Würzburg as a destination has a lot going for it. First of all, the location is fantastic. Set against the backdrop of vine-covered hills and straddling Main River, Würzburg is absolutely postcard pretty. The vineyards discreetly usher one from the beer country into the wine-drinking parts of Germany and Franconia produces some of the finest wines in Europe. Even its delectable cuisine is wine rich and that is another attraction of Würzburg. This beautiful city has more to offer to food lovers than the Bratwurst and its wine soup is to die for. Then there is the concentration of attractions packed within walking distance of each other that make Würzburg a great destination for a weekend visit or a day trip. It is no wonder that this Bavarian city is the starting point of Germany´s famous Romantic Route and the city is full of art, architecture, and a lively student population. The views in and around Würzburg are also very impressive and here are some of the must-do things in one of Germany´s most beautiful cities.
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Explore the Marienberg Fortress in Würzburg
This hulking medieval fortress is an iconic Würzburg sight. I suggest tackling it right away in the morning; after you are fortified with a good breakfast and have a lot of energy. The uphill hike takes around 30 minutes and goes through the vineyards from the Alte Mainbrücke via the Tellsteige trail. The easiest way, however, is to take a taxi right up to the Festung Marienberg a.k.a the Marienberg Fortress. It sits atop the hill across from the old town and overlooks Würzburg. The core of this complex comprises the Marienberg castle and church – dating from the early 13th century. Around this, a massive fortification was built after Sweden invaded Germany and sacked the castle. One of the remarkable things to know is that this castle complex was almost completely destroyed during WW II and what you see today is a painstakingly restored structure. Inside there is the Franconian Museum. The views from there are absolutely magnificent.
Walk across the Alte Mainbrucke or the Old Main Bridge
This extremely photogenic bridge spans the Main River that runs through the center of Würzburg. It dates from the 16th century and is lined with baroque statues of saints. From the bridge, one can see the twin towers of the Würzburg Cathedral at the far end of Domstrasse. There is a wonderful old restaurant located atop a water wheel at one end of the bridge.
Würzburg Alte Rathhaus
This is the old town hall. It is located on Domstrasse between the Old Main Bridge and the Dom a.k.a the Cathedral of St. Kilian. The town hall has beautiful frescoes painted on its exterior and is an extremely photogenic spot in Würzburg.
See the beautiful Marienkapelle
Loosely translated as Mary´s Church, Marienkapelle is located on the market square. It is an unmissable structure in red and white. This stunning Gothic-style church with its rusty red tower dates back to the 14th century. However, it was also badly damaged by Allied bombing raids and rebuilt in the 1950s. Close to the Marienkapelle, down the narrow Schmalzmarkt alley lies the pompous and pink Neumünster Collegiate Church. Its interior is pristine white and it is set off by stucco ornaments and beautiful frescoes.
Visit the unusual Dom St Kilian
This old Romanesque cathedral is one of the largest in Germany and it is also one of the oldest. It has been altered many times over the centuries and as a result, is a mishmash of various architectural features. For example, the elaborate stucco work of the chancel contrasts starkly with the bare whitewash of the austere Romanesque nave. Dom St Kilian was constructed between 1040 and 1250 and is the final resting place of a number of bishops.
The jaw-dropping Würzburg Residenz
This is the crown jewel of the beautifully Baroque city of Würzburg. Commissioned in 1720 by the then Prince-Bishop Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn, this Unesco-listed Residenz was built by the 18th-century architect Balthasar Neumann. Since then it has been the home to the local prince-bishops. It is one of Germany’s most important and beautiful baroque palaces. One of the claims to fame of the Würzburg Royal Residenz is that in May 1812 Napoleon Bonaparte slept there for one night. He was en route to his unsuccessful invasion of Russia. This is absolutely the top attraction in Wurzburg and should not be missed. There are many masterworks of Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical architecture inside this vast complex and the highlights include the lavishly decorated Imperial Hall, the chapel, and the grand staircase. The most jaw-dropping section of the Residenz is perhaps its brilliant zigzagging Treppenhaus (staircase) which is capped by the world’s largest fresco. It is a masterpiece by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and depicts allegories of the four then-known continents (Europe, Africa, America, and Asia). Apart from the Grand Staircase, there is also the stunning white stucco-adorned Weisser Saal (White Hall), the gilded stucco Spiegelkabinett (Mirror Hall), covered with a unique mirror-like glass painted with figural, floral, and animal motifs. There is yet another impressive Tiepolo fresco in the Kaisersaal (Imperial Hall). The Hofkirche (Court Church) located in the southern wing is also magnificent with its marble columns, gold leaf embellishments, and a profusion of angels statues. The entrance fee of the Würzburg Royal Residenz is €7.50. It includes guided tours that run multiple times a day. English-speaking tours are scheduled for 11 am and 3 pm year-round, plus two additional slots at 2:30 pm and 4:30 pm between April and October. The complex also houses the Martin-von-Wagner Museum and a winery in the atmospheric cellar, the Staatlicher Hofkeller Würzburg, that is open for tours with tasting.
Relax at the Hofgarten (Court Garden)
Accessible via lovely wrought-iron gates, the Hofgarten (Court Garden) is a perfect place to relax especially after the opulence of the Royal Residenz. It is a free attraction and is open until dusk. Although not very large, it blends French and English landscaping techniques.
Other Würzburg attractions
- Drink some wine at an old-age home – Julias Spital is a Baroque hospital with a church and courtyard. It was commissioned by Julius Echter, a prince-bishop. While the grandeur of the building remains intact, inside the hospital is a modern medical center and resting home for the elderly. When there, try some Frankenwein at the medieval Julius Spital wine cellar, the second-largest winery in Germany. Frankenwein is especially notable for its Bocksbeutel bottle which is a very peculiar shape.
- Museums of Würzburg – Mainfränkisches Museum, Museum im Kulturspeicher, Museum am Dom, Martin von Wagner Museum and Siebold-Museum.
- Würzburg seasonal festivals – During the autumn and summer months, Würzburg hosts gigantic wine fairs called Würzburger Weinfests. The annual Africa Festival also held in May or June is hugely popular.
Würzburg Travel Tips
It is the capital of Lower Franconia and an administrative district in the German state of Bavaria. Located halfway between Frankfurt and Nuremberg on the banks of the Main River, Würzburg is also an important trade route.
How to Reach
Würzburg is well-connected with the cities in western Germany. It is a 1.5-hour train ride from Frankfurt airport or Frankfurt Main Train station, the Hauptbahnhof. Munich and Nuremberg are also close by.
- By Train from Frankfurt – Since it is only 120 km away from Frankfurt, the city is serviced by multiple times every day via the ICE (Intercity). Würzburg’s Main Train Station, the Hauptbahnhof is a 15-minute walk from the old town. It is also possible to go by U-Bahn from the Hbf to the city center.
- By Bus from Frankfurt – The cheapest way to go to Würzburg from Frankfurt is by Flixbus. Just buy your ticket online or at the massive Flixbus station behind Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. It is just a 90 minutes ride.
How to Get Around
Würzburg is very compact and most of its sights can be discovered on foot. There is no need for a car or public transportation although you might want to take the bus or a taxi to the Marienburg Festung.
Where to Stay
Würzburg has a huge range of accommodation options. These range from luxury hotels, and Airbnb apartments, to hostels. Choose one that suits your travel style and budget.
Würzburg, Franconian or Bavarian?
Würzburg is proudly Franconian and the city offers some of its most delicious Franconian dishes. These are not typical hearty, meaty Bavarian dishes but delicately flavoured Franconian delights. So what´s the big deal and why do Franconians prefer not to be referred to as the quintessential Bavarians? To understand this divide, let´s take a look at the regional history of this very interesting part of Germany. Franconia owes its name to the Frankish tribes whose territory it originally was. Although the Franks flourished there from the Middle Ages until the early nineteenth century, Franconia was highly fragmented and was ruled by different fiefs. In fact, Franconia was a collage of different fiefdoms that were ruled by ecclesiastical rulers. Although these families had many familial links with royal houses of Europe through judicious marriages, Franconia was never a single united entity. This continued until 1806 when Napoleon incorporated Franconia into the newly upgraded Kingdom of Bavaria – previously a mere duchy.
What and where to eat in Würzburg
This Franconian city is a food lover´s paradise. To begin with, you are in the Bratwurst and wine country and one can´t really go wrong with that. Presenting some of the must-try dishes and best places to eat in Würzburg.
- The Bratwurststand Knüpfing – Sausages or “franks” originated in this region and the Frankish bratwursts are about six inches in length and of uniform thickness. Each Franconian city has its own version of bratwurst and Würzburg’s specialty is Winzerbratwurst. The taste of Winzerbratwurst differs due to the local wine that is the meat. Try it at a Bratwurststand Knüpfing stand at the market square.
- Gasthaus Alte EMainmuhle – This place is famous for both its food and location. Plus, it also serves glasses of wine to go from a little wine bar and is an institution for the day drinking scene in the city. Located right at the base of the Alte Brücke or the Old Bridge, the restaurant terrace offers amazing views of the river, bridge, and the Marienburg fortress. It serves traditional delicious Franconian food. The prices are steep and reservation is necessary.
- Ratskeller – This is another institution in the Würzburg food scene. It is located beneath the Old Town House and is one of the most photogenic places to eat. Open daily from 10 am to midnight, Ratskeller offers traditional local food that is served underneath magnificent frescoes and vaulted ceilings.
- Restaurant & Weinhaus Stachel – This is another Franconian restaurant and my favourite. It has a beautiful courtyard restaurant and the cellar has some of the best local wines on offer. Try the wine soup (Rieslingcrèmesuppe mit Schwarzbrotcroûtons), and the Franconian Schäufele with dumplings (pork knuckle cooked in beer). Finish off your meal with a good bottle of Franconian wine.
- Franconian Wine – Würzburg is the capital of the Franconian appellation and in this region, a range of grapes are grown and various wines are produced. However, the standouts are from the Silvaner and Riesling grapes. Würzburg wine is renowned for its astringently dry white wines with heavy minerality and clean finishes.
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