Discover Bavaria’s Best Kept Secret

Annually tourists flock to hundreds of well-known villages and cultural attractions scattered in Bavaria, including Munich’s Oktoberfest, Nürnberg’s Imperial Castle, Bayreuth’s famous Wagner festivals and the Old Stone Bridge and Cathedral of Regensburg.  What many travelers overlook is the unofficial capital of the Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz) region, located about halfway between Regensburg and Bayreuth. Discover authentic local Bavarian charm, culture and history without the crowds in small town Amberg.

During the Middle Ages, Amberg grew rich mining ore in the region and transporting iron ore and salt on its waterways. Walls surrounded Amberg’s old town, protecting its important role in trading and shipping.  The old town was considered one of the strongest fortified towns in medieval Germany. 

The wall surrounding the egg shaped center of Amberg has been preserved through the centuries.  Roam into this ancient fortress and let Amberg’s history rise up before you.

My husband and I had a little help wandering the streets of this historic village.  My son and his wife live within walled in Amberg and they gave us the full blown tour of this impressive town.

We explored cathedrals, Gothic towers and buildings, and Renaissance-styled gates dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries.  In between Amberg’s Town Hall and Town Spectacles, cobblestoned bridges carried us back and forth over the river Vils, which runs through the center of the old town.

If you can spend a few hours in Bavaria’s Amberg, here are 8 places you won’t want to miss. Grab a map, set your own pace and head to Malteserplatz at the western end of this oval shaped inner town.  A good place to start is…

#1 St. George’s Church.  Once the parish church of Amberg, this 14th century Gothic church replaced the original Romanesque 11th century church destroyed by fire.  St. George’s Church resides in a complex which at one time housed the Jesuit College and a Baroque library.  In the 18th century the Jesuits installed a Rococo interior.  Peek inside to admire the sculpture-like stuccowork and frescoes decorating the ceiling. Out in front of the Maltese Complex (Maltesergebäude), follow Georgenstraβe and look for the…

Snow falls on Fenzl-Haus' Rococo bay window

Snow falls on Fenzl-Haus’ Rococo bay window

#2 Fenzl-Haus (Fenzl House) on your right.  In 1772, this house was renovated in Rococo style.  As you pass by the corner of the building, glance up and you’ll notice the magnificent architectural feature of the Rococo bay window. (Later in 1908 the house was bought by a bookseller named Josef Fenzl, hence the name Fenzl House.) Across from the Fenzl House take Viehmarktgasse to Seminargasse 8 and you’ll see the…

#3 Eh’Häusl (The Wedding House). According to legend, the Amberg town council would only grant permission for couples to be married if they proved they owned a house in town.  One creative fiancé found a way around the town council’s property laws. On Seminargasse, he found a tiny courtyard sandwiched between two houses.  He built a front and back wall, topped it off with a roof and satisfied the council’s strict wedding policy. The Wedding House continually changed owners as other engaged couples briefly bought the tiny structure to comply with town rules. Today, Eh’Häusl, “the smallest hotel in the world,” boasts two rooms.  Return to Viehmarktgasse which bends around to Schrannenplatz and you’ll come to…

#4 The Stadttheater (The Town Theater). This 15th century former Franciscan monastery became the Town Theater in the early 19th century.  One of Germany’s finest small theaters, the Stadttheater hosts symphony orchestras, chamber music, operas and modern musicals.  Find your way back to Georgenstraβe, and head east past cafes and shops and you’ll discover the…

Rathus (Town Hall) in Amberg's old town

Rathus (Town Hall) in Amberg’s old town

#5 Rathus (Town Hall), located in the Marktplatz, (Market Square), the oldest part of town.  The Gothic Rathus was built in the second half of the 14th century.   Renaissance renovations in 1552 added the balustrade and octagonal external staircase.  The Marktplatz is also home to…

St Martin's Church on the river Vils

St Martin’s Church on the river Vils

#6 St Martin’s Church.  St. Martin’s is the largest church in the region after St. Peter’s Cathedral in Regensburg.  The interior style has changed through the centuries.  In the 15th century a new Baroque interior was installed. In 1720, the 302 foot church tower was completed. St. Martin’s returned to a neo-Gothic style in the 19th century.  Head south along Schiffgasse and you’ll discover Amberg’s most popular attraction, the…

#7 Stadtbrille (Town Spectacles).  The river Vils flows under Stradtbrille’s two wide arches.  Reflections from the arches on the water look like a pair of glasses and so the name Town Spectacles.  This gateway formed part of the town’s fortifications.  Originally the arches were sealed with portcullises that could be lowered quickly in case of attack.  Continue east along the town wall to the…

Snow falls around the Nabburger Tor (The Nabburg Gate)

Snow falls around the Nabburger Tor (The Nabburg Gate)

#8 Nabburger Tor (The Nabburg Gate) where centuries ago gatekeepers controlled access to the town.  The gate towers were also used as dungeons. Amberg has 3 additional gates protecting the inner city:  Ziegeltor (Ziegel Gate) in the north; the rebuilt Renaissance-styled Wingershofertor (Wingershof Gate), the smallest of the gates; and the Vilstor (Vils Gate) where wooden pulleys that were used to pull up the drawbridge are still visible. 

After exploring Amberg, you’ll be a bit weary but satisfied that you’ve seen a unique part of Germany.  At day’s end, sit back, relax and enjoy a glass of wine (or maybe a famous Bavarian beer) with a delicious meal at one of the walled in town’s top restaurants or pubs.

If You Go:

For More Information:

Tourist Information Amberg, Hallplatz 2, 92224 Amberg Tel.: 09621/10239 (east of Marktplatz) complimentary brochures and maps of Amberg

Amberg: (for English version, right click “Page Info” and then click “Translate page into English”)

Eh’Häusl (The Wedding House)

Getting There:

We flew into Munich Airport, rented a car and drove to Amberg.  German highways are excellent.  Just make sure you stay to the right on highways if you’re not passing. Amberg is approximately 2½ hours from the Munich Airport.  Take A9 north to A93 north and follow signs for Amberg.  Along the way, you’ll pass a number of Bavaria’s charming towns, including Regensburg.

Where to stay:

The Minotel (Hotel) Brunner, Batteriegasse 3, Tel.: 09621/4970;; located in Amberg’s inner city, within walking distance to all Amberg’s attractions. Parking in Amberg is difficult, so make sure you let the hotel know if you need a parking space.

Where to eat:

Amberg has a number of fabulous bistros, pubs, cafes and restaurants.  Here are some of our favorites located within the walled city:

Restaurant Kupferpfandl, Herrnstraβe 20, 92224, Amberg.  Tel.: 09621/24562.  If you’re a steak connoisseur, you’ll find the best steaks and sauces in the region at affordable prices.

Café Zentral, Marktplatz 6, 92224, Amberg. Tel.: 09621/22117.  Check out their hefty hot and cold sandwiches at lunch.  Also open for dinner.

Mamma Maria, Georgenstrasse 66, (Malteserplatz) 92224, Amberg.  Tel.: 09621/604602.  We enjoyed their tasty 4 cheese pasta and pasta primavera at reasonable prices.

Maximo, Georgenstrasse 56, 92224, Amberg. Tel.: 09621/973803.  Café, bar, restaurant.  You won’t be disappointed if you try the succulent schweinefilet- pork tenderloin fillet.  (Make sure you leave room for dessert.)

Imperatore, Regensburgerstr. 3, 92224, Amberg. Tel.: 09621/31740. Try their mouthwatering Spaghetti Carbonara or Spaghetti Bolognese. (Located immediately outside the town wall by the Nabburg Gate.)

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