A city of emperors and princes, leaders and followers, inventors and scholars, Nuremberg has mirrored German history ever since the Middle Ages – the power, the tension, great achievements and great tragedies. Protected by the castle, arts and crafts once flourished, while a new spirit of freedom enlivened the city at a time when few other places could offer such a quality of life. And the same is still true today.
Nuremberg and its castle: to this day, the cityscape is dominated by the mighty fortress begun in 1140 during the reign of Emperor Conrad III and continually expanded until the 17th century. Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors journey back in time to the early modern period and the Middle Ages – eras that live on in Nuremberg. Nuremberg's Historical Mile ends (or begins) at the castle, and anybody following this tour will be astounded by the number of important buildings and monuments in the city: the mighty city fortifications, the glorious, ornately decorated churches, the elaborate fountains and the legacies of international trade. There's also the Fembohaus featuring the City Museum and the Tucher Mansion – maintained with such authenticity you would be forgiven for thinking the former occupants had just popped out for a stroll. Centuries ago Nuremberg became an early hub for precision engineering, and wealthier residents could even afford to buy themselves a famous 'Nuremberg Egg' pocket watch. This golden era also brought us the two magnificent town halls, as well as the Albrecht Dürer House where the artist spent many years of his life. In stark contrast, other sites in Nuremberg serve as reminders of the darker years in the city's long history. They include the documentation centre at the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds, the eerie site where the National Socialists staged their vast marching processions. There's also Court Room 600 at the Palace of Justice, where the chief perpetrators of the Nazi atrocities were tried and convicted in 1946 – home to Memorium Nuremberg Trials since 2010. Necessary reminders of painful scars in Nuremberg's history, which will forever be part of the city.
Turning to happier thoughts, December sees the arrival of Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt, a tradition reaching back more than 400 years. During the festive market, the old town bathes in the glow of thousands of twinkling lights, putting smiles on the faces of children and adults alike. Alternatively, there's the toy museum, with exhibits dating back to the early modern period. In the railway museum, home to the 'Adler' – the world's first locomotive – you can gain an insight into the early days of modern transport. The Germanic National Museum, meanwhile, delves even further back in time. Germany's largest museum of cultural history, it contains 1.3 million exhibits that document changing times from the earliest days of civilisation through the Middle Ages, the baroque, Renaissance and enlightenment periods and into the 19th century. The Handwerkerhof craft courtyard, directly opposite the neo-baroque central train station, also offers a glimpse into the past. Travellers used to enter the city through its gates, and today it houses a colourful array of ancient and modern crafts. It's a place to watch artisans at work, pick up souvenirs such as tin toys or leather wallets and, of course, taste Nuremberg's famous spiced gingerbread. The locals also show their love of tradition by enjoying the city's staple snack, the Nuremberg rostbratwurst. Records indicate that the city has been serving up these delicious little sausages since the first half of the 14th century. Since that time, traditional bratwurst kitchens have continued to prepare these specialities according to the original recipe. One such kitchen is the Bratwurstglöcklein at the Handwerkerhof, visited by merchants and travellers from around the world as well as locals, craftspeople, artists and Nuremberg scholars, including Peter Henlein, Hans Beheim, Albrecht Dürer and Hans Sachs. That many people can't be wrong – why not follow in their culinary footsteps? So, if you like to see history brought to life – perhaps accompanied by a freshly poured draught beer in one of the old town bars – then Nuremberg is the place for you.