Within the Old Town are cafes and speciality restaurants of different cuisines from German to Italian, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, Sri Lankan and more with wines.
By Brinda Gill
With its bouquet of old churches, platz, museums, restaurants, rock-cut cellars, stores, restaurants and more, the Old Town of Nuremberg offers a variety of experiences making it a lovely destination for single travellers, couples and families.
“A gem of an Old Town!” is the invariable response of travellers to Nuremberg, the second-largest city of south German state of Bavaria. Given the beauty of old German towns and cities, one wonders how much more special the city, known as the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire, will be.
Yet soon after reaching the walls of Old Town, in the heart of the city and across the road from the main train station, it seems as if a jewel box has been opened. For old stone walls, running about five kilometres marked by towers and edged by a moat, encircle a lovely living town of old churches, traditional-style as well as half-timbered buildings with sloping roofs and dormer windows, museums, stores, platz or open public spaces, fountains, restaurants, brewery restaurants, cafes and beer gardens, with Kaiserburg, the majestic castle, set at a height in the distance, overseeing it.
Stepping into the Old Town through the impressive King’s Gate is Handwerkerhof, a charming complex of low dwellings with taverns and artisan shops from woodwork to pottery and pewter, telling of the traditional crafts of the city and the old saying NürnbergerTandgeht in alle Land that means products from Nuremberg goes everywhere. Walking on passing beautiful old stone structures one reaches LorenzerPlatz graced by the lofty St. Lawrence Church (Lorenzkirche), and a little ahead is the gentle Pegnitz River flowing through the old town, with lovely bridges arcing across it offering scenic vistas of water and traditional buildings by its banks.
Crossing the river and walking on is Hauptmarkt the main market square, the venue of the Nuremberg’s famous Christmas market, graced by the Church of Our Lady(Frauenkirche) with a mechanical clock (featuring the seated Holy Roman Emperor with the prince-electors surrounding him) that to the delight of waiting onlookers come alive at noon), and the 14th century SchönerBrunnen (Beautiful Fountain) shaped like a Gothic spire and adorned with forty figures representing the world view of the Holy Roman Empire, with a brass ring in its enclosing railing is believed to bring good luck to those who turn them.
The platz is typically alive with stalls and trucks with traditional foods and produce including a variety of cheese, fruits, meats and baked treats. A corner counter with a board Glühweinhaus is invariably abuzz for its Glühwein, a delicious, warming mulled wine served in deep blue mugs bearing a vista of the city. And walking on to the highest part of the Old Town is the impressive castle with a collection of royal artefacts, an old well (whose depth of 50 metres is conveyed by a person sending down a fixture with candles and cautioning those who bend over to take care of their babies and belongings!) and a panoramic view of the town graced with sloping red-tiled roofs and steeples.
While these main landmarks stand out, many others also charm. Among them, is the GermanischesNationalmuseum (German National Museum) with the world’s largest collection of objects related to German art and culture; the outdoor sculpture Way of Human Rights; Weissgerbergasse, a street with a handsome half-timbered houses with colourful facades and the Weinstadel, the former wine depot, one of the largest half-timbered structures in Germany;Ehekarussell (Marriage Merry-Go-Round Fountain) with an animated melange of figures speaking of the tumultuous nature of marriage; the residence turned museum of an artist and printmaker Albrecht Dürer; and the toy museum with one of the largest collections of toys in the world. And just outside the old city stands the impressive Nuremberg State Theater and the DB Museum (railway museum) that is the world’s oldest railway museum located in the city where German railways were born.
And foodies have ample options from catching a bite of local specialities at the trucks and stalls at the main market to enjoying pretzel of varied seasonings and fillings as well as sausages especially the Nuremberg Rostbratwurst (mildly spiced sausages served with sauerkraut, potato salad and mustard) served in stalls and restaurants across the city, and enjoying Lebkuchen, the spice- gingerbread cookie available in multiple outlets yet FraunholzElisenLebkuchen, going back to 1911 is most popular for buying the cookies.
Within the Old Town are cafes and speciality restaurants of different cuisines from German to Italian, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, Sri Lankan and more with wines. Perhaps the first choice for a meal would be to enjoy local cuisine that invariably means a very hearty meal with very generous servings that could be of starters of hash browns (with different accompaniments like smoked salmon and horseradish steak or apple puree and cream), fish fillet, braised meat, pork shoulder, salads, dumplings and pasta with cheese and fried onions, and dishes prepared with beer. And depending on the time of the year the menu may feature dishes with seasonal produce like mushrooms in early winter and asparagus in early summer.
Adding to the dining experience are German beers and wines. The choice of beers spans Pils (pale lager), Helles (a pale lager, lesser bitter and more taste of malt), Dunkles Bier (dark beer), Kellerbier (literally cellar beer, unfiltered, typically served fresh from the barrel), Weißbier (larger proportion of wheat to barley, top-fermented), Rauchbier (smoked beer with a wonderfully dark, smoky flavour beer produced with malted barley dried over an open flame) and Rotbeir or the Nuremberg Red Beer (slow fermentation at low temperatures, bottom-fermented beer giving it an unusual colour). And wine lovers can enjoy a choice of white and red wines that are typically on the drier side.
Among the popular restaurants is Albrecht-Dürer-Stube for its décor of walls lined with artwork and pendant lamps filling it with warmth and authentic local specialities and wines; O’Shea’s Irish Pub with its very atmospheric stone cellar-like interiors; restaurant Heilig-Geist-Spital ( in the original dining room, of the hospital built-in 1339, in the wing across the river) a large space with the warmth of wood, art and lamps perfect for enjoying a meal or simply a glass of wine and Rotweinzwetschgen- a delicious dessert of plums cooked in red wine with ice cream; and the café-library-wine store Deuerlein.
Offering a unique tryst with Nuremberg’s history of beer-making is its underground rock-cut cellars (in the northern section of the Old Town) that were first mentioned in a document in 1380! In the medieval centuries, cellars –ten feet deep and sixteen feet wide-were necessary by law for all who brewed beer at home for maturing and storing beer; the most famous of which was the red beer. And this led to rock-cut cellars being excavated below the Old Town that went on to spread across 20,000 sqmtrs, at varying depths, below the ground!
The cellars can be experienced by taking a guided tour takes one through its passages, the cellars and levels and amply conveyed Nuremberg’s heritage of beer making; it is said that at the end of the 14th century there were more than 40 breweries for a population of 30,000! In 1945, the same cellars served as a shelter for people during WW II bombing during which much of the Old Town was destroyed; it was subsequently rebuilt to recreate its original architectural glory. The tour fittingly ends with a tasting at the Hausbrauerei Altstadth of hausbrauerei-altstadthof store full of beers, fine whisky and liqueur; additional tastings could be paid for.
Being in Nuremberg also means visiting the site of the Nazi Party rallies, a sobering experience as one goes through the adjoining documentation centre telling of those fateful times, as well as Courtroom Number 600 at the Palace of Justice where the Nuremberg Trials took place that speaks of the closing of a traumatic chapter of history. Both these sites are a short taxi/tram ride from the Old Town.
There are plenty of options for a bit of souvenir shopping of the Old town from crafts to shot glasses and beer mugs with vignettes of the city to local cheese (including the local strongly flavoured delicacy obazda), gingerbread cookies, herbal liqueurs from an Apotheke (pharmacy) and a choice of wines, beers and spirits from stores to remember a very special holiday over a quiet bite and drink once back home. And before leaving travellers –delighted with the experiences of the Old Town- invariably look for the lucky brass ring at the railing of Schöner Brunnen and turn it while making a wish!
(The author of the Travelogue is a postgraduate in Economics, enjoys discovering the wealth of nations through their cultural heritage. Views are personal.)