Wuerzburg dazzles with Franconian history, architecture and food
Stars and Stripes October 6, 2022
The German city of Wuerzburg has a palace, a fortress, a cathedral, plenty of churches and an imposing City Hall, but the real heart of this Franconian town is the old stone bridge spanning the Main River.
And the bridge is a good place to enter the city. After parking on the west bank of the Main, we strolled across the Alte Mainbruecke’s cobblestone street.
The towers and steeples of Wuerzburg’s old town rose in the distance welcoming us, but they would have to wait. Like other tourists, we couldn’t just cross the bridge without stopping to take a closer look.
Construction on the bridge began in the late 15th century, replacing an older span, but it wasn’t completed until 1703. It stands on eight arches and is about 58 feet wide and 607 feet long.
About two decades after its completion, the 12 Baroque stone statues that line the bridge were installed, six on each side. They are a mix of saints and dignitaries.
While crossing the bridge, look back behind you to see Marienberg Fortress high atop a hill overlooking the river and the city center. Built around 1200, it was once the seat of the prince-bishops of Wuerzburg. Today it houses the Franconian Museum, boasting a Tilman Riemenschneider sculpture collection.
The first building of note after you cross the river is the rathaus, or city hall, with its sleek, 180-foot-tall tower. It also houses the Ratskeller, a popular restaurant that features Franconian specialties.
Wuerzburg is in the heart of Franconia, a region known for its hearty food and quality wines. Popular here are, among other things, the Franconian bratwurst — which is much like its better-known version from Nuremberg but bigger — carp and Schaeufele, a roasted pork shoulder.
We followed signs to the marktplatz, or marketplace, where we came to two beautiful buildings, the late Gothic Marienkapelle church and the Falkenhaus, a former priests’ residence with an 18th century, ornate Rococo facade made of stucco.
The tourist information office is inside. Stop in and get a sightseeing map. With it, you can follow a suggested walking tour or just choose the sights you want to see. We did the latter and strolled through the city’s expansive pedestrian zone.
Wuerzburg is known for lavish baroque and rococo architecture. Among the sights we saw were the Augustiner church, the Neumuenster basilica and St. Killian’s Cathedral.
The city’s biggest baroque gem is the Residenz, the huge former palace of the prince-bishops. A UNESCO world cultural heritage site, it was built between 1720 and 1744.
You can see the inside on a guided tour, but on this sunny day, we chose to wander through the beautiful Court Gardens, with their trees, flower beds and fountains.
Wuerzburg once had a large U.S. military population. Leighton Barracks, Faulenberg Kaserne and Skyline Housing are names many former 3rd Armored Division and 1st Infantry Division soldiers would recognize.
And many of their children were born at the Army hospital here. There’s not much left of the military’s presence, but judging by how much English we heard downtown, it seems to still be popular with Americans.
We then strolled down to the river and walked along its banks back to the Alte Mainbruecke.
In the afternoon, it seemed as if the bridge had become an outdoor wine bar. A couple of shops and restaurants here sell wine by the glass. Tourists and residents alike mingled on the bridge, sipping good Franconian wine as the sun began to set behind Marienberg Fortress.
On the QT
Directions: From Wiesbaden, it is a 90-mile drive on the A3 to Wuerzburg; from Stuttgart, take A81 and A3 for the just under 100-mile drive; it is about 120 miles from Grafenwoehr via A9 and A3. In town, follow signs for parking. Wuerzburg also has a busy main railway station, with trains arriving from, among other places, Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Stuttgart.
Costs: We parked in the Alte Mainbruecke garage for 1.60 euros per hour. It’s a great place to start your visit, but parking places are very narrow and there is a height limit of 6.5 feet. The parking lot in front of the Residenz has no restrictions, and costs 2 euros per hour for the first two hours, then 1.50 euros for each additional hour.
Food: There are several restaurants in the center of town. The Ratskeller and the Weinstuben Juliusspital serve typical Franconian specialties.