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Wurzburg – the Little Gem on the River Main

The Residenz in Wurzburg, Germany - one of the top things to do in Wurzburg, Germany

Often overlooked by bigger neighbors, the town of Wurzburg, Germany doesn’t receive nearly the number of travelers that it should. The city is the start of the Romantic Road tourism route and the center of one the country’s most important wine regions. In the past, I had extensively explored Nuremberg, Munich and even Regensburg on previous trips to Germany. This time, I turned my attention to the northwest of Bavaria for a Wurzburg day trip. With only a single day, I wanted to squeeze in as many of the top things to do in Wurzburg as possible on a one-day walking tour.

Wurzburg's royal Residenz

Wurzburg is the capital of Lower Franconia, an administrative district in the German state of Bavaria. It is located half way between Frankfurt and Nuremberg on the banks of the Main River – an important trade route. The city is also the capital of one of Germany’s most important wine producing districts and vineyards dot the landscape as far as the eye can see. With a population of only 120,000 and hemmed in by hills on all sides, the city seems much smaller and more compact.

During World War II, the city was an important stronghold for the Nazi German machine. In the middle ages, the city had previously massacred its Jewish population in both the 12th and 13th centuries. So, Wurzburg was one of the first cities to fully embrace Nazi ideology as far back as 1933 and organized anti-Jewish boycotts and riots. In March 1945, British bombers almost completely destroyed the city to push out the German military. After the war, the U.S. military left a military presence here for over 60 years.

Wurzburg's Old Bridge over the Main River with Town Hall.

Today, no signs of those trouble times remain. The city has painstakingly rebuilt its cherished monuments and historical buildings. The only “bombs” falling from the sky was the bird that pooped on my chair at a sidewalk café. The citizens are friendly, the wine is refreshing and the sausage is delicious! With so many great things to do in Wurzburg, it is absolutely worth a visit!

Most visitors come on a Wurzburg day tour from either Frankfurt or Nuremberg, or on the start of a multi-day bus tour of the Romantic Road. With so much to see and do on the banks of the Main River, we’ve laid out our Wurzburg walking tour to take in all of the city’s top sites. We’ve organized this with a “save the best for last” approach, so make sure you pace yourself and save time later in the day. This has two benefits, first you don’t have to hike up the monster hill to the Fortress and secondly, the tour buses arrive at the Residenz earlier in the day, so you have fewer people to contend with at the best sites. Here is our walking tour of top attractions in Wurzburg:

1) Marienberg Fortress – When you arrive in the city, have a taxi take you up to the Marienberg Fortress, which sits atop the hill across from the old town. Having a taxi take you up will save you a significant walk! The core of the Marienberg Fortress is 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. Like much of the town below, this complex was almost entirely destroyed during World War II, however, it has been beautifully restored. Today, the fortress houses the Franconian Museum. Before leaving the Fortress, be sure to walk over to the walls and take in the view of Wurzburg below.

The Marienberg Fortress above the Main River and the city of Wurzburg.

The Marienberg Fortress from the Old Bridge

2) The Fortress Wine Trail – While Wurzburg is capital of the Franconian appellation and you can see vineyards as far as the eye can see, the only vineyard within the city proper is along the steep hillside leading up to the Fortress. If you are pressed for time in Wurzburg and without a private car to get out into the countryside to visit wineries, walking down to the old city along the winding Wine Trail will give you an experience of being in a vineyard (albeit a small one).

The Franconian appellation is a small region. While a range of grapes are grown and various wines are produced, the standouts are from the Silvaner and Riesling grapes. Franconia is renowned for its astringently dry white wines with heavy minerality and clean finishes. You’ll be able to sample the wine later (see #3 below).

Bottle of the local Franconian wine in Wurzburg's Market Square.

The local Franconian wine

3) Alte Mainbrucke – This is the Old Main Bridge across the Main River through the center of Wurzburg. Dating from the 16th century, the bridge is adorned with statues of saints and is architecturally similar to the Charles Bridge in Prague. At the far end of the bridge, just before entering the old town is a wine bar on the left side. On a fine summer day, locals will purchase a glass of wine from the bar and stand on the bridge taking in views of the city and the fortress above. If sampling the local wine is a priority, this is the perfect spot!

One of the top things to do in Wurzburg is visit the Old Bridge over the Main River.

Statues on the Old Bridge over the Main River

4) Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) – The old town hall sits right on Domstrasse between the old bridge on the Residenz. Take note of the building, the fresco painted on the front and the fountain across the street. The tower dates from the early 1200s and a number of architectural styles are visible.

Fountains on the square in front of the Town Hall in Wurzburg, Germany.

Fountains in front of the town hall

5) Market Square (Marktplatz) – Just past the town hall, turn left and walk two blocks to market square. A bustling food and flower market happens here daily. Along the east side of the square, more permanent stands sell food and drink, including bratwurst. While each city or region in Germany has its own unique form of bratwurst (i.e., the small, slender Nurembergers; the fat, bulging Regensburger cut in half, etc.), Wurzburg actually specializes in two different kind of bratwurst. The Fränkische is the traditional Franconian bratwurst about six inches in length and of uniform thickness. It is popular across the whole region. But Wurzburg is best known for the Winzerbratwurst – about the same size as the Fränkische, but has some of the local wine mixed into the spicier meat, wood grilled and then served with bread and mustard. I had the opportunity to sample both!

The Frankische bratwurst in Wurzburg.

6) Marienkapelle – Right on the market square is the giant red and white Mary’s Church (or Marienkapelle). In a city known for baroque architecture, the gothic Marienkapelle with its vaulted ceiling stands out as being unique.

Wurzburg's Market Square and the Marienkapelle.

Market Square and the Marienkapelle

7) The Old Town Pedestrian Zone – Most of Wurzburg’s old city is a car-free pedestrian zone. One of the great things to do in Wurzburg is stopping into the stores or pulling up a chair at a sidewalk café for some people watching.

The pedestrian zone along Domstrasse in old town Wurzburg, Germany.

Wurzburg’s old town

8) The Residenz – The Royal Residenz in Wurzburg is one of the finest royal palaces in all of Europe. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was extensively damaged during World War II, but has painstakingly restored to its former glory. Contemporary to the palaces in Vienna, many of the same themes and decorating styles flow through (including the obligatory Asian-inspired green lacquer room). The Residenz can be visited on a self-guided walking tour, or with a guided walking tour which allows access to some of the other apartments (including the blue drawing room, the yellow living room and the corner chamber – all highlights of my visit). The massive “four continents” fresco is one of the largest ever created.

One of the Residenz’s great claims to fame is that Napoleon slept here for one night in May 1812 en route to his unsuccessful invasion of Russia. This is absolutely the top attraction in Wurzburg and should not be missed!

The highlight of a Wurzburg walking tour is a visit to The Residenz - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Residenz in Wurzburg

9) The Court Gardens (hof gardens) – Behind the Residenz is the Hof Gardens – a series of palace gardens tiered on a hillside. Infinitely smaller than the gardens are Versailles in France or the Schönbrunn in Vienna, they are equally elaborate and even better maintained. After a long day walking, it is nice to find a quiet bench under a yew tree and take in the beautiful scenery.

The Court Garden and The Residenz.

The Court Garden

10) The Court Church (hofkirche) – This small chapel, a popular wedding venue today, is arguably the most important example of baroque architecture in all of Germany. While baroque architecture and the plethora of gold leaf accent really isn’t my thing, even I had to admit this small chapel is absolutely beautiful.

While I didn’t have a lot of time, a Wurzburg day trip provide to be enough time to see the major attractions in the city. There are many great things to do in Wurzburg, but a self-guided walking tour taking in all the main sites has got to be one!

A Wurzburg walking tour offers stunning views from the Marienberg Fortress of the old city.

Old Town Wurzburg

Wurzburg Visitor Information

Marienberg Fortress: Hours are March-October on Tuesday-Sunday 9:00am-18:00; closed Mondays. Closed November to mid-March. Only occasional tours in English, but ask and they should be able to accommodate. Website: Marienberg Fortress

The Residenz: Hours are April-October from 9:00am-18:00 with guided tours in English at 11:00am, 15:00 and 16:30; November-March 10:00am-16:00 with guided tours in English at 11:00am and 15:00. Admission is €7.50 for adults. Website: Wurzburg Residenz

The Court Gardens: Hours are daily until dusk (always closed at 20:00).

Accommodations: Wurzburg is a great stop either before or after your Romantic Road tour because it has many convenient hotels and inns.

The tourist train connects the  top things to do in Wurzburg.

The Tourist Train

Have you been to Wurzburg? What did you like most there?

From following the Fortress Wine Trail to visiting the historic Old Town, there are many great things to do in Wurzburg, Germany | Wurzburg – the Little Gem on the River Main

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What do you think about Wurzburg – the Little Gem on the River Main?

  1. Peter September 15, 2014 at 7:30 am #

    Yes, you are right.. Many people doesn’t know about Wurzburg and I was also one of them. Thanks Lance for making us aware of such a historical place.

    • Lance Longwell September 15, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

      Thanks Peter! I hope you have a chance to visit Wurzburg one day.

  2. Megan Claire September 18, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    Great overview! Ive been to Germany three times now but will admit I’d never heard of Wurzburg until now. Looks like a really fantastic spot!

    • Lance Longwell September 19, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

      Thanks Megan Claire. I’ve been trying to get to Wurzburg for a few years now and can say it is absolutely worth the trip!

  3. Corinne September 20, 2014 at 4:56 am #

    Lance, I lived 30 minutes from Wurzburg, and you’re right. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Just a quick aside: the Franconian wine is always bottle in what the Germans call a bocksbeutel, and I think Silvaner is the best!

    • Lance Longwell September 20, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      Thanks! Haven’t been to your neck of the woods yet, but get to Bamberg about once a year. I should be heading that way in March.

  4. Cassandra September 26, 2014 at 12:39 am #

    A wine route, a fortress, colorful markets, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site? You’ve convinced me!

    I know that you visited Wurzburg as a day trip, but if you did it again how long do you think you would stay there?

  5. Mike September 29, 2014 at 2:31 am #

    Another interesting place to add to our list. We enjoyed our trip up the Rhine.

  6. Kenin Bassart October 3, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

    Great find Lance. I love it when you can find an underrated/visited town and make the best of it. Next time you go bring me back a Winzerbratwurst 🙂
    Kenin Bassart recently posted…A Day at the West Virginia Roadkill Cook-Off & Autumn Harvest FestivalMy Profile

    • Lance Longwell October 4, 2014 at 11:47 am #

      Thanks Kenin. I love meat in tube form. I think I went to heaven when a local store in Pennsylvania started selling authentic (imported) German bratwurtst! Happens every fall and I can’t wait!

  7. Diana Edelman October 5, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    What a gorgeous city! And, I love that devil fountain!

  8. Jennifer October 6, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    Wurzburg looks beautiful! And you definitely had me at the wine trail. I know some aren’t a fan of German wine and say its too sweet, but I find that there are some very good German wines.
    Jennifer recently posted…Hiking Iceland’s Smoky ValleyMy Profile

  9. Leah October 8, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    What a beautiful spot! It looks like you made a great choice to see it by self-guided walking tour, you were able to see so much! And I’m always inclined to choose the free option when there is one… 😉
    Leah recently posted…Friday Snapshots: Flowers of Costa RicaMy Profile

    • Lance Longwell October 19, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

      Thanks Leah. Hope you can make it there one day.

  10. Federico October 8, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    I am one of those who didn’t know about it either. It does have a prague-ish look to it from what I see in the pictures?

    • Lance Longwell October 19, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

      That’s correct Federico. Wurzburg does remind me a lot of Prague – especially the bridge.

  11. Raymond @ Man On The Lam October 9, 2014 at 1:00 am #

    I love German towns like this — they make me feel so…fancy! 🙂

  12. the lazy travelers October 17, 2014 at 10:33 am #

    we haven’t seen too much of germany, but what we have has made us want to explore even more. love your pics, and we’ll need to investigate this wine region, too 😉

    • Lance Longwell October 19, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

      The Franconia wine region is spread out, but Wurzburg is the center of it. We recommend it!

  13. Victor November 2, 2014 at 1:08 am #

    Another one place for visiting in my list. Thank you very much.
    Victor recently posted…Probably, the Robinson Club Maldives will be DestroyedMy Profile

  14. Megan May 5, 2015 at 4:23 am #

    im heading to wurzburg in two days and loved reading this as im actually trying to ‘study up’ on a city before visiting! thanks for the great tips as they seem to cover just what i need only being there for a day 🙂

  15. Mercedes Frases February 17, 2016 at 10:05 am #

    Is there a day tour from Wurzburg to Nurenberg? Would love to have a guided tour to the WWII sites.

    Thank you

    • Lance Longwell February 17, 2016 at 10:09 pm #

      It’s easily done on your own. You can take the train from Wurzburg to Nuremberg. Head out of the train station and the main tourist information office is about 100 yards straight ahead. It’s possible to arrange a private guide through them in advance via the website. The tram that goes out to the Nazi Party Rally Grounds leaves from right in front of the tourist office/train station. It is possible to do on our own. A guide may add to the experience but is not necessary. All the signs are in English, etc. Good luck.

  16. Freya May 11, 2016 at 6:33 am #

    Hi Lance,
    I’ve just read your advices for a trip to Würzburg 😊. I’m very happy that you liked my hometown!
    There is just one thing that isn’t historically correct. Würzburg wasn’t bombed to push out The German military. It was a so called filler-target without military importance. In the Last few weeks of war only few undestroyed german cities were left. It became a target because the historic city center burned easy and to demoralize the civil
    We are glad that these bad times of war and prosecution are over and hope that many people like you from all over the world will visit our beautiful City 😊
    Best wishes from Würzburg

  17. Gloria DaPonte June 12, 2016 at 3:14 pm #

    I am going there tonight. I lived in Wuerzburg from June 1948 to June 1952. I’m hoping to find my house at #1 Freistrasse. Can you point it out on a map. Thank you. Wish me well


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