A city of justice, human rights and sustainability

July 23, 2020

The Tiergärtnertor Square provides spectacular views of the Imperial Castle and the Albrecht Dürer House

IMAGE: Roman Sigaev


Nuremberg has three identities. One is that of a cosy, historic Bavarian city that grew from the 11th-century castle still standing today: a city with an Old Town full of charm, famous for its gingerbread, toys and Christmas Fair. Another is that of a modern city, with a reputation for business, sustainability and cutting edge ecotechnology. The third is of a city with a darker history as a hub of Nazi activity before and during the war, but to its credit, Nuremberg neither shouts about nor shies away from this era, but instead acknowledges it honestly and respectfully—while very much focusing on the future.


Today, it’s a city with plenty to see and do, with fantastic facilities, a highly accessible location and superb green credentials, earning titles such as Biometropole (Organic Metropolis),

 Fairtrade Town, eco model region and Germany’s most sustainable city. These benefits make it an ideal location for a green city break or a sustainable event.




A Community Committed to Sustainability


There are a host of groups and NGOs working within Nuremberg to promote sustainability. BluePingu is a regional, award-winning non-profit organisation that’s part of the global transition town network. It collaborates with the City and other organisations on sustainability projects and provides a portal signposting citizens and visitors to over 1,300 regional organisations or companies offering sustainable products or services. “Every purchase is an opportunity to set an example!” the website reminds visitors.


Nuremberg’s FabLab is part of a global network of local labs offering the public free access to digital manufacturing machines and support in operational, technical, financial, logistical and educational issues. FabLab also runs a Repair Café every two months—one of several in Nuremberg that offer citizens the support and expertise needed to repair their electrical devices and appliances, thereby reducing waste. Reducing waste is also the object of Refill Nuremberg, a network of 118 locations that allow anyone to refill their water bottle with tap water free of charge.


Meanwhile, the Urban Lab aims to inspire Nuremberg’s citizens to design their own city through involvement in projects such as the Z-Bau Nordgarten. This development of former fallow land now incorporates art, agriculture, aquaponics and the Little Home project to build small homes for homeless people.


Urban gardening is big in Nuremberg. Several urban gardens, including the Courtyard Garden with its nesting boxes and insect hotels, and the Medicinal Herb Garden with over 100 varieties of medicinal plant, are run by the Bund Naturschutz in Bayern e.V. (BN), Bavaria’s largest environmental protection association. It’s also established 20 volunteer-maintained biotopes in the city to promote biodiversity, and the Trees in the City project to preserve Nuremberg’s existing trees and plant new ones.


At the ZeroHero supermarket, customers can buy dry or wet goods, mainly local and organic, dispensed into their own containers or reusable containers bought at the store—but for their eggs, the city’s residents may prefer to rent a chicken from Noris Inklusion, whose 300 chickens are cared for by people with disabilities. For 120 Euros a year, chicken ‘renters’ get 6 free-range organic eggs a week!


Nuremberg is also the birthplace of the Umweltbank, Germany’s first green bank, which has financed around 23,000 environmental projects over the last 20 years, from wooden houses to solar parks.



IMAGE: Stadt Nürnberg / Johannes Barthel

A City taking Responsibility


The Nuremberg Trials broke new legal ground. It detailed ‘crimes against humanity’ such as genocide, held individuals to account on the basis of international law for the first time, and brought together different countries with differing legal systems to prosecute cases. The Trials formed the basis for International Criminal Law and today’s International Criminal Court in Den Haag.


But International Criminal Law is not the only positive legacy of the city’s darker history. Nuremberg has also become a hub of human rights and justice, adopting the motto ‘Nuremberg - City of Peace and Human Rights’. It has both a dedicated Human Rights Office, which organises and coordinates human rights activities in the city, and an International Nuremberg Principles Academy dedicated to promoting International Criminal Law. Since 1995, Nuremberg has also presented its biennial International Human Rights Award. The award is endowed with €15,000 and intended not just to honour its awardees’ achievements but also to contribute to protecting endangered human rights defenders, while encouraging others to commit themselves to human rights. Nuremberg also holds an International Human Rights Film Festival every two years, which provides a forum for outstanding feature films, documentaries and animations with human rights as their core theme.




IMAGE: Uwe Niklas

Nuremberg doesn’t only take responsibility for its past, but for its future, too. The city was starting to focus on sustainability issues even in the late 80s and adopted its own local Agenda 21 in 1997, focusing on local initiatives that could deliver the Agenda’s goals. It joined the Climate Alliance of European Cities in 2000, and in 2005, developed a comprehensive set of sustainability indicators that were used to produce the first City of Nuremberg Sustainability Report in 2009. The City’s Agenda 21 Office now coordinates its sustainability efforts and collaboration with citizens and companies.


In 2016, the city received the German Sustainability Award in the category ‘Major Cities’—and here a just a few of the reasons why:


Green Business


The City presents annual awards for sustainable economic management to regional companies and, together with the energy industry and scientific community, it has set up the Green Economy Nuremberg initiative to promote resource and energy efficiency, plus development and use of green technologies, in companies across the region.


Biometropole and Fairtrade Town


In 2003, the City set quotas to determine what proportion of food offered in schools, nurseries, municipal institutions and weekly markets should be organic, and three years later, Nuremberg became the first German city to join the Città del Bio network for organic production.


Together with partners BluePingu, Hubert Rottner-Defet and the NürnbergMesse, the City collaborates on a range of organic projects under the ‘Biometropole’ umbrella, such as the Organic Lunch Box Drive; the Bio Erleben (Organic Experience) festival, including an organic market, a fashion show and cooking demonstrations; the event series BIOFACH meets Nuremberg, incorporating a Seed Festival, painting competition and an organic dining and shopping guide; the Chef in the Park event, where visitors cook in the park with top chefs; and BIOFACH, considered the world’s leading trade fair for organic food, incorporating the STADTLANDBIO Congress where the organic sector and Germany’s municipal decision-makers exchange knowledge and good practice.


Nuremberg has been a Fairtrade City since 2010, too, and won third place in the 2019 German Capital of Fairtrade competition. Over 100 shops and 79 restaurants offer Fairtrade products. The City is also involved in the Market for Eco Design in Rosenaupark and the Christmas Market for Sustainable Presents.



IMAGE: Jim Easterbrook

Sustainable Energy


Bavaria’s energy policy aims for efficiency, supply security and environmental sustainability, and nuclear-free, predominantly renewable, energy. In 2016, an astonishing 10% of the world’s installed photovoltaic systems were in Bavaria.


Nuremberg’s energy projects include the generation of district heating and electricity in a cogeneration system, refurbishment of buildings for energy efficiency and energy-efficient landscape planning. It’s also invested heavily in renewable energy, including hydroelectric power projects and the installation of photovoltaic cells on private and municipal buildings. The Metropolitan Region’s use of renewable energy is currently 28.3%, well above Germany’s average of 25.4%.


Nuremberg has an excellent Energy Technology Cluster, with nine universities and many R&D institutions working alongside businesses in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency and consumption, and energy storage systems.


The Energie Campus Nürnberg is a research centre developing new technologies for the entire energy system, while the Technische Hochschule Nürnberg (University of Applied Sciences) is involved in research on energy, cities and buildings of the future, transportation, logistics and mobility, and environment and resources; in 2018, the university received an award from the Federal Government for a project modelling sustainable city logistics via micro-depots.


The Bavarian government founded the Center Hydrogen.Bavaria (H2.B) to consolidate and expand Bavaria’s leadership in the hydrogen economy and advance hydrogen’s technological applications, especially within mobility. The state also simultaneously formed the Hydrogen Alliance Bavaria, whose members from industry, science and the government have committed to strengthening and expanding Bavaria’s technological competence in innovative hydrogen technologies and supporting the Center Hydrogen.Bavaria’s activities. Stakeholders work together to develop systems for the sustainable production of hydrogen on an industrial scale, such as the scaling-up of electrolysis plants that use renewable energy. They also focus on the logistics—how existing gas transport and storage facilities could be used for hydrogen and how new facilities should best be developed—and explore how components like electrolysers, fuel cells and hydrogen storage systems could be upscaled and used in an economically efficient manner, making their cost-competitive with that of climate-damaging technologies.


A team at Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen Nürnberg developed the LOHC technology (liquid organic hydrogen carriers) and 100 new hydrogen filling stations are planned in Bavaria by 2025.


The Energiepark Hirschaid, the winner of the 2014 EU-Green Building Award, is a demonstration facility for renewable energy technologies, including the N-ERGIE Aktiengesellschaft heat store, Germany’s first hot water store for temporary heat storage, which enables more flexible operation of the adjacent biomass co-generation plant.


N-Ergie, the city’s local energy provider, has supported the transition to more sustainable energy by helping the City introduce e-bikes and e-trikes, installing photovoltaic systems in car parks and more e-vehicle charging points, and adopting peak-load storage strategies.





Sustainable City Life


The ‘Nuremberg – Intelligent Mobility’ plan aims to promote alternatives to cars and ensure an environmentally-friendly mix of transport options. All the vehicles used by the local public transportation company, VAG, run on green electricity and the use of the company’s rental bikes, bookable via an app, is included in their monthly tickets.


VAG’s Nuremberg tramway depot has Germany’s largest roof-integrated solar power system and both its vehicle washing plant and sanitary installations use processed rainwater.

Since 2001, no municipal waste has gone to landfill sites, thanks to household waste sorting, separate collection of recyclable /reusable waste and an up-to-date incinerator plant with facility for energy recovery. This energy provides power generation and district heating, largely responsible for the municipal reduction of CO2 emissions.


Creating Green Spaces


In 2006, Nuremberg City Council adopted the current land development plan which ensured there must be planning for all municipal green areas. The campaign Green for the Southern Districts involves private and public institutions working together for greener spaces while the Green Ribbons volunteer group, together with the Town Planning Department, developed a plan for green and free areas across southern Nuremberg. The result? Refurbished playgrounds and parks, new parks, greener landscaped areas and hundreds of new trees along the city’s streets.


Since 2008, there has also been biotope mapping of the city, providing an important data pool for environmental purposes, and in 2010 Nuremberg joined the Municipalities for Biological Diversity network, establishing a local biodiversity alliance with nature protection associations and universities.





Your Green Stay or Event in Nuremberg


Quite aside from Nuremberg’s history, culture and green credentials, the region’s expertise in IT, transportation, automation, medical, healthcare, energy and environmental industries make the city a great place to do business or hold an event. But it also has plenty to offer if you want a green city break too and makes a great base for exploring nearby cities such as Bamberg and Würzburg.


Make your journey here (and around Nuremberg) eco-friendly


Nuremberg airport offers direct flights to 60 destinations, connecting to all major European hubs for intercontinental destinations, and the airport is so close to the city that you can walk or cycle there if you’re willing and able! Otherwise, the U2 underground line will take you to Nuremberg’s main station in just 12 minutes. Bus line 30 takes you to northern Nuremberg, while the 33 takes you to the western areas and Fürth. The N12 NightLiner bus runs to the main station on Friday nights, Saturday nights and the nights before public holidays.


If you want a greener journey, you can reach Nuremberg from cities all across Europe, either by bus with Flixbus and Eurolines or by ICE trains or night trains. Or why not cruise down the Main-Danube canal? The Port of Nuremberg, around 6 km southwest of the old town, now receives over 1000 cruise ships a year.


Once you’re in Nuremberg, most things are just a walk away, but bike rental is readily available and there are 5 tramways, 80 bus lines, and 3 underground lines to take you anywhere you need to go. That includes numerous Night Line buses, which offer request-only stops and free taxi cab calls to ensure you get back to your hotel quickly and safely. Tickets cover all local transport types and bike rental, and there’s a special ticket for congress & events, plus the Nürnberg Card + Fürth, which offers 2 days’ public transport throughout the region and entry to numerous attractions for one great price.


The Number 36 Sightseeing Bus Line links 36 of Nuremberg’s sightseeing hotspots, but in season, you might prefer to see Nuremberg’s sights via a guided tour in a tram that’s over 50 years old.



IMAGE: Steffen Oliver Riese

Choose sustainability-friendly accommodation and event venues


Many of Nuremberg’s hotels are striving to operate sustainably. Some are eco-certified by schemes such as Fairpflichtet, Green Key or Green Globe, while others, like Hotel Five in the centre of the Old Town, have their own rigorous sustainability standards.


The selection of sustainably responsible hotels below also offer meeting and event facilities:


Derag Livinghotel Nürnberg: Green Globe certified. Just minutes away from the Old Town, it offers rooms, serviced apartments and a conference centre with four rooms of varying sizes and its own garden.


The Hotel Victoria: an independent, boutique, historic hotel in the centre of the Old Town, with its own beehives and honey. It offers stylish rooms and several spaces for conferences or meetings for up to 120 people.


InterCityHotel Nürnberg: certified to ISO 14001 sustainability standards. Situated near the main railway station, it offers carbon offsetting for meetings and events.


The Le Méridien Grand Hotel: as part of the Marriott Group, it works to meet the Group’s 2025 Sustainability and Social Impact Goals. Handily located opposite the main railway station, it has 8 event rooms of varying capacities up to 250 people.


Sustainable event venues include the NürnbergMesse & Convention Center, which hosts the BIOFACH organic fair. NürnbergMesse has 16 exhibition halls with an overall exhibition space of 180,000m², and there are also the three NürnbergConvention Centers and the multifunctional Frankenhalle for up to 12,800 people, offering 39 event spaces in total. The centre’s caterer, Lehrieder, is Green Globe certified.


There’s also the Max-Morlock-Stadion, which received the EMAS environmental certificate in 2006—the first European stadium to do so. It offers Sky Boxes for meetings and a range of large spaces (including the stadium itself!) for events attracting hundreds or even thousands of visitors.


Make environmentally-friendly choices for food, fun and drinks


Organic, regional and seasonal ingredients are staples on the menu of many of Nuremberg’s restaurants. For ‘premium junk food’, head to Auguste for a burger—whether meaty or veggie, it will have been made from sustainable, organic and regional ingredients, and you can choose a salad if a burger doesn’t appeal. Head to Rösttrommel if you’re looking for a coffee shop with a conscience (and delicious coffee!), and when visiting (or just passing) Nuremberg Zoo, pop into the Tiergartenrestaurant Waldschänke, an organic and MSC-certified restaurant in a listed building that sits in a forest. Idyllic!




IMAGE: Uwe Niklas

The Hausbrauerei Altstadthof (Old Town Brewery), founded on the site of the historic former Red Brewery at the foot of the Imperial Castle, is the place to go if you’re a lover of beer, gin or whisky. This craft brewery and distillery brews traditionally in copper kettles, wooden fermentation tanks and with traditional equipment, producing tasty and totally organic beer, whisky and gin.


The beautiful local area known as Franconian Switzerland is also known for its beer, with the highest concentration of breweries worldwide! It also has over 4000 km of marked, well-maintained trails at all levels of difficulty, winding through picture-postcard villages and past medieval castles.


There’s also a famous local Franconian wine region, with around 6,000 hectares of vineyards from Bamberg to Aschaffenburg, mainly lying along the Main and on the slopes of the Steigerwald. Wine-lovers can sample the best it has to offer, and burn off the calories by touring on foot or by bike!


There are numerous cycle trails in and around Nuremberg too, whether you prefer lakeside trails on the flat or a little mountain-biking. Nuremberg is the start (or end!) of the circular 300 km Five Rivers Bike Path and the 100 km Hohenzollern adventure cycle path, a themed path that provides an augmented reality experience via an app.


Nuremberg also offers trampolining, climbing walls, golf and a host of sports, including water sports on the local waterways. If you prefer a more sedate time spent communing with nature, though, visit one of the city’s parks or green areas, such as the Wöhrder Lake and Meadow, the Lorenzer Forest or the meadows along the river Pegnitz.

IMAGE: Birgit Fuder

To explore the city’s history, start at the Imperial Castle, the Kaiserburg, now over 900 years old. It was a temporary residence for many of the Holy Roman Emperors, and you shouldn’t leave before seeing the well, tower and museum. Then you can explore the rest of the Old Town, with its picturesque medieval buildings and canal.


There’s also the zoo to explore, a spectacular fountain and some beautiful churches, including St Sebald and St Lorenz. Art fans will want to see the quaint timber-framed home of Albrecht Dürer, one of Germany’s most famous painters, to learn more about his life and work. And for those willing to face Nuremberg’s less pleasant history as bravely as the City does itself, there’s the Nazi Party Rally Grounds and its Documentation Center, which tells the story of the Nazi rise to power and its consequences, and the Memorial Nuremberg Trials.




IMAGE: Steffen Oliver Riese Fotografie

If shopping is your ‘fun’ and you’re lucky enough to be here before Christmas, Nuremberg’s spectacular Christmas market (‘Christkindlesmarkt’) is a must. Sustainable development in all its aspects is considered in the market’ operations. Only renewable energy and reusable cups and cutlery are used, and many of the items on sale are organic and locally sourced.


Throughout the rest of the year, you’ll find local, organic and Fairtrade produce on sale at markets and festivals, and in many shops. Window to the World and Lorenzer Laden are two of the many church shops selling a range of Fairtrade products, while Glore Nürnberg focuses on Fairtrade, eco-friendly clothing and accessories. Grüne Erde sells sustainable fashion, furniture, textiles and cosmetics, and Wicklein is the place to go for an organic, Fairtrade version of that most famous of Nuremberg delicacies: gingerbread!



IMAGE: Stadt Nürnberg / Christine Dierenbach

Looking to the Future: European Capital of Culture 2025?


Nuremberg is applying to be the European Capital of Culture in 2025 and should learn if it’s been successful in October this year. With so much work already done here in the three qualifying categories of Humanity, World Shaping and Community, and many new projects already planned or launched (such as an urban agriculture project to grow plants in mini-greenhouses using exhaust air from the subway), it’s hard to see how it can fail. Nuremberg looks set to become notorious all over again--for much kinder, greener and more welcome reasons.







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