PRIVATE TRAVEL GUIDE TO NÜRNBERG
(Caution: contains the private, somewhat biased, and often politically-incorrect, comments of R. Beeman).
by Herr Doktor und Frau Doktor Beeman
“Ich bin ein Nürnberger!”
Partially updated 25 August 2003
We have been coming to Nürnberg (Nuremberg), Germany for over a quarter of a century now. When we started coming, Nürnberg had a little, simple airport with one luggage belt and a small lobby from which our local host would call to us over the heads of a couple of customs officers- now it is all gleaming stainless steel and glass with official corridors this way and that and it’s BIG. During those first visits we could still see big bullet and shrapnel craters all over the front of St. Lorenz Church and most other old buildings which stood at street ends.
We’ve learned to love this city and we feel that we have discovered many of the best places to stay, eat and see. There is always more to learn about anything, so we would enjoy hearing your input about Nürnberg -the crossroads of medieval Europe and of unusual importance in this century. Just as a labor of love, we have compiled this visitor's guide to its hotels, restaurants, subway, stores, museums, and historical hot spots.
1.Marling Menu-Master of Germany - even if you are fluent in textbook German, you really need this book, or a knowledgeable local host, if you are to know what you are ordering in many German restaurants. Thin enough to fit into a vest or shirt pocket, this guide, in American English, is amazing - it is divided into 6 tiny, thumb-indexed chapters based on the divisions of a typical menu: appetizers, soups, fish main courses, meat main-courses, mit (= “with”, i.e. what comes with a dish), and desserts. It is quick and easy to use - and will help you avoid (or select) those dishes with raw meat, brains, tongue, etc.. German cooking is so good and so diverse, that you will be missing a lot if you only stick to the standard few items, or revert to sheer tourist-style debauchery- by ordering American dishes like steaks and big Macs. Unlike the USA or England, Germany generally has excellent food almost everywhere - even in the train stations!
2. Best background books for understanding Nürnberg just before and through World War II: Nürnberg had a very unusual and special place in the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Hitler had chosen this city to be the very seat of the Nazi party and for this it was given an almost unbelievable amount of bombing by the allies - including the devastating “blanket bombings”. (There were hundreds of raids; in one 53 minute raid 521 RAF planes dropped over 6000 “blockbuster” high explosive bombs and over a million firebombs!). These books evidently are available only in German, but they are so well illustrated and so inexpensive (10 DM each) that every visitor should buy them. As recently as 10 years ago no store in Nürnberg would have dared even display these books. They are available at the tourist bookstore on the upside of the Hauptmarkt (the colorful downtown, outdoor market place - renamed “Adolph Hitler Platz” during WW2 by guess who. Hundreds of years ago it was called “Juden Platz” - but that’s another horrible story). Seeing all the familiar locations in town, as they were before their devastation, with Adolph, hordes of Nazi troops, and huge swastika banners everywhere - followed by almost complete devastation and the parades of invading American troops, gives you a real perspective. Nürnberg unterm Hakenkreuz Im Dritten Reich (Nürnberg under the Swastika in the Third Reich) 1933-1939. Nürnberg im Kreig. Im Dritten Reich (Nürnberg in the War, In the Third Reich) 1939-45. Both are by Robert Fritzsch, pub. by Droste Verlag GmbH, Düsseldorf, Germany. (An interesting example of perspective: Recently there was a huge display of historical pictures at the city hall depicting the bombing destruction of the city. Someone had written a graffiti on one of the display's posters. Although I can read German fairly well, it evidently was idiomatic German and I could not understand the written remark. I carefully copied and showed it to one of our "older generation" German colleagues, who happens to be a former member of the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth). He really hesitated, but finally said that it meant something like: "All is forgiven". I still wasn't comfortable with the translation, so I showed it to a younger, close friend, Hans Hermann Weihrauch Jr., one of the "post WW2" generation, and he said: "Oh, it means 'They had it coming!'".)
3. Best guide books for general background - in English: Fodor’s Germany and the Insight Guide’s Germany.
Most visitors who come to Nürnberg for the big trade shows stay at one of the big, expensive (to 530 DM per night!), American-style hotels (Maritim, Grand, Atrium, Carlton, Queens, etc.) and that’s great because it keeps the crowds away from the more convenient, more interesting and less-expensive, German-style hotels. A moderate priced, plain hotel is the 50 room Deutscher Hof (to 250 DM), just outside the old city walls, right near the Hauptbanhof (main train station). Those interested in history will feel the past in the Deutscher Hof - Hitler made this his Nürnberg HQ, filled it with protective SS troops and viewed his parades from the balcony. We prefer the Hotel Dürer, at about 150 DM per night, on Neutormauer in the old city, just below the castle. It’s very quiet and only a 10 minute walk from the Lorenz Kirche U-Bahn (Subway) Station where an inexpensive (about $2.20 for a single ticket, or only about 70 cents per local trip if you buy the 10 trip card), clean and safe subway can whisk you to the Messezentrum, where the IWA, and other international trade shows, are held; far faster than you could get there by cab. Very moderate and new (opened early 1998) and very convenient to the center of old Nürnberg is the Hotel Agneshof on Agnesgasse 10 (between the castle and St. Sebald church) Fax 011-49-911-21 4441 44).. We paid only 188 DM for the very sharp, extremely quiet, non-smoking (!) double room number 224 in 1998. Even less expensive (a double room was about 165 DM), and only 6 minutes from the U-Bahn is the very nice Burghotel-Großes Haus. For very authentic old-time German charm, try to get a room (about 95 DM double) at the very tiny Irrer Elch (“Crazy Elk”). The Irrer Elch is truly authentic as it is one of the few places in all of old Nürnberg that was not destroyed by the bombings. If you are driving to one of the latter four hotels, you can avoid a great deal of “old city” driving frustration by entering the old city through the Neutor entrance from the bustling road that rings the old city wall. You will be at your hotel in less than 5 minutes after passing through the wall.
If you have a car and wish to stay in the less crowded suburban or rural areas of Nürnberg, try the Zirbelstube in Nürnberg-Worzeldorf, a great restaurant/tavern with only 8 rooms (to 220 DM) and exceptionally fine food - about as far south of the Messezentrum (the IWA location) as the Messezentrum is south of old Nürnberg’s center. If you don’t mind a half-hour’s drive to the Nürnberg trade shows, stay at the very quiet, very charming, very small ( 8 rooms - to145 DM) Hotel Schwarzer Adler, a wonderfully renovated 17th century wine tavern, in Erlangen-Frauenaurach, 22 km north of Nürnberg or the rustic and charming Landhotel Schindlerhof in Nürnberg-Boxdorf (71 rooms - to 270 DM) only 9 km NW from the heart of Nürnberg - near the airport. Or try the Hotel Wilder Mann (51 rooms, to 195 DM) in Rückersdorf, about 14 km from Nürnberg’s Altstadt. By taking the subway (U-Bahn) from the Rückersdorf station you can be in the heart of Nürnberg, or the Messecentrum trade show center, in minutes. The Altes Rathaus restaurant in the nearby town of Lauf an der Pegnitz river is excellent.
Any of the above quarters will provide a whole lot nicer, more interesting, and relaxed experience than one of the big, “assembly-line” hotels.
RESTAURANTS:(not in any special order)
1. Helig-Geist-Spital -(“Holy Ghost Hospital”) (This restaurant spans the Pegnitz River just upstream from the Lorenz church bridge) - its name comes from its past as a hospital - This is a required stop for all tourists as it serves real German wine tavern food in authentic, informal surroundings at very moderate prices. Good and hearty- and noisy - drop in every few years.
2. Essigbrätlein -(“Vinegar Roast Beef”) (Weinmarkt 3) - an absolutely great, rather expensive, very authentic, very small restaurant. A top favorite of the Beemans and the Wischo staff. Best to reserve a day or two ahead - but we once dropped in and were served. Jacket and tie. It seems like the French are very frugal in giving Michelin stars to German restaurants. This was the only Michelin star restaurant in Nürnberg as of 1997!
(The Zirbelstube in Nürnberg-Worzeldorf, mentioned above among the hotels, also has a Michelin Guide star for its modern Frankonian food.)
3. Irrer Elch - (“Crazy Elk”) - just up the street from the Essigbrätlein, this is one of our best “secrets” - it isn’t yet in any of the guidebooks - very, very tiny, it is one of the few places in the Altstadt (“old city”) that was not destroyed in WW2. Expensive, but well worth it; we have never failed to really love any meal here. And the owners, who tend the 5 foot bar and wait table, are wonderful people. Hint: wear cool clothes - medieval taverns didn’t have AC and this place can get very warm - even on very cold nights. Be sure to try the Elk Blood liqueur at the end of your meal. (Just so the stuffed moose head doesn’t puzzle you - what Germans call an elk, Americans call a moose).
4. Gasthof Bammes - on Bucher Hauptstraße in Nürnberg-Buch - about one half hour drive west of the old city, this is one the most charming, best country restaurants in Germany. Every so often, our German hosts would treat us to this wonderful place. Expensive, of course.
5. Bratwurst-Häusle - a great place, built with very old farmhouse timbers and planks; a lot of real old German charm. Very popular with the locals; you will feel that you have stepped into the real old German tavern scene! As in all authentic German taverns, be prepared to share your table with some Germans who are bending their beer drinking elbows in earnest. Right downtown, next to St. Sebaldus church. This is the first place we go to when we hit town - for a big pitcher of the wonderful local tap beer and plenty of the famous grilled Nürnberger sausages with bread, mustard (Senf), and that great German potato salad. Inexpensive, wonderful, noisy old German inn. (If the Häusle is too crowded, there are no reservations, you can get the same food at the somewhat quieter and older Bratwurst-Roeslein, on the Rathausplatz, about a block east, or at the Historische Bratwurstküche von 1419, on Zirkelschmiedgasse, 3 blocks west of the German National Museum.)
6. Confiserie Neef - on Winklerstraße. Neef is one of Germany’s most famous pastry and confection chefs. Just off the Hauptmarkt, we are all lucky to have the opportunity to taste Neef’s wonderful treats. Tell the ladies at the retail counter what you would like (just point to the pastries that you desire if you don’t speak German) and then sit down in the little coffee shop area, order coffee, tea, or hot chocolate (great!) and your pastry will be brought to you. They never taste the way you expect them to - but they are always delightful. A good place if you have only a few minutes for a snack. Inexpensive. Also try the superb, but expensive, candies made by this master chef. They are world famous.
7. Zum Sudhaus -on Bergstraße, just below the castle which dominates the old town. Wonderful, rustic restaurant which features a huge copper dome from an old brewery. Excellent, real German dishes - but avoid the several items which are intended for the many tourists which the guidebooks send here. (If you didn’t make reservations, and can’t get in - there are two more good restaurants just up the street, right below the castle walls.)
8. Waffenschmied (“armorer-gunsmith”) - attracted by the name, we were taken to this restaurant, also well uphill from the Hauptmarkt, near the castle, by our visiting English hosts from the Webley Company. The menus, with no prices, even for the gentlemen, should have been a tip-off - the food was wonderful, but the bill was so staggering that our hosts had to admit they could not present it on their expense accounts - so we all split it. Equally good German food is available in several other fine Nürnberg restaurants at far more reasonable prices.
9. Goldenes Posthorn - near Albrecht Dürer plaza, this historic wine tavern dates from 1498. Old Al Dürer himself, and other famous Germans from the past, used to dine here on a regular basis. Excellent food, good atmosphere, and fairly reasonable prices.
10. Nassauer Keller - Right across the street from the big Lorenz church (examine the outer walls of this church, like most old buildings in town, for hundreds of now patched bullet holes, and cannon shell craters, from W.W.II), in a deep cellar, down an amazingly steep set of stairs with minimal headroom, you will find a charming rustic restaurant obviously untouched by the wars which have swirled around it since it was built in the 12th century. Drop in for lunch, but be sure to reserve for dinner. Great, hearty German food - like potato pancakes, Franconian wedding soup, apple strudel - very good. Moderate.
11. Herrenbrau - up stairs, on the south side of the Hauptmarkt. Excellent, authentic Franconian food in a delightful, wood-paneled, heavy beamed tavern. We have had lunch here several times, but dinner should be equally good - at moderate prices.
12. Prison St. Michel Restaurant-Bistro -Just down and across Wienmarkt street from the Irrer Elch restaurant. Probably the best French cooking in town is in this former prison. So popular with the locals and knowledgeable visitors that you really need an advance reservation! If you don’t have a reservation, try waiting outside before they open at 7 PM and you and your partner may be allowed to sit at the counter. Fairly expensive.
13. Albrecht Dürer Restaurant - only a half a block uphill from the Burg Hotel, on the corner of the same block which houses the Hotel Agneshof, you are very unlikely to see another tourist here. You may think that you have entered the wrong place when you pass through the front door and enter what appears to be a private apartment house hall, but just go down the hall, turn right and push aside the entry curtain and you will be in a fairly small, but very German restaurant. Absolutely excellent cooking; a lot of great German dishes that generally are not available elsewhere locally. No English menus; little English spoken. Because of this and the less common items on the menu, you had best be quite familiar with German menus, quite daring, or come with a native. Moderate. Reservations recommended.
14. Alte Küche - on the corner next to the Burg Hotel. Highly touted by many guidebooks, but this is really not the place to try to carry on any dinner conversation. Generally packed with young Germans who are smoking and talking, both in the most vigorous German manner, in the very live, barely ventilated main room. It gets a little quieter, cooler and a little less smoky as you go deeper into the cellar rooms. Typical, hearty German food and lots of beer. Moderate cost.
1. Zeppelin Stadium - understandably, none of the guidebooks list this as a top attraction, but this gigantic stadium, right next to the Messezentrum, is historically very special. It was here that Hitler held his gigantic, mesmerizing Nürnberg rallies. Here tens of thousands of youths, farmers, SS men, line soldiers, and citizens, disillusioned by the events of the preceding decade and the degrading results of W.W.I, roared pledges of allegiance to their Führer - and here he promised them, under hundreds of huge swastika banners, backed by the sweeping sound of vast numbers of trumpets, a reign of German glory to last for a thousand years! If you can climb up the stone stairs which still bear the metal loops which formerly held deep red carpet, and stand in Hitler’s footprints, on his high granite podium (which had been backed by a fifty foot swastika until the American Army blasted it into dust), and don’t feel a “rush” of history, a sense of the staggering impact and horror of the Hitler period, then you should stick to roller coasters and video games for excitement. Note also the miles of nearby Nazi parade roads, now used as parking lots, lined with marble or granite spectator benches, now overgrown with bushes and trees, and the absolutely huge SS headquarters building, unfinished and now not wanted by anybody, even as recently as 1996. So much for his 1000 years of glory!
2. Albrecht Dürer’s House - next door to the Dürer hotel, just under the castle walls, this is something you should not miss. Here the first genius of the Renaissance in Germany directed the development of many of Germany’s best artists and did some of his finest work. An elegant souvenir of Nürnberg is a copy of one of his wonderful prints, dated 1504 or so! Pack it in a rigid cover and carry it home to be well framed and enjoyed for the rest of your life. An hour well spent.
3. Hauptmarkt (Main Market) - mentioned many times above. Admire the wonderful Schöner Brunnen (“Beautiful Fountain”) and its fabled brass ring. In 1349, the area was sealed off and hundreds of Jews were burned to death inside the enclosure. The fact that many of the city fathers and other "high" gentiles owed the Jewish money lenders a great deal may have been only a coincidence! You can stand where, only a few decades ago, Herr Hitler stood, a few feet away from the fountain when reviewing thousands of storm troopers marching up the narrow street. The fountain had to be walled in to prevent damage from the droves of bombers that Mr. Hitler attracted to his favorite city. And it was here that the American Army forces held their celebration of the capture of the city in WWII. Now you can browse among the throngs of colorful street vendors and produce sellers and take dozens of pictures of this square which is now so peaceful.
4. Museums - Nürnberg has several interesting, and some very unusual, museums. Even if you miss the transportation and toy museums, you must see the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, just a few minutes walk from the Hauptbanhof. Located in a old monastery, very interesting in itself, the collections are absolutely wonderful and very well exhibited. Your legs will ache long before you can see all the items so well worth seeing. Beneath the city hall are old torture chambers where the early administrators of “justice” took “confessions and depositions” from those unlucky enough to be referred to its soundproof depths. Ironically, these chambers later served to shelter and save much priceless artwork and the lives of many top Nazi officials and their families during the horrible "blanket" bombing raids of W.W.II. Keep looking and you probably could find a museum featuring almost anything; there are German museums of hunting, clocks, bread, beer, paper, etc.!
5. City Walls and Towers - It has taken over 50 years to repair the damage done by a few weeks of bombing on these truly impressive structures. Take at least a little time to appreciate these fortifications which, for centuries, guarded this central city of the medieval trade systems. You will surely wonder how some of this massive stonework could have been done with the tools of the time. Perhaps not every tourist will also wonder how the guards in the high towers managed without flush toilets. You will notice tiny rooms which project from high on the side of every authentic tower. If you had been looking up, from outside the walls, at the these structures in days of old, your wonder might well have been answered in a very direct manner. Today, the former arms storage area for these fortifications has become an interesting local craft fair area. Complete your tour of the walls with a visit to the castle which was so important in past centuries.
6.Courtroom of Nürnberg War Crimes Tribunals - This is another interesting historical item that is not highlighted in the guide books and chamber of commerce material! It is not well known, even to the locals, that it is possible to visit the courtroom where the Nürnberg War Tribunals were held. Simply go into the rear-most building in the Palace of Justice (not the main building) and ask the security guard to see "Zimmer 600". He will call upstairs and a guide will come down and take you up to the courtroom.. As of 2002, there was a small display about the trials in the stairway leading up to the courtroom. The room is still an active courtroom, so sometimes it is closed to the public, but not often, as it is used mainly for announcing verdicts and not actual trials. The room has changed a bit, but is is mostly intact. It is easy to visualize the scenes of the trials from comparison photographs. You may take photos in the courtroom. The cell block which held the infamous Nazi leaders in the old prison may be opened for visitors someday, but this has not happened yet, as the prison is still in use. (Thanks to Major Ziegler for this tip.)
Nürnberg is our very favorite city in all of Europe, but having given it a good visit, you should see some more of Germany. Beyond all of the history and beautiful countryside, one of the nicest things about Germany is the food. We have yet to find another country where the food is so consistently good - even a meal in a train station usually is good. Try a meal in such a location in the U.S.A., or especially in England! Ugh!
You really will need to drive, but that is easy as you can get inexpensive car rental packages before you leave home and the Germans drive on the same side of the road as Americans! Go to a bookstore or an Autobahn rest stop and buy detailed maps for the areas that you will visit and the latest copy of the Michelin red book guide to Deutschland. That will give you food and lodging details for even the tiniest little town. You might also want to get the Michelin green book (English version) which will tell you about the various localities. And by all means, preferably before you leave the USA, get a copy of Karen Brown’s “German Country Inns and Itineraries” (also available direct, about $14.95 plus 3.50 S&H, from Karen Brown’s Guides, PO Box 70, San Mateo, CA 94401, phone 415-342-9117). Any place recommended by Karen Brown in going to be nice and she can give you a much more complete introduction to the wonders of Germany than we can here. But, having been all over Germany for a quarter of century, we can tell you which parts we liked the best.
If your time in Germany will be limited, you probably should restrict yourself to Southern Germany: the states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. From Nürnberg, it is fairly quick jump to the west to Rothenberg, an absolutely amazing, unspoiled gem of the Middle Ages. If possible, make reservations ahead, esp. in high season (not the best time to go), so that you can spend at least one night right inside the tiny town’s center. You really should stay at least two or three nights. Don’t miss the Crime Museum - the best of its kind in the world. From Rothenberg work your way thru Dinklesbühl to the huge city of Munich, which the guidebooks assure us is Germany’s most popular city. You are advised to avoid Munich during Oktoberfest; the crowds, and their behavior, are not the most appealing. Munich is, of course, packed with things to do and see, but our favorites are the Deutsches Museum, which is the world’s largest science and technology museum, and the Deutsches Jagdmuseum (German Hunting Museum). The exhibits of the Deutsches Museum are beyond description and would take weeks to do justice. The Hunting Museum is right off the Marienplatz, the town’s main square, but is known to very few. With our interests, it was a special attraction - it even has some fine antique airguns!
Your next area of attack should be the Alpenstraße, or Alpine Road, which runs all along the Alps of Southern Germany. Study the maps and decide if you want to go from east to west or the opposite. You will have to double back on part of either way, or rip along an autobahn to reach one end or the other. We would suggest starting in Berchtesgaden, where we recommend the Geiger Hotel - specify a balcony room facing the Eagles Nest. We never got to visit the main attraction of the town, Hitler’s Eagles Nest WW2 headquarters, because we always came in March when it was snowed in, but we loved the scenery, the amazing old salt mines, and the fact that we were the only guests in the hotel!. As you work your way along the Alpenstraße you will be awed by the beauty of the alps and the rural farms and tiny towns. Unless you are committed to luxury hotels, watch for tiny “Zimmerfrei”signs. These will lead you to bed and breakfast quarters in private homes - a wonderful way to get behind the “tourist curtain”. Always ask to see the room, but, in Bavaria, invariably it will be spotless and comfortable. Sometimes the owners try too hard to make it not rustic, so look for hand hewn timbers, cows, and the feeling of a real country room. A continental breakfast is almost always included, but you might want to ask how much extra it would be for eggs. This area is one of the most famous tourist regions, so you can follow any of the many guidebooks. Do try to avoid the times of greatest tourist density. However, it is amazing that one can usually find a nice Zimmerfrei at most anytime. Even the high season rates for a Zimmerfrei are laughingly lower than a tourist hotel of one tenth the charm. One advantage of going eastward on the Alpenstraße is that you can hop over to wonderful Salzburg in Austria, check in your car and fly out of there. An advantage of going westward is that you can continue to revel in Southern Germany’s charm and beauty by continuing on the Swartzwaldhochstraße (Black Forest High Road) to explore the Black Forest. If it is possible, this area has the reputation of having even better food than the rest of Germany. Have a good time studying this question!
A 2003 comment from a reader/Nürnberg visitor:
My wife and I would like to thank you for your excellent Nuremberg recommendations. We went for the Kristkindlmarkt in December and had a wonderful time. Our first stop was Confiserie Neef which set the tone for the trip. Wow. Our next stop was Bratwurst-Hausle for lunch. I still smile fondly at the memory of their German dark beer (Tucher Bajuvator) and food. We tried many of the restaurants on your list and all were lovely. The Hotel Agneshof where we stayed was in an excellent location.
I found your recommendations through a Google search for Nuremberg but ended up spending another hour reading through your airgun information. I have been interested in airguns for many years but always was disappointed by the poor quality (i.e. youth-oriented merchandise) in the US. I am now living in Belgium and imagined I could find something better in Germany. After being educated by your site I began to wish I was back in the US so that I could purchase a Beeman R1. I am a material scientist/engineer by training so I sincerely appreciate your design approach. I may search out the HW80 while I am living in Europe just so that I will personally experience the improvements the Beeman R1 delivers when I get back to the US.
US expat in Leuven, Belgium"
Please send comments and suggestions on this guide to: Robert Beeman, Box 516,Healdsburg, California 95448 U.S.A. (Fax: 707-431-7500), email: website@Beemans.net .