Bamberg is a charming historic town located in the Upper Franconia, a region of Bavaria. Here’s an ABC of reasons why it is worth visiting.
Bamberg’s houses from medieval ages will take you back in time. Sometimes the walls are so crooked, you’ll wonder how is it possible, that they haven’t fallen apart over time. High above the town’s rooftops, magnificent sacral buildings dominate the horizon.
Well, this topic (as you may have noticed in our previous post) is present everywhere in Bavaria. Almost every town is proud of its own particular brew. They all respect the German Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot), so every beer you drink consists only of water, hops, malt and yeast. Bamberg’s most famous speciality is “Rauchbier” (smoked beer). The beer gets its smoky taste from malt dried over an open fire. You should definitely try a glass, but the bacon-like flavour is not for everybody. Spezielkeller, a Biergarten on one of the town hills is an excellent place to enjoy the smoky liquid. If you are not a fan of such a strong aftertaste, you can choose from a variety of “Kellerbier” (cellar beer) – unfiltered cloudy brews. For example, Ambräusianum brews delightful Kellerbier.
Since 1007 Bamberg had been a separate diocese. Bishops co-ruled the town and oversaw the construction of monumental sacral buildings. You’ll find churches with Romanesque foundations, Gothic portals and Baroque interiors almost on every corner.
The most famous building, however, is the Dom (Bamberg Cathedral).
The truly spectacular construction dates back to the 11th century. Because of a long building time, you can observe, that several styles were used by the masons. Just take a closer look at the four towers. You’ll find Romanesque and Gothic-style towers opposite each other. Try to visit the Dom and the Dom hill very early in the morning. Tourist buses start arriving after 10 am. And the morning light perfectly illuminates the cathedral’s interior.
The well-known Prussian romantic author, who wrote the world-famous The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, spent 5 years in Bamberg in the early 1800s. Today, you can visit the house, where he lived during his stay in Bamberg and if you are a big fan and speak German, the town organises readings from his books and events commemorating his life.
Germany probably has the highest concentration of half-timbered houses (Fachwerkhäuser) in the World. There are several styles of the German Fachwerk construction. In Bamberg, you can admire the Franconian Fachwerk.
The gardeners of Bamberg have a centuries-long tradition. In the town’s market Gardeners’ district (Gärtnerstadt), you can get insights into the gardening history. Bamberg’s gardeners have been exporting their products – onions, liquorice or a particular kind of radish (Hörnla) for centuries.
Bamberg is an ancient town. In the archives, the town was first mentioned in 902 as Babenberg. The Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich II supported his new family inheritance and diocese very generously. During the era of Charlemagne Bamberg’s river, Regnitz built the natural border between Germans and Slavs. You can inhale this great history everywhere. The old town is full of antique stores, where you even can purchase some relics from centuries ago (provided you have the appropriate amount of cash in your pocket).
The commercial centre of the town is full of cafes, gelaterias and shops. The market provides you with fresh fruit and vegetables from Bamberg Gardeners.
In 1813 Bamberg passed a law, which guaranteed equality to the Jews with other citizens. The Jewish community flourished and was involved in malt trading. This sadly came to an end in the 1930s. Today, if you arrive by train, take a walk from the central station to the Island District through Luitpoldstrasse and observe the pavement. You’ll find little cobblestone plaques (Stolpersteine) on the sidewalk in front of former Jewish houses with names of former inhabitants and the concentration camps, where they had been deported to.
Saint Cunigunde of Luxembourg married Emperor Henry II in 997. He gave her the town of Bamberg as morning gift. It is told, they decided not to consummate the marriage as Kunigunde had always dreamt of being a nun. During their life, Henry and Kunigunde donated most of their wealth to charity. Kunigunde’s beautiful statue as Holy Roman Empress dominates the Lower Bridge over the Regnitz river.
Wondering about this particular word? While admiring the Old Town Hall frescos from the Inselstadt side (East side), look for a little “statue”. You should spot an angel’s leg coming out of the wall painting. It’s there, you’ll find it. Just be patient.
The Abbey is located on a hill overlooking the town. It dates back to the 11th century. Unfortunately, the church and the abbey’s interiors cannot be visited due to restoration work. This may take some years. But it’s worth to “climb” the Michaelisberg (the hill of St. Michael) for the fantastic view over Bamberg. There are several cafes, where you can enjoy the view with a glass of Franconian bubbly.
Opposite the Old Residence (Alte Hofhaltung) and the Cathedral, you’ll find the New Residence built in baroque style from the late 17th century. Prince-bishops used to reside there. Don’t miss the spectacular rose garden. If you visit during the summer months, you’ll be amazed by hundreds of roses in all colours imaginable.
Bamberg gardeners are famous for their onions. But Bamberger Zwiebel (the onion of Bamberg) is also a traditional Franconian dish. It is an onion filled with minced meat with potatoes and smoked beer sauce. If you are a fan of hearty meals, this a dish for you.
Pope Clement II (Bishop of Bamberg in the 11th century) found his last resting place in the Bamberg Cathedral. It is the only papal grave in Germany. The cathedral also protects the tomb of Emperor Henry II and Kunigunde.
Bamberg is a small town where you can stroll the small streets without any rush. There is hardly any hustle. So enjoy and let it go slowly.
The river Regnitz is the pulsing heart of Bamberg. A walk along the river is one of the highlights of Bamberg visit. Follow the Flusspfad (river path) and learn about Bamberg’s history.
Well, this is an institution itself. Schlenkerla has been serving its own dark smoked Rauchbier since 1405! Get a glass at the tap and enjoy.
Because the citizens of Bamberg could not decide whether to build the Town Hall on the Cathedral side of the town (the clerical part) or in the Inselsdtadt (the common part), it was built exactly in the middle on an artificial river isle. The beautiful Fachwerkhaus with ornamental frescos dates back to 14th century.
Bamberg is one of the few medieval towns in Germany, which hasn’t been hit by tonnes of bombs during WW2. Therefore, the Old Town is uniquely preserved and has been a World Heritage site since 1993
Yes, Bamberg has its own little Venice. The spectacularly preserved fishermen’s houses from the 17th and 18th century lie directly on the riverside. Just take a walk on the other side of the river and admire the architecture.
Franconia is not only a beer land. The tradition of wine growing is more than 1000 years old. A glass of tasty Silvaner is an excellent alternative to Rauchbier.
XYZ (Practical advice)
The town is conveniently located on the Inter City Express line, which connects Munich with Baltic Sea coast. If you travel with ICE, the journey from Munich takes less than 2 hours. ICE trains are expensive, but Deutsche Bahn offers saver fares starting with 19 € one way. You need to book at least a few days in advance. In our experience, 5 days is ok, but if you travel during school holidays, the tickets can be sold out quickly, so book as soon as you can. Don’t even think about getting to the Old Town by car. It will cost you only your nerves, and the parking is very limited.
Bamberg offers a variety of hotels. Try to stay in the Old Town, so you can easily reach sights from your hotel. The hotels are often sold out, be quick with the booking. We stayed in Hotel am Dom. The property is a little older, but the location is perfect, and breakfast is truly amazing. You even get a breakfast smoothie.
And last but not least: How long should you stay? Well, most tourist busses arrive by 11 am and leave in the evening for Nürnberg. You can do all sights in one afternoon. But walking through the narrow medieval streets, and sipping your Silvaner or Rauchbier in one of the ancient guesthouses or enjoying a gelato in Inselstadt is what the atmosphere of this town is about. Therefore, if your time schedule allows it, stay for one night.