Wurzburg (written "Würzburg" in German), the capital of Lower Franconia, is one of Germany’s oldest cities established more than 1300 years ago. It’s worth visiting firstly because of Würzburg Residence, one of the grandest baroque palaces in Europe inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List, but not only for that. Wurzburg has quite an interesting history so let’s start with a brief introduction. In the Holy Roman Empire times, Prince-Bishopric of Würzburg was an ecclesiastical principality of the state.
In the 12th century, the first of the powerful bishops was elevated to the rank of Prince Bishop ("Duke of Western Franconia"), and that meant that church donations and regional taxes all flowed into the bishops' administration, thus giving the bishop both civil and clerical powers. From the middle of the 18th century, the last few prince-bishops resided at the splendid Wurzburg Residence. As a consequence of the Napoleonic wars, Würzburg was secularized in 1803 and absorbed into Bavaria. As you can imagine, because of its history Wurzburg and the rest of Franconia remain a special area of Bavaria with its own cultural and linguistic heritage. The event that left its tragic mark on the city was the massive bombing at the end of the Second World War when within 20 minutes almost 90% of the city was destroyed. After that Wurzburg became known as the grave on the River Main but was restored after many years of hard work. It’s interesting to know that in 2010 the Würzburger Residenz, the Fortress Marienberg, and the Old Main Bridge served as filming locations for the Hollywood movie “The Three Musketeers”. So here is a plan for your day in this very special city.
10.00 Walk the gardens of the Residence Palace
At the end of the 18th century, court gardener Johann Prokop Mayer created a rococo-style garden, filling it with clipped fruit trees, flower beds, espaliers, and pergolas. Currently, the garden complex consists of several parts including East, South, landscape and kitchen gardens. I think the best views of the Residence are from the promenade and East Garden but there is much more to discover.
11.00 Take a guided tour of the Residence Palace
Even though there are parts of the palace you can visit on your own, make sure you join the guided tour as the Southern wing of the very impressive Imperial rooms is only available with a guided tour. The Residence Palace was designed by Würzburg court architect Balthasar Neumann and built in the first part of the 18th century. The project was commissioned by two brothers, prince-bishops of Schonbron family. It is considered one of the most important palaces in all of Europe.What makes the Residence so unique is the combination of architecture and stunning interior design. The biggest ceiling frescos (19 × 32m) above the grand staircase and in the impressive Imperial Hall by Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo are world famous. Vestibule, staircase, White Hall and Imperial Hall, all of them are the most magnificent in the history of palace architecture and were decorated and furnished by artists and craftsmen, creating a splendid piece of art.
Practical information: Guided tours in English: Daily 11 am and 3 pm, April through October additionally 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm. You can join a tour with no additional fee with your valid entrance ticket. As taking pictures inside the palace is not allowed you have to see all its beauty yourself or visit their website for getting an idea.
12.30 Take bus number 9 to the Marienberg Fortress
The Fortress Marienberg is the city’s most famous landmark and its oldest parts date back to the year 704 when a church was built there. At the beginning of the 13th century, fortifications were built around the church. The fortress was expanded and renovated several times during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Marienberg fortress was the seat of the Prince-Bishops for more than 500 years before they moved to their new Residence in the city in 1744. If you don’t want to take a long uphill walk to the fortress, you have a great opportunity to take a bus departing from the bus stop on the street in front of the Palace.Take your time to walk around and don't miss the striking panoramic view of the city from the fortress.
Practical information. Bus 9 is available from April to October only. Obtain the timetable at Falkenhaus tourist information centre or just check it at the bus stop.
13.30 Take bus 9 back to Juliuspromenade stop
Have lunch in the city centre. Don’t forget to add a glass of local wine to your lunch.
Admire the Falkenhaus with its rococo facade
The Falkenhaus is an iconic building in downtown Wurzburg with a bright yellow rococo façade. As the most of the city, the building was severely damaged during World War II. It was reconstructed according to old photos to match its historic appearance. Today this 18th-century guesthouse is a place of the tourism office and the municipal library.
Visit Marienkapelle and Market Square
The construction of this late Gothic style church was finished in the late 15th century. Take notice of its elaborate ornamentation, especially in the arches of the doorways.The interior of the Chapel was replaced after fire damage in 1945. The altar features four panels with paintings from early 16th century. Marienkapelle has numerous tombs of Franconian knights and citizens of Würzburg, including the tomb of the great Baroque architect Balthasar Neumann (1687-1753). Also, notice the traditional Franconian maypole on the square. May 1 is maypole day when each and every maypole is uniquely decorated with ribbons, wreaths or signs of local craftsmen’s guilds.
Enjoy the views from Alte Mainbrucke
Visit the Alte Mainbrücke (Old Main River Bridge) with a marvellous view of Fortress Marienberg, the Käppele pilgrimage church and surrounding vineyards. This pedestrian bridge links Würzburg's old town with the former fishermen's quarter on the left bank of the Main River. Dating from the 16th century, the bridge is decorated with statues of saints and is somewhat similar to the Charles Bridge in Prague. The characteristic 12 statues of saints were added in the first part of the 18th century.
Visit the old Townhall and the Four tubes fountain
Visit a small exhibition at the old town hall dedicated to the Allied bombing of March 16, 1945. In memory of this, every year all the churches in town sound their bells at the exact time it took place.When you return to the square, look at the details of the Four tubes fountain. The statue on the top symbolizes Franconia with a duke's hat and the emblem of the former prince-bishopric of Würzburg. At the base of the fountain, there are statues of the four cardinal virtues: Justice with scales and fasces, Fortitude with a helmet, Temperance with a goblet of wine and Prudence, with a mirror and a book.
Listen to the sound of the 20 bells of Wurzburg Cathedral
Wurzburg Cathedral is the city’s dominant religious building, with iconic twin towers. It is considered a masterpiece of Romanesque design. Enter the large cathedral, the construction of which dates back to the early 11th century. The building was partially burned down in World War II and later reconstructed. Some parts from the original Baroque structure remain in the transept and the chancel.Also, note the different pieces of art in the backyard of the building. Here our tour ends but there is much more to see in the city.
What did you think? Have you been to Wurzburg? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting there in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
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