An Amberg travel guide with tips
on what to do and see in this Bavarian town.
It’s ancient, beautiful and there’s no way you’ve ever heard of it.
This town is buried away among Bavaria’s hidden gems a few hours north of Munich. On my day-trip to Amberg I felt like the only tourist in the place and I loved it.
The city's medieval Old Town is nicknamed the Ei
(Egg) after the shape of its intact city wall.
Doable as a day trip from Munich, Nuremberg or Regensberg, this is a place that will truly enchant you.
RIVESIDE: Looking down the River Vils towards the central
St Martin's Church.
Iron mining made the city rich during the Middle Ages and it was able to afford one some of the best fortifications in Germany.
A PLACE FOR LOVERS: Amberg's Eh'häusl
could be one of the most romantic buildings
in Germany. To find out why, read the suggested
tour section below.
As well as the still standing city wall Amberg had a water-filled moat and about 100 defensive towers.
Medieval scribe Michael Schwaiger declared “Munich is the most beautiful princely city, Leipzig the richest, but Amberg is the most secure!”
The city fell out of Bavarian control from the 14th century and Protestantism and Lutheranism flourished.
Adherents were forced to leave or go Catholic when Bavaria re-took the city in 1628.
Fighting invaders and tyrants
The city’s bloodiest day was August 24 ,1796 with the Battle of Amberg, a pivotal conflict in the French Revolutionary Wars.
Archduke Charles of Austria
Austrian Archduke Charles and his force of 40,000 routed a French army of 34,000.
About 1200 French were killed or wounded and the battle was a turning point against them in the war. The Austrians went home with a victory and only 400 casualties.
Amberg’s staunch Catholics dared to butt heads with the anti-church Nazis. Over 500 people stormed the streets in 1941 to protest a Nazi decree outlawing crucifixes in schools.
The city’s Jewish community (which numbered 64 in 1933) had all moved, been arrested or died by the end of the war.
The USA kept an army barracks in Amberg until the 1990s.
The city will celebrate its 1000th birthday in 2034.
Suggested Amberg walking tour
See the walking tour on a larger map
Starting from the train station on the eastern side of the Old Town, follow the path left outside the city walls. Just around the corner is the Nabburger Tor (Nabburg Gate), the grandest of Amberg’s four city gates. A drawbridge was lowered to allow access across the moat and the gate’s towers were used as medieval dungeons.
Walk through and then down Untere Nabburger Strasse to reach the square called Hallplatz. There’s a tourist info centre at No. 2 across the way. Continue west and you’re in the oldest and most bustling part of town….
FRONT DOOR: Amberg's Nabburger Tor was an important
entrance to the city.
The Market Square
still lives up to its name on Saturdays when produce and flower stalls fill the square.
On the south side stands St Martin’s, a gothic Catholic church built in 1421. The 92m (302ft) steeple wasn’t added until 300 years later.
Look back west to admire the 14th century Rathaus
(Town Hall) with a beautiful external staircase and balcony. After stopping for a drink with the café crowd, duck around to the left of St Martin’s to find the Vils River.
HEART OF TOWN:The Marktplatz is the oldest,
and usually the busiest, part of Amberg.
Down to the river
VARICOLOURED: A stained glass
window in St Martin's.
Once a means of trade and transportation,
the Vils divides the Old Town neatly in half.
On Saturdays and some Sundays from May to October you can cruise the river aboard a low-slung raft called a Vils-Plätte
The 12m by 2m (39ft by 7ft) vessels were once used to transport iron to nearby Regensburg and bring salt back to Amberg.
A boat tour costs €2.50 for adults and €1 for kids. Boats leave on the hour from 2pm to 5pm, contact the tourist info centre for more details.
Now look downstream to the left, if you can’t see what’s there you may need your glasses….
LANDMARK: The Stadtbrille is Amberg's best-known structure.
Through the specs
(City Spectacles) gateway stretches across the Vils River
Two of its semi-circular arches cast reflections on the river, if you squint hard enough the effect makes it look like a huge pair of specs. The gate was built in the early 1500s as part of the city’s defences.
once had portcullises which could be lowered when the city was attacked.
Cross the river at the little bridge about half way between the 'Brille
and the church and follow Schiffbrück Gasse as it curves right.
To the left is the Catholic Frauenkirche
(Church of Our Lady), a former royal court church from the 15th century. It was built on the site of a synagogue
that was demolished in the Middle Ages.
Across the way...
If you want, you can turn right here and carry on down to the Luftmuseum
(Air Museum) on the corner. It’s a new-aged concept housed in a 14th century building.
The museum has 21 rooms exhibiting art, architecture and technology all somehow connected to the concept of air. There are also regular theatre and music performances.
(Luftmuseum details - Address: Eichenforstgäßchen 12, Phone: 09621 420883, Website: www.luftmuseum.de Cost: Adults €3.50, children €2 Open: Tuesday to Friday 2pm to 6pm, weekends 11am to 6pm, during summer an hour longer.)
Continue onto Georgen Strasse, the Old Town’s pedestrianized main drag.
HALLOWED HOUSE: The Fenzl-Haus is one of the nicest buildings in
Amberg's pedestrian street, Georgen Strasse.
Admire the Fenzl-Haus (Fenzl House) on the left with its elaborate rococo bay window.
Make a left and a quick right onto Seminar Gasse, where at No.8 you’ll find…
The house of love
Every city has its little surprises but I think Amberg’s Eh'häusl (Little Wedding House) is one of the cutest I’ve found anywhere.
PATH TO LOVE: A detail of the mural
on the door of the Eh'häusl.
Touted as the world’s smallest hotel with only 56 square metres (63 sq. ft.) and two rooms for rent, the building has a particularly romantic heritage.
Legend has it that bygone council laws only permitted homeowners to marry.
It took a skint but inspired lover to find a loophole in 1728.
He found a narrow gap between two houses and claimed it as his own.
He threw up back and front walls, slapped on a roof and called it a house.
Cupid was happy and the council, satisfied.
The Eh'häusl changed hands many times as engaged couples moved in to tie the knot before moving out again.
What an amazing spot for a dirty little weekend!
Now follow the alleyway to the end to find a walled section at the “top” of the egg-shaped Old Town. Wander through to find an old Jesuit college complex. It's home to a modern library and St Georg (St George’s), a 15 century gothic Catholic church.
After seeing the highlights of such a beautiful little place, you might feel like weaving your way back into town for a bite to eat to round off your tour.
GOTHIC: St Georg Catholic church is at the western end of the "Egg".
Amberg throws its biggest party on a hill – the Maria-Hilf-Bergfest
(Hill Festival) is nine days of Bavarian food, music, entertainment and beer. It’s like a mini-Oktoberfest without the mass tourism.
(The Details Location:
Tents and carousels are set up around the Maria-Hilf-Kirche
, a church on the hill about 300m north-east of the train station Dates:
The Bergfest usually takes place from late June to early July, find exact dates on the Website: www.mariahilfbergfest.de
PRESERVED: The base of the Ziegeltor (1581) is gothic, the tower itself renaissance.
Accommodation in Amberg
There are no dirt-cheap places to stay but some excellent mid-range options.
▪The Altstadt Hotel
is a beautifully preserved and well-located pile inside the Egg
near the train station. (Address:
Batteriegasse 2 Cost:
Single rooms from €50, doubles from €69 Phone
09621 788 23 0, website here
▪The Drahthammer Schlössl Hotel Restaurant
is south of the old town and has a fine in-house eatery. (Address:
Drahthammerstraße 30 Cost:
rooms from €110 Phone
09621 703 0, website here
▪And then there’s the romance-soaked Eh'häusl
where you can take your pick between a “red salon” or a room with a fireplace (Address:
Seminargasse 8 Phone:
09621 37 854, website here
Food and Drink
There are plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants in the old town, especially around Marktplatz
and Georgen Strasse
. Just take your pick.
Getting there and away
The town is about 180kms north of Munich. It takes about 2.5 hours to get there by train from central Munich, you can check connections here
By car, take the Autobahn A9 north from Munich and turn off right onto the A93 just after the town of Geisenhausen
. The journey should take about two hours.
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