Have you heard of Bamberg before? We hadn't until we planned a road trip to Northern Bavaria (check our post about it here). And yet, Bamberg is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the early medieval plan of the town and its well-preserved ecclesiastical and secular buildings dating back to the medieval period. As you might know it, Germany has a high number of medieval and picturesque towns, and Bamberg is no exception.
Located in Upper Franconia, the city was founded on seven hills, this is why it is nicknamed today as the "Franconian Rome". The city was officially founded in 973 but grew in importance only after King Heinrich II, the former Duke of Bavaria, made Bamberg the seat of a bishopric in 1007 as an effort to unburden the neighbor Diocese of Würzburg. During WWII, only a small part of the city was destroyed while most German towns suffered massive destruction. This is the reason why the city is so beautifully preserved, conferring it the title of UNESCO World Heritage site.
HOW TO GET TO BAMBERG?
Bamberg is easily reached from many major German cities:
- By car: Bamberg is around 1h drive from Nuremberg and around 1h15 minutes from Rothenburg. It is a 2h30 minutes drive from Frankfurt, Stuttgart or Munich;
- By train: you can take advantage of the nice weekend trip plans Deutsche Bahn offers to visit Bamberg over a weekend for as low as 13.5 EUR (if you are a group of 5);
- By bus: Flixbus offers routes between the main cities in Germany and medium towns, it is worth checking if you are travelling alone and on the budget.
8 THINGS TO DO IN BAMBERG
Kick off the day at the Geyerswörthsteg, a pedestrian bridge where you can witness the memorable postcard of Bamberg: the southern facade of the Altes Rathaus. If you look upstream you can see the watermills used first for the production of flour and vegetable oils but later on to produce energy for some industries.
2. ALTES RATHAUS (OLD TOWN HALL)
The Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) of Bamberg is maybe the most famous postcard of Bamberg. Connecting the hillside Episcopal part of the city and the Island District, a part of town surrounded by river Regnitz where the old "bourgeois" merchant town flourished, the Rathaus is a very peculiar building with an also peculiar history.
According to a legend, the citizens demanded that the bishop of Bamberg granted them a portion of land for the construction of the town hall but the bishop prince, afraid of having another rising political power to compete with him, denied the land donation. This did not stop the townsfolks to get their wish done, they stuck pillars in the middle of the river and created an artificial island, on which they were able to build the desired town hall.
If this story is true or not we can not tell for sure, but what can not be denied is the wonder of this iconic building. Its half-timbered facet contrasts with the frescoes of its laterals depicting allegorical scenes in trompe-l'oeil, a typical illusionist painting technique giving a 3D impression for the motifs designed during the 18th century by Johann Anwander. Pay attention to an intriguing detail which draws the attention of tourists: the leg of a cherub protruding out of the wall as a sculpture.
3. SAINT-MARTIN CHURCH
Now, cross the river and head to the other side of the city until you reach the Church Saint-Martin, the only Baroque church in Bamberg. Built in the heart of the bourgeois part of the city, it is closely linked to the Jesuits once it was originally supposed to be the church of the Jesuits College.
Continuing to explore this part of Bamberg once dominated by the bourgeoisie, go to Maximiliansplatz, the most important square of the town where the new town hall is located. The square is framed by baroque buildings and hosts different markets throughout the year, including the well-known Christmas Market.
5. BAMBERG CATHEDRAL
Now, go back to the other side of the town, cross the river and head up to Bamberg Cathedral. Like Rome, Bamberg was built over 7 hills and each one is crowned by a different church. The most famous one being the Cathedral Hill, where the Cathedral of Bamberg has been originally founded in 1002. From there on, it has collapsed and rebuilt a few times and, due to the long construction process, it shows several architectural styles, particularly the Romanesque and Gothic. Furthermore, this Cathedral holds the only papal grave in Germany (all the other ones are located in France or in Italy).
6. ALTE HOFHALTUNG
The Alte Hofhaltung, which is a historical complex of residential and commercial buildings of the episcopal court, started being built in the 15th century and presents a remarkable Renaissance facade and a romantic courtyard framed by Gothic half-timbered buildings. You can enter this courtyard through a interesting gate showing the Mother of God in the center and in front of a model of the Bamberg Cathedral at that time which is held by the Emperor Heinrich II and his wife Kuningunde. They are flanked by saints and famous bishops. The whole set is framed by the figures of a lying man and a woman which represent the local rivers Main and Regnitz respectively.
7. NEUE RESIDENZ
Also located nearby the Cathedral of Bamberg and the Alte Hofhaltung, lays the Neue Residenz, a building which served as residence of the bishops princes of Bamberg and features the Rosengarten, a beautiful garden with 4.500 roses and a panoramic view on the old-town (download a leaflet about the city here).
8. KLEIN VENEDIG (LITTLE VENICE)
To finish this walking tour, head down to the river banks where you can get a nice view of Klein Venedig (Little Venice), a part of the old-town comprising a line of half-timbered colorful houses located just alongside the margins of the Regnitz river.
Bamberg is the city of beer with evidences of having a brewery dating back to 1122, when Bishop Otto I allowed brewing rights for the Benedictine Monks at St. Michael’s Monastery. Nowadays, there are 9 working breweries within town, which produce around 50 different beers, including the famous smoked beer made from malt dried over an open flame. Unfortunately, we did not know about it and, as we had still to drive to Nuremberg, we couldn’t really taste it. But, by all means, don't make the same mistake and make sure to taste it at the historic smoked beer brewery Schlenkerla, in the old-town part of Bamberg, beneath the Cathedral.
Bamberg is an incredible town to visit. Its Renaissance buildings and medieval town are both mesmerizing and won't disappoint you! If you're visiting Northern Bavaria, we highly recommend you to stop in Bamberg and spend the day there! You won't forget it!
And now it's your turn to let us know your impressions, thoughts and also tips to visit this region of Germany and in particular the city of Bamberg. Have you already been to Bamberg? Which other attractions would you recommend to do there? We look forward to reading your comments in the section below.