A city walk for connoisseurs, families and culture lovers
Our tip: Please make sure to check your train connection and the expected capacity before you start your journey.
At the main station, the apostle of Franconia, Kilian, points you in the direction of the city centre with his blessing on the Kiliansbrunnen. You give him a friendly nod and decide to take a different route. On this tour you will only cross the old town once and otherwise move through green spaces, vineyards and along banks.
First turn right to walk behind the bus station through the Ringpark towards the banks of the Main. Once you have crossed the Röntgenring and the tram tracks after its end, promenade south along the Kranenkai until you reach a landmark of Würzburg with the namesake Alter Kranen.
The Main has been used for the transport and trade of wood since time immemorial and this section of the riverbank was first fortified as a quay as early as the middle of the 16th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries, trade traffic became more regular and Prince-Bishop Adam Friedrich von Seinsheim wanted to strengthen this development with his order for the construction of a harbour crane.
The imposing baroque crane was built between 1767 and 1773 and has not been in use for about 180 years. However, its technology inside the crane house is still fully preserved and functional today. For the maximum lifting power, up to twelve people, so-called crane or winch servants, had to set two treadwheels, each with a diameter of over five metres, in motion at the same time. The longer of the two crane arms then has a maximum lifting capacity of one tonne, the three-metre shorter arm manages 1.2 tonnes. They are mounted on rollers and can be rotated 360 degrees.
Whereas trade used to take place around the crane, the Old Crane is now a popular meeting place on Würzburg's Main Quay.
You continue your walk along the Main quay, pass the Japanese garden and finally take the stairs up to your second destination: the Old Main Bridge. In the evening, it is not unusual for it to fill up with locals and guests who socialise together at the famous "Brückenschoppen". In Franconia, a "Schoppen" is a quarter of a litre of wine, which the neighbouring restaurants and the bar of the regional winegrowers' cooperative will be happy to provide you with.
Why wander off into the distance? Würzburg's Old Main Bridge reminds quite a few people of Prague's famous Charles Bridge. The similarity between the two stone arched bridges is partly due to the stone figures on either side of the roadway. The twelve bridge figures in Würzburg date from the Baroque period.
The Old Main Bridge itself, however, is much older than the figures. As early as 1120, the ferry service here was replaced by a first, Romanesque stone bridge. At that time, the Main was a transport route for free-floating logs, which over time took their toll on the structure. After two floods of the century in 1342 and 1442, the structure was replaced by a new bridge made of natural stone from 1476.
Until 1886, the Old Main Bridge was the only river crossing in Würzburg. Until the 18th century it was fortified for military purposes and almost completely built over with stalls. Würzburg was located on the important trade route from Regensburg to Frankfurt. This river crossing enabled the city to collect customs duties. The medieval gates at its entrances were demolished in the 18th and 20th centuries. After they were blown up by German troops in April 1945, the fourth and fifth arches of the bridge were rebuilt in the spring of 1950. Since 1990, the Main can only be crossed here on foot or by bicycle.
From the Old Main Bridge, you can see many of Würzburg's sights: the pilgrimage church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary on the Nikolausberg, popularly known as the Käppele - a late work by Balthasar Neumann with magnificent rococo furnishings - as well as the Marienberg Fortress towering over the city and Germany's largest contiguous vineyard, the Würzburger Stein. Last but not least, the "Alte Kranen", a baroque harbour crane dating from 1773, and the city's tower silhouette can also be seen from the bridge.
It is beautiful to look at the Marienberg Fortress from down here, rising 100 metres above the river from steep vineyards. But aren't you also curious about the view you can have over the old town from there?
Set out for a change of perspective! To do so, turn briefly to the right on the other bank of the Main and then turn left onto the Tellsteige. This leads you up the hill and around the fortress, which you enter on the side facing away from the city. You have climbed a long way and arrived deep in history.
There was already a Celtic ring fortress here as early as 1000 BC. The oldest building in the fortress still standing today is a small round church from the year 704: the Marienkirche. The 40-metre-high keep and the well house with its over 100-metre-deep cistern also bear witness to the more than 1300-year history of Marienberg Fortress.
Construction of an unusually large castle began around the year 1200. Extensions and extensions followed in the late Middle Ages and during the Renaissance. From 1253 to 1719, Marienberg Fortress was the seat of the Würzburg prince-bishops. A siege in 1525 during the Peasants' War failed, but the Swedes succeeded in storming it 100 years later during the Thirty Years' War. Subsequently, during the Baroque period, the castle was surrounded by a ring of massive bastions.
The vineyard at the foot of the fortress is the Schlossberg. The name is understandable, because the front part of the fortress is laid out like a castle. It essentially goes back to Prince-Bishop Julius Echter, a great builder, administrative reformer and important representative of the Counter-Reformation, who died on the Marienberg Fortress in 1617.
At the eastern end of the fortress, the 1300-square-metre Fürstengarten (Prince's Garden), a viewing pulpit with a garden in the style of the hidden Renaissance gardens of Italy, has been laid out on a former gun platform. Accessible from the castle courtyard, it originally dates from 1650 to 1700 and was restored in the 1930s according to plans from the early 18th century.
The extensive fortifications extend all the way to the Main River. The State Garden Show Park was created on this site after the State Garden Show in 1990.
For the descent, choose the signposted path through the vineyards. Once you reach the bottom, walk along the shore and the lock. Maybe you'll be lucky and spectacular cargo is being smuggled through.
From the Old Main Bridge, walk down the ramp and right into the old town. Here you can get an ice cream at the Eiscafé Fontana and admire the Grafeneckart town hall. The town has used this building as its town hall for over 700 years. The tree painted on the façade replaced the court lime tree in front of the building as early as the 16th century.
You stroll down Domstraße. But before you visit the cathedral itself, make a detour via Schustergasse and Schmalzmarkt, because you don't want to miss Neumünster.
Its baroque west façade of red brick blends in with the street frontage and gives you little idea of the beautiful, large interior concealed behind the open staircase. Below, in the crypt of the church, you will find the modern burial shrine of the three Franconian apostles Kilian, Kolonat and Totnan, destination of the pilgrimage to St. Kilian, which is still important in Franconia today.
Würzburg is unique. Here, the most beautiful churches lie next door to each other.
The fourth largest Romanesque church in Germany is dedicated to the patron saint of the diocese, the Frankish martyr Kilian. The present building is already the third church on this site and was built between the years 1040 and 1075 under Bishops Bruno and Adalbero.
The mighty interior surprises with its interesting mixture of art and architectural styles from Romanesque to modern. Worthy of note are the funerary monuments of the Würzburg prince-bishops set up on the pillars of the nave, especially the sculptures of Rudolph von Scherenberg and Lorenz von Bibra created by Tilman Riemenschneider.
In the centre of the nave of the church, the Romanesque baptismal font stands out, on the large gallery on the west side of the nave, the mighty Klais organ with its 87 stops and 6652 pipes. The valuable cathedral pulpit with the four evangelists at the foot was designed by Michael Kern in the Renaissance style at the beginning of the 17th century. In the left transept is the entrance to the Schönborn family burial chapel designed by Balthasar Neumann.
If you like, pay a visit to the Lusamgärtchen at the back of the Neumünster. A memorial stone commemorates the minnesinger Walther von der Vogelweide, who is believed to have been buried here in 1230.
Turn right and walk past the Schönborn Chapel and the stately cathedral courtyards to Residenzplatz. At the top of the fountain is the figure of Franconia, patron saint of Franconia. At her feet are three artists whose fate is closely linked to Würzburg: the minnesinger Walther von der Vogelweide, the sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider and the painter Matthias Grünewald.
You are standing right in front of what is probably Würzburg's most famous jewel. Be sure to plan an hour to visit the Residenz from the inside as well.
The Residenz is "the most uniform and extraordinary of all Baroque palaces". With this justification, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981. The Würzburg Residenz is the work of the famous architect and prince-bishop's chief building director Balthasar Neumann. In the mid-18th century until secularisation, the expropriation of church properties at the beginning of the 19th century, the Residenz was the seat of the Würzburg prince-bishops.
The history of this magnificent building begins at the beginning of the 18th century. At that time, Prince-Bishop Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn won an embezzlement case and received 600,000 gulden. This money was to be used to build a palace. It is the age of absolutism, in which the ruler has to show power and wealth also through the size of his residence.
Prince-Bishop von Schönborn commissions the hitherto unknown architect Balthasar Neumann with the planning. The foundation stone is laid in 1720. The shell of the building is completed in 1744. Renowned European artists are engaged to design the interior. Among them is the Venetian Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, who creates the largest continuous ceiling fresco in the world in the staircase. Also the stucco artist Antonio Bossi, famous for his work in the White Hall of the Residenz. The building work ends in 1778 after almost 60 years of construction.
In the end, the Würzburg Residenz is a total of 168 metres long, 92 metres deep and has 360 rooms, of which about 40 can be visited today. Beneath the Residenz lie the mighty baroque vaults of the Staatlicher Hofkeller, one of Würzburg's three major wineries. The Hofkeller dates back to a deed of donation from 1128. This makes it the oldest documented winery in Germany.
Magnificent wrought-iron gates between the south wing of the Residenz and the Gesandtenbau lead into the Hofgarten. Its southern part presents itself strictly symmetrically in French Baroque style. Conical yew trees frame the fountain. Balthasar Neumann already had the idea of incorporating the Baroque city wall into the garden design. This is done in the eastern garden, which is in the style of Italian Baroque gardens, where terraces halfway up the garden invite visitors to take a stroll. The night music of the Mozart Festival in June is particularly atmospheric against this backdrop.
Have you already tasted the famous Franconian wine? Goethe wrote: "No other wine will taste good to me, and I am disgruntled when my usual favourite potion fails me."
On the north side of Residenzplatz you have the opportunity to get to know the wines of the Staatlicher Hofkeller in the Vinothek in the Rosenbachpalais. The Staatlicher Hofkeller has been owned without interruption by the respective powers in the land, from the prince-bishops to the Bavarian king to the current owner, the Free State of Bavaria.
Your way back through the greenery begins with a crossing of the Hofgarten and finally leads you back through the Ringpark to Würzburg's main railway station.