Bamberg, Germany is an interesting combination of four fabulous things: history, shopping, jovial beer drinking and eating (mostly sausage for me). I was looking forward to the Bamberg Christmas Market, a stop on my Uniworld Classic Christmas Markets river cruise. I had signed up for a brewery tour and knew I would have plenty of time to explore this lively, over 1000-year-old Bavarian college town.
The entire town of Bamberg is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it’s an outstanding example of a medieval town with architecture that influenced the rest of central Europe from the 11th century onward.
Like a lot of German towns, Bamberg is very walkable. Here is what I managed to do in one day.
(Click on any gallery to enlarge the photos.)
1. Bamberger Dom (Bamberg Cathedral)
We walked from the bus stop near the Hotel Messerschmitt up to the Bamberg Cathedral, stopping to view interesting architecture and historic points along the way. The 13th-century cathedral was founded in 1002 by emperor Henry II. He and his wife Cunigunde of Luxemborg are both entombed inside along with Pope Clement II. His is the only papal burial outside of Italy and France. The cathedral burned down twice but has remained intact since 1237.
A number of magnificent sculptures adorn the cathedral on both the inside and out. And, because it was Christmas time, a giant nativity added to the scenery. Visitors may attend mass here.
Fun fact: Scenes from The Three Muskateers (2011) were filmed here and our guide was telling us that local Bambergers were able to participate as extras and that they practically shut the town down during filming… inconvenient, with its small cobblestone streets.
2. Bamberg New Residence and Rose Garden
Both are located right next to Bamberg Cathedral. Pressed for time, we didn’t go inside and there were no blooms in the garden the around 4,500 roses spread over 70 beds are spectacular when in season.
But, if you’re going to the cathedral, you might as well stop at this Renaissance residence that was built in two stages. The first was constructed in 1602 by Prince Bishop von Gebsattel and the second between 1697 and 1703 as a residence for the Prince Bishop by Leonhard Dientzenhofer.
3. Visit the Old Town Hall (and See Little Venice, Too)
Probably less than a 5-minute walk away from Bamberg Cathedral is the Old Town Hall. Legend has it that the bishop of Bamberg didn’t give the citizens any land for a town hall so one was literally staked into the river Regnitz. It is accessible via a bridge and offers a lovely view of what is referred to as Bamberg’s Little Venice.
It’s a curious structure, with giant frescoes along the sides. See if you can spot the cherub leg sticking out of the fresco above.
Inside the Town Hall is the Ludwig Collection of 18th-century tabletop animal tureens that were thought at the time to represent an opulent lifestyle. The Rococo Hall where the municipality’s receptions and ceremonies occur is there, too.
4. Drink Lots (and Lots) of Beer
Bamberg was a microbrew capital centuries before the craft became trendy. Take a beer tour or plan to stop into at least one brewery. Bamberg has the world’s densest concentration of breweries. Yes, it’s as fun as it sounds.
We took a behind-the-scenes tour of Klosterbrau where they have been brewing for over 450 years. The Pilsner is the most popular but, frankly, I liked all four beers they poured.
But, Bamberg is famous for their smoked beer called Rauchbier. Malt dried over an open flame gives the beer it’s smoky flavor. If you want to try it, the best place is at the historic Schlenkerla brewpub (though it’s sold also at pubs around town) who has been serving it for over two centuries. This is where I downed a pint and though it smells unlike any other beer I’ve had, it was surprisingly good especially with a much-needed sausage and saurkraut.
4. Shop the Boutiques
Stuffed into old Baroque buildings are a variety of stores ranging from popular brands to boutiques full of German-made decor. I bought the most stuff here, ranging from German toys to pretty paper. Of course, there is a year-round Kathe Wohlfarcht store here. And, this is in addition to the Bamberg Christmas market.
5. Go to the Christmas Market
I was on a Christmas markets cruise so, of course, the medieval Christmas market in the Alte Hofhaltung was certainly a highlight. I found many of the same items here as in the other markets though did see more of an emphasis on knitwear, which I sorely needed more of due to the low temperatures. It was quite easy and low-key to browse through. Bordering the Christmas market are brand-name stores like H&M, so you can experience a little bit of old and new.
Nativity scenes are quite a big deal in Bamberg and there is a trail that leads to over 40 throughout the town. And, I was quite taken with the Christmas window boxes that line the narrow cobblestone streets here. I would certainly return and add even more breweries to the list!
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- 10 Reasons to Take a Luxury River Cruise with Uniworld
Have you been to Bamberg? Tell us what you did!
*Thank you to Uniworld for hosting me on the Classic Christmas Markets Cruise.