One highlight of our recent trip to Europe this fall was our brief stay in the German town of Bamberg. Knowing that our visit was going to be short, we booked a hotel right in the heart of the historic old town. I was amazed by the picturesque buildings and cobblestone streets that surrounded our hotel; the scenes were straight out of a children’s fairy tale.
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Bamberg, Germany is a fairly large city by regional standards. It is very easy to get in and out of, serviced by many train and bus lines each day. By car, it is less than an hour from Nuremberg. It is two hours from Frankfurt and just under 3 hours from Stuttgart.
Bamberg had no shortage of great food and drink options, and the area we stayed in was filled with Gasthaus restaurants and taverns. We arrived around 8 PM after traveling via Flixbus from our wonderful stay in Karlovy Vary. The town was lively and picturesque even at night.
By the time we checked in and dropped off our things, we had worked up an appetite for a big, traditional Franconian dinner. We quickly decided to try the well-rated restaurant at Hotel Alt-Ringlein (where we were staying). I splurged on the schauferla, a massive piece of roasted pork shoulder over sauerkraut with potato dumplings on the side. It was incredible.
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While researching things to do in Bamberg, I read about Schlenkerla, a very old brewery that has been operating since 1405. It is in a gorgeous building covered in windows with green shutters and beautiful red flowers spilling out of window boxes. They are most famous for their smoked rauchbier.
When we arrived at our hotel, literally right across the narrow cobblestone street from the famous brewery, we were greeted by dozens of people hanging out overflowing from the brewery enjoying the famous rauchbier. The group seemed to be a mix of tourists, college students and young locals who kept the party going well into the night. We retired around midnight, but we could hear the hum of voices in the street until 3 AM sharp, when some sort of curfew was enforced and everyone suddenly went home. The next day, before we left, I got to enjoy a pint myself without the raucous crowd. It was smoky, malty and delicious!
Before catching our early train out of town, we walked around the city in the cool morning and took in some of the beautiful architecture. I was amazed by the unbelievably picturesque Altes Rathaus, the old town hall that sits on a small island on the Regnitz river. Legend has it that a heated disagreement between the townspeople and the bishop led to the town hall being built on a manmade island in the river due to the bishop not issuing land to the citizens for this purpose.
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When you go
- If you only take one photo while in Bamberg, make sure it’s of the Altes Rathaus. Obviously, a building in the middle of the river is not something you’ll find elsewhere. Don’t limit yourself to one photo though; the whole surrounding area is full of picture-perfect houses and shops.
- A short walk up the hill from Schlenkerla is a complex of historical buildings all worth a look, and a tour if you have time. You will find Bamberger Dom (Bamberg Cathedral), the Neue Residenz (New Residence), a famous rose garden, and the Alte Hofhaltung (Old Court).
- Smoked beer: The rauchbier is one of the things Bamberg is famous for. Visit the hundreds-of-years-old tavern, or order it at many local restaurants. Consider this your culinary time machine—it used to be very difficult to get fresh food especially in the winter.
- Open air markets: Visit the Grüner Markt (green market) in the pedestrian square, northeast of the Altes Rathaus. This market can trace its origins back to the 1100s. If you happen to visit during December, do not miss the Christmas market.
Our time in Bamberg was very short, but I felt like we maximized the time we had. I was especially happy that we stayed in the heart of the old town area so that we were a short walk away from all our must-see places. Personally, I have the most fun while traveling when I’m prioritizing trying local cuisine and drinks. Bamberg exceeded my expectations, and I would go back in an instant if I had the chance.
All photos by Doug and Staci Jackson for The Voyageer.