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Why Berlin is Germany's capital - and not Nuremberg

Article by Dorian Barbera, Nuremberg Free Walking Tour

The castle is probably Nuremberg's best-known landmark. The imposing fortress not only reflects the history of the city but also that of the whole of Germany. On our Free Walking Tour, we pass the youth hostel on our way to the "Freiung", a popular viewing point, and from there enter the two courtyards of the imperial castle. You will notice that the fortress consists of three very different parts. They all tell their own part of German history

Nuremberg Castle (Photo by I, ArtMechanic, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

A castle divided into three parts 

In the Middle Ages, the part of the castle that now houses the youth hostel belonged to the free imperial city of Nuremberg. A much larger part was reserved for the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. The middle area, between the areas of the city and the emperor, was reserved for a noble family, the so-called "burgraves". The nobles financed themselves through tax revenues from the lands surrounding Nuremberg. 

Greedy Nurembergers against a noble family

Of course, the Nurembergers did not like this. They would have preferred to collect these taxes themselves and claim the castle completely for themselves. But the nobles could not simply be chased away; the emperor would no longer have visited Nuremberg if battles had taken place right next to his living room. The Nurembergers did not want to trouble with the head of the empire.

Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

How to get rid of the Hohenzollerns

So the Nurembergers used other means to get the nobility out of the city. They showed them at every opportunity that they were not welcome.
A high tower was build right next to the nobles' castle, and the Nurembergers hypocritically gave it the name “Luginsland“, meaning “watch out tower“. Though, they never wanted to look into the distance from this tower. Rather, the noble neighbors were watched suspiciously from its battlements. Until today, the Luginsland towers over the former nobility’s castle.

Lunginsland Tower (photo by Philipp Guttmann, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

In addition, a wall was built around the nobility’s castle, and horrendous sums of customs duty were demanded from the inhabitants if they wanted to cross the town on the way between their castle and their estates. So the burgraves were trapped in their own castle!

How Berlin became the German capital

In the 15th century, the noble family had had enough and left the city. The people of Nuremberg rejoiced, not knowing that they would hear much more about this noble family in the centuries to come. They were the noble family of the Hohenzollerns. After they had been “bullied“ out of Nuremberg, they made Berlin their new headquarters. At that time, Berlin was still an insignificant city, but under the rule of the Hohenzollerns, it rose to become the capital of the great power Prussia and finally the capital of the German Empire. It is still the capital of Germany today.

Meanwhile, we in Nuremberg were left empty-handed. The good thing about it: because the castle slowly lost its importance after the Hohenzollerns left, less and less was built on it. As a result, we are lucky today that it towers over the city relatively unchanged and gives us an impressive insight into the architecture of the Middle Ages.

Thank you for reading the article. For more travel tips from our local guides around the world, check the blog section of our website! We release unique travel recommendations every week. If you like this article or have any questions, feel free to leave us a comment below!

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