Don’t Miss This Crater Town! 7 Things To Do In Nördlingen

Published Categorized as Southern Germany
Read our review guidelines
This article may contain compensated links. Read our disclaimer for more info.

I have been waiting to go to Nördlingen for years. I first came across it when planning a family trip through much of the country where we visited nearby romantic road gems like Dinkelsbühl and Rothenburg. I just couldn’t fit Nördlingen in, and it’s been on my mind ever since.

Finally, I had to chance to visit and I was excited to see this town famous for being inside a crater. I was also hoping it was as pretty as towns like Dinkelsbühl and Rothenburg.

So is it? What can you find here? Should you go?

Let’s find out!

things to do in NördlingenPin

Nördlingen is definitely special; not many towns can say they’re built in a crater from a celestial collision. On arrival, as I walked through its well-preserved medieval walls, I felt like I was treading a path that winds back through centuries.

Yet, Nördlingen isn’t just a history textbook set in stone; it’s alive, vibrant, and inviting. There’s a blend of museums and a tangible heritage that I could feel underfoot and at your fingertips.

Join me as we explore the best things to do in this extraordinary town. Let’s discover together why Nördlingen’s charm and legacy make it a must-see on any traveler’s itinerary and all the things to do in Nördlingen you should do when you get there.

Love Germany? Click here to download your free guide to ALL of Germany’s Amazing UNESCO sites. See all 52 of them!

A Brief History of Nördlingen

Nördlingen, nestled in the German state of Bavaria, boasts a rich tapestry of history stretching back over 1100 years. This town is uniquely situated in the middle of the Nördlinger Ries, a massive crater formed by a meteorite impact over 14 million years ago. The town’s origins date back to a settlement established by the Alamanni tribe, and its name first appears in recorded history in 898 AD.

During the Middle Ages, Nördlingen thrived as a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire, a status it held for over five centuries from 1215 until 1802. This privileged position granted the town autonomy and significant trade advantages.

Over time, Nördlingen became an economic hub, strategically located at the crossroads of important European trade routes. Its wealth was reflected in the construction of the majestic St. Georg’s Church, finished in the 15th century, whose towering spire, the ‘Daniel’, still dominates the town’s skyline.

In 1529, Nördlingen embraced the Protestant Reformation, and the new faith played a central role in the town’s culture and politics. However, it was Nördlingen’s strategic importance that drew the greatest challenge to its doorstep during the Thirty Years’ War.

NördlingenPin
Nördlingen

The Battle of Nördlingen in 1634 was a pivotal conflict in which the town, besieged and eventually taken by Imperial Catholic forces, suffered greatly. The town’s fall signaled a devastating setback for the Protestant cause in the war.

Despite the hardships endured during the Thirty Years’ War, Nördlingen recovered in the years that followed. The 19th century brought industrialization, and with it, the dawn of the railway, which once again positioned Nördlingen as an economic nexus in the region.

The preservation of Nördlingen’s history is exemplary. Its medieval walls are among the best preserved in Europe, with a complete circuit that can still be walked upon today. The town’s layout remains largely unchanged, and its architectural heritage is carefully maintained, offering a window into the past.

The famous biennial ‘Stadtmauerfest’, a historical festival, celebrates Nördlingen’s history with pageants, markets, and reenactments, drawing visitors from across the globe.

Today, while embracing modernity, Nördlingen remains a symbol of the endurance of history, with its residents continuing to live and work within a setting that has withstood the trials of time. The combination of its geological uniqueness and rich cultural past makes Nördlingen a captivating chapter in Germany’s historical narrative.

Top 7 Incredible Things To Do In Nördlingen

There’s a nice range of attractions in Nördlingen. The good news is that they are all close together so you can walk between everything as well as the train station. You could easily visit everything here in a day trip with a ton of walking.

The best thing to do in Nördlingen is to take your time though and soak in the Old Town ambience.

You can find all these places to visit in Nördlingen on this map.

1. Discover the Historic Town Center (Altstadt)

Marktplatz Nördlingen Pin
Marktplatz

The heart of Nördlingen, its Historic Town Center, resonates with the beats of an era long gone, yet preserved with incredible fidelity. This charming medieval town emerged around the 9th century, with its center marking the convergence of trade and communal life over the centuries.

I loved wandering round the Old Town and you will too!

Throughout the winding cobblestone streets, you can admire half-timbered houses, a hallmark of traditional German architecture, which stand as a testament to the town’s resilience through history. It’s super colorful as well with all the colors of the rainbow lining the streets.

The market square (Marktplatz), with its historical Rathaus (town hall), continues to be a vibrant space and is worth wandering around as well.

Take as many streets and alleys as you can. There’s always something new to see.

2. Explore St. George’s Church and Climb the “Daniel” (St Georgskirche)

Nördlingen St. George's Church (St Georgskirche)Pin
St. George’s Church (St Georgskirche)

St. Georg’s Church, also known as ‘Daniel’, has been standing since the 15th century. It has a gothic style but there are also elements of Baroque and Neo-Renaissance inside.

Nördlingen Inside St George's ChurchPin
Inside St George’s Church

What you definitely won’t want to miss in this church is the chance to ascend to the top of its bell tower. You have the best views of Nördlingen here with a 360-degree view of the town. It’s quite amazing. You can see the walls around the Old Town and how it fits into the crater. Very cool!

On the way up, you’ll pass by the ancient clock mechanism. The climb itself is relatively easy with good stairs and railings to hold onto. You don’t pay until you’re nearly at the top. I would hate to have that guy’s walk to his office every morning!

amazing view from Nördlingen St George's Church TowerPin
Just one part of the amazing view from St George’s Church Tower

The bell tower’s nickname, ‘Daniel’, comes from a biblical reference and is also a metaphor for the watchman who would alert the town in the event of danger.

3. Walk the Town Walls (Stadtmauer)

Town Walls (Stadtmauer) Nördlingen Pin
Town Walls (Stadtmauer)

Nördlingen’s completely intact town walls are a rarity in Germany–a remnant of medieval fortification in its complete form. These walls, constructed over several centuries, with the earliest sections dating back to the 13th century, have safeguarded the town against numerous historical threats.

Today, walking the wall gets you up close with the history and architectural ingenuity of defensive structures of the time. The covered walkway, known as a “Wehrgang,” allows you to traverse just about the entire perimeter, providing unique perspectives of the town’s historical homes and Nördlingen’s natural surroundings, including the Ries Crater.

It’s about 2.7 kilometers long. Along the way, there are five gates, twelve towers, barracks and a bastion. Generally the gates and towers have staircases where you can join the wall walk.

Walking around here was definitely one of my highlights, and I highly recommend it. I kept having flashbacks to my time in Rothenburg when I walked on the wall there. Don’t tell Rothenburg, but this wall wins. 😀

4. Visit the Stadtmauer Museum (City Wall Museum)

Entrance to the Stadtmauer Museum Nördlingen Pin
Entrance to the Stadtmauer Museum

Located along the medieval fortifications lies the Stadtmauer Museum, which stands as a cultural touchstone, illuminating the significance of the city’s defenses during turbulent historical periods. The museum is a portal to the past, highlighting how the town’s fortifications were constructed and adapted over time to meet the evolving needs of defense technology.

Here, you can learn about the craftsmanship of the walls, explore the different types of towers used for surveillance and defense, and learn about the daily life of the guards who once patrolled this very spot. There’s especially a focus on the Thirty Years War.

Ask for information in English. This is also a great place to start your walk around the walls.

5. Explore the Ries Crater Museum (Rieskrater-Museum)

Nördlingen Ries Crater Museum (Rieskrater-Museum)Pin
Ries Crater Museum (Rieskrater-Museum)

The Ries Crater Museum offers a compelling narrative on the powerful forces of the cosmos and their influence on Earth. Approximately 14.5 million years ago, a meteorite struck the area, forming the Nördlinger Ries – a unique geological formation.

The museum not only tells the story of this dramatic impact but also showcases a collection of meteorites and reveals the interplay between geology and biology as a result of the impact.

This crater is one of the best preserved on Earth.

Out the back, there’s a garden with different labelled rocks that you can check out even if you don’t visit the museum.

6. Visit the Town Museum (Stadtmuseum)

Nördlingen Town Museum (Stadtmuseum)Pin
Town Museum (Stadtmuseum)

Housed in the enchanting Löpsinger Gate Tower, the Town Museum is not just a container of artifacts but a narrated experience through time. The former monastic residence unearths stories spanning from the Stone Age through to the tumultuous times of the Thirty Years’ War and into the serenity of 19th-century life.

Moving through the museum, you’ll find the art, arms, and artifacts that shaped daily life across epochs, complemented by the detailed account of Nördlingen’s role in regional and European history alike.

It’s a great museum, but unfortunately, there is not much English. It’s only open in the afternoons. It’s just moments from the Ries Crater Museum above so you can visit both at the same time.

7. Visit the Bavarian Railway Museum (Bayerisches Eisenbahnmuseum)

Bavarian Railway Museum (Bayerisches Eisenbahnmuseum) Nördlingen Pin
Bavarian Railway Museum (Bayerisches Eisenbahnmuseum)

The Bavarian Railway Museum epitomizes the industrial progression and ingenuity of the region. Founded in 1985 and housed in an old locomotive shed next to the train station, the museum today stands as one of the largest railway museums in Germany.

Train aficionados and history lovers can see a vast collection of locomotives and railway carriages, some of which date back to the 19th century. The museum is interactive in nature, offering not just learning experiences but also the thrilling opportunity to board historic steam trains. Several times a year, it runs some of its trains to nearby towns.

The exhibitions also put into context the evolution of rail transport and its significant role in economic and social development.

It’s a great museum and train lovers of all ages will love it.

Where To Stay In Nördlingen

While you could easily visit Nördlingen on a road trip, it’s even more fun to stay overnight and get to see this picturesque town at all times of day.

There isn’t a huge range of accommodation, but I have a great option for you… This is where I stayed.

Cafe-Hotel Altreuter

Nördlingen Cafe-Hotel AltreuterPin
Cafe-Hotel Altreuter – and St George’s Church. So close!

Cafe-Hotel Altreuter couldn’t be in a more central location in Nördlingen. It’s opposite St George’s Church as you can see in the above picture. I felt like I could reach out the window and touch it! It’s also on Marktplatz.

The building itself is picturesque and old, but the rooms are fully renovated and modern. There is a restaurant on-site where an included breakfast is served for guests.

Rooms are on the second and third floors and the stairs are quite steep. I did not enjoy carrying my suitcase up them! But, thankfully, I loved my room so that made it worthwhile.

Nördlingen Cafe-Hotel Altreuter triple roomPin
Triple room

I stayed in a triple room which had plenty of space. You can see it above. The bathroom has a basin area, shelf, toilet and shower. The room has heating, a flatscreen TV, cupboard space, baggage area, desk area and two comfortable chairs and a table.

My only complaint is that it wasn’t well soundproofed. This wasn’t a problem during the night, but the church bells had me up at 6am and nearby construction had started by 7:30am.

Still, a small price to pay to be in such a great spot.

Click here to see the latest prices.

How To Get To Nördlingen

Nördlingen station area + Bavarian Railway MuseumPin
Nördlingen station area + Bavarian Railway Museum

Getting to Nördlingen is part of the charm of discovering this historic town. If you’re coming from a major city in Germany, you’re in for a smooth ride.

Starting in Munich, the nearest major hub, hop onto a direct train that whisks you through Bavaria’s picturesque countryside. The journey is straightforward: simply board the regional DB (Deutsche Bahn) train and settle in for a scenic trip that takes just over two hours.

From further afield, heading to Augsburg or Donauworth can be your best bet and then taking a direct train from there.

Click here to check out Deutsche Bahn schedules and prices. This site will tell you the best trains to take.

It’s also simple to drive to Nördlingen.

Click here to check out car hire options and prices.

Final Words

Nördlingen Old TownPin
Nördlingen Old Town

Nördlingen, with its unique meteoritic history and charming medieval character, offers an experience unlike any other. Whether wandering the enchanting alleyways within its perfectly preserved walls or gazing out from the top of the Daniel, the town’s fascinating past and enchanting ambiance are sure to captivate visitors of all ages.

It’s definitely worth your vacation time. It does have similarities to visiting Dinkelsbühl and Rothenburg. When I was walking on the town wall, I felt like I was back in Rothenburg, and it’s a colorful, well-preserved town like those towns. In fact, it’s so well preserved that often I didn’t feel like I was in a medieval town.

Nördlingen is a fantastic place to visit.

Read our our guide to nearby Rothenburg here, Ulm here and Augsburg here. Find more guides to Southern Germany here.

Sharon Gourlay in the Rhina Valley

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon first fell in love with Germany back in 2000 on her first visit. She loves the long history, the picturesque Old Towns, the castles, the food, everything really! Since then, she has visited many times and loves writing about Germany here so you can enjoy it too. In fact, Sharon loves German culture so much that she sent her kids to a German primary school in Australia. She especially loves Berlin and towns with charming Old Towns like Celle and Quedlinburg. Sharon also has a Certificate III in International Travel Sales and understands the nitty gritty of travel planning. Through this site, she'll help you have the perfect trip to Germany whether it's your first or tenth time!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share to...