A guest blog by writer and educator Naomi Kaye Honova
One of the Bavarian towns that always left a lasting impression on me is quaint yet gorgeous Bamberg. It’s a UNESCO heritage site due to its well-preserved old town center and blend of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. So if you’re a fan of beautiful buildings and historic town centers like me, that’s already a plus point. That’s not all Bamberg has to offer, though: the waterside canal district is a lovely place for spending a sunny afternoon or a picnic, it boasts one of the most famous cathedrals in Germany, and it’s also renowned for a rather special kind of beer: Rauchbier, a beer with a unique smoked flavor that you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
The surrounding areas of Franconia near Bamberg also have a lot to offer and are fairly accessible from Bamberg if you’re staying in the region for a couple of days and want to explore a bit, or even if you’re day-tripping from other parts of Bavaria, so I’ve included a few of our family favorites in the line-up as well. All of the day trips can be accessed by public transit, though note that the Devil’s Cave is admittedly better accessed by car from Bamberg.
Here’s a couple of must-see stops I can personally vouch for:
This stunning 13th-century cathedral is generally regarded as one of Germany’s most gorgeous churches, so it’s pretty much a must-see for a Bamberg visit. It remained intact during World War II and is therefore pretty much in its original state. You can easily spend an hour or more here - I certainly did - checking out the tombs, relics, statues and artwork in this Romanesque masterpiece.
Bamberg’s “mini Venice” is hard to miss. Its lovely canal and boat locks were initially used for boat transit, but historically this wasn’t super successful, so these days the canal and boat locks serve more of a aesthetic charm purpose. You can’t beat a stroll or a beverage on a lovely summer or fall day in Bamberg by the water and the picturesque houses lining the canal.
I feel that Bamberg’s Rosengarten offers something for everyone. If you’re a fan of plants and florals, its roses and flowers in full bloom are a sight to see (and smell)! Built in the 1700s in a Baroque style, it sits behind the Bamberg Residenz and architecture and history buffs can admire the surrounding buildings as well as statues and fountains within the garden itself. Nature lovers will enjoy spotting all the birds and butterflies that come to play in this picturesque corner.
Don’t make the same silly mistake I did when I was first learning German and ordered a “Rauschbier” (stoned beer) in Bamberg instead of the smoked Rauchbier! It certainly brought a smile to the waiter’s face, but I’m not sure I would recommend this attempt. Nevertheless, the local beer is unusual and certainly worth a taste. The classic spot to try this specialty is Schlenkerla, conveniently located in the center of Bamberg.
Less than an hour’s trip by public transportation from Bamberg, Erlangen is another town well worth a jaunt. (It has a strong personal connection for our family as my husband actually teaches there!) Noted for its large university, the annual Bergkichweih beer festival and some lovely historic buildings and cathedrals, there’s plenty to see in the center of town on a day trip. If you’re considering a longer stay, there are some beautiful natural sights near Erlangen, such as the Brucker Lache wetlands, several forests and valleys and a protected grassland area.
Wurzburg scores big points from me personally as a fan of over-the-top Rococo and Baroque architecture, as it sports quite a number of buildings in these styles. Also a fairly easy day trip from Bamberg, its lush Residenz (royal palace) is certainly a highlight. But another big reason for a Wurzburg trip is its draws for wine fans. Since Wurzburg is located in a wine-growing region, vinophiles will have a blast sampling delicious local whites. You can opt to take a vineyard tour or simply enjoy a glass at a Wurzburg cafe.
Translating to “the devil’s cave,” this dripstone cave is the largest one of its kind in Franconia and makes for an exciting and unusual day trip adventure from Bamberg. You can take a guided tour of the cave’s interior year-round, and guides can typically provide English tours if requested. If you’re also into Nordic walking, a popular German exercise, there’s a ton of Nordic walking trails around the cave as well. Tip: while theoretically you can access the cave via public transit from Bamberg, it’s admittedly a hassle and yields a much longer trip. With a car, it’s less than an hour’s drive away.
Thank you so much for sharing, Naomi!
Naomi Kaye Honova is originally from the US, but has made Germany her home for the past decade with her husband and young children. Naomi has a background in writing, history, dance and social work and is passionate about travel, being in nature and delicious food and drink. She is a freelance writer and educator and lives in Bavaria.