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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 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, this 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.
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. If you’re going to explore the Romantic Road, we would strongly encourage you to book a hotel in Wurzburg either before or after your trip. We’ve included specific hotel recommendations below.
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 tourist attractions in Wurzburg.
Things to do in Wurzburg, Germany
Wurzburg’s 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 Wurzburg castle complex was almost entirely destroyed during World War II, however, it has been beautifully restored. Today, the Wurzburg 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.
Wondering where to stay in Wurzburg?
Quiet comfort: Dorint Hotel Würzburg
Artistic elegance: The Hotel Würzburger Hof
Four-star features: Best Western Premier Hotel Rebstock
You’ll find more details about where to stay in Wurzburg at the end of this article.
The Marienberg 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 the city 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 in general, and Wurzburg wine in particular, is renowned for its astringently dry white wines with heavy minerality and clean finishes. You’ll be able to sample the wine later (at the bar on the Alte Mainbrucke, see below).
Old Main Bridge (Alte Mainbrucke)
This is the Old Main Bridge (Alte Mainbrucke in German) 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.
Looking up the bridge, you’ll see the twin towers of the Wurzburg Cathedral at at the far end of Domstrasse (more on the cathedral below). It’s worth taking a picture up from the end of the bridge up the street towards the Cathedral.
The Restaurant Alte Mainmühle (Alte Mainmühle Würzburg)
At the far end of the bridge, just before entering the Wurzburg old town, there is the Restaurant Alte Mainmühle. While the restaurant itself seems nice, it is most known for the little kiosk window and wine bar on the side of the main door.
On any given day, you’ll find locals here drinking the local Wurzburg wine and while standing on the bridge taking in views of the city and the fortress above. If sampling the local Franconian wine is a priority, this is the perfect spot!
The Kappele (The Little Chapel)
From the center of the Alte Mainbrucke, turn your gaze to the southwest. High on the hill is the Kappele (not to be confused with the Marienkapelle discussed below). Officially the church on the hill is known as the Pilgrimage Church of the Visitation of Mary (Wallfahrtskirche Mariä Heimsuchung), but everyone in town just calls it the Little Chapel.
This church was built in the 18th century by Balthasar Neumann, the Wurzburg Residenz architect (also discussed below) in the Rococo style. It’s a pretty good hike up the hill and the opening hours can be somewhat erratic, especially after the restoration that began in 2014. Inside, the church is decorated in dark marble and features a way of the cross, with 14 stations.
We recommend skipping the hike up to the church and instead visit The Court Church at the Residenz (see below). It is done by the same architect and in the same style, although more accessible.
Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus)
The old Wurzburg town hall sits right on Domstrasse between the Old Main Bridge and the Cathedral of St. Kilian (the Dom). Take note of the building itself, which features a Romanesque tower, which seems quite out of place in the town.
The fresco painted on the front of the town hall is also quite beautiful, and is best viewed from the fountain across the street. The tower dates from the early 1200s and a number of architectural styles are visible.
Beneath the Old Town Hall is the classic Wurzburg Ratskeller restaurant. In cities throughout Germany, you’ll find a traditional restaurant located in the basement of the town hall. This town is no exception.
The Ratskeller in Wurzburg is one of the prettiest and is open daily from 10:00am to midnight. It makes a good spot for an early lunch. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s worth taking a quick look inside at the frescoes and vaulted ceilings.
Market Square (Marktplatz)
Just past the town hall, turn left and walk two blocks to Wurzburg 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 (see below for Bratwurststand Knüpfing). The market square is where the city comes alive and it’s well worth the time to browse the stalls to see if something strikes your fancy.
The Bratwurststand Knüpfing
At any hour of the day, you’ll see a long line at the yellow-and-white awning of the Bratwurststand Knüpfing, and there’s good reason, this is the classic sausage stand in the city. Sausages or “franks” originated in this region (you’re in Franconia). So, it’s no surprise that the bratwurst here is some of the best in the world.
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.
However, 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!
In Wurzburg, they eat their bratwurz “kinked.” This loses something in translation, but essentially they put the brat into a small roll (called a kipf) and then snap it half so it doubles back on itself. When properly cooked, it makes a soft snapping sound. That’s how they eat them in Wurzburg. Even if you are having lunch or dinner elsewhere in town, it’s imperative you enjoy a bratwurst here in the market square.
Mary’s Church (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. Built between the mid-1300s and 1480, the church is popular with town residents (you’re likely to see weddings here almost every weekend).
Inside, the church is noted for the Adam and Eve arches by artist Tilman Riemenschneider. Marienkapelle is also the resting place for local architect Balthasar Neumann, who designed both the Royal Residenz in Wurzburg and the Käppele on the hill.
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 Wurzburg Cathedral of St. Kilian (Wurzburger Dom)
The Cathedral of St. Kilian is the main seat of religious life in town and is one of the largest Romanesque cathedrals in Germany. Begun in 1040, completed in the mid-1200s, burned in 1945, and re-consecrated in 1967, this building stands the test of time.
One of our favorite views in Wurzburg is from the steps in front of the church back down Domstrasse towards the Old Main Bridge and the fortress on the hill beyond.
Located just behind the Marienkapelle is the Falkenhaus. This used to be a small inn and guesthouse, but now houses the city’s main Tourist Information office. However, we think the yellow and white stucco facade, which dates from 1751, makes this one of the prettiest buildings in Germany.
The Wurzburg 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 during the Wurzburg bombing, but has been 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 Wurzburg Royal Residenz’s great claims to fame is that Napoleon Bonaparte 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 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 Church (hofkirche)
This small chapel, a popular wedding venue today, is arguably the most important example of baroque architecture in all of Germany. While German 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 proved 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!
If you have additional time in the city after the Wurzburg Residenz, make your way to the north end of the town. There’s a large castle-like complex known as the Juliusspital, which was built in 1576 by Prince-Bishop Julius Echter. The buildings themselves are classic Rococo in their architectural style.
However, the real reason to visit is the Juliusspital winery (Weingut Juliusspital). Here you can sample the local Franconian wine and learn about the wine region. They offer a 1.5 hour tour as well.
Röntgen Memorial Site
Behind the Juliusspital, modern medicine changed forever. Visitors to Wurzburg can see the laboratory where Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered X-rays and gave birth to modern diagnostic medicine.
Inside the university building is a small two-room museum to his work. Outside the building, a massive public sculpture symbolizes his achievement. For us, we found the much larger Med Museum in the town of Erlangen does a much better job of explaining the science and Röntgen’s achievement.
Where to Stay
Wurzburg is a great stop either before or after your Romantic Road tour because it has many convenient hotels and inns, including a number of excellent hotels in Wurzburg’s old town. Here are our favorite Wurzburg accommodations:
Dorint Hotel Würzburg – We’ve stayed here on two different trips. The underground parking garage and convenient access to the ring road make this a dream when driving. It’s also close to the train station and the old town to explore on foot. The rooms are incredibly quiet and comfortable. There’s a pool and spa here, which we never seem to take time to use. (This hotel was formerly called the Novotel Wurzburg.)
The Hotel Würzburger Hof – This arty hotel is located across from the Juliusspital on the tram line. It’s perfectly located between the train station and the old town.
Best Western Premier Hotel Rebstock – Behind a Rococo façade, you’ll find one of the best hotels in the city. Top-notch service, an amazing breakfast, and one of the best restaurants in the city will make you feel right at home.
Where to Eat
The Bratwurststand Knüpfing – In Wurzburg, there’s the Bratwurststand Knüpfing, and then there’s everything else. This snack kiosk in the lower market has decades of experience of providing the very best in German sausages. There’s no seating, so just grab your treat and eat at the stand-up tables. You can make a lunch of it here, but it’s more of a place to grab a snack on the go.
Burgerheart Wurzburg – Burgerheart is a regional chain in Germany serving hamburgers and BBQ (including vegetarian versions, which are quite good). This is the place to grab a burger and a side of Canadian fries with a sense of humor (they offer Fryan Adams, the Fryan Gosling, and the Fryan Reynolds). We’re big fans of The Chuck Norris burger.
The Restaurant Frankenstube – Located inside the Dorint Hotel Wurzburg hotel, this restaurant is surprisingly good. Focusing on the local Franconian cuisine, this is the place for meat and potatoes in large quantities. It’s delicious. The restaurant also offers different international-inspired dishes (Asian, Italian, etc.) as specials.
Dean & David – This outpost of the popular chain on the main Market Square is a great place to grab a salad or other healthy options in the land of heavy meats.
Wurzburg Visitor Information
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 Royal 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).
Have you been to Wurzburg, Germany? What did you like most about the city?