Nuremberg has a long tradition in producing playthings: the first mention of doll makers in the city's taxbooks dates back to as early as 1400. Small figures of plaster or alabaster, known as Docken, were explicitly associated with the city as they were exported far and wide via Nuremberg's trading networks.
Today, these dolls are part of the core collection at the toy museum, along with tin figures and traditional wood-carved toys. Located in a historic patrician townhouse from the 16th century, the museum isn't just dedicated to old playthings, however: fans of Lego, Barbie and modern toys will also love its displays, spread over four floors. Visitors can lose themselves amid the toys in cabinents and learn interesting, funny and sometimes thought-provoking facts about the world that every generation of children creates for itself.
One of the museum's special highlights is on the third floor: a detailed model railway of the legendary Omaha Union Station in Nebraska as it was in the 1940s with its surrounding rail network. Restored in 2016, the model railway is about 175 m long. It was originally built as a hobby and is made completely from scrap and leftover parts. Handmade toys were a common phenomenon during the tough years of the post-war period. The finished product is spellbinding: you could spend hours looking at the 300 and more wooden figurines, each carved by hand, and the hand-painted plywood locomotives. Powered by windscreen wiper motors, they look almost identical to metal construction kit trains. If you want to see the railway in action, we recommend calling into the museum on the last Saturday of the month, or you can contact the museum to arrange a special demonstration.
Occupying three floors, the permanent exhibition explores the world of toys and their development over time. Dolls and play figures are on the ground floor, the second floor looks at technological innovations during the era of industrialisation, while the third floor is dedicated to the array of mass-produced toys manufactured after 1945. The museum's temporary exhibitions pay particular attention to the culture of games and playing. Why do we play? Who do we play with? Where, when and how? And, most importantly: what changes will the digital era bring?
After looking at so many playthings, it's not surprising that many visitors want to get their hands on something themselves, and children are often very eager for some kind of action. Up in the museum's attic, kids have a whole section to themselves for hours of make and do fun, playtime, experimenting with different modular sets or a game of table football. From the start of April to the end of October, it is also possible to handle and learn about playthings from long ago outside in the enclosed garden play area.
During warm weather, Café La Kritz in the idyllic courtyard is perfect for a short break during your visit. Enjoy coffee and homemade cake, snacks and cold drinks in the shade of the Dockengalerie, a wooden walkway, while you look at the trains of the garden's model railway doing their rounds. When it's not so warm – and when you'd like a bigger meal – call into the Trödelstuben restaurant just 150 m from the museum. Built on the island in the Pegnitz river in 1890, the restaurant serves international and local Franconian dishes to your table beside the warm tile-covered stove.
Getting here: Trains take you to Nuremberg's main station, which is an easy 18-minute walk from the toy museum. From the station, walk north along Bahnhofsplatz for about 60 m and turn left at Königstrasse. Walk along Königstrasse for about 7 minutes, going in the direction of Museumsbrücke bridge – past the Drei Raben hotel, Galeria Kaufhof department store and St Lorenz church. After 600 m, turn left at Kaiserstrasse and then take the first right to cross the Pegnitz at Fleischbrücke bridge. Go left at the other end of the bridge, take the first right and keep walking along Winklerstrasse until you reach the junction with Augustinerstrasse after 140 m. Turn left here. After about 100 m, go right one last time at Karlstrasse. The museum is on the left-hand side of the street.