Here is another complete daytrip chapter from the pages of my latest guidebook, Daytrips Germany, Seventh Edition. This same chapter also appears in Daytrips Bavaria, a more compact guide. Enjoy:
A Daytrip from Munich
Often regarded as the most German of German cities, Nürnberg makes a fascinating daytrip destination whose very name recalls a contradiction of images. It is at once the perfect medieval city, the toy capital of the world, the setting for Wagner's incomparable opera "Die Meistersinger, " and a charming center of intellect and culture. Yet, Nürnberg was the place chosen by Hitler for the infamous Nazi rallies of the 1930s, and the city that lent its proud name to the despicable laws of racial purity. In retribution, it was practically leveled during World War II, and is still best known for the war-crime trials held there after the collapse of the Third Reich. Since then, the old part of town has been largely restored to its former appearance so that it at least looks ancient. It is commonly known in English as Nuremberg.
Not really old as medieval cities go, Nürnberg was founded around 1050 as a military stronghold by Emperor Heinrich III. With the downfall of the Imperial House of Hohenstaufen in the 13th century it became a free city, fortunately located at the junction of several important trade routes. During this period the arts flourished with such local talents as Albrecht Dürer and Hans Sachs. Prosperity came to an end with the Thirty Years War, when Nürnberg's population and wealth declined greatly. It was not until the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century that the city, by now a part of Bavaria, regained its prominent position in German affairs.
Nürnberg is also a good base for excursions to Würzburg, Bamberg, Bayreuth, Regensburg, or even Rothenburg.
Trains depart Munich's main station at least hourly for Nürnberg, less than 100 minutes away by ICE Express, or a bit longer by ordinary trains. Return service operates until mid-evening.
By Car from Munich, take the A-9 Autobahn 165 km (103 miles) north to Nürnberg.
Several of Nürnberg's best attractions are closed on Mondays. Good weather is not essential for this trip as much of the time is spent indoors. There is a local Tourist Information Office at Königstrasse 93, across from the Handerkerhof, T: (0911) 233-6132, and a branch office at Hauptmarkt 18, T: (0911) 233-6135. For further information contact the Congress-und-Tourismus Zentrale, T: (0911) 233-60, W: nuernberg.de. Nürnberg has a population of about 494,000.
FOOD AND DRINK:
The local specialty is Bratwurst, those little sausages that taste better here than anywhere else. Nürnberg is also noted for its Lebkuchen cookies, excellent Franconian wines, and superb beer. Among the choice restaurants are:
Essigbrätlein (Weinmarkt 3, a block west of St. Sebaldus Church) Modern and traditional local cuisine in elegant, ancient surroundings. Dress nicely and reserve, T: (0911) 225-131. X: Sun., Mon. €€€
Nassauer Keller (Karolinenstr. 2, opposite St. Lorenz Church) Traditional cuisine in the cellar of a 13th-century house. T: (0911) 225-967. X: Sun. €€ and €€€
Heilig Geist Spital (Spitalgasse 12, on the Pegnitz River) An authentic wine tavern, very popular with tourists for its inexoensive lunches. T: (0911) 221-761. € and €€
Bratwurst Häusle (Rathausplatz 1, across from the Old Town Hall) A boisterous, fun place for grilled sausages and sauerkraut. T: (0911) 227-695. X: Sun. €
Bratwurstglöcklein (in the Handwerkerhof by the Königstor) A rustic place for bratwurst, sauerkraut, potato salad, and beer. T: (0911) 227-625. X: Sun., holidays. €
Numbers in parentheses correspond to numbers on the map.
Begin your walk at the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) (1). From here use the underground passageway to reach the Königstor (2), a part of the massive old fortifications. These walls, constructed over a period of centuries, remain intact today and give Nürnberg a medieval appearance that is largely missing from other major German cities. The main tourist office is across the street. Next to the tower is an entrance to the Handwerkerhof, a courtyard of small shops where present-day craftsmen carry on in the medieval tradition. You may want to return here later. Stroll along Königstrasse to the St.-Lorenz-Kirche (St. Lawrence's Church) (3). Built in the 13th and 15th centuries, this is the city's largest house of worship. It contains some remarkable works of art, including the 16th-century *Annunciation by Veit Stoss that hangs suspended in the choir. Other pieces to look for are the tabernacle by Adam Kraft, to the left of the high altar, and the wonderful stained-glass windows in the choir.
Opposite the front of the church is the tower-like Nassauer Haus, parts of which date from the early 13th century. It is reputed to be the oldest dwelling in town, and now houses a delightful restaurant. Continue along Königstrasse, here reserved for pedestrians, to the Museum Bridge. To your right is one of those wonderful scenes so typical of Nürnberg. The Heilig-Geist-Spital (4), a 14th-century almshouse spanning the Pegnitz River, still serves its original purpose and also contains a very popular Weinstube and restaurant.
You are now only steps from the Hauptmarkt (main market place) (photo, above) (5), an open area usually filled with farmers' stalls. The traditional Christkindlesmarkt is held here each December for the sale of toys and ornaments. W: christkindlesmarkt.de. Facing the east side of the square is the 14th-century Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), which provides a free spectacle every day at noon in the form of mechanical figures acting out the story of the Golden Bull of 1356. Step inside to see the famous Tucher altarpiece from 1440.
One of the best-known sights in Nürnberg is the *Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) (photo, above) in the northwest corner of the square. Dating from the 14th century, it is decorated with 40 sculpted figures arranged in four tiers, and surrounded by a 16th-century wrought-iron grille. Now walk up to the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) (6), where you can take a gruesome tour through the 14th-century dungeons (Lochgefängnisse) and visit the torture chamber. T: (0911) 231-26-90, W: museen.nuernberg.de. Open mid-April through Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-4:30; Feb. to mid-April and Nov.-Dec., Mon.-Fri. 10-4:30. €.
St.-Sebaldus-Kirche (St. Sebald's Church) (7) was begun in 1225, making the transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic style. On the outside of its choir, facing the Old Town Hall, is the magnificent Schreyer-Landauer tomb of 1492 by Adam Kraft. Enter through the west portal and visit the *Shrine of St. Sebaldus, a wonderful 16th-century brass sculpture containing the silver coffin of Nürnberg's patron saint. There are several other exceptional works of art, including a sunburst Madonna on a north aisle pillar, a Crucifixion group by Veit Stoss near the main altar and, in the south aisle, a stone sculpture by Adam Kraft of Christ bearing the Cross.
A climb up Bergstrasse leads to the:
*ALBRECHT DÜRER HOUSE (8) (photo, right), T: (0911) 231-25-68, W: museen.nuernberg.de. Open March-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-5, until 8 on Thurs., also on Mon. in July-Sept.; Nov.-Feb., Tues.-Fri. 1-5, weekends 10-5. €€.
This is where the great artist lived from 1509 until his death in 1528. The first three floors are open as a museum, and give a good impression of the surroundings in which he lived and worked. Of particular interest is the original kitchen, a replica of his printing press, and copies of his works. The picturesque square next to this has some attractive outdoor cafés.
Follow the map uphill and through a garden to an opening in the town wall, from which you will have a marvelous *view of the square. Return through the garden and stroll past the Fünfeckiger Turm (Pentagonal Tower), which dates from the 11th century and is regarded as the oldest structure in Nürnberg. Adjoining this are the Imperial Stables, used as a youth hostel. You are now within the precincts of:
*NÜRNBERG CASTLE (9-10), T: (0911) 225-726, W: kaiserburg-museum.de. Open April-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct.-March, daily 9-4. €€.
Nürnberg Castle was the residence of all acknowledged German kings and emperors from 1520 to 1571. Continue on to the 13th-century Sinwellturm (9), a massive round tower that may be climbed for the best possible panoramic view of the city. Close to this is the Tiefer Brunnen (Deep Well), a source of water since the earliest days. It, too, may be visited.
The major part of the castle, the Kaiserburg (10), was begun in the 12th century, although most of what you see today dates from the 15th and 16th centuries. There are frequent guided tours through its Gothic interior visiting, among other rooms, the interesting 12th-century chapel, a double-deck affair where emperors worshipped above the heads of lesser folk.
Walk down and turn right on Burgstrasse. This leads to the Fembo Haus (11), an excellent museum of life in old Nürnberg, located in a well-preserved Renaissance mansion. Be sure to see the large model of the Old City with its introductory sound-and-light show. If you have an hour to spare, there is also a multimedia extravaganza called Noricama. T: (0911) 231-2595, W: museen. nuernberg.de. Open Tues.-Fri. 10-5, weekends 10-6. Museum €, Noricama €, discount combo ticket available.
The route again passes Stl. Sebald's Church, then follows Weinmarkt and Karlstrasse to the:
*SPIELZEUG MUSEUM (Toy Museum) (12). T: (0911) 231-3164, W: museen.nuernberg.de. Open Tues.-Sun. 10-5, also open Mon. during Christkindlesmarkt and toy fair. €.
A wealth of delightful playthings from all over the world is on display, ranging from simple dolls to elaborate model railway setups. Toys have been a major Nürnberg industry for centuries, making a visit here especially appropriate.
Continue on to the Maxbrücke (13), a bridge with stunning views up and down the Pegnitz River. The large half-timbered structure to your left, the Weinstadel, was built in 1446 as a home for lepers. Later used for wine storage, it is now a residence for university students. Adjacent to this is the Wasserturm, a part of the older 14th-century fortifications. From here the Pegnitz is spanned by a covered wooden footbridge called the Henkersteg, or hangman's bridge, to whose solitary dwelling it led. To the right, the view of the medieval walls arched over the river is equally engaging.
Follow the map past the 15th-century Unschlitthaus (14), a former granary, and through a more modern part of town to the formidable:
GERMANISCHES NATIONAL MUSEUM (Germanic National Museum) (15), T: (0911) 133-10, W: gnm.de. Open Tues.-Sun. 10-5, staying open until 9 on Wed. €.
Dedicated to the many aspects of German art and culture from prehistoric times to the 21st century, this vast treasure house requires several hours to see properly.
Railfans and kids, as well as some otherwise normal people, will really enjoy a visit to the:
VERKEHRSMUSEUM (Transportation Museum) (16), Lessingstrasee 6, T: (0911) 219-2428, W: dbmuseum.de. Open Tues.-Sun. 9-5. €.
This superb museum's collection of old trains features the Adler, the first locomotive to operate in Germany, and "mad" King Ludwig II's incredible private cars. Three floors of exhibits are almost entirely devoted to railroading, with a special treat being the huge model train layout (Modellbahn), which runs hourly on the half-hour. There is an inexpensive cafeteria with local dishes and drinks served in a 19th-century machine shop setting. From here it is only a short walk back to the station.
Those lucky enough to stay overnight in Nürnberg have plenty of other sights to take in. Here are some particularly worthwhile sights:
Documentation Center — Nazi Party Rally Grounds (Reichsparteitagsgelände) — The eerie and somehow terrifying grounds of Dutzendteich, in the southeastern fringes of the city, was once the scene of Hitler's most infamous Nazi rallies — immortalized in Leni Riefenstahl's 1936 film, Triumph of the Will. Part of this is now a gripping exhibition on the ruthless misuse of power under National Socialism. The nearby Zeppelinwiese field is where those overblown, Wagnerian, quasi-religious ceremonies took place; today it is used mostly by skateboarders. T: (0911) 231-56-66, W: museen.nuernberg.de. Take tram 9 or bus 36 to Luitpoldhain, or tram 4 or commuter train S-2 to Dutzenteich, or bus 55 or 65 to Dolku-Zentrum. Open Mon.-Fri. 9-6, Sat.-Sun. 10-6. €.
Justizgebäude — This is where the Nazi era ended in the famous Nuremberg Trials of 1946, which sent ten leaders to the gallows for their crimes against humanity. Now restored to its original state, the courtroom is still in use but open to visitors on weekends. T: (0911) 231-54-21. Fürther Strasse 110, Bärenschanzstrasse entrance. Take subway U-1 or U-11 to Bärenschanze. Open Sat.-Sun. 10-6. €.
Neues Museum — Nürnberg's new museum of modern art and design occupies a stunningly transparent structure just east of the Germanic National Museum (15). T: (0911) 240-200, W: nmn.de. Open Tues.-Fri. 10-8, Sat.-Sun. 10-6. €.
Jüdisches Museum Franken — Nearby Fürth was once a major center of Jewish life in Germany. This heritage is celebrated through exhibitions of its history in Franconia from the Middle Ages to the present. T: (0911) 770-577, W: juedisches-museum.org. Königstrasse 89, Fürth. Take subway U-1 to Fürth-Rathaus. Open Tues.-Sun. 10-5, remaining open on Tues. until 8. €.
Copyright © 2009 by Earl Steinbicker