A city tour for culture lovers and connoisseurs
Our tip: Please make sure to check your train connection and the expected capacity before you start your journey.
Bamberg has a very old railway tradition. Only nine years after the legendary first journey from Nuremberg to Führt in 1835, Bamberg was connected to Nuremberg by rail. Today, the station is the busiest railway junction in Upper Franconia. The 120-year-old station building is on the list of Bavarian architectural monuments.
Leaving the station, you are in the garden city, where you can take a closer look at the end of the tour. First you walk through Luitpoldstraße and then - turning right - through Obere Königstraße. Here you can already see the splendour of the local town houses. One feels transported to a fairytale world. You can't miss the Chain Bridge with its thousands of "love locks". The footbridge leads over an arm of the Regnitz, here a section of the Main-Danube Canal, to the island city and directly into the pedestrian zone around Maximiliansplatz. Bambergers simply call it Maxplatz.
Maximiliansplatz, or Maxplatz for short, is the largest and most important square in Bamberg's city centre. It is dominated by the baroque New Town Hall built in the 1730s. Its creator is Balthasar Neumann, who became famous above all for the Würzburg Residence. The square is a centre of attraction for cultural events and the fruit and vegetable market that takes place on weekdays. On Saturdays, the farmers' market is held here, offering mainly Franconian specialities. These include the Bamberger Hörnla, not a baked product but a small and pointed potato, firm in cooking with a nutty aroma. This very high-quality potato variety is sold outside Bamberg, mainly in delicatessen shops. Savoy cabbage is also typical of Bamberg. Between May and September there are also regular flea markets on the Maxplatz.
Baroque buildings worth seeing with historic houses extend around the Maxplatz. Be sure to try the typical Bamberg bratwurst. Locals point out that it exactly balances the fine (Catholic) and the coarse (Protestant) variety. The sausage is also served here as a Franconian national dish: the "Blaue Zipfel". Enjoying it is an epicurean adventure, because the sausages are not fried but prepared in a vinegar broth and take on a bluish colour.
The following street, Grüner Markt (Green Market), lives up to its name, as market stalls are lined up here as well. After you have passed the Neptune Fountain called "Gabelmannus", you are at the Fruit Market, where several restaurants invite you to take a break. Follow the street Am Kranen to the passenger boat landing stage. Where Bamberg's harbour was located until the 20th century, passenger boats depart every hour during the season between 11 am and 4 pm for an 80-minute tour of the old town. The surrounding streets have established themselves as a lively trendy district. This includes the former fishing settlement called "Little Venice". Densely packed half-timbered buildings and tiny gardens define the image of this quarter. Right next door is Bamberg's most photographed building: the Old Town Hall. Two bridges - the Upper and Lower Bridge - connect it across the left arm of the Regnitz with the island city and the cathedral city.
Why does Bamberg's Old Town Hall stand on an island? Legend has it that the island was created especially for the town hall. This astonishing explanation requires some explanation: the Bishop of Bamberg, who resided on top of the hill, did not want to give the citizens any of his land for the construction of a town hall. As a result, the citizens drove stakes into the Regnitz River, creating an artificial island on which they built their town hall. The Regnitz marks the old boundary between the bishop's hill and the burghers' island town. In its present form, the building dates from the 1460s. The picturesque half-timbered building on the south side, the Rottmeisterhäuschen, even survives from a previous building. Around 300 years later, it was embellished by the striking façade paintings, which were renewed another 200 years later. The baroque town hall tower is the work of the famous master builder Balthasar Neumann. In the long building of the Old Town Hall there is a rococo hall on the first floor, which is used for receptions of the city of Bamberg. The ground floor houses the porcelain collection of the collector couple Irene and Peter Ludwig as a permanent exhibition. It is the largest private porcelain collection in Europe.
Obere Brücke 1
Now it's up to the cathedral city. Past a plaque commemorating the Hitler assassin Count Schenck zu Stauffenberg, who spent many years in Bamberg, the path leads through idyllic old town alleys. The shortest way to Bamberg Cathedral is through Karolinenstraße. Those who have not yet managed to visit one of the quaint, traditional beer and speciality restaurants have ample opportunity to do so here. Go to the "Hofbräu", the "Ahörnla" or the "Schlenkerla".
Once on the Domberg, the church with its four towers impresses in equal measure with its size and grace. They lend it a majestic aura.
Construction of Bamberg Cathedral began in 1004, when the Romanesque style still dominated church architecture, and was completed after 40 years, when the Gothic style took hold. The cathedral received an ornate interior, for which many artists and sculptors came to Bamberg from numerous countries. Among them was the famous carver Tilmann Riemenschneider. The building was initiated by the later Emperor Henry II, who is buried in the cathedral next to his wife. This is why the episcopal cathedral is considered an imperial cathedral. The only papal tomb north of the Alps is also located here. The most famous work of art in the cathedral is the Bamberg Rider, a stone equestrian statue in the Romanesque style from the first half of the 13th century. It is one of the most famous landmarks of the city of Bamberg. The rider is King Stephen of Hungary. He had come to Bamberg at that time to marry the sister of Emperor Henry.
The Domplatz would not be considered one of the most beautiful squares in Germany if it were not for other historic building ensembles. First of all, there is the Alte Hofhaltung, built in the Renaissance style. This is where the prince-bishops lived as spiritual and secular rulers in the 15th and 16th centuries. The entrance portal called the "Schöne Pforte" (Beautiful Gate) is particularly striking. The baroque wings of the New Residence stretch out exactly opposite. It later replaced the Alte Hofhaltung as the residential quarters of the prince-bishops.
The Alte Hofhaltung with its Renaissance gable, the "Schönen Pforte" and the picturesque inner courtyard is one of Bamberg's most impressive buildings. Once the residence of the bishops, the building now houses the Historical Museum with precious collections of the world heritage city. In the "100 Masterpieces" section, the museum shows important paintings by artists ranging from Lucas Cranach to Pieter Breughel and Otto Modersohn. Another exhibition focuses on the river Regnitz, Bamberg's lifeline. During the Christmas season, nativity scenes are exhibited, which have a great tradition in the Bamberg region.
From 1604, the prince bishops moved into the New Residence opposite. More than 40 richly decorated state rooms give an impression of the dissolute lifestyle of the rulers of the time. Today the building houses the State Library and the State Gallery of Bamberg with masterpieces of Old German and European Baroque painting. From the rose garden of the New Residence, you have a view of St Michael's Church and the roofs of the burgher town.
After the panoramic view of the cathedral square, the path now leads back to the station. It leads about two kilometres through the fascinating old town of Bamberg and introduces you to the garden city. It goes through Residenzstraße, through the Eiserne Tor, along Untere Sandstraße and through Markusstraße to Markusbrücke. From here, Bamberg once again shows itself from its most idyllic side along the Regnitz. You walk through the island town and reach Löwenbrücke, which impresses with its four pylons that glow in the dark. Through Färbergasse and a few metres to the right into Mittelstraße, you reach the garden city and there the gardeners' and crocheters' museum. Fruit and vegetables have always been grown in and around Bamberg. This also includes viticulture, which is called Häckerei here. This part of Bamberg has retained its village character thanks to the typical residential barns with a central passageway and adjoining courtyard and garden at the back.
An 18th century gardener would immediately find his way around the house and garden and be able to go about his day's work. The present museum building was erected in 1767 as a passage and stable house in a functional design for gardeners' houses of the time. The house belonged to the Kauer family, who lived in it until the 20th century and, thanks to a good economy, achieved some wealth. The last descendant of the Kauer family lived here until 1969.
A gardener's house with a well had already stood here around 1600. The museum's furnishings were modelled on the beginnings and development of Bamberg's gardening culture down to the last detail. The black kitchen is identical to those that existed around 1769 in the gardener families who lived here. The parlour is furnished in the style of the 19th century. The farmyard including the shed with all the utensils gives a clear impression of the way of life and work of the gardener families of the 18th and 19th centuries. In the kitchen garden at the house, too, everything is planted that was required in the kitchen at that time and that belongs to the Bamberg specialities. A separate part of the house and garden is dedicated to the life and work of the crofters. They originally worked as winegrowers on the slopes surrounding Bamberg, but during the Little Ice Age they had to switch to cold-tolerant crops, which included hops.
Visitors can discover the museum and garden on their own with an audio guide or book a guided tour.
After visiting the museum, continue along Mittelstraße and turn into Luitpoldstraße. If the Garden City has whetted your appetite for a vegan ending to your excursion, the Vegan Food Rebels Bamberg are a recommendation. Open Wednesdays to Saturdays 12 to 14 and 17.30 to 20 hrs. Luitpoldstraße leads directly to the train station.