light, airy galleries and divided into 23 collections encompassing – among others – prehistory, prints and drawings, textiles, decorative arts, musical instruments and 20th-century art.
Thanks to the museum’s immense size, some cherry picking is vital, so the highlights of the chronological exhibitions include a handsome display of Baroque porcelain, the fabulously over-the-top decoration in the wood-paneled Aachen Room and a cluster of wacky work by Joseph Beuys. Also worth catching are the Stone Age tools, the scary-looking 18th-century dolls and ancient suits of armor in the Weapons Room – and don’t miss the circumcision clamps or tools for staffing sausages.
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