Don’t miss these 19 top Bamberg activities
Originally, I had planned a day trip to Bamberg from Berlin. However, when I saw that it was going to rain, I decided to change things up. I booked a hotel room in Bamberg’s fairytale old town and stayed for 2 days, in hopes of catching some sun. In this blog post, I’m going to share everything I saw, ate and experienced, summed up as the top 19 Bamberg activities for an unforgettable 48 hours.
But first, where is Bamberg and why did I go there?
I first discovered Bamberg on Instagram. A shot of the famous Old Town Hall (featured at the top of this post) caught my attention: a half-timbered house dating back to 1461, suspended over the Regnitz River. I told myself that when Corona took a break, I would hop on the train to Bamberg.
Bamberg is a regal city, built over time to resemble Rome and Venice. As a result, you will find 7 hills, each with its own church at the top, and an old-town criss-crossed with canals.
The name Bamberg first popped up in public records in the year 902. The small settlement in Upper Franconia caught the eye of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II, whose dream was to create a second Rome. As such, over the next few centuries, everyone from popes through to archbishops visited Bamberg and left their mark.
The idea of Venice came later, in the 18th century, when aristocrats started building mansions at the river’s edge. The fishermen’s quarter, due to its waterfront position, was soon called “Little Venice”, as well.
So, onto the 19 top Bamberg activities
Take a picture of the Old Town Hall from Geyerswörthsteg
Let’s start with the most famous of the top Bamberg activities. We’ll delve into the lesser known must-sees soon, promise!
Wondering where to get a shot like mine of the Old Town Hall? As I mentioned, the building is on a small island. So the best place to take a picture of it in all its glory is to cross over to one of the bridges facing it. The closest one is Geyerswörthsteg.
Visit a 14th century Gothic court turned movie set: Alte Hofhaltung
Discover Bamberg’s oldest palace and court, aptly named Alte Hofhaltung. The first buildings (no longer in existence) were built in the early 1100s. The current Gothic half-timbered houses have been there since the 15th century. And for a bit of pop culture: the courtyard was used in the filming The Three Musketeers in 2011. This definitely makes a visit to the Alte Hofhaltung one of the top Bamberg activities!
Walk through a 16th century pilgrims’ entrance to Kloster Michaelsberg
You might miss it if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The most scenic way up to the Michaelsberg Monastery starts through a little green door on Untere Sandstrasse. This is the same door pilgrims and other visitors have used since the 16th century. On the other side of the gate, a dirt path awaits, meandering its way through gardens up to the monastery.
Wander around Kloster Michaelsberg’s gardens for panoramic Bamberg views
As you make your way up towards Kloster Michaelsberg, you will be rewarded with panoramic views over town and the cloister vineyard. But don’t neglect looking around you on the way up. You will pass through a lovely garden with fruit trees, somewhat wild in places, but that only adds to the charm.
See the tomb of Emperor Henry II and his wife Cunigunde
Pay homage to the couple who started architecting the Bamberg we know today. The Emperor Henry II and his wife Cunigunde of Luxemburg’s final resting place is set in the Bamberg Cathedral, which they commissioned in 1002.
Wander the Old Town’s narrow streets
Bamberg’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and with good reason. The entire area is very well preserved, so you really do get the impression of stepping back in time as you explore.
I’m an avid walker, but I quickly realised that I needed my trainers and not my Birkenstocks to continue my adventures. It is not the smallest old town to discover – make sure you bring comfortable shoes before you get lost in the winding alleyways!
Have a local special: Rauchbier
Locals are very proud of their Rauchbier, brewed in Bamberg since the 1300s. This is a very unique type of beer with a distinct smokey taste, thus the name. You can pick some up almost everywhere food and beverages are sold. All the big supermarkets have a variety of colourful bottles in their spirits isle, as well as a number of cafes.
I brought some back for my boyfriend, who is a much bigger beer drinker than I am, and we can definitely say Rauchbier takes some getting used to. But once we had the first sips, it turned out to be quite okay. And strangely, something I would try again, if I had the opportunity – maybe at a barbecue.
Visit a 14th century brewery
For a more immersive Rauchbier experience, the Sternla brewery’s doors are open. I must admit that, while I sat down at the brewery’s biergarten (to eat a Schnitzel – shame on me for not ordering a pint!),
I did not taste beer from the tap. Instead, I purchased it at a cafe called Zweite Heimat, which I write about below. This being said, I saw brewery tours advertised and thought this activity could be of interest to many of you!
Get away from the Old Town and escape to nature: Hain Park
As is typical for most German cities, it is not hard to find expanses of greenery in Bamberg. If you’re getting tired of the Old Town’s atmosphere, venture along the Regnitz River towards Hain Park. Within a few minutes, you’ll be completely immersed in nature.
Walking along the riverbank provided my first glimpse of the ‘real Bamberg’ – or where locals go to jog, run and relax. On warm days, you can do as the locals and jump into the water to cool off. For instance, there are ramps at many places to facilitate your descent into the river. Of course, typical caution is advised (no lifeguards are on duty.
Snap some shots of Villa Concordia
While strolling along the Regnitz, it would be hard to miss the stately Villa Concordia, a Venetian-inspired mansion also known as the Water Castle.
The palace’s 18th century owner was a fan of masquerade balls and other elaborate parties. He built a villa literally on the water’s edge, where his guests could pull up directly by boat. Today, Villa Concordia is an art museum. To get the best shots of this Bamberg icon, cross to the opposite river bank.
Take a river cruise for best views of the Old Town
The best way to see Bamberg is definitely from the water. You can join a river cruise at many spots along the Regnitz, following the usual hop on, hop off concept.
If you’ve reached the edge of the Old Town on foot (pretty much at Villa Concordia), you may not wish to walk back the way you came. Since there are no bridges for several kilometres, you can simply jump on a barge that will take you to the other side of the river for 1€.
Get a Bamberg Card and visit all museums for free
This section actually encompasses more than one top Bamberg activity. To delve deeper into various aspects of Bamberg’s history, purchase a Bamberg Card on arrival. This 3-day pass not only gives you access to the city’s museums, but also to a free walking tour and unlimited use of the public transport network.
People watch at Grüner Markt
If you’re ready for a break, you can stop at Grüner Markt, a great place to sit down and people watch. A market animates this square from Monday to Saturday – and has done so since the 11th century, showcasing all kinds of regional products, from fresh produce to handmade goods.
I stumbled upon the market at closing time, but not before I got the chance to see merchants in traditional outfits, guiding their goats and donkey back home for the night.
Stroll the streets of Little Venice
For some maritime atmosphere, head down to Little Venice, a network of narrow, cobblestone streets facing the Regnitz. The half-timbered houses lining the passageways once belonged to local merchant and fishermen. While some have been restored, many have kept their original facades.
Have a Bayerische Schnitzel
While several places in the German-speaking world may dispute the origin of the Schnitzel, one thing is for certain: this dish is much loved in Bavaria. The Bavarian version of Schnitzel comes with a potato salad (cream and herbs mixed in). I must say I was very happy with mine, which I enjoyed at the Sternla biergarten.
Take a cake break at Zweite Heimat
When I visit new places, I try to stop in as many cafes as possible (read: eat and drink as much as I can!). And Bamberg has no shortage of cute eateries tucked away down fairytale passageways. Leaving Little Venice, the lovely Zweite Heimat cafe (meaning second home) drew me in. My slice of cheesecake did not disappoint and I spent a couple of hours here catching up on emails and social feeds, thanks to the free wifi.
Try the iced coffee at KARO18
I read about KARO18 while doing my research for the trip and discovered this gem thanks to the blog Bamberg Lieben. (Which you should check out if you are after even more Bamberg suggestions curated by a local with a similar aesthetic to Berlin & Around!)
KARO18 doubles up as a shop, showcasing creations by regional artists, from home goods to tasteful cards and postcards. Since it was a hot day, I grabbed an iced latte to go. The strong coffee was just what I needed, and I wished I could have come back to this cafe in the Old Town for a blog writing session. However, this will have to be for the next time!
Grab brunch at MorgenMahl
On the second day, I treated myself to breakfast at the trendy, healthy brunch spot, MorgenMahl. This is a popular restaurant with locals, so don’t do as I did and just show up. Rather, reserve a table. Fortunately, the staff was able to seat me next to the window, but I only had an hour to enjoy my açai bowl and latte (this time warm).
Get a feel for the “real Bamberg” in the hills
Almost all of my top Bamberg activities are in, or close to, the old town. While some locals live and work in the Altstadt, most Bamberger have taken up residence in the hills all around.
I did not spend nearly enough time roaming these residential areas, but I did venture up Alter Graben and Untere Seelgasse. After a steep climb, I discovered a leafy, quite neighbourhood with elegant homes and sweeping views over the old town, river and parks of Bamberg.
During my two days in Bamberg, I was a traveller on a mission: to see as much as possible during my limited time. While I did tick off the ‘musts’ first, I was grateful for the extra 24 hours to start to get a feel for Bamberg as the locals experience it. Indeed, I can picture myself coming back time and time again – and adding many more places to this list of top Bamberg activities.
PS: Save these top Bamberg activities for your visit!