Located over seven hills like another famous city, this Bavarian town is nicknamed the “Franconian Rome”. Picture perfect around every corner, Bamberg has one of Europe’s largest intact medieval town centers which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its winding narrow streets and half-timbered architecture are the holy grail of fairy tale Germany.
But the city is more than just a gorgeous still life. Universität Bamberg has over 10,000 students, the nearby US Army Base has around 4,000 members and dependents, which results in nearly 7,000 foreign residents. On an average weekend night, the downtown is a mixing pot of international locals.
Here is where to start your visit with the 8 top attractions in Bamberg, Germany.
1. Take a Picture of the Iconic Altes Rathaus
Getty Images / Val Thoermer
Precariously perched above the river Regnitz on its own island, the old town hall is connected to the rest of Bamberg by two bridges. Its unusual location is due to a dispute with the bishop where the townspeople were not allowed to build on the mainland, so they created a safe haven from which to rule their city.
The building is decorated in a hodgepodge of styles with allegorical paintings on both sides showing how the Rathaus was created. Observe the decorative balconies, Baroque details and cheeky cherubs. Inside, the Ludwig Collection is on display with 18th-century delicate figurines and porcelain.
2. Be Regal at the Neue Residenz & Rosengarten
Explore the four wings of the New Palace with tours of over 40 state rooms decorated with 17th and 18th century tapestries. In the Imperial Hall there are 16 magnificent portraits of emperors. This was the seat of Bamberg’s prince bishops until 1802.
Overlooking the city, a baroque rosengarten (rose garden) features more than 4,500 types of roses and superb views of lower Bamberg.
3.Sip the Smoke
The city is known for its independent brewery scene and unique rauchbier (smoke beer). This is due to the unusual malting process where grains are smoked over a beechwood fire. Sample the beer at all nine of the traditional breweries to get a sense of Bamberg’s distinct flavor.
If that beer’s strong smell and taste isn’t your ding (thing), Bamberg breweries serve over 50 other types of beer,
4. Step into Little Venice
GettyImages / Thomas Robbin
From Altes Rathaus you can see the Klein-Venedig (“Little Venice”) section of Bamberg. This fishermen’s district encapsulates the charm of the town with a row of colorful 14 to 17th Century half-timbered houses. Walk the crowded waterfront that serves as the stage for the yearly Sandkerwa festival in August.
5. Look to the Hevens and the Cathedral
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The Bamberger Dom was founded in 1004, burned down both in the 11th and 12th centuries, and the current structure was finally completed in the 13th century.
It towers over the altstadt (old city) and holds the tombs of Emperor Henry II and Pope Clement II, the only papal burial ground north of the Alps. Look for the mysterious statue of the Bamberger Reiter from the early 1200s which serves as a symbol of the city and join one of the many guided tours and organ recitals.
6. Get Pious at the Monastary
Kloster Michaelsberg provides a picturesque backdrop to the rose garden, or for visitors that make the trek up, a panoramic view back at Bamberg.
Founded in 1015 in the Baroque style, the church was rebuilt after a fire in 1610 in the neo-Gothic style. Upon entering the church, look up to observe the “Garden of Heaven”, a ceiling painting of 578 flowers and medicinal herbs.
7. Research the History of Bamberg
Von Reinhard Kirchner – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2588389
Located next door to the cathedral and with the halls of the Alte Hofhaltung (old court hall), Bamberg’s historical museum covers the complete background of the city as well as a large art collection, coins and astronomical and mathematical tools. At Christmas, visitors will find a compilation of nativity scenes.
8. Storm the Castle on the Hill
GettyImages / TomekD76
Located on the tallest hill of Bamberg, the current castle structure dates back to 1109. After going through several owners and periods of abandonment, the castle has been refurbished and is now open for tours and events. Plus it offers superb views of the town below.