58 Best Sights in Franconia and the German Danube, Germany

Hauptmarkt

Nuremberg's central market square was once the city's Jewish Quarter. In 1349, Emperor Charles IV instigated a pogrom that left the Jewish Quarter in flames and more than 500 dead. He razed the ruins and resettled the remaining Jews so he could build this square. Towering over the northwestern corner, Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) looks as though it should be on the summit of some lofty cathedral. Carved around the year 1400, the elegant 60-foot-high Gothic fountain is adorned with 40 figures arranged in tiers—prophets, saints, local noblemen, electors, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the Great. A golden ring set into the railing is said to bring good luck to those who touch it. A market still operates here on weekdays. Its colorful stands are piled high with produce, fruit, bread, homemade cheeses and sausages, sweets, and anything else you might need for a snack or picnic. The Markt is also the site of the famous Christkindlesmarkt.

Historisches Museum

The municipal museum vividly relates the cultural history of Regensburg. It's one of the highlights of the city, both for its unusual and beautiful setting—a former Gothic monastery—and for its wide-ranging collections, from Roman artifacts to Renaissance tapestries and remains from Regensburg's 16th-century Jewish ghetto. The most significant exhibits are the paintings by Albrecht Altdorfer (1480–1538), a native of Regensburg and, along with Cranach, Grünewald, and Dürer, one of the leading painters of the German Renaissance. Altdorfer's work has the same sense of heightened reality found in that of his contemporaries, in which the lessons of Italian painting are used to produce an emotional rather than a rational effect. His paintings would not have seemed out of place among those of 19th-century Romantics. Far from seeing the world around him as essentially hostile, or at least alien, he saw it as something intrinsically beautiful, whether wild or domesticated. Altdorfer made two drawings of the old synagogue of Regensburg, priceless documents that are on exhibit here.

Karmelitenkirche

This lovely church, in the baroque style from crypt to cupola, stands next to the Alte Kapelle. It has a finely decorated facade designed by the 17th-century Italian master Carlo Lurago.

Alter Kornmarkt, Regensburg, 93047, Germany
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free

Recommended Fodor's Video

Kloster Banz

This abbey, which some call the "holy mountain of Bavaria," sits majestically on the west bank of the Main river north of Bamberg. There had been a monastery here since 1069, but the present buildings—now a political-seminar center and think tank—date from the end of the 17th century. The highlight of the complex is the Klosterkirche (Abbey Church), the work of architect Leonard Dientzenhofer and his brother, the stuccoist Johann Dientzenhofer (1663–1726). Balthasar Neumann later contributed a good deal of work. Concerts are occasionally held in the church, including some by members of the renowned Bamberger Symphoniker.

Liberation Hall

This singular rotunda, conceived in an eccentric mishmash of styles, commemorates Germany's victory over Napoleon during the Wars of Liberation and the unification of the German nation. Designed in a polygonal shape, its 18 supporting buttresses are topped with massive 20-foot sculptures representing the German tribes. Inside, 34 winged victory goddesses sculpted in white marble symbolize the states of the German confederation. Triumphal in every detail, from the lofty coffered ceilings to the arched galleries, not to mention its setting atop a high hill overlooking the river and countryside, it's a sight worth seeing. The best way to get here is on foot (it's just over a half-mile from the port) or via the Ludwigsbahn shuttle train from the Kelheim port, which leaves every hour and offers lovely views along with an informative guide.
Befreiungshallestraße 3, Kelheim, 93309, Germany
09441–682–070
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €3.50, Mid-Mar.–Oct., daily 9-6; Nov.–mid-Mar., daily 9-4

Markgräfliches Opernhaus

In 1745 Margravine Wilhelmine commissioned the Italian architects Giuseppe and Carlo Bibiena to build this rococo jewel, sumptuously decorated in red, gold, and blue. Apollo and the nine Muses cavort across the baroque frescoed ceiling. It was this delicate 500-seat theater that originally drew Wagner to Bayreuth; he felt that it might prove a suitable setting for his own operas. In fact, it's a wonderful setting for the concerts and operas of Bayreuth's "other" musical festivals, which the theater hosts throughout the year.

Marktplatz

A statue of Prince Albert, Victoria's high-minded consort, is surrounded by gracious Renaissance and baroque buildings in the Marktplatz. The Stadhaus, former seat of the local dukes, begun in 1500, is the most imposing structure here, with a forest of ornate gables and spires projecting from its well-proportioned facade. Opposite is the Rathaus (Town Hall). Look on the building's tympanum for the statue of the Bratwurstmännla (it's actually St. Mauritius in armor); the staff he carries is said to be the official length against which the town's famous bratwursts are measured. These tasty sausages, roasted on pinecone fires, are available on the market square.

Museum am Dom

The cathedral museum houses one of Bavaria's largest collections of religious treasures, the legacy of Passau's rich episcopal history. The museum is part of the Neue Residenz, which has a stately baroque entrance opening onto a magnificent staircase—a scintillating study in marble, fresco, and stucco.

Neue Residenz

This glittering baroque palace was once the home of the prince-electors after they moved here from the Alten Hofhaltung. In the 18th century Lothar Franz von Schönborn (called der Quadratischer [the Cube] by Bambergers as he was reportedly as wide as he was tall) planned to extend the immense palace even further. On the corner of Obere Karolinenstrasse, the timbered bonding was intentionally left unfinished so that another wing could be added. Financial difficulties and the eventual secularization of Bavarian religious building cut short these plans. The most memorable room in the palace is the Kaisersaal (Throne Room), complete with elaborate stucco work. The impressive over-dimensional ceiling frescoes of German Emperors give the impression of looking into heaven. The rose garden behind the Neue Residenz provides an aromatic and romantic spot for a stroll with a view of Bamberg's roofscape. You have to take a German-language tour to see the Residenz itself and this is the only way to see the actual apartments. You can visit the rose garden and the Staatsbibliothek (library) at any time during open hours.

Neues Museum

Anything but medieval, this museum is devoted to international design since 1945. The collection, supplemented by changing exhibitions, is in a slick, modern edifice that achieves the perfect synthesis between old and new. It's mostly built of traditional pink-sandstone ashlars, while the facade is a flowing, transparent composition of glass. The interior is a work of art in itself—cool stone, with a ramp that slowly spirals up to the gallery. Extraordinary things await, including a Joseph Beuys installation (Ausfegen, or Sweep-out) and Avalanche by François Morellet, a striking collection of violet, argon-gas-filled fluorescent tubes. The café-restaurant adjoining the museum contains modern art, silver-wrapped candies, and video projections.

Luitpoldstr. 5, Nürnberg, 90402, Germany
0911-240–20–69
Sights Details
Rate Includes: From €7, Closed Mon.

Neues Schloss

This glamorous 18th-century palace was built by the Margravine Wilhelmine, a woman of enormous energy and decided tastes. Though Wagner is the man most closely associated with Bayreuth, his choice of this setting is largely due to the work of this woman, who lived 100 years before him. Wilhelmine devoured books, wrote plays and operas (which she directed and acted in), and had buildings constructed, transforming much of the town and bringing it near bankruptcy. Her distinctive touch is evident at the palace, rebuilt when a mysterious fire conveniently destroyed parts of the original one. Anyone with a taste for the wilder flights of rococo decoration will love it. Some rooms have been given over to one of Europe's finest collections of faience pottery.

Neupfarrplatz

Prior to 1519, this oversized square was once the heart of the Jewish ghetto. The Neupfarrkirche (New Parish Church) here, built as a pilgrimage church, was given to the Protestants, hence its bare-bones interior. In the late 1990s, excavation work on the square uncovered well-kept cellars and, to the west of the church, the old synagogue, including the foundations of its Romanesque predecessor. Archaeologists salvaged the few items they could from the old stones. Recovered items were carefully restored and are on exhibit in the Historisches Museum. Only one small underground area to the south of the church, the Document, accommodates viewing of the foundations. In a former cellar, surrounded by the original walls, visitors can watch a short video reconstructing life in the old Jewish ghetto. Over the old synagogue, the Israeli artist Dani Karavan designed a stylized plaza where people can sit and meet.

Regensburg, 93047, Germany
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Document €5

Nuremberg Trials Memorial

The victorious Allies put Nazi leaders and German organizations on trial here in 1945 and 1946 as part of the first International War Crimes Tribunal. The trials took place in the Landgericht (Regional Court) in courtroom No. 600 and resulted in 11 death sentences, among other convictions. The actual courtroom is no longer in use but can close for special events. Guided tours in English by special request only.

Obere Pfarre

Bamberg's wealthy burghers built no fewer than 50 churches. The Church of Our Lady, known simply as the Obere Pfarre (Upper Parish), dates back to around 1325 and is unusual because the exterior is entirely Gothic, while the interior is heavily baroque. The grand choir, which lacks any windows, was added much later. An odd squarish box tops the church tower; this watchman's post was placed there to keep the tower smaller than the neighboring cathedral, thus avoiding a medieval scandal. Note the slanted floor, which allowed crowds of pilgrims to see the object of their veneration, a 14th-century Madonna. Don't miss the Ascension of Mary by Tintoretto at the rear of the church. Around Christmas, the Obere Pfarre is the site of the city's greatest Nativity scene. Avoid the church during services, unless you've come to worship.

Untere Seelg., Bamberg, 96049, Germany

Porta Praetoria

In AD 179 the Romans built a rough-hewn stone gate in the northern wall of the Roman military camp. The Porta Praetoria  is one of the most interesting relics of Castra Regina. Look through the grille on its east side to see a section of the original Roman road, about 10 feet below today's street level.

Unter den Schwibbögen, Regensburg, 93047, Germany

Rathaus

Passau's 14th-century Town Hall sits like a Venetian merchant's house on a small square fronting the Danube. It was the home of a wealthy German merchant before being declared the seat of city government after a 1298 uprising. Two assembly rooms have wall paintings depicting scenes from local history and legend, including the (fictional) arrival in the city of Siegfried's fair Kriemhild, from the Nibelungen fable. The Rathaus tower has Bavaria's largest glockenspiel, which plays daily at 10:30, 2, and 7:25, with an additional performance at 3:30 on Saturday.

Rathauspl., Passau, 93042, Germany
0851-3960
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €2

Richard-Wagner-Museum

"Wahnfried," built by Wagner in 1874 and the only house he ever owned, is now the Richard-Wagner-Museum. It's a simple, austere neoclassical building whose name, "peace from madness," was well earned. Wagner lived here with his wife Cosima, daughter of pianist Franz Liszt, and they were both laid to rest here. King Ludwig II of Bavaria, the young and impressionable "Fairy-Tale King" who gave Wagner so much financial support, is remembered in a bust before the entrance. The exhibits, arranged along a well-marked tour through the house, require a great deal of German-language reading, but it's a must for Wagner fans. The original scores of such masterpieces as Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin, Der Fliegende Holländer, and Götterdämmerung are on display. You can also see designs for productions of his operas, as well as his piano and huge library. A multimedia display lets you watch and listen to various productions of his operas. The little house where Franz Liszt lived and died is right next door and can be visited with your Richard-Wagner-Museum ticket, but be sure to express your interest in advance. It, too, is heavy on the paper, but the last rooms—with pictures, photos, and silhouettes of the master, his students, acolytes, and friends—are well worth the detour.

Richard-Wagner-Str. 48, Bayreuth, 95444, Germany
0921-757–2816
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €8, Closed Mon., except Jul. and Aug.

Römermuseum Kastell Boiotro

While excavating a 17th-century pilgrimage church, archaeologists uncovered a stout Roman fortress with five defence towers and walls more than 12 feet thick. The Roman citadel Boiotro was discovered on a hill known as the Mariahilfberg on the south bank of the river Inn, with its Roman well still plentiful and fresh. Pottery, lead figures, and other artifacts from the area are housed in this museum at the edge of the site.

Schloss Callenberg

Perched on a hill 5 km (3 miles) west of Coburg, this was, until 1231, the main castle of the Knights of Callenberg. In the 16th century it was taken over by the Dukes of Coburg. From 1842 on it served as the summer residence of the hereditary Coburg prince and later Duke Ernst II. It holds a number of important collections, including that of the Windsor gallery; arts and crafts from Holland, Germany, and Italy from the Renaissance to the 19th century; precious baroque, Empire, and Biedermeier furniture; table and standing clocks from three centuries; a selection of weapons; and various handicrafts. The best way to reach the castle is by car via Baiersdorf. City Bus No. 5 from Coburg's Marktplatz stops at the castle only on Sunday; on other days you need to get off at the Beirsdorf stop and walk for 25 minutes.

Schloss Ehrenburg

Prince Albert spent much of his childhood in this ducal palace. Built in the mid-16th century, it has been greatly altered over the years, principally following a fire in the early 19th century. Duke Ernst I invited Karl Friedrich Schinkel from Berlin to redo the palace in the then-popular neo-Gothic style. Some of the original Renaissance features were kept. The rooms of the castle are quite special, especially those upstairs, where the ceilings are heavily decorated with stucco and the floors have wonderful patterns of various woods. The Hall of Giants is named for the larger-than-life caryatids that support the ceiling; the favorite sight downstairs is Queen Victoria's flush toilet, which was the first one installed in Germany. Here, too, the ceiling is worth noting for its playful, gentle stuccowork.

Schlosspl. 1, Coburg, 96450, Germany
09561-80880
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €5; combined ticket with Schloss Rosenau and the Veste €15, Closed Mon.

Schloss Emmeram

Formerly a Benedictine monastery, this is the ancestral home of the princely Thurn und Taxis family, which made its fame and fortune after being granted the right to carry official and private mail throughout the empire ruled by Emperor Maximilian I (1493–1519) and by Philip I, King of Spain. Their horn still symbolizes the post office in several European countries. After the death of her husband, Prince Johannes, in 1990, the young dowager Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis put many of the palace's treasures on display. A visit to the State Rooms include the splendid ballroom and throne room, allowing you to witness the setting of courtly life in the 19th century (guided tours only). A visit usually includes the fine Kreuzgang (cloister) of the former abbey. The items in the Princely Treasury have been carefully selected for their fine craftsmanship—be it dueling pistols, a plain marshal's staff, a boudoir, or a snuffbox. The palace's Marstallmuseum (former royal stables) holds the family's coaches and carriages as well as related items.

Emmeramspl. 5, Regensburg, 93067, Germany
0941-504–8133
Sights Details
State Rooms closed weekdays mid-Nov.–mid-Mar. Princely Treasury and Marstallmuseum closed weekdays Nov.–Mar.
Rate Includes: From €5

Schloss Rosenau

Near the village of Rödental, 9 km (5½ miles) northeast of Coburg, the 550-year-old Schloss Rosenau sits in all its neo-Gothic glory in the midst of an English-style park. Prince Albert was born here in 1819, and one room is devoted entirely to Albert and his queen, Victoria. Much of the castle furniture was made especially for the Saxe-Coburg family by noted Viennese craftsmen. In the garden's Orangerie is the Museum für Modernes Glas (Museum of Modern Glass), which displays nearly 40 years' worth of glass sculptures (dating from 1950 to 1990) that provide an interesting juxtaposition with the venerable architecture of the castle itself.

St. Emmeram

The family church of the Thurn und Taxis family stands across from their ancestral palace, the Schloss Emmeram. The foundations of the church date to the 7th and 8th centuries. A richly decorated baroque interior was added in 1730 by the Asam brothers. St. Emmeram contains the graves of the 7th-century martyred Regensburg bishop Emmeram and the 10th-century saint Wolfgang.

Emmeramspl. 3, Regensburg, 93047, Germany
0941-51030
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free

St. Lorenz Kirche

In a city with several striking churches, St. Lorenz is considered by many to be the most beautiful. Construction began around 1250 and was completed in about 1477; it later became a Lutheran church. Two towers flank the main entrance, which is covered with a forest of carvings. In the lofty interior, note the works by sculptors Adam Kraft and Veit Stoss: Kraft's great stone tabernacle, to the left of the altar, and Stoss's Annunciation, at the east end of the nave, are their finest works. There are many other carvings throughout the building, testimony to the artistic wealth of late-medieval Nuremberg.

Lorenzer Pl., Nürnberg, 90402, Germany

Veste Oberhaus

The powerful fortress and summer castle commissioned by Bishop Ulrich II in 1219 protects Passau from an impregnable site across the river from the Rathaus. Today the Veste Oberhaus is Passau's most important museum, containing exhibits that illustrate the city's 2,000-year history. From the terrace of its café-restaurant (open Easter–October), there's a magnificent view of Passau and the convergence of the three rivers.

Walhalla

This is a sight you won't want to miss if you have an interest in the wilder expressions of newfound 19th-century pan-Germanic nationalism. Walhalla—a name resonant with Nordic mythology—was where the god Odin received the souls of dead heroes. Ludwig I erected this monumental pantheon temple in 1840 to honor important Germans from ages past, kept current with busts of Albert Einstein and Sophie Scholl. In keeping with the neoclassical style of the time, it is actually a copy of the Parthenon in Athens. The expanses of costly marble are evidence of both the financial resources and the craftsmanship at Ludwig's command. Walhalla may be kitschy, but the fantastic view it affords over the Danube and the wide countryside is definitely worth a look. A boat ride from the Steinerne Brücke in Regensburg is the best way to go. To get to the temple from the river, you'll have to climb 358 marble steps.

Weltenburg Abbey

Roughly 25 km (15 miles) southwest of Regensburg you'll find the great Weltenburg Benedictine Abbey sitting serenely on the bank of the Danube River. The most dramatic approach to the abbey is by boat (€10.50 round-trip) from Kelheim, 10 km (6 miles) downstream. On the stunning ride the boat winds between towering limestone cliffs that rise straight up from the tree-lined riverbanks. The abbey, constructed between 1716 and 1718, is commonly regarded as the masterpiece of the brothers Cosmas Damian and Egid Quirin Asam, two leading baroque architects and decorators of Bavaria. Their extraordinary composition of painted figures whirling on the ceiling, lavish and brilliantly polished marble, highly wrought statuary, and stucco figures dancing in rhythmic arabesques across the curving walls is the epitome of Bavarian baroque. Note especially the bronze equestrian statue of St. George above the high altar, reaching down imperiously with his flamelike, twisted gilt sword to dispatch the winged dragon at his feet. In Kelheim there are two boat companies that offer trips to Kloster Weltenburg every 30 minutes in summer. You cannot miss the landing stages and the huge parking lot. No Bavarian monastery is complete without a brewery and Kloster Weltenburg's is well worth visiting.

Weltenburger Enge-Danube Gorge Nature Reserve

This beautiful natural landmark was formed by a branch of the primeval Danube, which cut its way through the limestone to create the Danube of today. The boat to Weltenburg Abbey offers excellent views as it passes through the gorge.