This summer as part of the Beer MBA Tour, we landed in Bamberg. Since my father was stationed there in the 60s, I’d heard quite a lot about the city, but had never had the opportunity to visit before. I’m so glad I did! Now, besides beer, there are some great things to do in Bamberg, Germany. This city on seven hills has remarkable history, and it’s also a lovely city for a “Stadt Bummel” (just wandering around town). YES, there are plenty of cafes and shops to keep you fed and entertained. The Dom is well worth the trek up the hill. But I think it’s the flowing rivers and canals that run through the city, the Regnitz and the Main that make Bamberg so special to me. I could sit by the water, and just watch the world go by all day.
Things to do in Bamberg Germany
Ok, so you don’t want to just sit and watch the water flow…. here are some OTHER things you might want to experience.
See the Rathaus
The story behind the Bamberg Rathaus reminds me of something crafty teenagers would think up. In the mid-1400s, even though the Prince Bishop wasn’t a harsh guy, the people of Bamberg wanted to be free citizens. They took it up with the Mayor who agreed. The town’s citizens and guild leaders marched up to the Residenz to plead their case. They were met with bullets and chased down the hill. The Bishops men burned the original Rathaus down. With citizens dying around him, the Mayor and his most senior councilmen went up the hill to beg for forgiveness and peace… and to ask for a new Rathaus. The Prince Bishop agreed to peace, but REFUSED to allow a new Rathaus to be built on ANY OF HIS LAND, for fear that the building would be used to plot against him.
What to do, what to do… lots of speeches and speculation went nowhere, until one young councilman suggested building the Rathaus ON WATER.
So they did.
The Rathaus sits in the middle of the Regnitz on an artificial island. You can reach it from both sides by arched bridges. The building itself has been added on to twice since its completion. The largest section is covered in murals (look for the cherub’s leg)… but my favorite part is the Fachwerk piece that sort of cantilevers over the water.
Just through the arch on the Bergstadt side, you will find a relief map, perfect for getting perspective.
Drink a Smoked Beer
Once upon a time in Germany, all the beer was smoked beer. The “smoky” flavor came from roasting the malt over an open wood flame. Because wood is expensive, and coal makes the malt taste horrible, breweries started roasting their malt in kilns… but two locations in Bamberg have held on to the old ways (apparently, this was a decision made for both economic and stubbornness reasons). The most famous, the Schlenkerla Brewery has been in the same family for generations (and if you visit, you might see the next generation running around the restaurant).
If you visit Bamberg, you MUST visit Schlenkerla. It’s a rule (dad tells me he used to bring new soldiers there as a sort of initiation). Try the beer. The way it was explained to me is … you must DRINK it in big swallows, not sip. Drinking it down in gulps gets you used to the flavor. (Don’t panic if you still don’t care for it, there are loads of other drinks on the menu…) The food is fantastic (try the stuffed onion), and the atmosphere will take you back in time. On any Summer evening hundreds of people will stand outside drinking and enjoying each other’s company.
Want to sit in a Biergarten? You need to hike a bit up hill to Spezial. The are less known outside Bamberg, but they do have smoked beer, food, and a fantastic view. You can also visit the Spezial Restaurant and Brewery in the Inselstadt.
The Domplatz, Bamberg
Visit the Bamberg Dom
High on the hill dominating the Domplatz is the Bamberg Dom. Why go see yet ANOTHER Dom (Cathedral in Germany)? The Bamberg Dom is special. Inside you will find the burial Tomb of King Heinrich II (who started construction of the Cathedral) and his wife Kunigunde. The Tomb was carved by Tilman Riemenschneider, and is covered with stories about the couple who were both canonized.
Tomb of Heinrich II and Kunigunde
Near the tomb up on a column, you will see the Bamberger Reiter. Who is this crowned rider? He’s looking at the Tomb… so many believe he’s King Stephen of Hungary (Heinrich’s brother in law), but recent discoveries of other statues leave clues that the rider is just one part of what was going to be a larger display of the Nativity Story… and the rider is one of the Three Kings. Anyway, when was the last time you saw a horse in a Cathedral?
The Bamberg Dom is also the resting place of the only Pope buried North of the Alps, Pope Clemens II. (sounds like a Jeopardy Question to me)
Tour the Neue Residenz
On the other side of the Domplatz is the Neue Residenz (New Residence), home to the Fürstbischof or Prince Archbishop. (Under the Holy Roman Empire, Archbishops were given land and power to rule). Take a tour. Our guide was funny in an incredibly sly way. She pointed out how each room got progressively more elaborate and better decorated the closer you got to an actual audience with the Archbishop. This was their way of keeping the muddy shooed peasants off of the “good” floors. (Sort of like my Oma keeping workers in the entry hall on the tile floor.. and not letting them into the “gute Stube”). Paintings, carvings, furniture… it’s like visiting a castle, and in a way, it is one.
In the Neue Residenz, Bamberg
Enjoy the Bridges
Bamberg sits where the Regnitz and Main rivers meet, and the Regnitz River flows through Bamberg, so there are bridges connecting both sides of the city. Wide bridges, walking bridges, a bridge that goes right through the Rathaus. The best views in town are from these bridges. And if you are looking for a place to hang out on a warm summer evening, sit in a cafe and enjoy a fine meal or an Eis… or better yet, grab a beer and stand on a bridge with all the other people.
My favorite view comes from Geyerswörthsteg… the narrow bridge south of the Rathaus. You get that fabulous over water look at those cobbled together buildings. The Oberebrücke is the one that goes through the Rathaus. Stand on the East side, and look at the murals on the Rathaus Wall… see the cherub leg? But the Untere Brücke is where you want to be if you are looking to meet up with the young locals.
Do a little Shopping
I don’t know that I’ve seen a place with more antique stores than the Bamberg Altstadt. Their large well-lit picture windows make after dinner strolls fascinating! So much to look at! And then in the morning, you can go back and buy. But it’s not just antiques… there are loads of fun and funky little shops with clothes, souvenirs and books… perfect for filling your suitcase!
I have just the spot for this in my living room
The bookshop, right over the bridge from the Rathaus is my favorite! One of the newest stores is a favorite to Christmas fans everywhere- the Inge-Glas Manufaktur store. All your favorite glass ornaments only 80 steps from the Rathaus!
St Michaels Himmelsgarten The Heavenly Gardens of St Michaels
St Michaels was founded as a Benedictine Monastery under King Heinrich II in 1015, and sits high on a hill overlooking Bamberg. While the Gardens and grounds are lovely… and the Gothic architecture is impressive… and the fountains are extraordinary…what you REALLY want to see is inside. The Celestial Gardens are paintings of 578 flowers and herbs on the church ceiling. Sadly, the church is undergoing repairs, and is closed for the foreseeable future. (I want to be in line when they open it back up… for now, I content myself with a book of images).
Weyerman Malting Company
Tour the Weyermann Malting Company
Finally, for all you real beer lovers, brewers and craft beer aficionados… no visit to Bamberg would be complete without a tour of Weyermann Specialty Malts. Weyerman makes the malt for beer all over the world. The tour is interesting even for non-beer lovers because there is so much HISTORY. You get to see it all from delivery to sorting to roasting. And there is a tasting room where you can taste the malt… and a gift shop area where you can buy all sorts of interesting things (and even taste beer!!). Maps and signs all over the walls let you know just how far their malt travels. (If you do go, get a tin of Malzbonbons… Malt Candy… oh wow it’s good!) The beer guys on the tour really geeked out over this… and I really enjoyed seeing it all.
In the tasting room/gift shop at Weyermann Malting
Why Visit Bamberg?
This small city just 2 hours from Munich is well worth a visit. Food, beer, and 1000 years of history … all in a reasonable walking area. We stayed at the Hotel Messerschmidt (yes, that Messerschmidt family) just a few blocks from the Oberebrücke (delicious breakfast, and much needed AC in the heat of the Summer). There really are LOTS of things to do in Bamberg! Or, you can do nothing at all….