Franconia and the German Danube - Fodor's Germany - Fodor's

Fodor's Germany - Fodor's (2016)

Franconia and the German Danube

Welcome to Franconia and the German Danube

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Updated by Lee A. Evans and Jeff Kavanagh

All that is left of the huge, ancient kingdom of the Franks is the region known today as Franken (Franconia), stretching from the Bohemian Forest on the Czech border to the outskirts of Frankfurt. The Franks were not only tough warriors but also hard workers, sharp tradespeople, and burghers with a good political nose. The word frank means bold, wild, and courageous in the old Frankish tongue. It was only in the early 19th century, following Napoléon’s conquest of what is now southern Germany, that the area was incorporated into northern Bavaria.

Although more closely related to Thuringia, this historic homeland of the Franks, one of the oldest Germanic peoples, is now begrudgingly part of Bavaria. Franconian towns such as Bayreuth, Coburg, and Bamberg are practically places of cultural pilgrimage. Rebuilt Nürnberg (Nuremberg in English) is the epitome of German medieval beauty, though its name recalls both the Third Reich’s huge rallies at the Zeppelin Field and its henchmen’s trials held in the city between 1945 and 1950.

Franconia is hardly an overrun tourist destination, yet its long and rich history, its landscapes and leisure activities (including skiing, golfing, hiking, and cycling), and its gastronomic specialties place it high on the enjoyment scale. Franconia is especially famous for its wine and for the fact that it’s home to more than half of Germany’s breweries.


Bamberg’s Altstadt: This one isn’t just for the tourists. Bamberg may be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s also a vibrant town—the center of German brewing—living very much in the present.

Vierzehnheiligen: Just north of Bamberg, this church’s swirling rococo decoration earned it the nickname “God’s Ballroom.”

Nürnberg’s Kaiserburg: Holy Roman emperors once resided in the vast complex of this imperial castle, which has fabulous views over the entire city.

Steinerne Brücke in Regensburg: This 12th-century Stone Bridge was considered an amazing feat of engineering in its time.

An organ concert in Passau: You can listen to the mighty sound the 17,774 pipes of Dom St. Stephan’s organ create at weekday concerts.


Franconia’s northern border is marked by the Main River, which is seen as the dividing line between northern and southern Germany. Its southern border is the Danube, where Lower Bavaria (Niederbayern) begins. Despite its size, Franconia is a homogeneous region of rolling agricultural landscapes and thick forests climbing the mountains of the Fichtelgebirge. Nürnberg is a major destination in the area and makes a good base for exploration. The towns of Bayreuth, Coburg, and Bamberg are an easy day trip from one another.

The Danube River defines the region as it passes through the Bavarian Forest on its way from Germany to Austria. West of Regensburg, river cruises and cyclists follow its path.


Northern Franconia. As one of the few towns not destroyed by World War II, Bamberg lives and breathes German history. Wagner fans flock to Bayreuth in July and August for the classical music festival. The beer produced in Kulmbach is famous all over the country.

Nürnberg (Nuremberg). It may not be as well known as Munich, Heidelberg, or Berlin, but when you visit Nürnberg you feel the wealth, power, and sway this city has had through the centuries. Standing on the ramparts of the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle) and looking down on the city, you’ll begin to understand why emperors made Nürnberg their home.

The German Danube. Regensburg and Passau are two relatively forgotten cities tucked away in the southeast corner of Germany in an area bordered by Austria and the Czech Republic. Passau is one of the oldest cities on German soil, built by the Celts and then ruled by the Romans 2,000 years ago. Regensburg is a bit younger; about a thousand years ago it was one of the largest and most affluent cities in Germany.



Summer is the best time to explore Franconia, though spring and fall are also fine when the weather cooperates. Avoid the cold and wet months from November to March; many hotels and restaurants close, and no matter how pretty, many towns do seem quite dreary. If you’re in Nürnberg in December, you’re in time for one of Germany’s largest and loveliest Christmas markets. Unless you plan on attending the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, it’s best to avoid this city in July and August.


The major international airport serving Franconia and the German Danube is Munich. Nürnberg’s airport is served mainly by regional carriers.

Airport Information
Airport Nürnberg. | Flughafenstr. 100 | Nürnberg | 0911/93700 |

Franconia is served by five main autobahns: A-7 from Hamburg, A-3 from Köln and Frankfurt, A-81 from Stuttgart, A-6 from Heilbronn, and A-9 from Munich. Nürnberg is 167 km (104 miles) north of Munich and 222 km (138 miles) southeast of Frankfurt. Regensburg and Passau are reached by way of the A-3 from Nürnberg.

Rising from the depths of the Black Forest and emptying into the Black Sea, the Danube is the queen of rivers; cloaked in myth and legend, it cuts through the heart and soul of Europe. The name Dānuvius, borrowed from the Celts, means swift or rapid, but along the Danube, there is no hurry. Boats go with the flow and a river journey is a relaxed affair with plenty of time to drink in the history.

Whether you choose a one-hour, one-week, or the complete Danube experience, cruising Europe’s historical waterway is a never-to-be-forgotten experience. On the map, the sheer length of the Danube is daunting at best; of the river’s 2,848-km (1,770-mile) length, more than 2,400 km (1,500 miles) is navigable and the river flows through some of Europe’s most important cities. You can head to major boating hubs, like Passau, Vienna, and Budapest or through historical stretches from Ulm to Regensburg.

The most interesting time to cruise the Danube is during the summer when the river is abustle with passenger and commercial traffic. When the leaves start to change the river is awash in a sea of color, making autumn the most picturesque time to cruise. Several companies offer Christmas market tours from Nürnberg to Regensburg, Passau, and Vienna. Spring is the least optimal time to go as the river often floods. You can board cruises from Passau, Regensburg, and Nürnberg among others.

Amadeus Cruises.
This cruise line offers half a dozen cruises through Franconia and the German Danube, including a Christmastime cruise, which stops at the fascinating Christmas markets between Nürnberg and Budapest. The reverse direction is also available. | 888/829-1394 |

Blue Water Holidays.
This British cruise line offers nine cruises starting on the Rhine, some from Basel in Switzerland, which follow the Main-Danube Canal to the Danube, and four cruises from Nürnberg or Passau to Vienna or Budapest. | 01756/706-500 |

Viking River Cruises.
The Grand European Tour cruises from Amsterdam to Budapest. The two-week Eastern European Odyssey starts in Nürnberg and ends at Bucharest. The reverse direction is also available on both cruises. | 800/304-9616 |

Franconia has one of southern Germany’s most extensive train networks and almost every town is connected by train. Nürnberg is a stop on the high-speed InterCity Express (ICE) north-south routes, and there are hourly trains from Munich direct to Nürnberg. Regular InterCity services connect Nürnberg and Regensburg with Frankfurt and other major German cities. Trains run hourly from Frankfurt to Munich, with a stop at Nürnberg. The trip takes about three hours to Munich, two hours to Nürnberg. There are hourly trains from Munich to Regensburg.

Some InterCity Express trains stop in Bamberg, about midway between Berlin and Munich. Local trains from Nürnberg connect with Bayreuth and areas of southern Franconia. Regensburg and Passau are on the ICE line from Nürnberg to Vienna.


Many restaurants in the rural parts of this region serve hot meals only between 11:30 am and 2 pm, and from 6 to 9 pm. TIP “Durchgehend warme Küche” means that hot meals are also served between lunch and dinner.


Make reservations well in advance for hotels in all the larger towns and cities if you plan to visit anytime between June and September. During the Nürnberg Toy Fair at the beginning of February, rooms are at a premium. If you’re visiting Bayreuth during the annual Wagner Festival in July and August, consider making reservations up to a year in advance. Remember, too, that during the festival prices can be double the normal rates.


Nürnberg warrants at least a day of your time. It’s best to base yourself in one city and take day trips to others. Bamberg is the most central of the northern Franconia cities and makes a good base. It is also a good idea to leave your car at your hotel and make the trip downstream to Regensburg or Passau by boat, returning by train.


Franconia Tourist Board. | Tourismusverband Franken e.V., Wilhelminenstr. 6 | Nürnberg | 0911/941-510 |


Few places in the world do Christmas as well as Germany, and the country’s Christmas markets, sparkling with white fairy lights and rich with the smells of gingerbread and mulled wine, are marvelous traditional expressions of yuletide cheer.

Following a centuries-old tradition, more than 2,000 Weihnachtsmärtke spring up outside town halls and in village squares across the country each year, their stalls brimming with ornate tree decorations and handmade pralines. Elegant rather than kitsch, the markets last the duration of Advent—the four weeks leading up to Christmas Eve—and draw festive crowds to their bustling lanes, where charcoal grills sizzle with sausages and cinnamon and spices waft from warm ovens. Among the handcrafted angels and fairies, kids munch on candy apples and ride old-fashioned carousels while their parents shop for stocking stuffers and toast the season with steaming mugs of Glühwein and hot chocolate.


The name for mulled wine, Glühwein, literally means “glowing wine” and a few cups of it will definitely add some color to your cheeks. Although usually made with red wine, white mulled wine is making a comeback in Franconia and Saxony. Glühwein can be fortified with a Schuss or shot of schnapps. Feuerzangenbowle, a supercharged version, is made by burning a rum-soaked sugar cone that drips caramelized sugar into the wine. The nonalcoholic version is called Kinderpunsch, or children’s punch.

Dating from the late Middle Ages, Christmas markets began as a way to provide people with winter supplies; families came for the sugary treats and Christmas shopping. Now a bit more touristy, a visit to a traditional Christmas market is still a quintessential German experience. Starting on the first Sunday of Advent, the pace of life slows down when the cheerful twinkling lights are lit and the smell of hot wine lingers in the air, promising respite during the drab winter.

The most famous markets are in Nürnberg and Dresden, each drawing more than 2 million visitors every year. While these provide the essential market experience, it’s well worth visiting a market in a smaller town to soak in some local flavor. Bautzen hosts Germany’s oldest Christmas market, while Erfurt’s market, set on the Cathedral Square, is the most picturesque. Berlin’s immigrant communities offer themed markets on weekends, most notably the Hannumas Markt at the Jewish Museum or the Finnish Christmas Market in Templehof. No matter which you choose, keep in mind that the best time to visit is during the week when the crowds are the smallest; try to go in the early evening, when locals visit the markets with their friends and family. You’ll experience a carnival-like atmosphere and won’t be able to resist trying a mulled wine before heading home.

Despite the market theme, the real reason to visit is to snack on greasy, sweet, and warm market food. Each market has its own specialties—gingerbread in Nürnberg and stollen in Dresden—but the thread through all is candied almonds, warm chestnuts, and local sausages. Be sure to pair your snacks with a cup of hot spiced wine, which is served in small mugs that make great souvenirs. The wine varies from region to region and special hot white wine is a trendy alternative. Other drinks include a warm egg punch, hot chocolate, and warm berry juices for children.

Tips for Visiting

Always ask for local goods. Craftspeople, especially from the Ore Mountains in Saxony, produce some of the finest smoking-man incense burners, nativity scenes, candle pyramids, glass balls, and advent stars in the world.

Think about how you’re getting your purchases home. Although some larger vendors will ship your purchases for you, it’s wise to plan some extra baggage space and purchase some bubble wrap.

Dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes. All markets are outside and even the smallest require walking.

Bring some small bills and coins. This will make food and wine transactions faster. Plastic dishes and cups require a deposit, which is refunded to you when you return the items.

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Northern Franconia

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Coburg | Kronach | Kulmbach | Bayreuth | Bamberg

Three major German cultural centers lie within easy reach of one another: Coburg, a town with blood links to royal dynasties throughout Europe; Bamberg, with its own claim to German royal history and an Old Town area designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and Bayreuth, where composer Richard Wagner finally settled, making it a place of musical pilgrimage for Wagner fans from all over the world.

Northern Franconia

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105 km (65 miles) north of Nürnberg.

Coburg is a surprisingly little-known treasure that was founded in the 11th century and remained in the possession of the dukes of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha until 1918; the current duke still lives here. The remarkable Saxe-Coburg dynasty established itself as something of a royal stud farm, providing a seemingly inexhaustible supply of blue-blood marriage partners to ruling houses the length and breadth of Europe. The most famous of these royal mates was Prince Albert (1819-61), who married the English Queen Victoria, after which she gained special renown in Coburg. Their numerous children, married off to other kings, queens, and emperors, helped to spread the tried-and-tested Saxe-Coburg influence even farther afield. Despite all the history that sweats from each sandstone ashlar, Coburg is a modern and bustling town.

Getting Here and Around

It takes a little more than an hour to drive to Coburg from Nürnberg, via A-73, or about 1¾ hours on the regional train service, which runs regularly throughout the day and costs €19-€24 one way. Bus No. 29 runs twice daily from Nürnberg’s central bus station and takes two hours, with prices starting at €8 one way.


Visitor Information
Tourismus Coburg. | Herrng. 4 | 09561/898-000 |


Brazilian Samba Festival.
This weekend bacchanal, with food, drink, and dancing, is held in mid-July. | Coburg | 09561/705-370 |


Top Attractions

Schloss Ehrenburg.
Prince Albert spent much of his childhood in this ducal palace. Built in the mid-16th century, it has been greatly altered over the years, principally following a fire in the early 19th century. Duke Ernst I invited Karl Friedrich Schinkel from Berlin to redo the palace in the then-popular neo-Gothic style. Some of the original Renaissance features were kept. The rooms of the castle are quite special, especially those upstairs, where the ceilings are heavily decorated with stucco and the floors have wonderful patterns of various woods. The Hall of Giants is named for the larger-than-life caryatids that support the ceiling; the favorite sight downstairs is Queen Victoria’s flush toilet, which was the first one installed in Germany. Here, too, the ceiling is worth noting for its playful, gentle stuccowork. The baroque chapel attached to Ehrenburg is often used for weddings. | Schlosspl. 1 | 09561/80880 | | €4.50; combined ticket with Schloss Rosenau €7 | Tour Tues.-Sun. 10-3 on the hr.

QUICK BITES: Burgschänke.
Relax and soak up centuries of history while sampling a traditional Coburg beer at this tavern. The basic menu has traditional dishes. | Veste Coburg | 09561/80980 | | Closed Mon. and Jan.-mid-Feb.

Fodor’s Choice | Veste Coburg.
This fortress, one of the largest and most impressive in the country, is Coburg’s main attraction. The brooding bulk of the castle guards the town from a 1,484-foot hill. Construction began around 1055, but with progressive rebuilding and remodeling today’s predominantly late-Gothic-early-Renaissance edifice bears little resemblance to the original crude fortress. One part of the castle harbors the Kunstsammlungen, a grand set of collections including art, with works by Dürer, Cranach, and Hans Holbein, among others; sculpture from the school of the great Tilman Riemenschneider (1460-1531); furniture and textiles; magnificent weapons, armor, and tournament garb spanning four centuries (in the so-called Herzoginbau, or Duchess’s Building); carriages and ornate sleighs; and more. The room where Martin Luther lived for six months in 1530 while he observed the goings-on of the Augsburg Diet has an especially dignified atmosphere. The Jagdintarsien-Zimmer (Hunting Marquetry Room), an elaborately decorated room that dates back to the early 17th century, has some of the finest woodwork in southern Germany. Finally, there’s the Carl-Eduard-Bau (Carl-Eduard Building), which contains a valuable antique glass collection, mostly from the baroque age. Inquire at the ticket office for tours. | Festungshof | 09561/8790 | | €6, combination ticket with Schloss Ehrenburg and Schloss Rosenau €12 | Museums Apr.-Oct., daily 10-5; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 1-4; courtyards daily dawn-6:30 pm (to dusk Nov.-Mar.).

Worth Noting

Marktplatz (Market Square).
A statue of Prince Albert, Victoria’s high-minded consort, is surrounded by gracious Renaissance and baroque buildings in the Marktplatz. The Stadhaus, former seat of the local dukes, begun in 1500, is the most imposing structure here, with a forest of ornate gables and spires projecting from its well-proportioned facade. Opposite is the Rathaus (Town Hall). Look on the building’s tympanum for the statue of the Bratwurstmännla (it’s actually St. Mauritius in armor); the staff he carries is said to be the official length against which the town’s famous bratwursts are measured. These tasty sausages, roasted on pinecone fires, are available on the market square. | Coburg.

Schloss Callenberg.
Perched on a hill 5 km (3 miles) west of Coburg, this was, until 1231, the main castle of the Knights of Callenberg. In the 16th century it was taken over by the Dukes of Coburg. From 1842 on it served as the summer residence of the hereditary Coburg prince and later Duke Ernst II. It holds a number of important collections, including that of the Windsor gallery; arts and crafts from Holland, Germany, and Italy from the Renaissance to the 19th century; precious baroque, Empire, and Biedermeier furniture; table and standing clocks from three centuries; a selection of weapons; and various handicrafts. The best way to reach the castle is by car via Baiersdorf. City Bus No. 5 from Coburg’s Marktplatz stops at the castle only on Sunday; on other days you need to get off at the Beirsdorf stop and walk for 25 minutes. | Callenberger Str. 1 | 09561/55150 | | €5 | Tues.-Sun. 11-5.

Schloss Rosenau.
Near the village of Rödental, 9 km (5½ miles) northeast of Coburg, the 550-year-old Schloss Rosenau sits in all its neo-Gothic glory in the midst of an English-style park. Prince Albert was born here in 1819, and one room is devoted entirely to Albert and his queen, Victoria. Much of the castle furniture was made especially for the Saxe-Coburg family by noted Viennese craftsmen. In the garden’s Orangerie is the Museum für Modernes Glas (Museum of Modern Glass), which displays nearly 40 years’ worth of glass sculptures (dating from 1950 to 1990) that provide an interesting juxtaposition with the venerable architecture of the castle itself. | Rosenau 1 | Rödental | 09563/1606 | | Castle and museum €6, museum only €3, combined ticket with Schloss Ehrenburg and Veste Coburg €12 | Tours Apr.-Oct., daily at 10, 11, noon, 2, 3, and 4.


$ | GERMAN | The basic local specialties taste better here beneath the old vaults and within earshot of the Coburg marketplace. Try the Tafelspitz (boiled beef with creamed horseradish), along with a glass of crisp Franconian white wine. The prices become a little higher in the evening, when the menu adds a few more dishes. | Average main: €12 | Marktpl. 1 | 09561/92400 | | No credit cards.

Arcadia Hotel Coburg.
$$ | HOTEL | You can expect modern, clean, well-designed rooms that are airy and functional here. This hotel is about 20 minutes, on foot, east of Coburg’s center. Pros: modern amenities; easy access; free parking and garage. Cons: business-oriented hotel; edge of town; surrounded by gas stations and shopping outlets; breakfast costs €15 extra. | Rooms from: €120 | Ketschendorfer Str. 86 | 09561/8210 | | 123 rooms | No meals.

Goldene Rose.
$ | HOTEL | One of the region’s oldest, this pleasant inn is about 5 km (3 miles) southeast of Coburg. The interior has simple wooden paneling and floors. On a warm summer evening, the beer garden is the best place to enjoy traditional Franconian dishes, or a plate of homemade sausages, and meet some of the locals. Rooms are well appointed and comfortable—the wooden theme is continued, but the style is definitely modern. Pros: friendly; family run; very good value; large parking lot behind the hotel. Cons: in a small village; front rooms overlooking the beer garden can be noisy. | Rooms from: €55 | Coburgerstr. 31 | 09560/92250 | | Restaurant closed Mon. | 14 rooms | Breakfast.

Romantic Hotel Goldene Traube.
$$ | HOTEL | Rooms are individually decorated in this fine historical hotel (1756), and for dining you can choose between the elegant restaurant Esszimmer or the more casual Meer und Mehr (Sea and More), which serves fine seafood and regional specialties. After a day of sightseeing, relax in the sauna complex with solarium or with one of the vintages from the small wine boutique just opposite the reception. Pros: welcoming spacious lobby; two good restaurants; center of town; nice small wineshop. Cons: traffic noise in front rooms; stairs up to the lobby. | Rooms from: €110 | Am Viktoriabrunnen 2 | 09561/8760 | | 72 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.


Coburg is full of culinary delights; its Schmätzen (honey gingerbread) and Elisenlebkuchen (almond gingerbread cake) are famous. You’ll find home-baked versions in any of the many excellent patisseries or at a Grossman store (there are three in Coburg).

Hummel Museum Store.
Rödental, northeast of Coburg, is the home of the world-famous M. I. Hummel figurines. There’s a Hummel Museum devoted to them, with 18th- and 19th-century porcelain from other manufacturers. Besides the museum’s store, there are several retail outlets in the village. | Coburgerstr. 7 | Rödental | 09563/92303 | | Weekdays 9-5, Sat. 9-noon.


23 km (14 miles) east of Coburg, 120 km (75 miles) north of Nürnberg.

Kronach is a charming little gateway to the natural splendor of the Frankenwald region.

Getting Here and Around

Kronach is about 1½ hours from Nürnberg by regional train, and 10 minutes less on the high-speed ICE train. Regional trains from Coburg take about the same amount of time because, although it’s a shorter distance, they require a change at Lichtenfels. Buses from Coburg (€3) also go via Lichtenfels and take a similar time. By road, take A-73 north to Exit 13 (Lichtenfels), then east via B-289 and B-173. From Coburg, it’s a half-hour drive via B-303.


Visitor Information
Tourismus Kronach. | Marktpl. | 09261/97236 |


Fodor’s Choice | Festung Rosenberg (Rosenberg Fortress).
This fortress is a few minutes’ walk from the town center. As you stand below its mighty walls it’s easy to see why it was never taken by enemy forces. During World War I it served as a POW camp, with no less a figure than Charles de Gaulle as a “guest.” Today Rosenberg houses a youth hostel and, more importantly, the Fränkische Galerie (Franconian Gallery), an extension of the Bavarian National Museum in Munich, featuring paintings and sculpted works from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Lucas Cranach the Elder and Tilman Riemenschneider are represented, as well as artists from the Dürer School and the Bamberg School. In July and August the central courtyard is an atmospheric backdrop for performances of Goethe’s Faust. The grounds of the fortress are also used by wood sculptors in summer. | Kronach | 09261/60410 | | €8 | Mar.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 9:30-5:30.

Obere Stadt (Upper Town).
In the old medieval section of town, harmonious sandstone houses are surrounded by old walls and surmounted by a majestic fortress. Kronach is best known as the birthplace of Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), but there’s a running argument as to which house he was born in—Am Marktplatz 1 or in the house called Am Scharfen Eck, at Lucas-Cranach-Strasse 38. The latter served as a local pub for more than a hundred years. Today it is a good place to enjoy a very good, inexpensive Franconian meal. On the last weekend in June, Kronach celebrates its past with a medieval festival featuring authentic garb, food, and troubadours. | Kronach.


19 km (12 miles) southeast of Kronach.

A quarter of Kulmbachers earn their living directly or indirectly from the beer that’s brewed in the town. More than 22 different beers are produced here—the adventuresome try the Doppelbock Kulminator 28, which takes nine months to brew and has an alcohol content of 12%. Kulmbach celebrates its brewing traditions every year in a nine-day festival that starts on the last Saturday in July. The main festival site, a mammoth tent, is called the Festspulhaus—literally, “festival swill house”—a none-too-subtle dig at nearby Bayreuth and its tony Festspielhaus, where Wagner’s operas are performed. If you’re here in winter, be sure to try the seasonal Eisbock, a special dark beer that is frozen as part of the brewing process, making it stronger.

Getting Here and Around

It’s about a 45-minute drive from Coburg to Kulmbach via B-4, B-173, and B-289. Regional trains run regularly throughout the day and take the same amount of time, with one-way fares starting at €13.


Visitor Information
Kulmbach Tourismusservice. | Stadthalle, Sutte 2 | 09221/958-820 |


Bayerisches Brauereimuseum Kulmbach (Bavarian Brewery Museum).
Although a visit to the factory is almost impossible, this is the next best thing. The Kulmbacher Brewery runs this interesting museum jointly with the nearby Mönchshof-Bräu brewery and inn. The price of admission includes a “tasting” from the museum’s own brewery operation. | Hoferstr. 20 | 09221/80514 | | €4.50 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.

In this “railway village” near Kulmbach, more than 25 beautifully preserved gleaming locomotives huff and puff in a living railroad museum. Every now and then a nostalgic train will take you to the Brewery Museum in Kulmbach, or you can enjoy a round-trip to Marktschorgast; both trips take you up the very steep “schiefe Ebene” stretch (literally, slanting level). The museum also has model trains set up in incredibly detailed replica landscapes. | Birkenstr. 5 | Neuenmarkt | 09227/5700 | | €7 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.

The most impressive Renaissance fortress in the country, the Plassenburg stands on a rise overlooking Kulmbach, a 20-minute hike from the Old Town. The first building here, begun in the mid-12th century, was torched by marauding Bavarians who were eager to put a stop to the ambitions of Duke Albrecht Alcibiades—a man who spent several years murdering, plundering, and pillaging his way through Franconia. His successors built today’s castle, starting in about 1560. Externally, there’s little to suggest the graceful Renaissance interior, but as you enter the main courtyard the scene changes abruptly. The tiered space of the courtyard is covered with precisely carved figures, medallions, and other intricate ornaments, the whole comprising one of the most remarkable and delicate architectural ensembles in Europe. Inside, the Deutsches Zinnfigurenmuseum (Tin Figures Museum), with more than 300,000 miniature statuettes and tin soldiers, holds the largest collection of its kind in the world. The figures are arranged in scenes from all periods of history. During the day you cannot drive up to the castle. There’s a shuttle bus (€2.20) that leaves from the main square every half hour from 9 to 6. | Kulmbach | 09221/947-505 | €4.50 | Apr.-Oct., daily 9-6; Nov.-Mar., daily 10-4.


Hotel Kronprinz.
$ | HOTEL | This old hotel tucked away in the middle of Kulmbach’s Old Town, right in the shadow of Plassenburg Castle, covers all basic needs, including an extraordinary breakfast buffet. The furnishings are somewhat bland except in the higher-priced rooms. The café serves snacks and cakes. Pros: center of town; excellent cakes in café; three nice rooms in annex. Cons: plain rooms above café; no elevator. | Rooms from: €90 | Fischerg. 4-6 | 09221/92180 | | Closed Dec. 24-29 | 22 rooms | Breakfast.


24 km (15 miles) south of Kulmbach, 80 km (50 miles) northeast of Nürnberg.

The small town of Bayreuth, pronounced “bye- roit,” owes its fame to the music giant Richard Wagner (1813-83). The 19th-century composer, musical revolutionary, ultranationalist, and Nazi poster child finally settled here after a lifetime of rootless shifting through Europe. Here he built his great theater, the Festspielhaus, as a suitable setting for his grand operas on Germanic mythological themes. The annual Wagner Festival dates to 1876, and brings droves of Wagner fans who push prices sky-high, fill hotels to bursting, and earn themselves much-sought-after social kudos in the process. The festival is held from late July until late August, so unless you plan to visit the town specifically for it, this is the time to stay away.

Getting Here and Around

To reach Bayreuth, take the Bayreuth exit off the Nürnberg-Berlin autobahn. It’s 1½ hours north of Nürnberg. The train trip is an hour from Nürnberg and costs from €33 one way. In town you can reach most points on foot.


Visitor Information
Bayreuth Kongress- und Tourismuszentrale. | Luitpoldpl. 9 | 0921/88588 |


Top Attractions

Festspielhaus (Festival Theater).
This high temple of the Wagner cult—where performances take place only during the annual Wagner Festival—is surprisingly plain. The spartan look is explained partly by Wagner’s desire to achieve perfect acoustics. The wood seats have no upholstering, for example, and the walls are bare. The stage is enormous, capable of holding the huge casts required for Wagner’s largest operas. The festival is still meticulously controlled by Wagner’s family. | Festspielhügel 1 | 0921/78780 | | €7 | Tours Dec.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. at 10, 11, 2, and 3. Closed during rehearsals and on performance days during festival.

Markgräfliches Opernhaus (Margravial Opera House).
In 1745 Margravine Wilhelmine commissioned the Italian architects Giuseppe and Carlo Bibiena to build this rococo jewel, sumptuously decorated in red, gold, and blue. Apollo and the nine Muses cavort across the baroque frescoed ceiling. It was this delicate 500-seat theater that originally drew Wagner to Bayreuth; he felt that it might prove a suitable setting for his own operas. In fact, it’s a wonderful setting for the concerts and operas of Bayreuth’s “other” musical festivals, which the theater hosts throughout the year. Due to restoration works, no performances are currently scheduled, but you can still visit the theater despite the ongoing work. | Opernstr. | 0921/759-6922 | | €2.50 | Apr.-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct.-Mar., daily 10-4.

Neues Schloss (New Palace).
This glamorous 18th-century palace was built by the Margravine Wilhelmine, a woman of enormous energy and decided tastes. Though Wagner is the man most closely associated with Bayreuth, his choice of this setting is largely due to the work of this woman, who lived 100 years before him. Wilhelmine devoured books, wrote plays and operas (which she directed and, of course, acted in), and had buildings constructed, transforming much of the town and bringing it near bankruptcy. Her distinctive touch is evident at the palace, built when a mysterious fire conveniently destroyed parts of the original one. Anyone with a taste for the wilder flights of rococo decoration will love it. Some rooms have been given over to one of Europe’s finest collections of faience. | Ludwigstr. 21 | 0921/759-6921 | Palace only €5.50, palace and “World of Wilhelmine” exhibit €12 | Apr.-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-4.

“Wahnfried,” built by Wagner in 1874 and the only house he ever owned, is now the Richard-Wagner-Museum. It’s a simple, austere neoclassical building whose name, “peace from madness,” was well earned. Wagner lived here with his wife Cosima, daughter of pianist Franz Liszt, and they were both laid to rest here. King Ludwig II of Bavaria, the young and impressionable “Fairy-Tale King” who gave Wagner so much financial support, is remembered in a bust before the entrance. The exhibits, arranged along a well-marked tour through the house, require a great deal of German-language reading, but it’s a must for Wagner fans. The original scores of such masterpieces as Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin, Der Fliegende Holländer, and Götterdämmerung are on display. You can also see designs for productions of his operas, as well as his piano and huge library. A multimedia display lets you watch and listen to various productions of his operas. The little house where Franz Liszt lived and died is right next door and can be visited with your Richard-Wagner-Museum ticket, but be sure to express your interest in advance. It, too, is heavy on the paper, but the last rooms—with pictures, photos, and silhouettes of the master, his students, acolytes, and friends—are well worth the detour. | Richard-Wagner-Str. 48 | 0921/757-2816 | | €8 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.

Worth Noting

Altes Schloss Eremitage.
This palace, 5 km (3 miles) north of Bayreuth on B-85, makes an appealing departure from the sonorous and austere Wagnerian mood of much of the town. It’s an early-18th-century palace, built as a summer retreat and remodeled in 1740 by the Margravine Wilhelmine, sister of Frederick the Great of Prussia. Although her taste is not much in evidence in the drab exterior, the interior, alive with light and color, displays her guiding hand in every elegant line. The extraordinary Japanischer Saal (Japanese Room), filled with Asian treasures and chinoiserie furniture, is the finest room. The park and gardens, partly formal, partly natural, are enjoyable for idle strolling. Fountain displays take place at the two fake grottoes at the top of the hour 10-5 daily. | Eremitagestr. 4 | 0921/759-6937 | Schloss €4.50, park free | Schloss Apr.-Sept., daily 9-6.

Brauerei und Büttnerei-Museum (Brewery and Coopers Museum).
Near the center of town, in the 1887 Maisel Brewery building, this museum reveals the tradition of brewing over the past two centuries with a focus on the Maisel’s trade. The brewery operated here until 1981, when its much bigger current home was completed next door. After the 90-minute tour you can quaff a cool, freshly tapped traditional Bavarian Weissbier (wheat beer) in the museum’s pub. The pub is also one of a handful of places to try Maisel & Friends Craft Beer, including the Citrilla Wheat, an experimental wheat-based IPA. | Kulmbacherstr. 40 | 0921/401-234 | | €5 | Tour daily at 2 pm; individual tours by prior arrangement.

Wagner: Germany’s Top Romantic

Understanding Wagner

Born in 1813, Richard Wagner has become modern Germany’s most iconic composer. His music, which is best understood in its simple message of national glory and destiny, contributed greatly to the feeling of pan-Germanism that united Germany under the Prussian crown in 1871. However, his overtly nationalistic themes and blatant anti-Semitism also makes his music a bit controversial as it’s also connected to the Nazi movement and Adolf Hitler; Hitler adored Wagner and saw him as the embodiment of his own vision for the German people. Wagner’s focus on the cult of the leader and the glories of victory are prevalent in his works Lohengrin and Parsifal. Some of his most famous compositions are the four-opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung (aka Ring Cycle), Parsifal, and Lohengrin.

Wagner Today

In 1871 Wagner moved to the city of Bayreuth and began construction of the Festspielhaus, an opera house that would only perform Wagner’s operas. The performance space opened its doors in 1876 with a production of Das Rheingold and the first full performance of the four-part Ring Cycle. The Festspielhaus continues to showcase Wagner’s works during the annual Bayreuther Festspiel, a pilgrimage site for die-hard Wagner fans. The waiting list for tickets is years long; it’s almost impossible for mere mortals to gain entrance to the holy temple. However, almost all German opera and symphony companies perform Wagner’s works throughout the year. The best places to see Wagner’s longer works are at Berlin’s State Opera; the National Theater in Weimar; the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Opera in Leipzig; and Munich’s Bavarian State Opera.


$$ | GERMAN | A huge glass ceiling gives the large dining room a light atmosphere even in winter. In summer, try for a table in the beer garden to enjoy fine Franconian specialties and Continental dishes. The kitchen uses the freshest produce. The room fills up at night and during Sunday brunch, especially if a jazz band is playing in one of the alcoves. | Average main: €15 | Maximilianstr. 33 | 0921/516-0553 | | No credit cards.

$ | GERMAN | This self-described “Franconian nostalgic inn” harks back to the days when the local Wirtshaus (inn-pub) was the meeting place for everyone from the mayor’s scribes to the local carpenters. Beer and hearty traditional food are shared at wooden tables either in the rustic interior or out in the shady beer garden. The substantial Franconian specialties are counterbalanced by a few lighter Mediterranean dishes. | Average main: €12 | Sternenpl. 5 | 0921/64552 | | No lunch.


Fodor’s Choice | Goldener Anker.
$$ | HOTEL | No question about it, Bayreuth’s grande dame is the place to stay; the hotel is right next to the Markgräfliches Opernhaus and has been entertaining composers, singers, conductors, and instrumentalists for hundreds of years. The establishment has been run by the same family since 1753. Some rooms are small; others have a royal splendor. One huge suite has a spiral staircase leading up to the bedroom. All are individually decorated, and many have antique pieces. The restaurant is justly popular. Book your room far in advance during festival times. Pros: authentic historic setting with all modern amenities; exemplary service; excellent restaurant. Cons: no elevator; some rooms are on the small side; restaurant closed Monday and Tuesday, except during festival. | Rooms from: €168 | Opernstr. 6 | 0921/65051 | | 38 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.

Hotel Lohmühle.
$$ | HOTEL | The old part of this hotel is in Bayreuth’s only half-timber house, a former sawmill by a stream, just a two-minute walk from the town center. The original rooms are rustic, with visible beams, while the newer, neighboring building has correspondingly modern rooms. The restaurant offers traditional, hearty cooking, such as Schäufele (pork) or carp. Pros: nice setting with reasonable prices; good food. Cons: stairs between hotel and restaurant; front rooms let in traffic noise. | Rooms from: €175 | Badstr. 37 | 0921/53060 | | Restaurant closed for dinner Sun. | 42 rooms | Breakfast.


Markgräfliches Opernhaus.
If you don’t get Wagner Festival tickets, console yourself with visits to the exquisite 18th-century opera house. In May the Fränkische Festwochen (Franconian Festival Weeks) take the stage with works of Wagner, of course, but also Paganini and Mozart. | Opernstr. | 0921/759-6922.

Wagner Festival.
Opera lovers swear that there are few more intense operatic experiences than the annual Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, held July and August. You’ll do best if you plan your visit several years in advance. It is nearly impossible to find a hotel room during the festival: try finding a room in Kronach instead of Bayreuth.

For tickets, obtain an order form from the Bayreuther Festspiele Kartenbüro and submit the completed form by the middle of September the year before, at the latest. Be warned: the waiting list is years long, and they only offer tickets by mail or online and will ignore any other inquiries. | Festspielhügel 1-2 | 0921/78780 |


Hofgarten Passage.
Off Richard-Wagner-Strasse, you’ll find one of the fanciest shopping arcades in the region; it’s full of smart boutiques selling everything from German high fashion to simple local craftwork. | Richard-Wagner-Str. 22.

EN ROUTE: Fränkische Schweiz.
The B-22 highway cuts through the Fränkische Schweiz—or Franconian Switzerland—which got its name from its fir-clad upland landscape. Just north of Hollfeld, 23 km (14 miles) west of Bayreuth, the Jurassic rock of the region breaks through the surface in a bizarre, craggy formation known as the Felsgarten (Rock Garden). | Hollfeld.


65 km (40 miles) west of Bayreuth, 80 km (50 miles) north of Nürnberg.

Sitting majestically on seven hills above the Regnitz River, the entire Alstadt of this beautiful, historic town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a must-see—few towns in Germany survived the war with as little damage as Bamberg, and its canals and bridges make it a joy to stroll. Although it exploded onto the European political scene as the capital of the Holy Roman Empire under Emperor Heinrich II, its idyllic Old Town, with winding cobblestone streets, contains one of the best-preserved collections of early-medieval half-timber structures in Europe, dominated by the cathedral, consecrated in 1237.

Getting Here and Around

Traveling to Bamberg by train will take about 45 minutes from Nürnberg; from Munich it takes about two hours, and it’s a worthwhile five-hour train trip from Berlin. Bamberg’s train station is a 30-minute walk from the Altstadt (Old Town). On the A-73 autobahn, Bamberg is two hours from Munich. Everything in town can be reached on foot.


The Bamberg Tourist Information center offers an audio tour in English for €8.50 for four hours. It also offers brewery and beer-tasting tours of the nine Bamberg breweries.

Personenschiffahrt Kropf.
Boats leave daily at 11 am, March through October, for short cruises on the Regnitz River and the Main-Donau Canal. | Kapuzinerstr. 5 | 0951/26679 | | €7.


Visitor Information
Bamberg Tourismus und Congresservice. | Geyerswörthstr. 5 | 0951/297-6200 |

What to Eat in Franconia

Franconia is known for its good and filling food and for its simple and atmospheric Gasthäuser. Pork is a staple, served either as Schweinsbraten (a plain roast) or with Knödel (dumplings made from either bread or potatoes). The specialties in Nürnberg, Coburg, and Regensburg are the Bratwürste—short, spiced sausages. The Nürnberg variety is known all over Germany; they are even on the menu on the ICE trains. You can have them grilled or heated in a stock of onions and wine (Blaue Zipfel). Bratwürste are traditionally served in denominations of 3, 6, or 8 with sauerkraut and potato salad or dark bread.

On the sweet side, try the Dampfnudel, a sweet yeast-dough dumpling that is tasty and filling. Nürnberger Lebkuchen, a sort of gingerbread eaten at Christmastime, is loved all over Germany. A true purist swears by Elisenlebkuchen, which are made with no flour. Both Lebkuchen and the small Bratwürste are protected under German law and are only “legal” when made in or around Nürnberg.

Not to be missed are Franconia’s liquid refreshments from both the grape and the grain. Franconian wines, usually white and sold in distinctive flat bottles called Bocksbeutel, are renowned for their special bouquet. (Silvaner is the traditional grape.) The region has the largest concentration of local breweries in the world (Bamberg alone has nine, Bayreuth seven), producing a wide range of brews, the most distinctive of which is the dark, smoky Rauchbier and the even darker and stronger Schwärzla. Then, of course, there is Kulmbach, with the Doppelbock Kulminator 28, which takes nine months to brew and has an alcohol content of 12%.


QUICK BITES: Rathaus-Schänke.
Before heading up the hill to the main sights in the Bishops’ Town, take a break with coffee, cake, small meals, or cocktails in the half-timber Rathaus-Schänke. It overlooks the river on the Burghers’ Town side of the Town Hall. | Obere Brücke 3 | 0951/208-0890 |

Top Attractions

Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall).
At Bamberg’s historic core, the Altes Rathaus is tucked snugly on a small island in the Regnitz. To the west of the river is the so-called Bishops’ Town; to the east, Burghers’ Town. The citizens of Bamberg built this rickety, extravagantly decorated building on an artificial island when the bishop of Bamberg refused to give the city the land for a town hall. Its excellent collection of porcelain is a sampling of 18th-century styles, from almost sober Meissens with bucolic Watteau scenes to simple but rare Haguenau pieces from Alsace and faience from Strasbourg. | Obere Brücke 1 | 0951/871-871 | €4.50 | Tues.-Sun. 9:30-4:30.

Dom (Cathedral).
Bamberg’s great cathedral is a unique building that tells not only the town’s story but that of Germany as well. The first building here was begun by Heinrich II in 1003, and it was in this partially completed cathedral that he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1012. In 1237 it was destroyed by fire, and replaced by the present late-Romanesque-early-Gothic building. The dominant features are the massive towers at each corner. Heading into the dark interior, you’ll find a striking collection of monuments and art treasures. The most famous piece is the Bamberger Reiter (Bamberg Horseman), an equestrian statue carved—no one knows by whom—around 1230 and thought to be an allegory of chivalrous virtue or a representation of King Stephen of Hungary. Compare it with the mass of carved figures huddled in the tympana above the church portals. In the center of the nave you’ll find another masterpiece, the massive tomb of Heinrich and his wife, Kunigunde. It’s the work of Tilman Riemenschneider. Pope Clement II is also buried in the cathedral, in an imposing tomb beneath the high altar; he’s the only pope buried north of the Alps. | Dompl. | 0951/502-330 | Free | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., daily 10-5. No visits during services.

Kloster St. Michael (Monastery of St. Michael).
Once a Benedictine monastery, this structure has been gazing over Bamberg since 1015. After being overwhelmed by so much baroque elsewhere, entering this haven of Romanesque simplicity is a relief. The entire choir is intricately carved, but the ceiling is gently decorated with very exact depictions of 578 flowers and healing herbs. The tomb of St. Otto is in a little chapel off the transept, and the stained-glass windows hold symbols of death and transfiguration. The monastery is now used as a home for the aged. One tract, however, was taken over by the Franconian Brewery Museum, which exhibits everything that has to do with beer, from the making of malt to recipes. Due to renovation work, the church of St. Michael is closed to the public. | Michelsberg 10f | 0951/53016 | Museum €3.50 | Apr.-Oct., Wed.-Sun. 1-5.

Worth Noting

Diözesanmuseum (Cathedral Museum).
Directly adjacent to the Bamberg Dom, this museum contains one of many nails and splinters of wood reputed to be from the cross of Jesus. The “star-spangled” cloak stitched with gold that was given to Emperor Heinrich II by an Italian prince is among the finest items displayed. More macabre exhibits in this rich ecclesiastical collection are the elaborately mounted skulls of Heinrich and Kunigunde. The building itself was designed by Balthasar Neumann (1687-1753), the architect of Vierzehnheiligen, and constructed between 1730 and 1733. | Dompl. 5 | 0951/502-325 | | €5 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5; tour in English by prior arrangement.

Neue Residenz (New Residence).
This glittering baroque palace was once the home of the prince-electors. Their plan to extend the immense palace even further is evident at the corner on Obere Karolinenstrasse, where the ashlar bonding was left open to accept another wing. The most memorable room in the palace is the Kaisersaal (Throne Room), complete with impressive ceiling frescoes and elaborate stucco. The rose garden behind the Neue Residenz provides an aromatic and romantic spot for a stroll with a view of Bamberg’s roofscape. You have to take a tour to see the Residenz itself, but you can visit the Staatsbibliothek (library) at any time during its open hours. | Dompl. 8 | 0951/519-390 | €4.50 | By tour only: Apr.-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct.-Mar., daily 10-4.

Obere Pfarre.
Bamberg’s wealthy burghers built no fewer than 50 churches. The Church of Our Lady, known simply as the Obere Pfarre (Upper Parish), dates back to around 1325, and is unusual because the exterior is entirely Gothic, while the interior is heavily baroque. The grand choir, which lacks any windows, was added much later. An odd squarish box tops the church tower; this watchman’s post was placed there to keep the tower smaller than the neighboring cathedral, thus avoiding a medieval scandal. Note the slanted floor, which allowed crowds of pilgrims to see the object of their veneration, a 14th-century Madonna. Don’t miss the Ascension of Mary by Tintoretto at the rear of the church. Around Christmas, the Obere Pfarre is the site of the city’s greatest Nativity scene. Avoid the church during services, unless you’ve come to worship. | Untere Seelg. | Daily 7-7.

Staatsbibliothek (State Library).
The Neue Residenz is home to the Staatsbibliothek (library). Among the thousands of books and illuminated manuscripts here are the original prayer books belonging to Heinrich II and his wife, a 5th century codex of the Roman historian Livy, and manuscripts by the 16th-century painters Dürer and Cranach. | Neue Residenz, Dompl. 8 | 0951/955-030 | | Free | Weekdays 9-5, Sat. 9-noon.


Kloster Banz (Banz Abbey).
This abbey, which some call the “holy mountain of Bavaria,” proudly crowns the west bank of the Main north of Bamberg. There had been a monastery here since 1069, but the present buildings—now a political-seminar center and think tank—date from the end of the 17th century. The highlight of the complex is the Klosterkirche (Abbey Church), the work of architect Leonard Dientzenhofer and his brother, the stuccoist Johann Dientzenhofer (1663-1726). Balthasar Neumann later contributed a good deal of work. Concerts are occasionally held in the church, including some by members of the renowned Bamberger Symphoniker. To get to Banz from Vierzehnheiligen, drive south to Unnersdorf, where you can cross the river. | Kloster-Banz-Str. 1 | Bad Staffelstein | 09573/7311 | May-Oct., daily 9-5; Nov.-Apr., daily 9-noon; call to request a tour.

Fodor’s Choice | Vierzehnheiligen.
In Bad Staffelstein, on the east side of the Main north of Bamberg, is a tall, elegant, yellow-sandstone edifice whose interior represents one of the great examples of rococo decoration. The church was built by Balthasar Neumann (architect of the Residenz at Würzburg) between 1743 and 1772 to commemorate a vision of Christ and 14 saints—vierzehn Heiligen—that appeared to a shepherd in 1445. The interior, known as “God’s Ballroom,” is supported by 14 columns. In the middle of the church is the Gnadenaltar (Mercy Altar) featuring the 14 saints. Thanks to clever play with light, light colors, and fanciful gold-and-blue trimmings, the interior seems to be in perpetual motion. Guided tours of the church are given on request; a donation is expected. On Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday the road leading to the church is closed and you have to walk the last half mile. | Vierzehnheiligen 2 | Bad Staffelstein | 36 km (22 miles) north of Bamberg via A-73 | 09571/95080 | | Mar.-Oct., daily 7-8; Nov.-Feb., daily 8-5.


$ | GERMAN | It doesn’t always have to be beer in Bamberg. The old mill, its grinding wheel providing a sonorous backdrop for patrons, specializes in wines from Franconia and elsewhere. The menu offers Franconian specialties such as the French-derived Böfflamott, or “beef à la mode” (beef roast, larded with bacon, marinated in red wine, and simmered in the marinade). | Average main: €8 | Geyerswörthstr. 4 | 0951/27570 | | No credit cards.

$ | GERMAN | This massive old stone-and-half-timber house has been standing since 1533, making it Bamberg’s oldest brewpub. Regulars nurse a dark, smoky beer called Schwärzla near the big stove—though the best beer is the Klosterbraun. If you like the brew, you can buy a 5-liter bottle (called a Siphon) as well as other bottled beers and the requisite beer steins at the counter. The cuisine is basic, robust, filling, and tasty, with such items as a bowl of beans with a slab of smoked pork, or marinated pork kidneys with boiled potatoes. | Average main: €10 | Obere Mühlbrücke | 0951/52265 | | No credit cards.

$ | GERMAN | Set in the middle of the Old Town, this tavern has been serving beer inside an ancient half-timber house since 1405. The fare, atmosphere, and patrons are the definition of traditional Bamberg. Be sure to try the Bamberger Zwiebel, a local onion stuffed with pork, or come on Sunday for a roast dinner. But the real reason to come here is to try the Aecht Schenkerla Rauchbier, a beer brewed with smoked malt. This Rauchbier (smoked beer) is served from huge wooden barrels and tastes like liquid ham—it’s an acquired taste, but worth sampling; locals agree that if you can choke down the first one, you’ll be a fan for life. | Average main: €10 | Dominikanerstr. 6 | 951/56050 | | No credit cards.


Fodor’s Choice | Hotel-Restaurant St. Nepomuk.
$$ | B&B/INN | This half-timber house seems to float over the river Regnitz; many of the comfortable rooms have quite a view of the water and the Old Town Hall on its island. The dining room, with its podium fireplace, discreet lights, and serene atmosphere, has a direct view of the river. The Grüner family makes a special effort to bring not only high-quality food to the restaurant but a world of excellent wines as well. Pros: great views; an elegant dining room with excellent food. Cons: hotel on a pedestrian-only street; public garage 700 feet away. | Rooms from: €130 | Obere Mühlbrücke 9 | 0951/98420 | | 47 rooms | Breakfast.

Romantik Hotel Weinhaus Messerschmitt.
$$ | HOTEL | This comfortable hotel has spacious and luxurious rooms, some with exposed beams and many of them lighted by chandeliers. Willy Messerschmitt, of aviation fame, grew up in this beautiful late-baroque house with a steep-eave, green-shuttered, stucco exterior. You’ll dine under beams and a coffered ceiling in the excellent Messerschmitt restaurant, one of Bamberg’s most popular culinary havens for elegant Franconian specialties. Pros: elegant dining room with good food; variety of rooms to choose from. Cons: older property; front rooms are noisy; expensive. | Rooms from: €155 | Langestr. 41 | 0951/297-800 | | 67 rooms | Breakfast.


Capella Antiqua Bambergensis.
The city’s first-class ensemble, Capella Antiqua Bambergensis, specializes in ancient music featuring lute, harp, hurdy gurdy, and other early instruments. They perform (in medieval costume) at several venues in town. | Bamberg |

Throughout summer organ concerts are given Saturday at noon in the Dom. Call for program details and tickets to all cultural events. | Dompl. | 0951/297-6200 |

E.T.A. Hoffmann Theater.
Opera and operettas are performed here from September through July. | E.T.A.-Hoffmann-Pl. 1 | 0951/873-030 |

Kongresshalle Bamberg (Sinfonie an der Regnitz).
This fine riverside concert hall is home to Bamberg’s own world-class resident symphony orchestra, the Bamberger Symphoniker. | Muss-Str. 1 | 0951/964-7200 |,


If you happen to be traveling around Christmastime, make sure you keep an eye out for crèches, a Bamberg specialty. Check the tourism website ( for the locations of nativity scenes and descriptions.

Café am Dom.
For an edible souvenir, take home handmade chocolates like the only-in-Bamberg Rauchbier truffles made with Schlenkerla smoked beer. This café also has a roomy seating area to take a load off while you nibble a delicious pastry. | Ringleinsg. 2 | 0951/519-290 |

Magnus Klee.
This shop sells nativity scenes, called Krippen in German, of all different shapes and sizes, including wood carved and with fabric clothes. | Obstmarkt 2 | 0951/26037.

Vinothek im Sand.
Head to this wine store for Franconian wine as well as a sampling of Bamberg’s specialty beers. | Obere Sandstr. 8 | 0151/5473-8779.

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Nürnberg (Nuremberg)

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Exploring | Where to Eat | Where to Stay | Shopping

With a recorded history stretching back to 1050, Franconia’s main city is among the most historic in all of Germany; the core of the Old Town, through which the Pegnitz River flows, is still surrounded by its original medieval walls. Year-round floodlighting adds to the brooding romance of the moats, sturdy gateways, and watchtowers. Nürnberg has always taken a leading role in German affairs. It was here, for example, that the Holy Roman emperors traditionally held the first Diet, or convention of the estates, of their incumbency. And it was here, too, that Hitler staged the most grandiose Nazi rallies. With a sense of historical justice, Nürnberg in rubble was the site of the Allies’ war trials, where top-ranking Nazis were charged with—and almost without exception convicted of—crimes against humanity. The rebuilding of Nürnberg after the war was virtually a miracle, considering the 90% destruction of the Old Town. As a major intersection on the medieval trade routes, Nürnberg became a wealthy town where the arts and sciences flowered. Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), the first indisputable genius of the Renaissance in Germany, was born here. He married in 1509 and bought a house in the city where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. Other leading Nürnberg artists of the Renaissance include painter Michael Wolgemut (a teacher of Dürer), stonecutter Adam Kraft, and the brass founder Peter Vischer. The tradition of the Meistersinger also flourished here in the 16th century, thanks to the high standard set by the local cobbler Hans Sachs (1494-1576). The Meistersinger were poets and musicians who turned songwriting into a special craft, with a wealth of rules and regulations. They were celebrated three centuries later by Wagner in his Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

The Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) and the shift to sea routes for transportation led to a period of decline, which ended only in the early 19th century when the first railroad opened in Nürnberg. Among a great host of inventions associated with the city, the most significant are the pocket watch, gun casting, the clarinet, and the geographic globe. Among Nürnberg’s famous products are Lebkuchen (gingerbread of sorts) and Faber-Castell pencils.

Getting Here and Around

Nürnberg is centrally located and well connected, an hour north of Munich and two hours east of Frankfurt by train. Five autobahns meet here: A-3 Düsseldorf-Passau, A-6 Mannheim-Nürnberg, A-9 Potzdam-München, A-73 Coburg-Feucht, and B-8 (four-lane near Nürnberg) Würzburg-Regensburg. Most places in the Old Town can be reached on foot.

Nürnberg consists of a surprisingly compact city center that is easily explored on foot. All of the downtown historical sites, restaurants, and hotels are within easy walking distance from each other. Nürnberg’s fantastic bus, trolley, or subway system will help you venture out to the Nazi sites farther afield. Information about city transportation is available at the VAG-KundenCenter at the main train station.

VAG-KundenCenter. | U-Bahn Verteilergeschoss, Kônigstorpassage, Haltestelle Hauptbahnhof | Nürnberg |


This company takes visitors on a combined bus tour with a short walking tour through the Nazi Party Grounds. Tours leave daily at 10 am, May through November and during the Christmas Market. | Hallpl. 36 | Nürnberg | 0911/200-1310 | | €17.

Nüremberg Guide Association.
An English-language walking tour through the Old Town departs from the Tourist Information Office on the Hauptmarkt daily at 1 pm, April through December. The tour lasts approximately two hours and covers all the essential Nürnberg sites, with some interesting, if not canned, commentary. | Hauptmarkt | Nürnberg | 0911/3506-4631 | | €10.


You’ll need a full day to walk around Nürnberg’s Old Town, two if you wish to take more time at its fascinating museums and churches. Most of the major sights are within a few minutes’ walk of each other. The Kaiserburg is a must-visit on any trip to Nürnberg. Plan at least half a day for the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, which is just inside the city walls near the main station. Add another half a day to visit the Nazi Party Rally Grounds.


By far the most famous local festival is the Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas Market), an enormous pre-Christmas fair that runs from the Friday before Advent to Christmas Eve. One of the highlights is the candle procession, held every second Thursday of the market season, during which thousands of children parade through the city streets.

Perhaps the most famous Christmas Market in Germany, the Nürnberg Christkindlesmarkt sits on the town’s cobblestone main square beneath the wonderful Frauenkirche. Renowned for its food, particularly Nürnberger Bratwurstchen, tasty little pork and marjoram sausages, and Lebkuchen, gingerbread made with cinnamon and honey, the market is also famed for its little figures made out of prunes called Nürnberger Zwetschgenmännla (Nuremberg Prune People). | Hauptmarkt | Nürnberg | | Nov. 25-Dec. 23, Mon.-Thurs. 9:30-8, Fri. and Sat. 9:30-10, Sun. 10:30-8; Dec. 24 9:30-2.

From May through July classical-music concerts are given in the Rittersaal of the Kaiserburg. | Burg 13 | Nürnberg | 0911/244-6590 |

Sommer in Nürnberg.
Nürnberg holds this annual summer festival from May through July, with more than 200 events. Its international organ festival in June and July is regarded as Europe’s finest. | Nürnberg.


Visitor Information
Nürnberg Congress- und Tourismus-Zentrale. | Frauentorgraben 3 | Nürnberg | 0911/23360 |

Nürnberg (Nuremberg)

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Albrecht-Dürer-Haus (Albrecht Dürer House).
The great painter Albrecht Dürer lived here from 1509 until his death in 1528. This beautifully preserved late-medieval house is typical of the prosperous merchants’ homes that once filled Nürnberg. Dürer, who enriched German art with Italianate elements, was more than a painter. He raised the woodcut, a notoriously difficult medium, to new heights of technical sophistication, combining great skill with a haunting, immensely detailed drawing style and complex, allegorical subject matter, while earning a good living at the same time. A number of original prints adorn the walls, and printing techniques using the old press are demonstrated in the studio. An excellent opportunity to find out about life in the house of Dürer is the tour with a guide role-playing Agnes Dürer, the artist’s wife. | Albrecht-Dürer-Str. 39 | Nürnberg | 0911/231-2568 | €5, tours with “Agnes Dürer” in English €2.50 | Tues., Wed., and Fri.-Sun. 10-5; Thurs. 10-8; guided tour in English Sat. at 2.

Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds.
On the eastern outskirts of the city, the Ausstellung Faszination und Gewalt (Fascination and Terror Exhibition) documents the political, social, and architectural history of the Nazi Party. The sobering museum helps illuminate the whys and hows of Hitler’s rise to power during the unstable period after World War I and the end of the democratic Weimar Republic. This is one of the few museums that documents how the Third Reich’s propaganda machine influenced the masses. The 19-room exhibition is inside a horseshoe-shape Congress Hall, designed for a crowd of 50,000, that the Nazis never completed. The Nazis did make infamous use of the nearby Zeppelin Field, the enormous parade ground where Hitler addressed his largest Nazi Party rallies. Today it sometimes shakes to the amplified beat of pop concerts. To get to the Documentation Center, take Tram 9 from the city center to the Doku-Zentrum stop. | Bayernstr. 110 | Nürnberg | 0911/231-5666 | | €5 | Weekdays 9-6, weekends 10-6.

Fodor’s Choice | Germanisches Nationalmuseum (German National Museum).
You could spend a lifetime exploring the largest museum of its kind in Germany. This vast museum showcases the country’s cultural and scientific achievements, ethnic background, and history. Housed in a former Carthusian monastery, complete with cloisters and monastic outbuilding, the complex effectively melds the ancient with modern extensions, giving the impression that Germany is moving forward by examining its past. The exhibition begins outside, with the tall, sleek pillars of the Strasse der Menschenrechte (Street of Human Rights), designed by Israeli artist Dani Karavan. Thirty columns are inscribed with the articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are few aspects of German culture, from the Stone Age to the 19th century, that are not covered by the museum, and quantity and quality are evenly matched. One highlight is the superb collection of Renaissance German paintings (with Dürer, Cranach, and Altdorfer well represented). Others may prefer the exquisite medieval ecclesiastical exhibits—manuscripts, altarpieces, statuary, stained glass, jewel-encrusted reliquaries—the collections of arms and armor, the scientific instruments, or the toys. | Kartäuserg. 1 | Nürnberg | 0911/13310 | | €8 | Tues. and Thurs.-Sun. 10-6, Wed. 10-9.

QUICK BITES: Bistro Arte.
Opposite the Germanisches Nationalmuseum is Bistro Arte. Al dente pasta or meat and fish dishes with excellent wines will revive you after the long hours spent in the museum. | Kartäuserg. 12 | Nürnberg | 0911/244-9774 | | Closed Mon.

Fodor’s Choice | Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle).
The city’s main attraction is a grand yet playful collection of buildings standing just inside the city walls; it was once the residence of the Holy Roman Emperor. The complex comprises three separate groups. The oldest, dating from around 1050, is the Burggrafenburg (Castellan’s Castle), with a craggy old pentagonal tower and the bailiff’s house. It stands in the center of the complex. To the east is the Kaiserstallung (Imperial Stables), built in the 15th century as a granary and now serving as a youth hostel. The real interest of this vast complex of ancient buildings, however, centers on the westernmost part of the fortress, which begins at the Sinwell Turm (Sinwell Tower). The Kaiserburg Museum is here, a subsidiary of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum that displays ancient armors and has exhibits relating to horsemanship in the imperial era and to the history of the fortress. This section of the castle also has a wonderful Romanesque Doppelkappelle (Double Chapel). The upper part—richer, larger, and more ornate than the lower chapel—was where the emperor and his family worshipped. Also visit the Rittersaal (Knights’ Hall) and the Kaisersaal (Throne Room). Their heavy oak beams, painted ceilings, and sparse interiors have changed little since they were built in the 15th century. | Burgstr. | Nürnberg | 0911/2446-59115 | | €7 | Apr.-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct.-Mar., daily 10-4.

Neues Museum (New Museum).
Anything but medieval, this museum is devoted to international design since 1945. The collection, supplemented by changing exhibitions, is in a slick, modern edifice that achieves the perfect synthesis between old and new. It’s mostly built of traditional pink-sandstone ashlars, while the facade is a flowing, transparent composition of glass. The interior is a work of art in itself—cool stone, with a ramp that slowly spirals up to the gallery. Extraordinary things await, including a Joseph Beuys installation (Ausfegen, or Sweep-out) and Avalanche by François Morellet, a striking collection of violet, argon-gas-filled fluorescent tubes. The café-restaurant adjoining the museum contains modern art, silver-wrapped candies, and video projections. | Luitpoldstr. 5 | Nürnberg | 0911/240-200 | | €4, special exhibitions €6 | Tues.-Fri. 10-8, weekends 10-6.

Nürnberg Trials Memorial.
Nazi leaders and German organizations were put on trial here in 1945 and 1946 during the first international war-crimes trials, conducted by the victorious Allied forces of World War II. The trials were held in the Landgericht (Regional Court) in courtroom No. 600 and resulted in 11 death sentences, among other convictions. The guided tours in English take place on Saturday at 2 and an English-language audio guide is available. | Bärenschanzstr. 72 | Nürnberg | 0911/231-8411 | | €5, tour €3 | Wed.-Mon. 10-6 | Station: Bärenschanze.


Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall).
This ancient building on Rathausplatz abuts the rear of St. Sebaldus Kirche; it was erected in 1332, destroyed in World War II, and subsequently reconstructed. Its intact medieval dungeons, consisting of 12 small rooms and one large torture chamber called the Lochgefängnis (or the Hole), provide insight into the gruesome applications of medieval law. Gänsemännchenbrunnen (Gooseman’s Fountain) faces the Altes Rathaus. This lovely Renaissance bronze fountain, cast in 1550, is a work of rare elegance and great technical sophistication. | Rathauspl. 2 | Nürnberg | 0911/231-2690 | €3.50, minimum of 5 people for tours | Tues.-Sun. 10-4.

Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).
The fine late-Gothic Frauenkirche was built in 1350, with the approval of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, on the site of a synagogue that was burned down during the 1349 pogrom. The modern tabernacle beneath the main altar was designed to look like a Torah scroll as a memorial to that despicable act. The church’s main attraction is the Männleinlaufen, a clock dating from 1509, which is set into its facade. It’s one of those colorful mechanical marvels at which Germans have long excelled. Every day at noon the seven electors of the Holy Roman Empire glide out of the clock to bow to Emperor Charles IV before sliding back under cover. It’s worth scheduling your morning to catch the display. | Hauptmarkt | Nürnberg | Mon.-Sat. 9-6, Sun. 12:30-6.

Hauptmarkt (Main Market).
Nürnberg’s central market square was once the city’s Jewish Quarter. When the people of Nürnberg petitioned their emperor, Charles IV, for a big central market, the emperor was in desperate need of money and, above all, political support. The Jewish Quarter was the preferred site, but as the official protector of the Jewish people, the emperor could not just openly take away their property. Instead, in 1349 he instigated a pogrom that left the Jewish Quarter in flames and more than 500 dead. He then razed the ruins and resettled the remaining Jews.

Towering over the northwestern corner of the Hauptmarkt, Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) looks as though it should be on the summit of some lofty cathedral. Carved around the year 1400, the elegant 60-foot-high Gothic fountain is adorned with 40 figures arranged in tiers—prophets, saints, local noblemen, sundry electors of the Holy Roman Empire, and one or two strays such as Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. A gold ring is set into the railing surrounding the fountain, reportedly placed there by an apprentice carver. Touching it is said to bring good luck. A market still operates in the Hauptmarkt on weekdays. Its colorful stands are piled high with produce, fruit, bread, homemade cheeses and sausages, sweets, and anything else you might need for a snack or picnic. It’s here that the Christkindlemarkt is held. | Hauptmarkt | Nürnberg.

Jüdisches Museum Franken.
The everyday life of the Jewish community in Franconia and Fürth is examined in this Jewish museum: books, seder plates, old statutes, and children’s toys are among the exhibits. One of the most famous members of the Fürth community was Henry Kissinger, born here in 1923. Changing exhibitions relate to contemporary Jewish life in Germany, and in the basement is the Mikveh, the ritual bath, which was used by the family who lived here centuries ago. In the museum you will also find a good Jewish bookshop as well as a nice small café. A subsidiary to the museum, which houses special exhibitions, is in the former synagogue in nearby Schnaittach. | Königstr. 89, 10 km (6 miles) west of Nürnberg | Fürth | 0911/770-577 | | €5 | Wed.-Sun. 10-5, Tues. 10-8 | Station: Rathaus.

Museum für Kommunikation (Communication Museum).
Two museums about how people stay connected have been amalgamated under a single roof here: the German Railway Museum and the Museum of Communication. Germany’s first train began its inaugural journey on December 7, 1835 and ran from Nürnberg to nearby Fürth. A model of the epochal train is here, along with a series of original 19th- and early-20th-century trains and stagecoaches. Philatelists will want to check out some of the 40,000-odd stamps in the extensive exhibits on the German postal system. You can also find out about the history of sending messages—from old coaches to fiber-optic networks. | Lessingstr. 6 | Nürnberg | 0911/219-2428 | | €5 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.

St. Lorenz Kirche (St. Laurence Church).
In a city with several striking churches, St. Lorenz is considered by many to be the most beautiful. Construction began around 1250 and was completed in about 1477; it later became a Lutheran church. Two towers flank the main entrance, which is covered with a forest of carvings. In the lofty interior, note the works by sculptors Adam Kraft and Veit Stoss: Kraft’s great stone tabernacle, to the left of the altar, and Stoss’s Annunciation, at the east end of the nave, are their finest works. There are many other carvings throughout the building, testimony to the artistic wealth of late-medieval Nürnberg. | Lorenzer Pl. | Nürnberg | Mon.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. noon-4.

St. Sebaldus Kirche (St. Sebaldus Church).
Although St. Sebaldus lacks the quantity of art treasures found in its rival St. Lorenz, its nave and choir are among the purest examples of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture in Germany: elegant, tall, and airy. Veit Stoss carved the Crucifixion group at the east end of the nave, while the elaborate bronze shrine containing the remains of St. Sebaldus himself was cast by Peter Vischer and his five sons around 1520. Not to be missed is the Sebaldus Chörlein, an ornate Gothic oriel that was added to the Sebaldus parish house in 1361 (the original is in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum). | Albrecht-Dürer-Pl. 1 | Nürnberg | 0911/214-2500 | Free | Daily 10-5.

Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum).
Young and old are captivated by this playful museum, which has a few exhibits dating from the Renaissance; most, however, are from the 19th century. Simple dolls vie with mechanical toys of extraordinary complexity, such as a wooden Ferris wheel from the Ore Mountains adorned with little colored lights. The top floor displays Barbies and intricate Lego constructions. | Karlstr. 13-15 | Nürnberg | 0911/231-3164 | €5 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.

Stadtmuseum (City Museum).
This city history museum is in the Fembohaus, a dignified patrician dwelling completed in 1598. It’s one of the finest Renaissance mansions in Nürnberg. Each room explores another aspect of Nürnberg history, from crafts to gastronomy. The 50-minute multivision show provides a comprehensive look at the city’s long history. | Burgstr. 15 | Nürnberg | 0911/231-2595 | €5 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Tiergarten Nürnberg.
The well-stocked Nürnberg Zoo has a dolphinarium where dolphins perform to the delight of children; it’s worth the extra admission fee. The zoo is on the northwest edge of town; reach it by taking the No. 5 streetcar from the city center. | Am Tiergarten 30 | Nürnberg | 0911/54546 | | €13.50 | Apr.-Sept., daily 8-7:30; Oct.-Mar., daily 9-5; dolphin show daily at 11, 2, and 4.


Fodor’s Choice | Essigbrätlein.
$$$$ | GERMAN | The oldest restaurant in Nürnberg is also the top restaurant in the city and among the best in Germany. Built in 1550, it was originally used as a meeting place for wine merchants. Today its tiny but elegant period interior caters to the distinguishing gourmet with a taste for special spice mixes (owner Andrée Köthe’s hobby). The dinner menu changes daily, but the four-course menu can’t be beat. There’s a limited lunch menu, but this is really a place to come for dinner. Don’t be put off if the restaurant looks closed—just ring the bell and a friendly receptionist will help you. | Average main: €30 | Weinmarkt 3 | Nürnberg | 0911/225-131 | | Closed Sun., Mon. (but open Mon. in Dec.), and late Aug. | Reservations essential.

Hausbrauerei Altstadthof.
$ | GERMAN | For traditional regional food, such as Nürnberg bratwurst, head to this atmospheric brewery. You can see the copper kettles where the brewery’s organic Rotbier (red beer) is made. For a bit of shopping after lunch, the brewery store sells a multitude of beer-related products such as beer vinegar, brandy, and soap. Located above a network of deep, dark cellars where beer was once brewed and stored, this brewery is the meeting point for cellar tours (in English on Sunday at 11:30 am; €5.50; | Average main: €10 | Bergstr. 19-21 | Nürnberg | 911/244-9859 | | No credit cards.

$ | GERMAN | Heavy wood furnishings and a choice of more than 100 wines make this huge, 650-year-old wine tavern—built as the refectory of the city hospital—a popular spot. Try for a table in one of the alcoves, where you can see the river below as you eat your seasonal fresh fish. The menu also includes grilled pork chops, panfried potatoes, and other Franconian dishes. | Average main: €14 | Spitalg. 16 | Nürnberg | 0911/221-761 |

Historische Bratwurst-Küche Zum Gulden Stern.
$ | GERMAN | The city council meets here to decide the official size and weight of the Nürnberg bratwursts, so this should be your first stop to try the ubiquitous Nürnberg delicacy. The sausages have to be small enough to fit through a medieval keyhole, which in earlier days enabled pub owners to sell them after hours. It’s a fitting venue for such a decision, given that this house, built in 1375, holds the oldest bratwurst restaurant in the world. The famous Nürnberg bratwursts are always freshly roasted on a beech-wood fire. Saure Zipfel, the boiled variation, is prepared in a tasty stock of Franconian wine and onions. | Average main: €9 | Zirkelschmiedg. 26 | Nürnberg | 0911/205-9288 |


$ | HOTEL | This comfortable hotel is north of the Old Town, between the fortress and St. Sebaldus Church, and its interiors are very modern and tastefully done. The hotel also has a small wellness center and even some loungers for sunning in the small garden. Pros: many rooms have great views of the castle; warm yet professional welcome. Cons: deluxe rooms overpriced; parking and hotel access difficult; no restaurant. | Rooms from: €85 | Agnesg. 10 | Nürnberg | 0911/214-440 | | 72 rooms | Breakfast.

Burghotel Stammhaus.
$ | HOTEL | At this quaint hotel the accommodations are small but cozy and the service is familial and friendly. If you need more space, ask about the wedding suite. The breakfast room with its balcony overlooking the houses of the Old Town has a charm all its own. Pros: great location in the city center; comfortable; pool; good value. Cons: small rooms; tiny lobby; parking not easy; service sometimes too casual. | Rooms from: €67 | Schildg. 14 | Nürnberg | 0911/203-040 | | 21 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.

Hotel Drei Raben.
$$ | HOTEL | Legends and tales of Nürnberg form the leitmotif running through the designer rooms at this hotel. One room celebrates the local soccer team with a table-soccer game; in another room sandstone friezes recall sights in the city. There are also more-conventional rooms in the lower price category. The reception room, with its pods, is modeled after 2001: A Space Odyssey, yet doesn’t seem overbearingly modern. The location is three minutes from the train station, just within the Old Town walls. Pros: free drink at the reception desk; designer rooms; valet parking; Wi-Fi. Cons: neon-lighted bar isn’t relaxing; no restaurant. | Rooms from: €150 | Königstr. 63 | Nürnberg | 0911/274-380 | | 25 rooms | Breakfast.

Hotel-Weinhaus Steichele.
$$ | HOTEL | An 18th-century bakery has been skillfully converted into this hotel, which has been managed by the same family for four generations. It’s close to the main train station, on a quiet street of the old walled town. The cozy rooms are decorated in rustic Bavarian style. Two wood-paneled, traditionally furnished taverns serve Franconian fare, with an excellent fish menu. Pros: comfortable; good location; good restaurants. Cons: small rooms and lobby; some rooms show their age. | Rooms from: €109 | Knorrstr. 2-8 | Nürnberg | 0911/202-280 | | 56 rooms | Breakfast.

Le Meridien Grand Hotel.
$$$ | HOTEL | Across the square from the central train station, this stately building with the calling card “Grand Hotel” arching over its entranceway has a spacious and imposing lobby with marble pillars, which feels grand and welcoming. Since 1896, kings, politicians, and celebrities have soaked up the luxury of large rooms and tubs in marble bathrooms. On Friday and Saturday evenings and on Sunday at noon, locals arrive for the candlelight dinner or exquisite brunch with live piano music in the restaurant of glittering glass and marble. The trout is a standout in an impressive list of fish dishes, and the lamb is a good pick from the meat entrées. Be sure to ask for weekend rates. Pros: luxury property; impressive lobby; excellent food; valet parking. Cons: expensive, with additional fees for every possible contingency; Germanic efficiency at reception desk; access from the station can be difficult with luggage, via an underpass with stairs. | Rooms from: €189 | Bahnhofstr. 1 | Nürnberg | 0911/23220 | | 186 rooms, 5 suites | Breakfast; Some meals.


Step into this “medieval mall,” in the tower at the Old Town gate (Am Königstor) opposite the main train station, and you’ll think you’re back in the Middle Ages. Craftspeople are busy at work turning out the kind of handiwork that has been produced in Nürnberg for centuries: pewter, glassware, basketwork, wood carvings, and, of course, toys. The Lebkuchen specialist Lebkuchen-Schmidt has a shop here as well. | Am Königstor | Nürnberg | | Closed Sun. and holidays late Mar.-Dec. 30.

You can come and pose for owner Karin Dütz, send a picture (profile, do not smile), or just browse the scissor-cut silhouettes here, an old and skilled craft. | Albrecht-Dürer-Str. 13 | Nürnberg | 0911/244-7483 | Tues.-Fri. 1-6 or by appointment.

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The German Danube

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Regensburg | Passau

For many people, the sound of the Danube River (Donau in German) is the melody of The Blue Danube, the waltz written by Austrian Johann Strauss. The famous 2,988-km-long (1,857-mile-long) river, which is actually a pale green, originates in Germany’s Black Forest and flows through 10 countries. In Germany it’s mostly a rather unremarkable stream as it passes through cities such as Ulm on its southeasterly route. However, that changes at Kelheim, just west of Regensburg, where the Main-Donau Canal (completed in 1992) brings big river barges all the way from the North Sea. The river becomes sizable in Regensburg, where the ancient Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge) needs 15 spans of 30 to 48 feet each to bridge the water. Here everything from small pleasure boats to cruise liners joins the commercial traffic. In the university town of Passau, two more rivers join the waters of the Danube before Europe’s longest river continues into Austria.


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85 km (53 miles) southeast of Nürnberg, 120 km (75 miles) northwest of Munich.

Few visitors to Bavaria venture this far off the well-trodden tourist trails, and even Germans are surprised when they discover medieval Regensburg. TIP The town escaped World War II with no major damage, and it is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Germany.

Regensburg’s story begins with the Celts around 500 BC. In AD 179, as an original marble inscription in the Historisches Museum proclaims, it became a Roman military post called Castra Regina. The Porta Praetoria, or gateway, built by the Romans, remains in the Old Town, and whenever you see huge ashlars incorporated into buildings, you are looking at bits of the old Roman settlement. When Bavarian tribes migrated to the area in the 6th century, they occupied what remained of the Roman town and, apparently on the basis of its Latin name, called it Regensburg. Anglo-Saxon missionaries led by St. Boniface in 739 made the town a bishopric before heading down the Danube to convert the heathen in even more far-flung lands. Charlemagne, first of the Holy Roman emperors, arrived at the end of the 8th century and incorporated Regensburg into his burgeoning domain. Regensburg benefited from the fact that the Danube wasn’t navigable to the west, and thus it was able to control trade as goods traveled between Germany and Central Europe.

By the Middle Ages Regensburg had become a political, economic, and intellectual center. For many centuries it was the most important city in southeast Germany, serving as the seat of the Perpetual Imperial Diet from 1663 until 1806, when Napoléon ordered the dismantling of the Holy Roman Empire.

Today the ancient and hallowed walls of Regensburg continue to buzz with life. Students from the university fill the restaurants and pubs, and locals tend to their daily shopping and run errands in the inner city, where small shops and stores have managed to keep international consumer chains out.

Getting Here and Around

Regensburg is at the intersection of the autobahns 3 and 93. It is an hour away from Nürnberg and two hours from Munich by train. Regensburg is compact; its Old Town center is about 1 square mile. All of its attractions lie on the south side of the Danube, so you won’t have to cross it more than once—and then only to admire the city from the north bank.

English-language guided walking tours are conducted May through September and during the Christmas markets, Wednesday and Saturday at 1:30. They cost €6 and begin at the tourist office.


Although the Old Town is quite small, you can easily spend half a day strolling through its narrow streets. Any serious tour of Regensburg includes an unusually large number of places of worship. If your spirits wilt at the thought of inspecting them all, you should at least see the Dom, famous for its Domspatzen (boys’ choir—the literal translation is “cathedral sparrows”). You’ll need about another two hours or more to explore Schloss Emmeram and St. Emmeram church.


Personenschifffahrt Klinger.
All boats depart from the Steinerne Brücke, and the most popular excursions are boat trips to Ludwig I’s imposing Greek-style Doric temple of Walhalla. There are daily sailings at 10:30 and 2 to Walhalla from Easter through October. The round-trip takes three hours, including about an hour to explore the temple. Don’t bother with the trip upriver from Regensburg to Kelheim. | Thundorfstr. 1 | 0941/55359 | | €10.50.

Visitor Information
Regensburg Tourismus. | Altes Rathaus, Rathauspl. 4 | 0941/507-4410 |


Top Attractions

Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall).
The picture-book complex of medieval half-timber buildings, with windows large and small and flowers in tubs, is one of the best-preserved town halls in the country, as well as one of the most historically important. It was here, in the imposing Gothic Reichssaal (Imperial Hall), that the Perpetual Imperial Diet met from 1663 to 1806. This parliament of sorts consisted of the emperor, the electors (seven or eight), the princes (about 50), and the burghers, who assembled to discuss and determine the affairs of the far-reaching German lands of the Holy Roman Empire. The hall is sumptuously appointed with tapestries, flags, and heraldic designs. Note the wood ceiling, built in 1408, and the different elevations for the various estates. The Reichssaal is occasionally used for concerts. The neighboring Ratssaal (Council Room) is where the electors met for their consultations. The cellar holds the city’s torture chamber; the Fragstatt (Questioning Room); and the execution room, called the Armesünderstübchen (Poor Sinners’ Room). Any prisoner who withstood three degrees of questioning without confessing was considered innocent and released—which tells you something about medieval notions of justice. | Rathauspl. | 0941/507-4411 | €8 | Guided tours in English Apr.-Oct., daily at 3.

QUICK BITES: Prinzess Confiserie Café.
Just across the square from the Altes Rathaus is the Prinzess Confiserie Café, Germany’s oldest coffeehouse, which first opened its doors in 1686. The homemade chocolates are highly recommended, as are the rich cakes. | Rathauspl. 2 | 0941/595-310.

Brückturm Museum (Bridge Tower Museum).
With its tiny windows, weathered tiles, and pink plaster, this 17th-century tower stands at the south end of the Steinerne Brücke. The tower displays a host of items relating to the construction and history of the old bridge. It also offers a gorgeous view of the Regensburg roof landscape. The brooding building with a massive roof to the left of the Brückturm is an old salt warehouse. | Steinerne Brücke, Weisse-Lamm-G. 1 | 0941/507-5888 | €2 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-5; call ahead to ask about tours in English.

Dom St. Peter (St. Peter’s Cathedral).
Regensburg’s transcendent cathedral, modeled on the airy, powerful lines of French Gothic architecture, is something of a rarity this far south in Germany. Begun in the 13th century, it stands on the site of a much earlier Carolingian church. Remarkably, the cathedral can hold 6,000 people, three times the population of Regensburg when building began. Construction dragged on for almost 600 years, until Ludwig I of Bavaria, then ruler of Regensburg, finally had the towers built. These had to be replaced in the mid-1950s. Behind the Dom is a little workshop where a team of 15 stonecutters is busy full-time in summer recutting and restoring parts of the cathedral.

Before heading into the Dom, take time to admire the intricate and frothy carvings of its facade. Inside, the glowing 14th-century stained glass in the choir and the exquisitely detailed statues of the archangel Gabriel and the Virgin in the crossing (the intersection of the nave and the transepts) are among the church’s outstanding features.

Due to renovation work the Kreuzgang (Cloisters), reached via the garden, the Allerheiligenkapelle (All Saints’ Chapel), and the ancient shell of St. Stephan’s Church are inaccessible until 2020. | Dompl. 50 | 0941/586-5500 | Free; €3 for tour | Daily 6:30 am-7 pm. Tour daily at 2 (only in German; for tours in English call ahead).

Domschatzmuseum (Cathedral Museum). This museum contains valuable treasures going back to the 11th century. Some of the vestments and the monstrances, which are fine examples of eight centuries’ worth of the goldsmith’s trade, are still used during special services. The entrance is in the nave. | Dompl.
| 0941/597-2530 | €3 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. noon-5; Dec.-Mar., Fri. and Sat. 10-4, Sun. noon-4.

QUICK BITES: Haus Heuport.
The restaurant Haus Heuport, opposite the entrance to the Dom, was once one of the old and grand private ballrooms of the city. The service is excellent, and the tables at the windows have a wonderful view of the Dom. In summer, head for the bistro area in the courtyard for sandwiches and salads. | Dompl. 7 | 0941/599-9297 |

Historisches Museum.
The municipal museum vividly relates the cultural history of Regensburg. It’s one of the highlights of the city, both for its unusual and beautiful setting—a former Gothic monastery—and for its wide-ranging collections, from Roman artifacts to Renaissance tapestries and remains from Regensburg’s 16th-century Jewish ghetto. The most significant exhibits are the paintings by Albrecht Altdorfer (1480-1538), a native of Regensburg and, along with Cranach, Grünewald, and Dürer, one of the leading painters of the German Renaissance. Altdorfer’s work has the same sense of heightened reality found in that of his contemporaries, in which the lessons of Italian painting are used to produce an emotional rather than a rational effect. His paintings would not have seemed out of place among those of 19th-century Romantics. Far from seeing the world around him as essentially hostile, or at least alien, he saw it as something intrinsically beautiful, whether wild or domesticated. Altdorfer made two drawings of the old synagogue of Regensburg, priceless documents that are on exhibit here. | Dachaupl. 2-4 | 0941/507-2448 | €5 | Tues.-Sun. noon-4.

Schloss Emmeram (Emmeram Palace).
Formerly a Benedictine monastery, this is the ancestral home of the princely Thurn und Taxis family, which made its fame and fortune after being granted the right to carry official and private mail throughout the empire and Spain by Emperor Maximilian I (1493-1519) and by Philip I, king of Spain, who ruled during the same period. Their business extended over the centuries into the Low Countries (Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg), Hungary, and Italy. The horn that still symbolizes the post office in several European countries comes from the Thurn und Taxis coat of arms. In its heyday Schloss Emmeram was heavily featured in the gossip columns thanks to the wild parties and somewhat extravagant lifestyle of the young dowager Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. After the death of her husband, Prince Johannes, in 1990, she had to auction off belongings in order to pay inheritance taxes. Ultimately a deal was cut, allowing her to keep many of the palace’s treasures as long as they were put on display.

The Thurn und Taxis Palace, with its splendid ballroom and throne room, allows you to witness the setting of courtly life in the 19th century. A visit usually includes the fine Kreuzgang (cloister) of the former Benedictine abbey of St. Emmeram. The palace can only be visited by taking the guided tour. The items in the Thurn und Taxis Museum, which is part of the Bavarian National Museum in Munich, have been carefully selected for their fine craftsmanship—be it dueling pistols, a plain marshal’s staff, a boudoir, or a snuffbox. The palace’s Marstallmuseum (former royal stables) holds the family’s coaches and carriages as well as related items. | Emmeramspl. 5 | 0941/504-8133 | | Museum €4.50, palace and cloisters with mandatory tour €13.50 | Museum Apr.-Oct., daily 1-5. Tours of palace and cloisters: premium tour (approx. 90 mins) daily 10:30, 12:30, 2:30, 4:30; compact tour (approx. 60 mins) daily 11:30 and 2:30.

Fodor’s Choice | Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge).
This impressive old bridge resting on massive pontoons is Regensburg’s most celebrated sight. It was completed in 1146 and was rightfully considered a miraculous piece of engineering at the time. As the only crossing point over the Danube for miles, it effectively cemented Regensburg’s control over trade. The significance of the little statue on the bridge is a mystery, but the figure seems to be a witness to the legendary rivalry between the master builders of the bridge and those of the Dom. | Regensburg.

Worth Noting

Alte Kapelle (Old Chapel).
Erected by the Carolingian order in the 9th century, the Old Chapel’s dowdy exterior hides joyous rococo treasures within—extravagant concoctions of sinuous gilt stucco, rich marble, and giddy frescoes, the whole illuminated by light pouring in from the upper windows. | Alter Kornmarkt 8 | Free | Daily 9-dusk.

Karmelitenkirche (Church of the Carmelites).
This lovely church, in the baroque style from crypt to cupola, stands next to the Alte Kapelle. It has a finely decorated facade designed by the 17th-century Italian master Carlo Lurago. | Alter Kornmarkt | Free | Mon., Tues., Thurs., and Fri. 9-11 and 3-5, Wed. 9-11, Sun. 8:25 am-9:45 pm.

This oversize square was once the heart of the Jewish ghetto. Hard economic times and superstition led to their eviction by decree in 1519. While the synagogue was being torn down, one worker survived a very bad fall. A church was promptly built to celebrate the miracle, and before long a pilgrimage began. The Neupfarrkirche (New Parish Church) was built as well to accommodate the flow of pilgrims. During the Reformation, the Parish Church was given to the Protestants, hence its bare-bones interior. In the late 1990s, excavation work (for the power company) on the square uncovered well-kept cellars and, to the west of the church, the old synagogue, including the foundations of its Romanesque predecessor. Archaeologists salvaged the few items they could from the old stones (including a stash of 684 gold coins) and, not knowing what to do with the sea of foundations, ultimately carefully reburied them. Recovered items were carefully restored and are on exhibit in the Historisches Museum. Only one small underground area to the south of the church, the Document, accommodates viewing of the foundations. In a former cellar, surrounded by the original walls, visitors can watch a short video reconstructing life in the old Jewish ghetto. Over the old synagogue, the Israeli artist Dani Karavan designed a stylized plaza where people can sit and meet. Call the educational institution VHS for a tour of the Document (reservations are requested). For spontaneous visits, tickets are available at Tabak Götz on the western side of the square, at Neupfarrplatz 3. | Neupfarrpl. | 0941/507-2433 for tours led by VHS | | Document €5 | Church daily 9-dusk, Document tour Thurs.-Sat. at 2:30.

QUICK BITES: Dampfnudel Uli.
A dampfnudel is a steamed, often sweet but sometimes savory, yeast-dough dumpling that is tasty and filling. The best in Bavaria can be had at this small establishment in a former chapel. The decoration is incredibly eclectic, from Bavarian crafts to an autographed portrait of Ronald Reagan. | Watmarkt 4 | 0941/53297 | | Tues.-Fri. 10-6, Sat. 10-4.

This 12th-century building with a baroque interior was originally the church of a community of nuns, all of them from noble families. | Alter Kornmarkt 5 | Free | Irregular hours, usually late afternoon for services.

Porta Praetoria.
The rough-hewn former gate to the old Roman camp, built in AD 179, is one of the most interesting relics of Roman Regensburg. Look through the grille on its east side to see a section of the original Roman road, about 10 feet below today’s street level. | Unter den Schwibbögen | North side of Alter Kornmarkt.

St. Emmeram.
The family church of the Thurn und Taxis family stands across from their ancestral palace, the Schloss Emmeram. The foundations of the church date to the 7th and 8th centuries. A richly decorated baroque interior was added in 1730 by the Asam brothers. St. Emmeram contains the graves of the 7th-century martyred Regensburg bishop Emmeram and the 10th-century saint Wolfgang. | Emmeramspl. 3 | 0941/51030 | Free | Mon.-Thurs. and Sat. 10-4:30, Fri. 1-4:30, Sun. noon-4:30.

St. Kassian.
Regensburg’s oldest church was founded in the 8th century. Don’t be fooled by its plain exterior; inside, it’s filled with ornate rococo decoration. | St. Kassianpl. 1 | Free | Daily 9-5:30.


Walhalla (11 km [7 miles] east of Regensburg) is an excursion you won’t want to miss, especially if you have an interest in the wilder expressions of newfound 19th-century pan-Germanic nationalism. Walhalla—a name resonant with Nordic mythology—was where the god Odin received the souls of dead heroes. Ludwig I erected this monumental pantheon temple in 1840 to honor important Germans from ages past, kept current with busts of Albert Einstein and Sophie Scholl. In keeping with the neoclassic style of the time, the Greek-style Doric temple is actually a copy of the Parthenon in Athens. The expanses of costly marble are evidence of both the financial resources and the craftsmanship at Ludwig’s command. Walhalla may be kitschy, but the fantastic view it affords over the Danube and the wide countryside is definitely worth a look.

A boat ride from the Steinerne Brücke in Regensburg is the best way to go. On the return trip, you can steer the huge boat for about half a mile, and, for €5 extra, you can earn an “Honorary Danube Boat Captain” certificate. Kids and adults love it. To get to the temple from the river, you’ll have to climb 358 marble steps. | Walhalla-Str. 48 | Donaustauf | Take the Danube Valley country road (unnumbered) east from Regensburg 8 km (5 miles) to Donaustauf. The Walhalla temple is 1 km (½ mile) outside the village and well signposted |

Weltenburg Abbey (Abbey Church of Sts. George and Martin).
Roughly 25 km (15 miles) southwest of Regensburg you’ll find the great Weltenburg Benedictine Abbey perched on the bank of the Danube River. The most dramatic approach to the abbey is by boat (€10.50 round-trip) from Kelheim, 10 km (6 miles) downstream. On the stunning ride the boat winds between towering limestone cliffs that rise straight up from the tree-lined riverbanks. The abbey, constructed between 1716 and 1718, is commonly regarded as the masterpiece of the brothers Cosmas Damian and Egid Quirin Asam, two leading baroque architects and decorators of Bavaria. Their extraordinary composition of painted figures whirling on the ceiling, lavish and brilliantly polished marble, highly wrought statuary, and stucco figures dancing in rhythmic arabesques across the curving walls is the epitome of Bavarian baroque. Note especially the bronze equestrian statue of St. George above the high altar, reaching down imperiously with his flamelike, twisted gilt sword to dispatch the winged dragon at his feet. In Kelheim there are two boat companies that offer trips to Kloster Weltenburg every 30 minutes in summer. You cannot miss the landing stages and the huge parking lot. No Bavarian monastery is complete without a brewery and Kloster Weltenburg’s is well worth visiting. | Asamstr. 32 | Kelheim | Free | Daily 9-dusk.


Café Felix.
$ | CAFÉ | A modern two-level café and bar, Felix offers everything from sandwiches to steaks, and buzzes with activity from breakfast until the early hours. Light from an artsy chandelier and torchlike fixtures bounces off the many large framed mirrors. The crowd tends to be young. | Average main: €10 | Fröhliche-Türkenstr. 6 | 0941/59059 | | No credit cards.

Historische Wurstküche.
$ | GERMAN | At the world’s oldest, and possibly smallest, bratwurst grill, just by the Stone Bridge, succulent Regensburger sausages—the best in town—are prepared right before your eyes on an open beech-wood charcoal grill. If you want to eat them inside in the tiny dining room, you’ll have to squeeze past the cook to get there. On the walls—outside and in—are plaques recording the levels the river reached over a century of floods that temporarily interrupted service. | Average main: €9 | Thundorferstr. 3 | 0941/466-210 | | No credit cards.

Leerer Beutel.
$ | ECLECTIC | The “Empty Sack” prepares excellent international cuisine—from antipasti to solid pork roast—served in a pleasant vaulted room supported by massive rough-hewn beams. The restaurant is in a huge warehouse that’s also a venue for concerts, exhibitions, and film screenings, making it a good place to start or end an evening. | Average main: €14 | Bertoldstr. 9 | 0941/58997 |


Am Peterstor.
$ | HOTEL | The clean and basic rooms of this popular hotel in the heart of the Old Town are a solid value. The many local eateries, including the excellent Café Felix a few doors away, more than compensate for the lack of an in-house restaurant. Pros: low prices; good location. Cons: spartan rooms; no restaurant or bar; no phones in rooms; breakfast not included (€5). | Rooms from: €50 | Fröhliche-Türken-Str. 12 | 0941/54545 | | 36 rooms | No meals.

Fodor’s Choice | Grand Hôtel Orphée.
$$ | HOTEL | It’s difficult to choose between the very spacious rooms at the three properties that comprise the Hôtel Orphée—the Grand Hotel Orphée; the Petit Hotel Orphée on the next street; and the Country Manor Orphée on the other side of the river about 2 km (1 mile) away. At the Grand, you may decide to take an attic room with large wooden beams or an elegant room with stucco ceilings on the first floor. The French bistro-style restaurant prepares a selection of crepes, salads, and tasty meat dishes. Pros: tastefully apportioned rooms; excellent restaurant; center of town. Cons: difficult parking; front rooms are noisy. | Rooms from: €100 | Untere Bachg. 8 | 0941/596-020 | | 34 rooms | Breakfast; Some meals.

Hotel Münchner Hof.
$$ | HOTEL | This little hotel provides top service at a good price, with Regensburg at your feet and the Neupfarrkirche nearby. The original arches of the ancient building are visible in some of the rooms. The restaurant is quiet and comfortable, serving Bavarian specialties and good Munich beer. Pros: some rooms with historic features; center of town; nice little lobby. Cons: entrance on narrow street; difficult parking. | Rooms from: €102 | Tändlerg. 9 | 0941/58440 | | 53 rooms | Breakfast; Some meals.

Hotel-Restaurant Bischofshof am Dom.
$$ | HOTEL | This is one of Germany’s most historic hostelries, a former bishop’s palace where you can sleep in an apartment that includes part of a Roman gateway. Other chambers are only slightly less historic, and some have seen emperors and princes as guests. The hotel’s restaurant serves regional cuisine (including the famous Regensburger sausages) at reasonable prices. The beer comes from a brewery founded in 1649. Pros: historic building; no-smoking rooms only; nice courtyard beer garden. Cons: restaurant not up to hotel’s standards; no air-conditioning. | Rooms from: €150 | Krauterermarkt 3 | 0941/58460 | | 55 rooms, 4 suites | Breakfast; Some meals.

Kaiserhof am Dom.
$ | HOTEL | Renaissance windows punctuate the green facade of this historic city mansion, but the rooms are 20th-century modern. Try for one with a view of the cathedral, which stands directly across the street. Breakfast is served beneath the high-vaulted ceiling of a 14th-century chapel. Pros: front rooms have a terrific view; historic breakfast room. Cons: front rooms are noisy; no restaurant or bar. | Rooms from: €95 | Kramg. 10-12 | 0941/585-350 | | Closed Dec. 21-Jan. 8 | 30 rooms | Breakfast.


The winding alleyways of the Altstadt are packed with boutiques, ateliers, jewelers, and other small shops offering a vast array of arts and crafts. You may also want to visit the Neupfarrplatz market (Monday through Saturday 9-4), where you can buy regional specialties such as Radi (juicy radish roots), which locals wash down with a glass of wheat beer.


Regensburg offers a range of musical experiences, though none so moving as a choral performance at the cathedral. TIP Listening to the Regensburger Domspatzen, the boys’ choir at the cathedral, can be a remarkable experience, and it’s worth scheduling your visit to the city to hear them (0941/796-2260; The best sung Mass is held on Sunday at 9 am. If you’re around in summer, look out for the Citizens Festival (Bürgerfest) and the Bavarian Jazz Festival (Bayerisches Jazzfest | in July, both in the Old Town.

The kind of friendly, mixed nightlife that has become hard to find in some cities is alive and well in this small university city in the many Kneipen, combination bars and restaurants, such as the Leerer Beutel.

EN ROUTE: It’s about a two-hour drive on the autobahn between Regensburg and Passau. Be forewarned, however, that if your trip coincides with a German holiday, it can be stop-and-go traffic for hours along this stretch. Halfway between Regensburg and Passau, the village of Metten is a worthwhile diversion or break. Stop to refuel at Cafe am Kloster (Marktplatz 1 | 0991/998-9380). Once you are seated in the beer garden, the quality and the prices may well tempt you to linger longer than you had anticipated.

Benedictine monastery.
Metten’s Benedictine monastery, founded in the 9th century by Charlemagne, is an outstanding example of baroque art. The 18th-century library holds a collection of 160,000 books whose gilded leather spines are complemented by the heroic splendor of their surroundings—Herculean figures support the frescoed, vaulted ceiling, and allegorical frescoes and fine stuccowork identify different categories of books. In the church is Cosmas Damian Asam’s altarpiece Lucifer Destroyed by St. Michael; created around 1720; it has vivid coloring and a swirling composition that are typical of the time. | Abteistr. 3 | Metten | 7 km (4½ mile) west of Deggendorf | 0991/91080 | €3 | Guided tours Tues.-Sun. at 10 and 3, except church holidays.


137 km (85 miles) southeast of Regensburg, 179 km (111 miles) northeast of Munich.

Flanking the borders of Austria and the Czech Republic, Passau dates back more than 2,500 years. Originally settled by the Celts, then by the Romans, it later passed into the possession of prince-bishops whose domains stretched into present-day Hungary. In 752 a monk named Boniface founded the diocese of Passau, which at its height would be the largest church subdivision in the entire Holy Roman Empire.

Passau’s location is truly unique. Nowhere else in the world do three rivers—the Ilz from the north, the Danube from the west, and the Inn from the south—meet. Wedged between the Inn and the Danube, the Old Town is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets lined with beautifully preserved burgher and patrician houses and riddled with churches. Many streets have been closed to traffic, making the Old Town a fun and mysterious place to explore.

Getting Here and Around

Passau is on the A-3 autobahn from Regensburg to Vienna. It’s an hour from Regensburg and about four hours from Vienna by train.


The Passau tourist office leads tours May through October at 10:30 and 2:30 on weekdays and at 2:30 on Sunday; November through April the tours are held weekdays at noon. Tours start at the entrance to the cathedral. A one-hour tour costs €4.

Donauschiffahrt Wurm + Köck.
In Passau cruises on the three rivers begin and end at the Danube jetties on Fritz-Schäffer Promenade. Donauschiffahrt Wurm + Köck runs 12 ships with capacity varying from 250 to 1,100 passengers. Options for tours include city sightseeing from the water, excursions with time ashore, an evening cruise with dinner, and a popular full-day excursion to the Austrian city of Linz, which departs at 9 am. | Passau | 0851/929-292 | | From €8.70; dinner cruises from €28.50.


Passau can be toured in the course of one leisurely day. Try to visit the Dom at noon to hear a recital on the world’s largest organ. Early morning is the best time to catch the light falling from the east on the Old Town walls and the confluence of the three rivers.


Passau’s Christmas market is the biggest and most spectacular of the Bavarian Forest. It’s held in the heart of the city’s Altstadt, at the steps of Dom St. Stephan, from late November until just before Christmas. | Dompl. |

Europäische Wochen (European Weeks).
Passau is the cultural center of Lower Bavaria. Its Europäische Wochen festival—featuring everything from opera to pantomime—is a major event on the European music calendar. The festival runs from mid-June to July or early August and is held in venues all over the city. | Dr.-Hans-Kapfinger-Str. 22 |


Visitor Information
Tourist-Information Passau. | Rathauspl. 3 | 0851/955-980 |


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Top Attractions

Fodor’s Choice | Dom St. Stephan (St. Stephan’s Cathedral).
The cathedral rises majestically on the highest point of the earliest-settled part of the city. A baptismal church stood here in the 6th century, and 200 years later, when Passau became a bishop’s seat, the first basilica was built. It was dedicated to St. Stephan and became the original mother church of St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna. A fire reduced the medieval basilica to ruins in 1662; it was then rebuilt by Italian master architect Carlo Lurago. What you see today is the largest baroque basilica north of the Alps, complete with an octagonal dome and flanking towers. Little in its marble- and stucco-encrusted interior reminds you of Germany, and much proclaims the exuberance of Rome. Beneath the dome is the largest church organ assembly in the world. Built between 1924 and 1928 and enlarged in 1979-80, it claims no fewer than 17,774 pipes and 233 stops. The church also houses the most powerful bell chimes in southern Germany. | Dompl. | 0851/3930 | Free; concerts midday €4, evening €8 | Daily 6:30-10:45 and 11:30-6. Tours May-Oct., weekdays at 12:30; Nov.-Apr., weekdays at noon.

Domplatz (Cathedral Square).
This large square in front of the Dom is bordered by sturdy 17th- and 18th-century buildings, including the Alte Residenz, the former bishop’s palace and now a courthouse. The neoclassical statue at the center is Bavarian King Maximilian I, who watches over the Christmas market in December. | Passau.

Domschatz- und Diözesanmuseum (Cathedral Treasury and Diocesan Museum).
The cathedral museum houses one of Bavaria’s largest collections of religious treasures, the legacy of Passau’s rich episcopal history. The museum is part of the Neue Residenz, which has a stately baroque entrance opening onto a magnificent staircase—a scintillating study in marble, fresco, and stucco. | Residenzpl. | €1.50 | May-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 10-4.

Veste Oberhaus (Upper House Stronghold).
The powerful fortress and summer castle commissioned by Bishop Ulrich II in 1219 looks over Passau from an impregnable site on the other side of the river, opposite the Rathaus. Today the Veste Oberhaus is Passau’s most important museum, containing exhibits that illustrate the city’s 2,000-year history. From the terrace of its café-restaurant (open Easter-October), there’s a magnificent view of Passau and the convergence of the three rivers. | Oberhaus 125 | 0851/493-3512 | | €5 | May-Oct., weekdays 9-5, weekends 10-6 | Bus (€5) from Rathauspl. Apr.-Nov., daily every ½ hr 10:30-5.

Worth Noting

Glasmuseum (Glass Museum).
The world’s most comprehensive collection of European glass is housed in the lovely Hotel Wilder Mann. The history of Central Europe’s glassmaking is captured in 30,000 items, from baroque to art deco, spread over 35 rooms. The museum also houses the world’s largest collection of cookbooks. | Höllg. 1 | 0851/35071 | | €7 | Daily 1-6.

Passau’s 14th-century Town Hall sits like a Venetian merchant’s house on a small square fronting the Danube. It was the home of a wealthy German merchant before being declared the seat of city government after a 1298 uprising. Two assembly rooms have wall paintings depicting scenes from local history and legend, including the (fictional) arrival in the city of Siegfried’s fair Kriemhild, from the Nibelungen fable. The Rathaus tower has Bavaria’s largest glockenspiel, which plays daily at 10:30, 2, and 7:25, with an additional performance at 3:30 on Saturday. | Rathauspl. | 0851/3960 | €1.50 | Apr.-Oct. and late Dec.-early Jan., daily 10-4.

Römermuseum Kastell Boiotro (Roman Museum).
While excavating a 17th-century pilgrimage church, archaeologists uncovered a stout Roman fortress with five defense towers and walls more than 12 feet thick. The Roman citadel Boiotro was discovered on a hill known as the Mariahilfberg on the south bank of the river Inn, with its Roman well still plentiful and fresh. Pottery, lead figures, and other artifacts from the area are housed in this museum at the edge of the site. | Ledererg. 43 | 0851/34769 | €4 | Mar.-Nov., Tues.-Sun. 10-4.


Hacklberger Bräustüberl.
$ | GERMAN | Shaded by magnificent old trees, locals sit in this famous brewery’s enormous beer garden (seating more than 1,000), sipping a Hacklberger and tucking into a plate of sausages. In winter they simply move to the wood-panel interior, where beer has been on tap from the brewery next door since 1618. | Average main: €11 | Bräuhauspl. 7 | 0851/58382 |

$$ | GERMAN | For atmospheric dining this 14th-century monastery-turned-wine cellar is a must. In summer eat beneath chestnut trees; in winter seek out the warmth of the vaulted, dark-paneled dining rooms. The wines—made in Austria from grapes from the Spitalkirche Heiliger Geist vineyards—are excellent and suit all seasons. The fish comes from the Stift’s own ponds. | Average main: €16 | Heilig-Geist-G. 4 | 0851/2607 | | Closed Wed. and last 3 wks in Jan.

Peschel Terrasse.
$ | GERMAN | The beer you sip on the high, sunny terrace overlooking the Danube is brought fresh from Peschl’s own brewery below, which, along with this traditional Bavarian restaurant, has been in the same family since 1855. | Average main: €11 | Rosstränke 4 | 0851/2489 |

Zum Suppentopf.
$ | GERMAN | Serving rustically home-style soups, just like your German grandmother makes, Zum Suppentopf is loved by locals and visitors alike, but keep a lookout—it’s easy to walk by this small restaurant without noticing. The owner, Jacques, pours his soul into every bowl, and the large selection of daily offerings—rare in a venue this size—are all freshly prepared using local ingredients. The bracing Erbseneintopf (pea stew) is a must on Passau’s misty fall afternoons. | Average main: €7 | Grabeng. 13/L | 0851/490-8560 | No credit cards.


Hotel König.
$$ | HOTEL | Though built in 1984, the König blends successfully with the graceful Italian-style buildings alongside the elegant Danube waterfront. Rooms are large and airy; some have a fine view of the river. Pros: some rooms have an impressive view of the Danube; most rooms are spacious. Cons: no restaurant; uninspired bathrooms; some small rooms. | Rooms from: €120 | Untere Donaulände 1 | 0851/3850 | | 61 rooms | Breakfast.

Hotel Weisser Hase.
$ | HOTEL | The “White Rabbit” began accommodating travelers in the early 16th century but is thoroughly modernized. Rooms are decorated with cherrywood and mahogany veneers and soft matching colors. The large bathrooms are finished in Italian marble. The hotel stands sturdily in the town center, at the start of the pedestrian shopping zone, a short walk from all the major sights. Pros: good location in the heart of Passau; friendly staff; great breakfast. Cons: street noise in the early morning; no air-conditioning. | Rooms from: €85 | Heiliggeistg. 1 | 0851/92110 | | Closed Jan.-mid-Feb. | 108 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast; Some meals.

Hotel Wilder Mann.
$ | HOTEL | Passau’s most historic hotel dates from the 11th century and is near the ancient Town Hall on the waterfront market square. Empress Elizabeth of Austria and American astronaut Neil Armstrong have been among its guests. On beds of carved oak you’ll sleep beneath chandeliers and richly stuccoed ceilings. For sheer indulgence, ask for either the King Ludwig or Sissi (Empress Elisabeth) suite. Pros: historic hotel with some luxurious suites; center of town; some rooms with nice view of the river; others are a good value. Cons: some rooms showing their age; no restaurant or bar. | Rooms from: €88 | Am Rathauspl. 1 | 0851/35071 | | 49 rooms, 5 suites | Breakfast.

Rotel Inn.
$ | HOTEL | The first permanent Rotel Inn (usually they are hotels on wheels), stretches along the bank of the Danube in central Passau and looks rather like an ocean liner—definitely for young travelers, but also fun for families. Its rooms are truly shipshape—hardly any wider than the bed inside—but they’re clean, decorated in a pop-art style, and amazingly cheap. The building’s unique design—a red, white, and blue facade with flowing roof lines—has actually been patented. “Rotels” were developed by a local entrepreneur to accommodate tour groups in North Africa and Asia. Pros: very easy on the wallet. Cons: very, very small rooms; bathrooms (shared) down the hall; no restaurant; breakfast €6. | Rooms from: €50 | Am Hauptbahnhof/Donauufer | 0851/95160 | | No credit cards | Closed Oct.-late Apr. | 100 rooms | No meals.

Schloss Ort.
$ | HOTEL | This 13th-century castle’s large rooms have views of the Inn River, which flows beneath the hotel’s stout walls. The rooms are decorated in a variety of styles, with old-fashioned four-poster beds or modern wrought-iron details. The restaurant is closed in winter and on Monday, but the kitchen will always oblige hungry hotel guests. In summer the garden terrace is a delightful place to eat and watch the river. Pros: nice garden; good restaurant. Cons: old linens; thin walls; not in the center of town. | Rooms from: €97 | Ort 11 | 0851/34072 | | 18 rooms | Breakfast.