Nuremberg is a popular city for tourists and locals alike to explore and enjoy. It is steeped with history, dating all the way back to 1050 AD, but it is often most recently associated with its Nazi past and trials. And while the vast history of this beautiful city surely makes it unique, the town itself has so much to offer visitors who want to get to know Germany more. It is a surprisingly big city with a small-town feel (especially in the Altstadt), and there are plenty of things to do in Nuremberg to keep any tourist busy. Plus, a lot of the best activities here are actually free things to do in Nuremberg!
While most people spend one day in Nuremberg, I would argue that it warrants at least two to really enjoy your time and not feel rushed. Nuremberg is also one of my favorite day trips in Bavaria since it is effortless to get to using the Bayern Train Pass and is an especially popular day trip from Munich. But one of my favorite reasons for frequenting Nuremberg is because so much of the city can be seen and experienced for free! Granted, since you are here, don’t skip on the incredibly well done Nazi Documentation Center (not free) and while you wander the Altstadt, grab yourself a Nurnberger Brat and or Lebkuchen (Gingerbread), which are just a few Euros but other than that and some of my MUST eats in Germany, enjoy these 13 free things to do in Nuremberg!
Not far from the main train station and just inside the old Medieval walls, you’ll find the “Craftsman’s Courtyard” (Handwerkerhof). While it is actually only about 50 years old, it resembles something one might have envisioned from a Medieval time period, where local merchants sell their handmade goods. Wind through the alleys and marvel at the handmade leathers, dolls, toys, and Christmas decorations all year round.
2. Tour the Imperial Castle
The Kaiserburg Grounds are completely free to walk around and are a must when visiting Nuremberg. Granted, if you would like to explore more in-depth, you can pay a little bit to tour the museum, go into the church, or climb a tower. But, truth be told, I think touring the grounds alone is plenty and gives you fantastic views, picture-perfect sites, and is beautiful to walk around.
3. Wander the Kaisergarten
Just outside the castle are the gardens, often overlooked by most tourists, especially those on a quick day trip. However, especially during the Spring and Summer, I think skipping the Gardens is a pure shame. They are peaceful, quiet, and some great viewpoints out over the city from here!
4. Experience the Largest Christmas Market in Europe
Each year, Nuremberg holds the famous Christkindle Markt, which is the oldest in all of Europe! This massive market can often be overwhelming with so many tourists and visitors but is worth experiencing once if you are in the area. If you can go on a weekday and in the morning, it is a much more enjoyable experience than in the evenings or at the weekends.
This is truly one of the best free things to do in Nuremberg!
5. Take a DIY Walking Tour
There are so many great places to stop along Nuremberg’s “Historic Mile,” and it is the perfect opportunity to do a little DIY Self Guided Walking Tour. Beautiful bridges are crossing the small river, wonderful little town squares to stop in, churches to see, and more.
6. Walk the Nazi Rally Grounds
While you have to pay to visit the Nazi Documentation Center (an absolute must-see, though), the outside of the Nazi Rally Grounds are free to walk around. This piece of history is fascinating, as Hitler had insanely elaborate plans for this area, most of which never came to fruition.
However, you can still see the impressive Congress Hall that was built (and now houses part of the Documentation Center), you can walk around the lake, and even visit the Zeppelinfeld, where many rallies took place.
Today, this is actually the site of the Fruhlingsfest (annual Spring Volksfestival) but is still a place that I think is a powerful reminder of the past.
Some people say that Tanner’s Lane (Weißgerbergasse) is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Nuremberg. Today, it can be quite touristy because it is so “Quintessential Germany” with its half-timbered houses and cobblestone street, but it is a must to at least have a saunter down. It is a great place to stop at a cafe and just people watch.
If nothing else, walk down it for some fantastic photo opportunities.
While most people will flock to the Weißgerbergasse, I actually really enjoy going up into the Medieval Walls at the Tiergärtnertorplatz, just outside the castle gardens. You get those great half-timbered house views and a bird’s eye view of life going by down below.
9. Go Church Hopping
Ok, this may not sound as fun as, say, “Bar Hopping,” but Nuremberg has what feels like a church on every corner, and so many of them are absolutely stop-in worthy! Yes, I promise!
Some churches even display pictures of WWII bombings showing just how devastating and demolished so much of this city really was. It is almost hard to contemplate when walking around today.
A few must-see churches are the St. Lorenz Cathedral, which dominates the Lorenzplatz with its old, gothic spires, and the Frauenkirche on the Hauptmarkt. The Frauenkirche is unique for a lot of reasons, two being that instead of a crucifix, it actually has a stunning painting above the altar and also for its remembrance of the Jewish community that was slaughtered in the area, not during WWII but during the Plague, which goes to show how long-standing anti-semitism has been rooted around the world.
10. Visit the Hauptmarkt and the Trempelmarkt
The Hauptmarkt is a place that, even today, is the “Main Market” of Nuremberg. Especially on weekends and occasionally through the week, you can find farmer’s stalls, people selling handiwork, and more here.
If you are lucky and are here in September, come to the Hauptmarkt (and surrounding alleys) to experience the Trempelmarkt, which is one GIGANTIC flea market!
This is also where the famous Christmas Market is set up as well.
11. Get Good Luck at the Schöner Brunnen
This “Beautiful Fountain” (Schöner Brunnen) may look like a church spire, but it is actually a fountain made to “reflect the worldview of the Holy Roman Empire.”
You might see people turning a brass ring. If you want some good luck yourself, turn it three times. But be careful! If you turn it to the left, legend has it that you’ll get pregnant!
12. Walk the Medieval City Walls
There are still 128 towers from the original Medieval City Wall still standing today. One of the most popular and visited is the Frauentor, just outside the main train station. Today, there are still over 4 km of walls still standing!! You can even climb up into the walls and walk sections of them. As mentioned previously, one of my favorite starting points for this is at the Tiergärtnertorplatz. Another popular section is at the Spittlertor Gate Tower at Spittlertorzwinger in the city center’s southwest corner. From here, there is a good section of the wall that continues until you get to the castle.
13. Watch the Glockenspiel
Back at the famous Frauenkirche and Hauptmarkt, there is a “Glockenspiel” at noon every day. While it isn’t something to plan your entire day around, if you have never seen a Glockenspiel in Germany, it is fun to see if you are nearby at noon. Think of it kind of like an elaborate Cuckoo Clock type of “show.” In particular, this one has the “Running Men” clock, which was built in 1509! At noon, the animated figures come out, and at this particular one, pay tribute to Emperor Charles IV.
Nuremberg is a wonderful city to explore. Luckily, most of the Altstadt can be done completely by foot and for free, making it a perfect town for budget travelers and historians alike.
Meet the guest author: Leanna Brown
LeAnna Brown is a full-time mom, part-time blogger, and a wannabe cheese connoisseur. Traveling the world, experiencing new cultures, and eating copious amounts of ethnic foods is something she was destined to do all her life, and that hasn’t stopped just because of she totes around 2 (adorable) kids. Whether it’s paragliding over Neuschwanstein Castle or hiking in the Alps with a baby on her back, LeAnna WILL find a way to see the world and then share her tips, tricks, and insider info with you!
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