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The best of Bamberg, Germany

Bamberg is steeped in history. Referred to as ‘the Rome of Germany’ due to the 7 hills that rise above the Regnitz river were similar typography to that of Rome. 

Thus a church was built on each hilltop. Beautiful old houses, a lazy river and a quaint custom of smokey beer. Bamberg is a  special place 

Bamberg is a town located in south central Germany, a bit closer to the border with the Czech Republic in the east than it is to the French/Luxembourg border in the west.  Formally, it was located in Upper Franconia, in the Bavaria region of Germany.

town of Bamberg

The city enjoys mild temperatures year-round, consistent with this region of Germany and Europe in general.  

Around 80,000 people call Bamberg home as of the latest census.  Many more visit each year, thanks in part to the impressive efforts at preserving large parts of the town in their authentic medieval style.  This has led to the Old Town district being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

History of Bamberg

The early history of Bamberg isn’t as well-documented as the history for some larger towns and major cities throughout Germany and elsewhere in Europe.  As a smaller town, there weren’t records kept as far back as in larger cities.  

However, it can definitively be stated that the area was settled, and was referenced as a town as early as 902 AD.  It was largely passed as a family inheritance among its ruling houses, especially as Christianity spread to the lands. 

In the first few decades of the 1000s, much of the work on the Bamberg Cathedral was begun, along with the founding of the Michaelsberg Abbey.  For a brief time, Bamberg served as the center of the Holy Roman Empire as well.

By the mid-1200s, the local bishops were considered princes of the Empire, and ran Bamberg under the old Bisphoric system.  Its land holdings grew, as did the prominence of monuments, churches, and other works.  

The Reformation saw a reduction in the size of the lands then under Bamberg control, and much of the town’s history in the 1600s and 1700s mirrors that of other lands in the region.  

By 1802, as church lands became secularized, the region of Bamberg lost its independence and was folded into Bavaria, which, in turn, was later folded into the German state. 

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Attractions and Things to Do

Much of Bamberg, particularly in the Old Town district, remains intact and largely preserved, meaning many of the buildings and monuments date to the 1200s-1600s period.  

As the leadership and rule of the lands that Bamberg is situated upon remained comparatively stable throughout its history, and it avoided significant damage in World War II, it is one of the finest examples of medieval times in Bavaria and Germany as a whole. 

Many of the attractions and things to do in Bamberg, consequently, relate to the historic buildings, architecture, cathedrals, religious sites, and cultural centers that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Bamberg Old Town.  Some of the most popular places to see and things to do in Bamberg include:

  • Bamberg Cathedral, which we’ll talk about in more detail below in the next section.
  • Michaelsberg Abbey, which dates to the early 1200s.
  • Bamberg State Library, inside the Neue Residenz (New Residence).
  • Neue Residenz, home to bishops of Bamberg from the 1600s onward.
  • The Old Town Hall, which dates to 1386.
  • Klein-Venedig, or Little Venice, an area of small fishing houses dating to the 1800s along the banks of the river Regnitz.
  • Altenburg Castle, which was a home for the bishops of Bamberg at one point in history.
  • Numerous churches including Jakobskirche (11th century), Marienkirche (14th century), and Michaelskirche (12th century).
  • Several bridges, monuments, and fountains that date as far back as the 1400s.
  • The Old Palace (Alte Hofhaltung) dates to the late 1500s.
  • Underground tunnels that are the remnants of mining excavation, which were converted to air raid shelters during World War II, and a portion of which remain open for tours today.
  • Bamberg is home to nine breweries, many of which offer tours and free samples.

The Cathedral

Bamberg Cathedral is synonymous with the city of Bamberg, and is one of the biggest tourist draws in the town.  It was originally built in the early 1000s, rebuilt in the early 1100s after the original was partially destroyed in a fire, and updated in the 13th century to the Romanesque style that it retains today.  It has four towers of around 80 meters in height. 

The Bamberg Cathedral is now home to numerous expositions and cultural attractions, including numerous historic works of art, statues, and other relics from its history.  It is considered one of the best-preserved examples of Romanesque cathedral in Germany and Europe as a whole. 

There are many towns just as quaint and beautiful that I am sailing to in our City of Lights and Swiss Alps cruises. Have a look at my brief guides to many in the Itinerary Highlights section

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