My third stop during my visit in Germany earlier this month was in Nuremberg, the second-largest city after Munich in the Bavaria region. Besides being known for its rich medieval history, it’s also infamous for the site of the Nazi Rally Grounds during Hitler’s reign, as well as for the Nuremberg Trials against war criminals following WWII. That said, if the long, complex history didn’t give me enough reason to visit Nuremberg, at least its architecture (and famous Christmas markets) did.
Following my two-night stay in Heidelberg, I caught the 13:20 Flixbus to Nuremberg. It happened to start snowing that day, which definitely set back the arrival into the city– in other words, the bus arrived on-time in Heidelberg, but one hour later than expected in Nuremberg. I wasn’t in a rush, though, since I wouldn’t be meeting my Couchsurfing host until past 20:00, after he got off work.
Thankfully, it wasn’t snowing in Nuremberg when I arrived in close to 18:00, and from there I headed into the heart of the city to see the Christmas markets which had started that day. Being opening night, it was a madhouse, and it was impossible to get through the crowds, let alone through the stalls. Despite that, the markets were gorgeous, even bigger than the ones in Heidelberg: smells of glühwein, sweets, and bratwurst filled the air, and the lights all over the Hauptmarkt were dazzling, almost blindingly so. It was no wonder that people consider Nuremberg’s Christmas market to be one of the best in Germany, perhaps even in Europe!
Weaving through the crush of people, I got myself some Nürnberger Rostbratwurst, a special bratwurst local to the city itself. Taken in a bread roll, I found them tasty, although nothing spectacular to write home about. Afterwards, I got glühwein at a cafe, where I could go up the second floor to access the terrace for views of the madness below. All the same, it was a beautiful mess, as I snapped photo after photo of the magical moment.
After wandering the Christmas market, I popped into Starbucks to get warm and to relax until it was time to head over to my Couchsurfing host’s flat, located about 30 minutes from the heart of the city. Got myself a gingerbread latte and used the Wifi (touristy much? Doesn’t matter…) until 20:00, then I set out on-foot to his flat. I arrived half an hour later, and my host greeted me with soup as a late-night supper. After settling in, I chatted amiably with him, getting to know each other: he was a German in his mid-thirties who’s passionate about yoga and working out, and he had a lot to say on philosophy and other thoughtful topics on hand. Eventually, I turned in for bed, sleeping on some yoga mats in his study room.
The following morning, I woke up and, after having breakfast and chatting more with my host, headed out to see Nuremberg for the day. Although I would be staying four nights, I only had one full day to see the city, since I would be taking day trips to nearby towns on the other days. That said, I started by visiting the Justizpalast (Palace of Justice), where it once held the famous Nuremberg Trials and today contains a museum dedicated to their history. I also viewed Courtroom 600, which was where many of the trials took place– today, it’s still a working courtroom, and it’s only accessible to the public on weekends when court isn’t in session. I happened to visit on a Saturday, so I could check it out. Chockful of information, the museum offered plenty of history of how the trials went and how the world was brought to justice after WWII.
It was around lunchtime when I finished the visit; I was starving, so I got lunch at one of the recommended restaurants that my host had suggested to me. It was a burger joint conveniently located on the way to the heart of the city, so I popped in for some grub. Admittedly, I wasn’t prepared for just how much food it was: the burger was STACKED, and the fries and Rotbier (“red beer,” local to Nuremberg) weren’t exactly light, either. Tasted amazing, though, probably better than what I get in the States– in any case, it satisfied my hunger and filled me up for the rest of the day.
After lunch, I headed to the city’s fortified walls, walking along the outer side until I reached the Hallertor, one of the medieval gates, and cut through to check out Weißgerbergasse, a picturesque street with colorful half-timbered houses and an Instagrammable location. In that neighborhood, I also visited Saint Sebaldus Church, one of the two tallest churches in the city (the other being St. Lorenz, which I visited later) and passed by Albrecht Dürer’s House, once home to the famous German Renaissance painter. I checked out the Imperial Castle soon after– while one could only visit the castle grounds, nevertheless it offered amazing views of Nuremberg from its hilltop.
Afterwards, I headed down towards Hauptmarkt where the Christmas markets were still going on. I stopped by a small cafe that my host had recommended me to buy some cakes to-go to share with him as thanks for the stay. We ate them together when I returned in the late afternoon, and they were incredible. I’d gotten a rum-raisin Linzer tart and a cheesecake: the former was soaked in rum and the latter had a fluffy texture, which was just right. So glad to have gotten the chance to taste those cakes, since the cafe would otherwise be closed the other days I was in Nuremberg!
I had a brief tour of the Handwerkerhof (“Craft’s Yard,” which is a small plaza with several tiny shops selling various crafts) and checked out the mini-Christmas market there before I walked all the way to my host’s flat, getting back around 16:00. It was utterly freezing, and I was happy to be out of the cold. I spent the rest of the evening inside recharging, so that I could explore more in the following days.
I took a day trip to Regensburg the next day– upon returning to Nuremberg in the late afternoon, I returned to my host’s apartment to rest a bit before heading out to dinner. I checked out a restaurant just down the street from my host’s flat, which he’d also recommended me. It served traditional Franconian food (as Nuremberg is part of Middle Franconia), but I actually ended up ordering spätzle, which I’d been craving otherwise, along with Rotbier. It was a cozy atmosphere inside, and a duo of accordion players came in to entertain while enjoying the meal– how very German, indeed! Upon leaving the restaurant, I checked out its Biergarten, which had a small Christmas market going on. Despite the rather heavy snowfall that evening, people were still out enjoying glühwein and the festive lights hanging in the air. Although I was freezing my butt off, I found it utterly magical and truly Christmas.
I took a half-day trip to Bamberg the following morning and, upon returning to Nuremberg in the early afternoon, I took the tram over to the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds, which is the former site of the Nazi Party’s grounds for rallying troops and special events. The reason why the exterior resembles that of Rome’s Colosseum is that the Nazis believed themselves to be as superior as the Holy Roman Empire, thereby constructing a grandiose monument to reflect that. It actually had never been finished, so visitors are able to see the half-constructed product today.
Just like with the Memorium Nuremberg Trials I’d visited a few days prior, the Documentation Center had rooms filled with information about the rallying grounds, and it was fascinating to learn about such a hated party (in my opinion, a cult) and how they functioned during the early part of the 20th century. It’s incredible how one man, Adolf Hitler, could rally hundreds of thousands of people to promote hatred towards specific groups of people– seriously, learning about that twisted history really made me appreciate just how far humanity has come over time.
Taking the tram back to the city center afterwards, I checked out the Christmas markets one last time, since it was my last night in Nuremberg. I also bought some lebkuchen, which is the city’s well-known gingerbread. Although I’m not the hugest fan of gingerbread, I found the chocolate-covered ones I bought not bad.
I headed back to my host’s flat in the late afternoon, arriving back at 17:00 and resting a bit before going out for dinner. Of all places, I settled on a Mexican restaurant, where I got sub-par tacos and a margarita– nothing can really beat the Mexican food from home! Returning to the apartment, I hung out with my host for the rest of the night, thanking him for letting me stay and saying goodbye before we turned in since I had an early flight to catch the next morning and he wouldn’t be awake to send me off. Didn’t sleep much that night, since I had to wake up at 4:00 to leave and catch the first metro at 4:50 to the airport, where I boarded my flight at 6:20 back to Lyon. Upon landing in Saint-Exupéry, I caught a shuttle back to my town, arriving back close to midday.
Overall, Nuremberg had been an amazing time– there was so much to see that I could only do the main, touristy attractions. I liked how there was a blend of the Bavarian charm with its reconstructed half-timbered houses and medieval fortified walls with the dark, solemn history of the Nuremberg Trials and Nazi Party. My Couchsurfing experience was also incredible: even though my host and I were busy with our separate agendas, we really clicked with our conversations in his apartment, and I was never disappointed with his food suggestions– I’d return to Nuremberg to eat more, if I could! Nuremberg is definitely a city worth checking out in Germany, that’s for sure.
I’ll recap my day trips from Nuremberg in the next few posts to come. Next up: Regensburg, Germany!