Nuremberg

Weißgerbergasse Nuremberg

Nuremberg – Historic City and World War II Legacy

 

Nuremberg has an impressive Old Town with intact medieval walls, a massive Imperial Palace and century-old buildings. The city also provides historical context for the Nazi movement with the Reich Party Congress Grounds and the Nuremberg Trials Memorial. While doing your historical walks, you can enjoy the renowned local culinary fare including draft beer, sausage and gingerbread.

Why We Went to Nuremberg and How Long to Visit

 

In August 2021, my wife Khadija and I went to a wedding in Munich for Nathalie and Sascha. She is the daughter of my longtime friend, Roger (in photo below with his daughter) whom I’ve been close friends with since college, and we’ve known Nathalie since she was four-years old. 

Bavarian Wedding

The wedding was such a positive experience with great people from Greece, Finland, France and other places. There we met a fellow guest who travels a great deal around Germany for his job. He persuaded us to visit Nuremberg, even though we weren’t planning to. He especially liked the walkable Old Town, the beer and the cuisine.

It was the first stop after the wedding in our five-week drive through Eastern Europe. On the autobahn, it’s only a few hours drive from Munich, Dresden and Prague, so it’s not difficult to fit in a visit.

When we arrived, we knew we made the right decision, as we were treated to a rainbow

Nuremberg Rainbow

We spent a busy two days there, which allowed us to see the Old Town and the Reich Party Congress Grounds. Here’s a map of some of the places we visited.

Nuremberg Map

We should’ve spent another day in order to go to the Nuremberg Trials Memorial, museums and places outside of the Old Town.

Is Nuremberg Safe?

Nuremberg is very safe. We never had to worry about our safety, day or night. However, here, as everywhere we travel, we follow basic safety precautions and use common sense to avoid problems.

HOW TO GET AROUND IN NUREMBERG

We parked our car in the hotel garage the whole time and walked everywhere. We met someone who gave us a short ride in his car to and from the Reich Party Congress Grounds. We didn’t use them, but Nuremberg has three lines of the U-Bahn and many buses, which seem simple to manage. Taxis are easy to catch on the street and you can use ride-shares.

Old Town

The Old Town (Alstadt) is the center of Nuremberg with many pedestrian-only streets, different generations of centuries-old buildings and postcard-beautiful bridges. It’s anchored by the Imperial Castle on the hill and surrounded by a medieval wall. The city has rebuilt and created new buildings in the 14th to 16th century style after most were damaged by Allied bombings in WWII. There are so many historic buildings and streets worth admiring and here are a few highlights.

Imperial Castle

Built on a large sandstone rock, the castle was the official home to the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, between 1050 and 1571. In this picture, you can see it overlooking the Old Town.

Alt Text: Nuremberg Castle

We didn’t take a tour inside or visit the museum on Nuremberg’s history. We spent most of our time soaking up the amazing views including an overview of the City.

Scenic View of Nuremberg

From this vantage point, we also saw the house of Albrecht Dürer, the most famous painter, engraver and printmaker of the German Renaissance, who had a huge influence on succeeding generations of artists. For years, I had a copy of this self-portrait which now hangs in the Prado in Munich.

The building had its own water-well and was his factory and residence for his employees. Note the timber beams used at this time and long sloping dormers on the roof.

Dürer House Nuremberg

Main Market Square (Hauptmarkt)

Nuremberg’s Main Market Square has been active since medieval times with rows of vendors selling flowers, fruits, vegetables, baked specialties and prepared meals. In December, the square becomes lively with booths with red and white roofs among strings of holiday lights. 

In the square is the Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) is 19-meters / 62-foot high and almost 600-years old. It’s in the shape of a Gothic spire, which harmonizes with the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), a brick Gothic building built a century earlier. 

Schöner Brunnen and Frauenkirche Nuremberg

This is the Franconian part of Bavaria and most churches are Protestant, in contrast with Catholicism being dominant further south.

The fountain isn’t just a pretty piece of architecture, but an experience

Close to the Schöner Brunnen is Town Hall, which has this wonderful pediment.

Nuremberg Town Hall Pediment

Maxbrücke (Max Bridge)

The Old Town is divided by the Pegnitz River with some beautiful bridges crossing it. One covered bridge I liked because of its simplicity was the three-arch Maxbrücke. It’s the oldest bridge in the city, finished in 1457, and was originally called the Stone Bridge. It was renamed in honor of Bavarian King Maximilian Joseph I in 1810.

Maxbrücke Nuremberg

Ehekarussell Fountain

If you have an underground shaft to hide, why not put a hilarious and controversial fountain on top of it? That’s what Nuremberg did with the Ehekarussell (Marriage-Merry-Go-Round) in 1981. The sculptor, Jürgen Weber, presented a less than ideal marriage of a couple throughout their lives. One scene of a late state of marriage shows the couple getting old, the husband frail and the wife fat.

Ehekarussell Fountain Nuremberg

Wall, Gates and Towers

Nuremberg has one the most complete medieval walls in the world with four kilometers / 2.5 miles of the original five kilometers / three miles.  They are very thick, as you see in this picture of the 

Neutor gate.

Neutor Gate Nuremberg

The wall was not a big circle, but configured with a series of star points, so that armory batteries could more easily see how other parts of the walls were doing during a battle. There are many remaining towers with lookout posts. One of them is the White Tower which is now a U-Bahn (subway) station. It’s just grey stone but was once covered with white plaster.

White Tower U Bahn Station Nuremberg

Another tower is the Hochbunker Hohe Marter, which was a place to combat Allied bombers and an above ground bunker during WWII. Now, it contains the Garnison (Garrison) Museum which wasn’t open when we were there. 

Hochbunker Hohe Marter

In this area there are many businesses run by immigrants. We met Mohammad, a refugee from Syria who had to go through several countries to end up here five years ago. He’s working in a Middle Eastern sweets shop on Ludwig Strasse and hopes to complete college someday. He is fluent in German and knows rudimentary English. 

Ludwigstrasse Pastry Shop Nuremberg

Nuremberg Free Walking Tour

In order to efficiently see a city, we normally take a free walking tour. We contacted Nuremberg Free Walking Tours online. Dorian of the company called and said they didn’t have any free tours in English scheduled when we were there, so he arranged for Andreas to be our personal guide of the Old Town.

Nuremberg Free Walking Tours

He’s a history buff who gives tours when he’s not doing his full-time job at SAP.

Anti-Covid Regulations Demonstration

Nuremberg Anti Covid Regulations Rally

Nazi History

Nuremberg will be forever associated with the Nazis (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) for its huge rallies before and during WWII and the Nuremberg Trials of party leaders and others. It’s possible to see both in one day. The city and country do not try to cover up this history but allow a free examination of it in hopes it will not be repeated here or anywhere.

Reich Party Congress Grounds

I remember watching documentaries of Hitler’s massive rallies where the crowd was worked up into a frenzy. They always included excerpts from Leni Riefenstahl’s classic “Triumph of the Will” which selectively memorialized a 1934 rally. I didn’t realize until I arrived here that Nuremberg was where this took place.

The Nazis held six enormous annual rallies from 1933 to 1938 with 150,000 SS troops and 50,000 others. The rallies were carefully staged propaganda events to send a powerful message to the rest of the country of their support for their policies. They employed many techniques to overload the senses including rousing martial and Wagnerian music, parades of swastika formations, colossal banners and flags, huge fires and firework shows and waves of “Heil Hitler” salutes. Here’s a photo of a 1936 rally from the public domain.

Nuremberg Rally 1936

We took a tour to learn more about the Reich Party Congress Grounds which cover 11 sq km / 4.25 sq mi. We reserved and paid online but upon arrival we found it was in German. Luckily, we had help from a friend translating the main points. It started at the Congress Hall built for Nazi party meetings with a capacity of 50,000 but never was used. Now there’s an amusement park next to it.

Nuremberg Nazi Congress Hall

It was inspired by the Colosseum in Rome and other classical structures with oversized proportions.

Nuremberg Nazi Congress Hall Doors

From the Congress Hall, the Great Road runs for 2 km / 1.2 mi. The squares in the road equal the length of two goose steps for marching troops, swinging their legs in unison off the ground while keeping each leg rigidly straight.

Reich Party Congress Grounds Great Road

The Great Road leads to the Zeppelin Field and its large grandstand and is inspired by the Pergamon Altar in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. It’s named after Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin, who landed here with one of his airships (apparently, they didn’t see a bad omen from the Hindenburg disaster in 1937). The grandstand, where Hitler and others fired up the crowd, now is deteriorating and full of grass and weeds growing through the concrete. 

Zeppelin Field Grandstand

Within the grandstand is the six-meter / 20-foot-high Gold Room, which was designed for Hitler to ascend to his spot on the grandstand in a godlike fashion. However, Hitler arrived at the rallies by car and walked up the steps, showing he was a “man of the people”. Ironically, he never went inside the Gold Room. The metal structure in the room is a huge, raised fire pit used during the rallies.

Zeppelin Field Gold Room

The mosaic on the ceiling is a pattern incorporating the swastika shape.

Nuremberg’s policy is to conserve the structure, but not restore or repurpose it.

Nuremberg Trials Memorial

Nuremberg was the location for the trials of high-ranking Nazi and military leaders, as well as industrialists and others who enabled them. It was selected because the city’s Palace of Justice was relatively undamaged by the war and had a large prison area. There was also symbolic value because it highlighted the end of the Nazis who held their annual rallies in the city.

You can visit the courtrooms, now called the Nuremberg Trials Memorial. It’s on the top floor of a working courtroom. The memorial’s website states “It provides insights about the defendants and their crimes, the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials of 1946-49, and the impact of the Nuremberg Trials up to the present.”

We didn’t allocate enough time to Nuremberg. If we had one more day, this would have been the first thing we would have gone to. Fortunately, there are many documentaries which can be streamed which tell the story of the trials.

Where to Eat and Stay

The traditional Bavarian cuisine was too heavy and pork oriented for us, so we didn’t go to any traditional restaurants. We had a marvelous outdoor meal at an Italian prosciutteria called il Disperato, near Nuremberg Castle. While waiting for the food, I took pictures of the streets after dusk.

Nuremberg Street at Night

Nuremberg is famous for its German gingerbread, or Lebkuchen, a honey-sweetened German cake or cookie. We waited until last night to try it but, unfortunately, no shop that sold it was open.

There are many hotels of every price to stay in or near the Old Town.

Final Thoughts

We had a whirlwind two days in Nuremberg and enjoyed every minute of it. A highlight was meeting Stefan (pictured below) and his wife Birgit.

Nuremberg Vacation

They are from western Germany and were also on vacation. Back home, he’s a policeman. We kept running into them and he’s the one who took us to the Reich Party Congress Grounds and translated the tour to us. They made the visit to Nuremberg an extra special occasion for us.

Ed Hotchkiss
Ed Hotchkiss

My goal is to travel to all the countries of the world. I count 197 countries, starting with the United Nations list of 193 and adding Taiwan, Vatican, Kosovo and Palestine. For the rest of my life, I want to see and experience as much of the world as possible, while documenting it in photographs and observations.

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