Everyone knows gingerbread, everyone knows Bratwurst. Many people know that Nürnberg (Nuremberg in English) has a spectacular Altstadt (old town) and castle, and others could reliably guess that the second-largest city in Bavaria would be home to a number of world-class museums.
So we’re going to show you places and sights in Nuremberg that many tourists don’t know about, the hidden gems that we discovered in this fascinating Franconian city. Come with us!
Contents / Quick links
- Weissgerbergasse (Tanners’ Lane)
- St Sebald’s Church / Coventry Cross of Nails
- Baroque gardens
- Bürgermeistergarten (Mayor’s Garden)
- Henkersteg (The Hangman’s Bridge)
- Handwerkerhof (Craftsmen’s Courtyard)
- Playmobil Fun Park (not really a hidden gem, but awesome for kids).
Weissgerbergasse (Tanners’ Lane)
Let’s kick off our tour of Nuremberg with a stroll up one of its most picturesque streets, Weissgerbergasse.
Leather-making used to be big business in Nuremberg, and the wealthiest tanners in the city lived and worked in this pretty Alstadt (old town) street. The excellent Nuremberg Tourism website explains that: “Instead of the busy tanners (…) , the Weißgerbergasse today is populated with cafés, bars, small boutiques and handicraft workshops“… but this is only partly true. Sure, there is some evidence of increasing tourist attention, but the best thing about the Weissgerbergasse is that many of its historic houses are currently still… houses. As a result, the street is not only beautiful, but it feels somehow undiscovered and uncommercial. This will inevitably change, so go discover it now!
Find it: Between the Maxplatz and Weinmarkt
The Coventry Cross of Nails
At the top of Weissgerbergasse, the massive bulk of Sebaldskirche (St Sebald’s Church) looms over the Albrect-Dürer-Platz. It’s a typically – if not spectacularly – gorgeous central European church: high Romanesque naves, with twists and turns of Gothic and Baroque as tastes changed over centuries. St Sebald himself is the patron saint of Nuremberg, and Johann Pachabel (he of the famous “Canon in D“) was the organist here.
But Nuremberg has a dark history, and one poignant sign of its troubled past can be found (and, indeed, easily missed) inside this church: A Coventry Cross of Nails.
When the Luftwaffe destroyed Coventry Cathedral in 1940, the raids had been ordered by Hermann Goering himself, the Bavarian-born Reichsmarschall who would later be tried – and commit suicide in – Nuremberg. Whilst the Nazi party showed no remorse at the wanton destruction of history and art, the tone in Coventry was about forgiveness, not revenge. From the smoking ruins of Coventry Cathedral some large iron nails from the roof were discovered, three of which were turned into a cross which still stands upon its altar today. St Sebald’s Church was later also destroyed in the war (along with most of Nuremberg) and upon its reconstruction in the 1950s, Coventry presented it with a replica Cross of Nails as a powerful symbol of reconciliation and a new beginning. There are several hundred of these replicas throughout the world, but few share a more direct symbolic significance than the St Sebald’s cross in Nuremberg…
Find it: Albrecht-Dürer-Platz. The Coventry Cross is near the altar.
Hidden off the busy, non-descript Johannisstrasse west of Nuremberg’s Altstadt are two remarkable Baroque Gardens. The larger – and marginally better known – of the two is the tranquil Hesperidengarten.
Three is the magic number here. In Greek mythology, the “Hesperides” were three nymphs of the evening who tended their beautiful fruit gardens. Accordingly, the Hesperidengarten is composed of three alleys of fountains and statues running parallel to rows of verdant fruit trees. In the south-east corner of the gardens, a sundial made from neatly-pruned privet hedges charts the gentle, inevitable passing of time; a shady beer garden in the opposite corner makes gentle passing of time an even more inviting prospect…
Just up the road, a smaller Barockgarten is arguably even more beautiful. It’s a wilder place, with unkempt grass growing between cobblestones, weeds in the grass and lichen on the statues of classical gods. But all this merely adds to the sense of discovery, of experiencing something that tourists to Nuremberg rarely experience (there was no-one else in the garden during our entire visit. In August!). Probably our favourite spot in the city.
Find it: Hesperidengarten – 43-47 Johannisstrasse; Barockgarten – 13 Johannisstrasse
It’s worth mentioning that the Tourist Information website for Nuremberg has a separate section on “Hidden Places” in the city (hurrah!). There’s a page on the Hesperidengarten in there, and a very brief mention of the Barockgarten too. Another versteckte Orte that they recommend is yet another secret park – the Bürgermeistergarten (Mayor’s Garden).
Easily missed, a small doorway from the Neutor leads you up narrow steps and onto a shady, green section of the city walls (incidentally, just about the only place where you CAN get onto Nuremberg’s defensive walls). Once you’ve found the garden, simply enjoy the tranquility amongst the fruit trees, fairytale-esque little houses and weatherbeaten statues, amazingly undisturbed by the coach-loads of tourists Instagramming the castle a few dozen metres away. Try to find the viewpoint signposted as the “best view over the old town” (Schönster Blick über die Altstadt): I certainly can’t argue with it.
Find it: Access from Neutorzwinger 2. Alternatively, turn left at the top of Am Ülberg, then walk away from the crowds.
Henkersteg (Hangman’s Bridge)
Hangmen had a tough gig. They were just trying to do their job, but were inevitably rather unloved among the wider community. As a result, they were often subjected to a forced segregation from the regular townsfolk; the Nuremberg hangman, for example, lived in a secluded tower on a small island in the Pegnitz river. When it was time for him to do his grisly work, he would leave his confinement and walk ominously across this covered bridge into the city.
The original covered bridge was built in the 15th century, and more details about it – and Nuremberg’s most famous executioner, Franz Schmidt – can be discovered in the little museum (the “Henkerhaus“) on the north bank (alas, closed during our visit).
Find it: At the western end of Trödelmarkt, on the small island crossed by Karlsstrasse.
Handwerkerhof (Craftsmen’s Courtyard)
Another spot mentioned in the “Hidden Places” section of the Nuremberg Tourist website is the Handwerkerhof (Craftsmen’s Courtyard). However, whilst interesting, I would argue that its location – directly opposite the main train station – makes it rather less “hidden” than other places in this article.
The Handwerkerhof is undoubtedly atmospheric, with an almost-medieval feel, but frankly there isn’t a lot of “handwerk” going on there anymore; it is more “wurst” than “kunst” these days. Nevertheless, for ambience alone it’s worth a quick peek on your way to catch the train.
Find it: am Königstor, just opposite the Hauptbahnhof.
Playmobil Fun Park
We can’t leave Nuremberg without briefly mentioning the reason why we were there in the first place – the truly excellent Playmobil Fun Park. As a family with four children, we try to go to one or two of these type of parks per year and – along with the very different Europa Park in Rust, Germany – the Playmobil Fun Park is undoubtedly the kids’ favourite. Read more about it in our separate article.
Find it: 12km outside Nuremberg, at Brandstätterstr. 2 – 10
90513 Zirndorf. Not easy to find by public transport; try here. Day tickets cost around €12 / two-day tickets €20.
Daisy the bus visited Nuremberg in August 2019
(c) 2019 Jonathan Orr