Are you visiting Bamberg for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in Franconia’s Rome (nickname for Bamberg, as the city was founded on seven hills a thousand years ago, just like Rome, that was the idea of its founder King Henry II.)
When I have a visitor from out of town, the first place they want to see is Cathedral Hill, which is the heart of the historic old town and the UNESCO world heritage site with the Cathedral built in 1237, the Old Court with its genuine medieval flair and the New Residence. But I also take them round the foot of Stephansberg Hill, which is an area with narrow cobblestone streets, the mill quarter and some really old houses down to the river Regnitz for a more local, authentic experience. The best Bamberg experience can be had just by walking about, discovering all the quaint corners and small streets and squares taking you on a time travel. Thanks to Bamberg’s fully preserved old town, that’s what visitors marvel at most when in Bamberg.
When I want to escape the crowds/tourists, my favorite place to visit is Altenburg Castle, perched high above the city with a great view towards town.
If this is a romantic trip, I recommend the rose garden of the New Residence for kissing with the background of St. Michael’s Monastery and the wonderful roses and baroque statues in the foreground.
The best place to walk the dog are the banks of the Main Danube Canal and the City park “Hain” in the south of town.
The museums in Bamberg have quite some treasures of European distinction, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit the Levi Strauss Museum just outside of Bamberg in Buttenheim with an audio guide in English on the life of Bamberg-born Levi Strauss and the history for emigration to the US. The Natural History Museum also offers a museum within the museum thanks to its unique Nature Cabinets going back to the Age of Enlightenment with lots of wondrous stuffed animals for the kids to see.
Bamberg, German Food:
If you are looking for typical Bamberg cuisine, I recommend the restaurants on Dominikanerstrasse and Katzenberg like Kachelofen, Scheiners, Alt Ringlein, Domreiter, Schlenkerla and the likes, all within close proximity to another and all with the typical specialties and beers of Bamberg. Any of the brew pubs will also do for special traditional fare.
The best place to go for typical German coffee and cake is the Café Riffelmacher on the Obere Brücke street leading up to the Old Town Hall or the Café am Dom, where they also serve a fabulous smoke beer praline. Enjoy brunch or a prolonged breakfast at the Café Luitpold on Schönleinsplatz Square.
Looking for cheap food in Bamberg? You’ll be generally surprised by the prices for food in this region. The cost of living here is pretty low, so you can still get a full-fledged meal including drinks for less than 10 Euro in most restaurants. If you go to one of the typical beer gardens in Bamberg or in the vicinity you’ll still get a half liter of beer for 2 Euro.
Alternatively buy a piece of Leberkäs or two grilled sausages in a roll for about 2 Euro and enjoy it sitting on a bench anywhere in town, that’s the typical snack of the locals. You can even take it into the brew pubs outside of main lunch or dinner hours and order a local beer to go with it.
For a quality meal just slightly more expensive than elsewhere go to the restaurant Eckerts in the mill quarter. Lovingly renovated with a hint of chic and strong reverence to the old style wooden beams and tables they serve perfect traditional fare and modern cuisine, using only produce from Bamberg’s farmers’ market and from suppliers of the area.
Bamberg is best known for its beer. With nine breweries in town, another 65 in surrounding Bamberg county, two big malting companies, the oldest brewery manufacturer in the world, the Franconian Brewery Museum, the German Beer Academy and a purity law which is even 27 years older than the famous Bavarian purity law of 1516, this is the place to be for beer lovers. An abundance of brew pubs and different beers can be discovered and tasted, among them the most wondrous beer of all, Schlenkerla smoke beer!
When you come to Bamberg, get your picture taken on Brudermühl bridge with Bamberg’s famous landmark, the Old Town Hall, situated right in the middle of the River Regnitz, as a backdrop.
The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of Michaelsberg Hill, where you can oversee the fantastic array of medieval roofs and the outscope of the world heritage site of the old town.
In Bamberg, outdoor lovers will want to hike or take a bike ride. Sixteen national and regional bike routes criss-cross Bamberg and take you either along even paths by the rivers, like the River Main Trail or through more adventurous trails in the nature parks surrounding Bamberg like Franconian Switzerland or the Hassberg Mountains. There are several bike rentals in town. Hiking paths are well marked and you can walk on the trail of different themes with castles, modern art, picturesque villages and lakes on the way.
After a day touring the area, the Thermal Bath of Bad Staffelstein, 15 miles north of Bamberg, is the perfect retreat for spa lovers with a huge sauna, various baths, pools and recreational areas.
If you are a museum lover, Bamberg’s museum with the exhibits most worth seeing are the Museum of the Diocese on Cathedral Hill, amongst others with a unique collection of medieval textiles and papal habits situated in the cloister of the Cathedral, the Natural History Museum with the wonderful Nature Cabinet, which constitutes a museum within the museum, and the Levi-Strauss-Museum in the birth house of the Jeans inventor.
Looking for exciting night life? Thanks to 13,000 university students there is an abundance of music pubs and bars, especially in the Sandstrasse. That’s the area where nightlife never ends.
Check out www.kultur.bamberg.de for events in Bamberg during your visit, as long as you can read German.
Spring season sees some music festivals like the Schloss Seehof Palace Chamber Music Festival in May, the Klezmer Festival in March or the beginning of the Rose Garden Serenades.
Parallel to the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth the antique store owners in Bamberg’s district of Antiques shops open their shops every year in July and August for the lovers of the old and valuable with special events, tours and shows. With about 30 stores in close proximity to another this is a must if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind souvenir.
In the summer you should simply do what all the people in Bamberg do: go to one of the many “beer cellars”, as the beer gardens are called here and celebrate summertime with a cool beer, good company, traditional fare, and great views across the beautiful landscape. There’s no shortage of music festivals, street festivals and things to see and do in Bamberg.
Plan a visit to the brew pubs in fall when the breweries celebrate the opening of the bock beer season or visit one of the many traditional Kirchweih festivals.
Come to Bamberg for the Route of Nativity Scenes in the winter. Discover the variety of Christmas Cribs from the 1.of Advent to January 6th. Lots of scenes in the big churches are continued until the middle of February with fantastic depictions of the wedding at Cana or the Adoration of the three wise men.
Insider Tip: Check out the often over-looked market gardeners’ district in Bamberg. I’ll bet you didn’t know, that this part of Bamberg also belongs to the world heritage site, due to the continuous work of market gardeners since the middle ages until this very day. Special type of houses, a museum, some huge plots of land with vegetable plots, acres of fruit and farm gate sales are an experience for garden and farm lovers alike.
Just (20 miles) outside of Bamberg you can visit Schloss Weissenstein palace, an enormous palace built for the Bamberg prince bishops in the 18th century. Enjoy dinner at Schloss Burgellern, a brilliantly renovated country palace with very good cuisine, 15 miles out of Bamberg towards Bayreuth.
There is a main Christmas market from the first of Advent until December 23rd, and four crafts markets on the first, third and fourth advent weekends selling Christmas crafts, toys, textiles, accessories, decoration articles, and of course the mulled wine. Being a beer city, there is also mulled beer available at some stalls – and all sorts of sweets, sausages and gingerbread.
If You Go
To learn more about traveling in Bamberg, Germany visit Germany National Tourist Office. I was a guest of Viking River Cruises while researching additional travel stories. Article, video and photos are my own, as are my opinions.