The City on Seven Hills
As originally planned for this weekend to Nuremberg, we would not leave this place without the mandatory visit to nearby jewel city of Bamberg. At just 63 kilometres north, a short 40 minutes commuter train ride from Nuremberg, this was the perfect place to spend the entire Sunday before heading back for the late evening flight back to London. Way more than enough time to completely enjoy the city and sparing some time for great lunch and dinner, coffee and cake and some gingerbread cookies. Both Nuremberg and Bamberg are great cities and compliment each other. While an entire weekend at one of them could be too much, visiting both is the most logical way, not to mention that if you count with an extra day to spare, then do not hesitate in including the other World Heritage city of Regensburg.
The city has by nickname the “Franconian Rome” because it is built on 7 hills, like Rome is. Each of the hill crowned by a church, being the most important Cathedral Hill. Although Bamberg is small, it is home to an enormous historic patrimony and an almost intact medieval core and appearance. This has lead it for being included in the UNESCO list as a World Heritage Site. A “little” over 1000 years of history since its foundation in 973, and an incredible rich history with an ever increasing eager to built better and grander through the centuries, where now most of its sights are still there to enjoy and admire.
As opposed to majority of other cities where you can follow a well defined route when doing your sightseeing tour, here in Bamberg this is a bit more complicated to do. There are too many places you could go, and every of them is full of history and sights therefore the best and only option is to make a route of loops and zig-zags, back and forth’s. Don’t just concentrate in the key sights because the city is way much more than that with absolutely every street worth the walk.
Like for any city in Bavaria, you should enjoy the many traditional breweries serving not only great beer produced in-house, but the food. Sausages of course are the speciality, but it’s not just that (I in fact am not too fan of these traditional Nuremberg/Bamberg sausages as I find a strong pork flavour to my taste), it is also quite popular any kind of roast. Meaty and hearty dishes are very traditional in the region. And just for your information, be careful in not ordering too much. Quantities tend to be not just large but extra large!, and so is the beer, ordering a small glass seems awkward as the logical is getting the 1 litre big and heavy jag.
There’s not much more to be said for this introduction so I move to the sights section. For more information about Bamberg check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Germany’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Bamberg
- East of the canal and Regnitz river The Main-Danube Canal marks the limit of the historic old town with the new areas at the east. Here you will find the big transport hub around the main train station.
-Train Station Not as pretty as that in Nuremberg, but this will highly be your point of arrival in the city.
-Luitpold Street This is the main street from the train station all the way direct to the Main-Danube Canal and the south corner of old town across the Luitpold bridge.
-St. Gangolf Church One of the oldest structures in the city in pretty much the same shape since its construction in the 11th century. Located on Theuerstadt, a side street from Luitpold.
-Redeemer Church Few meters south from Luitpold Bridge on the eastern side of the Main-Danube Canal. From the bridge you can get a nice view towards it.
-Kettenbrücke Parallel to Luitpold Bridge, this links the west of the city directly to the heart of the old town. Cross through this bridge rather than Luitpold when on your sightseeing tour.
- West of the canal and Regnitz river – The Old Town This is the historic core, listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site and what is truly worth it and rewarding for coming to Bamberg.
-Guards Building Few meters ahead from Kettenbrücke along Main Street is the former guard house, built in 1774 in Baroque style.
-Maxplatz One of the major landmarks in Bamberg is this square, one of the largest and most beautiful.
-New Town Hall Occupying the entire north side of the square.
-Grüner Markt Building At the opposite side of the New Town Hall, was the vegetable market, nowadays shopping area.
-Karstadt Next to the Grüner Markt, is the biggest shopping mall within the historic old town, retaining the beautiful facade overlooking the square.
-University of Bamberg Right behind the Karstadt you will find the city centre campus of the university with few buildings of great architecture and history.
-Heumarkt Small square few meters west of the Maxplatz, right north of the University. The small streets all around here are worth to get lost and discover.
-Grüner Markt When continuing pass through the Maxplatz, along the Main Street (Hauptwachstraße) that lies on the east you will reach the next important space in Bamberg, the large pedestrian and shopping area leading to Lange Straße (Long Street).
-Martinskirche Built from 1686 in Franconian Baroque style presides the Grüner Markt.
-Lange Straße One of the most beautiful and historic street where at both sides are the original medieval houses perfectly restored.
-Fruit Market This small square is the beginning of Lange Straße. A street behind is the famous Old Town Hall and the bridges across the river.
-Schönleinsplatz The eastern end of Lange Straße, a green park-square.
-Hoffmann Theatre The largest in the city, is immediately south from the Schönleinsplatz, surrounded by parks on each side.
-Geyerswörth Palace West from the Hoffmann Theatre, built for the wealthy Geyer family from Nuremberg, then used by the Bishops of Bamberg.
-Obere and Untere Bridge Both crossing the river, connecting the Fruit Market by the Old Town Hall that sits in the middle of both bridges. This is the iconic image of the city, the most picturesque. The Geyerswörth Palace has the northern tip meters from the Obere Bridge where you get a nice picture from.
-Old Town Hall A masterpiece of architecture and idyllic location between bridges in an island by the Regnitz River. Surely your cover picture of the city.
-Dominikanerstraße and Carolinenstraße Both are the streets that start after the bridges of the Old Town Hall heading west towards the Domplatz (Cathedral Square). Making some street zig-zag over here is the best you can do to enjoy the countless historic buildings everywhere in the area.
-Domplatz Cathedral Square, in Cathedral Hill, one of the 7 hills of Bamberg. This is your next postcard perfect landmark in the city. The square is absolutely surrounded on all sides by spectacular buildings.
-Bamberg Dom The Cathedral was completed in the 13th century in Romanesque style after the previous 2 that stood in the place burned down. Don’t miss inside the tomb of the founder and his wife, the Empress Kunigunde carved in 1499 and 1513 and considered a masterpiece of Tilman Riemenschneider; while in the exterior the statue Bamberg Horseman (Bamberger Reiter), dating from 1237 possibly depicting the Hungarian king Stephen I.
-Diocesan Museum Attached to the western facade of the Cathedral, home to rare textiles from the 11th and 12th centuries.
-Alte Hofhaltung The Old Palace. Was the residence of the bishops in the 16th and 17th centuries. The inner court provides a great view of its wooden outer corridors.
-New Residenz Right opposite the Old Palace, perhaps the most celebrated building in the city. Built between 1697–1703 by Johann Dientzenhofer on behalf of Prince-Bishop Lothar Franz von Schönborn. The State Library occupies most of the building was founded in 1803.
-Jakobsberg One of the 7 hills, home to the Jacob’s Church, one of the oldest core churches in the city with origins in 1073 although its current look is from the 18th century. It is located farther west from the Domplatz along Carolinenstraße.
-Michaelsberg Another of the 7 hills, home to the St Michael’s Abbey. You can reach this place from Jacob’s Church along (you guessed) Michaelsberg Street, where you get also the best views of it higher up. It was founded in 1015, with the current buildings mostly from the late 15th century.
- South and west of the Domplatz area Splitting the city into this 3rd section, here you will find the other remaining hills of Bamberg with their respective sights.
-Unterer, Mittlerer and Oberer Kaulberg That’s the main street heading west from the Geyerswörth Palace, near the Old Town Hall, going up into one of the 7 hills of the city, right at the front of the Cathedral Hill.
-Upper Parish Church Consecrated in 1387, built in Gothic style.
-Kaulberg Abbey At the higher part of the street is this abbey, in origin a hospital for the sick and poor, then a monastery and church in baroque style.
-Stefansberg The next hill out of the 7 (although nowadays it is pretty hard to know where the hills are). From the Upper Parish Church, on the perpendicular street to Unterer Kaulberg you will reach the St Stephan’s Church.
-Altenburger The 6th hill out of the 7. This is a farther place to reach, and I would only recommend you to go if you have the time for it. Here you will find the Altenburger Castle. Dating back to 1109, since it is at one of the higher points in the city you can get nice views.
-Abtsberg That’s the 7 and last of the hills in Bamberg. Located to the north from Michaelsberg, there is nothing here of special mention.
The nearest airport is Nuremberg, conveniently at 60 kilometres south. It serves a large amount of destinations both national and European routes. For inter-continental routes you will need to make a stop-over at other major German cities. The airport is the only one in the country to be linked to the city centre by a metro line, the U2 which takes you directly to the central train station where you can interchange to any of the 5 metro lines of the city, commuter trains, trams and buses. It is from here that you can take the frequent commuter trains direct to Bamberg.
Coming overland is another good option. High-speed trains criss-cross Germany and Nuremberg is a big junction linking the south to the north, west to the east and beyond into the neighbouring countries. But it’s not only the trains, but a huge network of long distance buses and the Pan-European bus routes. If planning on heading straightaway to Bamberg, then a train coming from the north will stop there without the need for going first to Nuremberg and then make what would be 60km way back.
Within the city you will not need any transportation at all. Majority of the streets and squares in the historic core are pedestrian friendly and walking is you best option. Distances are short, and unless your accommodation is on the outskirts of the city then you will not need any public transportation at all. The “longest” distance will be from the train station to the city, and if planning to go to the Altenburger Castle, farther west from the city centre.
Our visit to Bamberg was a day trip from our base in Nuremberg, therefore I cannot comment nor recommend anywhere to stay here, but I will do from our experience in Nuremberg. As for any major city and of such importance tourism and business-like, the amount of hotels is a good reflection of these facts. You have a great selection of any kind from the top of the range to more modest and anything in between. However, remember key dates like summer months and Christmas time, both are the most expensive seasons not only in hotels, but also to find a flight deal.
A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We found a great deal at the Derag Livinghotel, in Obere Kanalstrasse 11, not far south west from the old city centre and near the Gostenhof metro stations on Line 1 and the Plärrer station on Line 2. Great location to be honest, few minutes walking distance to the Waffenhof mit Spittlertorturm and Frauentorgraben Street, right by the southwestern section of the medieval walls. Considering there was not too much choice available when we started to make our research little over 10 days before our arrival date, this came as the perfect choice, a 4* property with nice facilities. It did not come with breakfast included hence I cannot comment on this if it was any good or bad, however the room was nice, large and well maintained, a full kitchenette with all appliances and plenty of space in the living room are, separate from the bed itself. The staff were very polite and friendly who took our wishes at first instance, while small details as free coffee/tea and apples in the lobby at any time makes a difference with any other hotel.