To be direct, we went to Nuremberg for the Christmas Market, and the rest of the itinerary was time-filler. I mean, who does not go and visit the castle of an old town, when in the old town? And which Singaporean do not go and check out the shopping scene of the locale?
In Nuremberg, there are basically 3 must-do: Castle, Christmas Market and Steiff shop.
The castle is in the part of the old town, which is not accessible via any modern public transport; the city’s subway circumvents the old town, so the nearest stop was actually Friedrich-Ebert-Platz, which was still a good 10 minutes away from the old town vicinity.
Once exit from the station, walk towards the nearest park, cut across it, go through a tunnel, and you are in the old town. Yes, it was quite surreal to be transiting from a (relatively) modern cityscape and into a medieval setting.
As mentioned in my other post, there was a famous restaurant (Hausbrauerei Altstadthof) in between the castle and the subway station. If you do intend to replenish for your tour of the castle, set aside at least 1 hour at the restaurant.
From the tunnel, it could get quite confusing, as the tunnel actually leads to a little square where several streets meet. If you follow the wall from the left of the tunnel, you will go up the street towards the castle. If you skip the street and go on to the next one, it will lead to Hausbrauerei Altstadthof.
Up until now, the gradient up to the old town (from the new town) was gentle, but after the tunnel, the gradient gets steeper. Once at the foot of the castle, it will be even more of an arduous climb (that’s why it’s important to have a good meal before going to the castle!).
Once up the ramp, you can take a break at the courtyard outside the ticketing office for wefies (while catching a breath).
Though I will leave the exact description of the castle grounds to you own exploration (I mean, isn’t this the joy of exploring castles?), here are some of the pros and cons of touring the castle.
To the uninitiated, most castle-museums were so structured that the focus was on the rooms and the heritage in the rooms. In order to protect the artwork and embroidery, most castles actually covered their windows with heavy curtains to minimise deterioration from the sunlight.
Nuremberg Castle fell into that category, but it did offer nuggets of opportunities for visitors to take in the view from the castle.
For example, at a cramped room, there was actually a “viewing gallery” at the tallest room in the main castle that overlooked the city. And yes, because the castle is on a hill, and most part of the inner city is low-lying medieval structures, the view is all the more breathtaking.
If the view at the entrance of the castle is the lowest level of achievement in terms of view, the tallest room in the castle is medium level, then the best view must have been from the watch tower beside the Deep Well (a building containing a well that provided water to the castle. Recall that the castle is on the hill, and hence the well must be deep).
Ticket to the castle is sold separately from the Sinwell Tower, and I must say the tower’s only value is in its unparalleled view of Nuremberg.
There is a 360-degree viewing gallery atop the tower, which must be accessed by climbing a flight of seemingly never-ending, winding flight of steps. If that 5 minute climb do not leave you gasping desperately for air, the view will take your breath away.
Since the tower was on our last leg of the tour, we were near sunset and the expanse of the city set out against the orange glow of the sky was simply amazing. It was not just me, but everyone else who took in the first view after that crazy climb up the tower, and exclaimed with joy how that effort was well-rewarded!
As with the climb up the steps to the tower, most parts of the towers were filled with steps that were handicap-unfriendly. And considering that all castle museums tend to design the exhibition experience in a linear progression, it means that if you can’t overcome the first of the steps, you can’t tour the rest of the castle.
The first steps can be found at the entrance from the courtyard to the Knight’s Hall.
If you pay enough attention to the exhibits, you will realise that the allied forces razed much of Nuremberg to ground during the concluding days of World Ware II. The only surviving structure in the castle was actually the well room. In other words, majority of the castle was a re-construction of the original form.
It’s a sombre reminder of how violence can destroy human culture and heritage, but it’s also a striking example of German resilience at rebuilding their heritage.
Depending on your objective and touring preference, this may be an important consideration for your tour.
If you had read my trip report of Salzburg, I noted that the exhibits of Salzburg museum lacked consistency and progression. It seems like this is a common theme amongst the bavarian museums.
Even though there is a structured, linear progression to the tour, the exhibits and story telling isn’t. We jumped from the Holy Roman Empire to the world wars, and back. So unless you are one who are there to take in old world charm, the exhibits will irritate the hell out of you.
The other thing about the castle that will irritate the hell out of you was the chill. Granted, the interior was well-heated, but a castle tour must involve touring of the castle grounds (and hey, we must reach the tower-with-superb-view too!).
The castle being on the highest part of the city meant it was in the way of wind with long fetches. You won’t feel warm after climbing up the ramp to the castle entrance. You will not feel hot after climbing up the steps to the viewing gallery, which, by the way, is open-air. In fact, “cold” is the theme to all the splendid views.
And because there was no sign of frost or snow in mid-December, it is real easy to underestimate the cold. Therefore, stay well-insulated, put on the layers, and activate your heat pack a good 15 minutes before you go out to take on the tower!
Cuddly Warmth: Steiff
Germany is home to the world famous button-in-the-ear teddy bear. The bears are cuddly, warm to the touch, and definitely do not feel like a cheap production (trust me, I bought them bears). The brand is so well-developed that there is a range of plushies in the forms of unicorns and sheep.
The store is outside of the Christmas market, across the river. In fact, it was very near the river, so if you only have time to shop for one store, it should be Steiff store (the rest are branded goods that could be commonly found in any major cities).
If you can afford it (a cheap plushie costs about 28 Euros, but its small size also corresponds to its price; a reasonably sized bear costs about 50 Euros or SGD 70), you should pop down to the store and given its wide range of offering, there is bound to be one item that you can find, especially if you are short on ideas of gifts for your loved ones!
The highlight of Nuremberg must be its Christmas market. In fact, it was rated as one of the must-visit markets by numerous travel magazines (LINK).
As with all Christmas markets, Nuremberg’s market is held in the city square, framed by medieval buildings. The wooden kiosks are lighted up in mystical lights after sunset. There is a stage in front of the Frauenkirche Nürnberg, where nightly performances were held, making it a perfect background music while touring the small, but exciting market.
Almost all Christmas markets sell the same stuff, with a few exceptions. So if you are well-traveled in terms of Christmas markets, you can aim for these directly.
In my other post, I already mentioned how I loved the Nuremberg sausages at Bratwursthäusle. The mini sausages (according to the write up in the official Nuremberg Christmas market website (LINK), the sausages were small, so that they could be passed through the key holes of city gates and in the day, the key holes of the pub doors) can also be found in the Christmas markets, albeit as a sausage roll. 2 to 3 sausages will be wrapped in a roll, with a choice of gravy / sauce.
Trust me, nothing beats munching these finger snacks while worming your way through the crowd of the market!
To be frank, I had no idea what this item was. I was attracted to the way they fried the kebabs in a shallow layer of oil, placed onto small re-usable plates (like the kind I used to make during my technical lessons in secondary school days), squirted the gravy with a fuel-pump device, coat them with a gratifying layer of curry power, and add a warm bun as a finishing touch.
It was salty in the German fashion, but at the same time, it was so flavourful that it was difficult to resist a second bite. It was all thanks to the gravy, mixed with sweetness of the onions. The meat (which we assumed was pork based on the texture, which somewhat like Chinese style pork), though fried, was tender and “melts in the mouth” (sorry for a lack of better description. But it was like that!). Like gluewein, the plates can be returned form 20C. The queue to the kiosks was a testament to its appeal!
Markt Der Partnerstadte
Literally translated as “Market of the Partners”, this was a secondary market, branched off (literally) from the main market. All kiosks were sponsored by a country, of which the proceeds will go to the charity of that country.
This market can be toured in 15 minutes, depending on whether you want to buy something.
As with all Christmas markets, it gets chilly (despite all the activity) because it is in a market square that is exposed to the elements and far from central heating of the buildings.
Before We Leave
Tour the castle only if you have the stamina and if you are interested in immersing yourself in old-world charm.
Shop at Steiff shop if you have limited time for shopping, or you want to be guaranteed of a good purchase.
Try them Nuremberg sausage rolls at the Christmas market for a been-there-done-that achievement. Look for the extremely delish kebab for a long lasting memory of Nuremberg!
If you are interested in getting a Steiff bear in Singapore, visit my other blog “Zenov’s Online Store“. I have 2 bears on sale, and they are superb for telling your loved ones how much you love them! (Click on the pictures below to buy the bears immediately!)
This blog post is an overview of the stuff we did in Nuremberg. I have a more in-depth review of the good eats in Nuremberg that are bound to induce that fabled foodgasm, the holy grail of foodies’ food hunt! Read about them in my next post “Bak Kwa in Rolled Up Goodness: Bratwursthäusle bei St. Sebald [Review]“.
I am also constantly updating my trip to Bavaria last Christmas. Go and read them for inspiration on your next trip to Germany / Munich / Nuremberg / Bavaria!
How to Get There
Imperial Castle of Nuremberg
Burg 13, 90403 Nürnberg, Germany
+49 911 2446590
Hauptmarkt, 90022 Nürnberg, Germany
+49 911 23360
Kaiserstraße 2, 90403 Nürnberg, Germany
+49 911 2355074
Easter Egg – Where Not to Go
If you refer to Tripadvisor like a bible before you go on trips, then you would have read about Restaurant Burgwächter at the foot of the castle. Like I mentioned, it is good to start your tour of the castle with a meal, and this restaurant is perfect for that purpose.
However, we did not visit the place for practicality sake (we were aiming for Hausbrauerei Altstadthof). We only went past the place and I must say that it was really in a very good location. The place looked big enough, so no worries of the shorthanded situation we met at Hausbrauerei Altstadthof.
If anyone of you have first-hand experience of Restaurant Burgwächter, please share it with me here! 🙂
Am Ölberg 10, 90403 Nürnberg, Germany
+49 911 222126
Like My Review
If you find the tips helpful in deciding whether to visit this destination, or what to do when you come here, do go to Tripadvisor, search for “Zenov” and like my review.
Or, if you are planning for a trip to Bavaria this coming winter, do read my other posts, where I also visited Salzburg and Neuschwanstein Castle (the castle that inspired Disney’s iconic castle), while being based in Munich.
Till then, stay wanderlust!