The Kaiserburg district at Nuremberg's old city northwest sat on the highest ground of the Altstadt, but not so high that it stood out much the way that castles did in many other German cities. In fact, if I wasn't looking for it, I might not have known it was there. So, the purpose for writing this particular chapter of the travelogue was to ensure everyone knew where it was, so that those understandably mesmerized by Nuremberg's famous Frauenkirche and other landmarks might seek it out. After all, it was a lot more than just another castle on top of a hill. I visited the Castle district about four times, and each time there seemed to be something new that I didn't see before.
This chapter of the Kaiserburg district includes the Kaiserburg Castle and its immediate environs, the Ober- and Unterschmeidgasse streets, the Albrecht Durer House, and other nearby museums. Access to the district was very easy. One only needed to follow the main road past the Frauenkirche in the Sebald district northward until the cobblestone road began ascending steadily. As I looked upward, I noticed the scene in the first photograph. From this view, it was difficult to tell that a whole castle resided up there because the stone wall was so high, and because the castle itself was not quite so big. The wall shown in the first photo reflected the lowest level of the complex. A fairly steep climb of stairs awaited me once I reached the end of the cobblestone street.
Once up at the top, I reached what looked like a small village, shown in the second photo. This was where the castle's servants once lived. It was a very beautiful place, with bright red half-timber homes built upon sturdy stone bases. Beautiful seasonal arrangements of red and pink summer flowers were set in boxes underneath each maroon and white shutter. Some of the buildings were large and residential, while others were functional in nature -- such as the well-house shown in the center of the photograph. The huge tower in the back was a lookout tower.
The village formed a narrow strip to the east of the main castle building, and had walls looking out over the city below to the south, and the modern outskirts to the north. The view toward the city was spectacular and alone was always worth the climb. The better views to the north came later as we reached the main castle building and could look over the defenses, shown in the third photograph. More on this in a moment.
The main path led us through a beautiful stone arch to the Castle itself, which was a fabulous little museum, containing all sorts of medieval relics from Nuremberg's long regal history. The inner courtyard leading to the museum was absolutely beautiful, very similar to the half-timbered arrangements we saw outside.
A separate path took us around the north and western sides of the castle where we followed the defenses. Those defenses had the look of Vauban, the French architect famous for well-defended cities. It had with a wide and deep moat dividing the inner and outer walls, plus the angular construction that permitted crossing fields of fire against any approaching enemy. The photograph is a little deceiving because of the presence of a modern wooden walking path that covered the lower right. This path was erected to permit easier access by tourists, of course, something not considered when the castle was originally constructed to keep people out. The inside of the defensive structures since became a public park.
Following the walls to the western side, we came upon a marvelous flower garden, shown in the fourth photograph. The flower garden was particularly colorful in this shot, taken during the spring tulip season in 2004. These rings of flowers were set below a circle of brushy evergreens (the trunks of which are visible at the rear of the photo). A hedge in the distance hid the inner castle wall, while the opposite site gave a view to the city.
The Kaiserburg district's two main roads -- Oberschmeidegasse and Unterschmeidegasse -- were must-sees. These narrow cobblestone streets ran across the front of the castle, and both had a number of restaurants and shops to visit. There was one restaurant at the base of the castle on Oberschmeidegasse that was very popular with tourists, as it was decorated in period fashion with vines covering the walls and ceiling, and old wooden row tables inside. Walking these streets, we passed by a sequence of old half-timber buildings that were freshly painted yet the setting looked a couple centuries old.
The fifth photograph shows a postcard shot from a lovely square on the western side of Unterschmeidegasse, directly below the Kaiserburg. This square was set on a steep angle, which might be difficult to glean from the photograph. The right building was one more of several restaurants, cafes, and tourist traps in the area. To the left of the photo was a well-preserved section of the old city wall with one of its tallest towers still intact. Behind us was another couple of cafes and a flower garden. Also there was the Albrecht Durer House museum, honoring one of Nuremberg's most famous residents. The house was indeed the home of the painter, and the museum showed examples of his best works plus a personal history.
We also visited some of the side streets in the area and found a number of specialty houses. One we spent a bit of time in was a Russian knick-knack outlet that had a massive display of Russian arts and crafts. These were not the polished and expensive items from the main tourist areas but the second-tier ones at cut-rate prices.
Following down the western wall of the city, we passed by several other museums. The most popular of these was the Nuremberg Toy Museum, just a couple blocks away. In between were a couple of cafe squares whose clientele were clearly more localized. We could tell this by the fact that the posted menus were not translated to English and they were way off the beaten path.
The Kaiserburg district was easily missed because the urban development of Nuremberg has obscured it from view in most parts of the city. But finding it was not hard, and it was definitely worth including on any itinerary into the city. So, don't get too taken by the Frauenkirche (as wonderful as it was), keep moving because there was more to the city to see!
Trips taken 26 August 2000 and 22-23 June 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006