13 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Würzburg
The old Franconian episcopal city and university town of Würzburg, in Bavaria, lies in a beautiful location in a basin in the Main valley. High above the River Main, dominating the scene, stands the medieval Fortress Marienberg, built on the site of a former Bronze Age fort and now one of the town's top points of interest. Intense bombing at the end of WWII left more than 90 percent of the Old Town (Altstadt) destroyed, but it has since been painstakingly rebuilt and today offers numerous fine examples of medieval and more contemporary architecture, especially around the historic Market Square (Marktplatz). A fascinating display about the tragic bombing, marked each year by the rising of the city's church bells, can be seen in the Old Town Hall.
The Old Town is also a vibrant cultural center and boasts numerous events, festivals, historical tourist attractions, and fine old hotels. Learn more about the best places to visit in this picturesque city with our list of the top things to do in Würzburg.
See also: Where to Stay in Würzburg
1. The Würzburg Residenz
Located in the spacious Residenzplatz in Würzburg is the Residenz, the splendid palace of the Prince-Bishops and one of the finest secular Baroque buildings in Germany. It was built between 1720-44, and the most notable features of this important UNESCO World Heritage Site are its spectacular monumental staircase hall with its huge fresco by Tiepolo. All told, some 40 rooms are open to visitors, including the White Hall, with its Rococo stucco work; the sumptuously decorated Imperial Hall; the Hall of Mirrors; and the beautiful Court Church. Although heavily damaged in WWII, much of the building has now been restored to its former glory, a process that took over 42 years to complete.
In the south wing is the Martin von Wagner Museum with a superb collection of antiquities, a fine picture gallery, and print cabinet. Also of interest is a memorial room with exhibits relating to the palace's destruction during the bombing of 1945 and its reconstruction, which includes a section dedicated to the U.S. Army's "Monuments men," who helped ensure the preservation of its art treasures as the war ended. Admission includes a guided tour of the main rooms, and guidebooks and other useful resources can be picked up at the on-site shop.
Address: Residenzplatz 2, 97070 Würzburg
2. Würzburg Court Garden (Hofgarten)
The Hofgarten, or Court Garden, is located in the grounds of the Würzburg Residenz and is a spectacular French-style garden laid out between 1703 and 1774. Widely considered the best-preserved Rococo garden in Germany, its centerpiece is a large artificial lake with fountains and an elaborate sculpture crowned by Pegasus. The garden also boasts many other Baroque sculptures, including ornamental vases and allegorical figures. Other interesting features include the large Orangery with its kitchen garden, and many fine examples of Baroque ironwork, particularly in the elaborate garden gates.
Of particular interest is the cultivation of varieties of topiary fruit trees common to the garden in the 18th century. It's an especially pleasant place to visit in spring, especially in May, when the 70,000 flowers and plants grown in the palace's own greenhouses are planted around the property.
Address: Residenzplatz 2, 97070 Würzburg
Official site: www.residenz-wuerzburg.de/englisch/garden/history.htm
3. Marienberg Fortress and Princes' Building
High above the banks of the River Main in Würzburg rises the Marienberg Fortress (Festung Marienberg). Crowned by the massive fort that served as the seat of the Prince-Bishops from the mid 13th century until the construction of the Residenz, the hill was once the location of a Bronze Age hill fort. Highlights include the spectacular Bibra Apartment with its collections of fine furniture, tapestries, and artwork; the Princes' Hall with its large tapestry; Saint Mary's Church (Marienkirche), a church that dates back to the early 11th century that was built on the site of an even older church from the 8th century; and the treasury and vestment chamber.
Another fun thing to do here is to explore the massive Maschikuli Tower and Casemate, a four-story tower added in 1729, which housed heavy cannons and riflemen.
Also of interest is the Baroque Armory dating from 1712 and home to the Museum of Franconia (Museum für Franken), with its superb collections of Franconian paintings and sculptures, and exhibits relating to both the history of the castle and the town. Afterwards, be sure to visit the large Princes' Garden dating from the early 18th century, which offers spectacular views over the old city and the River Main. An on-site shop sells a variety of souvenirs and guidebooks, and a variety of tour options covering the main museums and sections of the castle are available.
Address: Festung Marienberg, Nr. 240, 97082 Würzburg
4. Würzburg Cathedral
To the west of the Residenz is Würzburg Cathedral (Würzburger Dom), a lovely 11th-century edifice dedicated to St. Kilian, which is notable for its beautifully restored interior. Highlights include a number of fine bishops' tombs, including those of Rudolf von Scherenberg and Lorenz von Bibra, and the Schönborn Chapel by Bathasar Neumann dating from 1721-36.
Dedicated to St. Kilian, Würzburg Cathedral is Germany's fourth largest Romanesque church and is home to numerous works of art, including the baptismal font from 1279, a spectacular modern seven-armed candelabra, and a crypt with stained glass. The cathedral is also where you'll find one of the country's oldest bells, the Lobdeburg Bell, cast in 1257 and rung at 3pm every Friday in memory of Jesus Christ's death on the cross.
A must-visit here is the Museum at the Cathedral (Museum am Dom). Highlights include fascinating displays of some 770 or so artifacts spanning the cathedral's 1,000 years of history. The special focus of the collection lies in the works of German artists such as Werner Tübke and Wolfgang Mattheuer. Other important artifacts can be viewed at the Würzburg Cathedral Treasury (Würzburger Domschatz), with its impressive collection of religious objects, robes and textiles, paintings, and elaborate gold pieces. A variety of guided tour options of the cathedral and its museums are available.
Address: Domstraße 40, 97070 Würzburg
5. Neumünster Collegiate Church
Another iconic church building in Würzburg is Neumünster Collegiate Church (Kollegiatstift Neumünster), most notable for its 11th-century Romanesque east end and the Baroque west end, built in 1719. Under the dome are a figure of the Virgin and a crucifix, both by Riemenschneider, and in the west crypt is the sarcophagus of the Irish monk St. Kilian, the apostle of the Franks, who was murdered here in AD 689 along with his companions. In the former cloister, the Lusamgärtlein, is a memorial stone commemorating Walther von der Vogelweide, Germany's greatest medieval poet, who died in Würzburg in 1230.
Address: Domerpfarrgasse 10, 97070 Würzburg
6. St. Mary's Chapel
Located in Würzburg's Marktplatz, St. Mary's Chapel — the Marienkapelle — was built between 1377-1479 and remains the finest Late Gothic building in the city. This picturesque old building is notable for its magnificent doorways and its richly painted altar panels with images of the Madonna from the early 1500s. It's also home to the Tomb of Balthasar Neumann and other notable aristocrats and knights, as well as a statue of Konrad von Schaumberg, who died in 1499. Adjoining St. Mary's Chapel is the famous Haus zum Falken (House of the Falcon), which boasts the city's finest Rococo facade.
Address: Marienplatz 7, 97070 Würzburg
7. The Old Main Bridge
Würzburg's Old Main Bridge, the Alte Mainbrücke, is a magnificent stone structure (the city's oldest), which is lined with numerous Baroque statues of saints. It leads from the Old Town to the districts on the left bank of the River Main. From this spectacular pedestrians-only bridge, visitors can see the Alter Krahnen, the original Old Cranes installed here in 1773 to help unload ships.
Taking a stroll along the bridge is an especially fun thing to do at night when the statues are lit up, as are many of the most important landmarks on the city's left bank. Here, below the Marienberg Fortress, you'll see the 11th-century parish church of St. Burkard and the Burkarder Tor, a wonderful old city gate built in 1680 that marks the entrance to a pedestrian- and bike-only tunnel connecting two old neighborhoods.
8. The Little Chapel: Kappele Würzburg
A little farther upstream from Fortress Marienberg is Kappele Würzburg (Wallfahrtskirche Mariä Heimsuchung), or "Little Chapel," a picturesque pilgrimage chapel built by Balthasar Neumann in a Russian Orthodox style between 1747-50. Notable features of this attractive building, set amid a lovely wooded area high above the River Main, are its many frescoes by Matthias Günther, as well as its beautiful views over the Main and the city, which are particularly pleasant in the evening. From the banks of the Main, a steep and shady stepped lane with 14 Stations of the Cross, including tiny chapels and groups of statues (some 77 of the latter, all told), leads up to the chapel. The church remains an important pilgrimage site.
Address: Spittelbergweg 21, 97082 Würzburg
9. Schloss Veitshöchheim
If you're interested in learning about the kinds of things the Bishop-Prince's got up to when not staying at their Würzburg Residenz, take the short journey a few miles north to the town of Veitshöchheim. Here, you'll find Schloss Veitshöchheim, their sumptuous summer palace. Constructed in 1682 with later 18th-century additions, it's a delightful place to explore, inside and out.
Interior highlights can be viewed as part of a guided tour and include exquisite furnishings and décor in a number of rooms renovated in the early 19th century, including extremely rare period wallpaper, which has survived intact. Equally pleasing is the palace's exquisite Rococo Court Garden. Highlights include a number of ponds, small lakes, and fountains that were added in the mid 1700s, as well as more than 200 sculptures made from sandstone and representing everything from mythical characters to animals and ancient gods.
A small museum on the main floor of the palace features displays and exhibits related to the garden and its historical significance (audio guides are available).
Address: Echterstrasse 10, 97209 Veitshöchheim
10. Röntgen Memorial Site
In addition to its many larger attractions, Würzburg boasts a number of interesting smaller museums worth checking out, many of them associated with the city's university. One of the most important is the Röntgen Memorial Site, a museum commemorating the achievements of the discoverer of the X-ray, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. In addition to its impressive collection of the physicist's instruments and documents are useful displays and explanations (in English and German) of the work that led to his Nobel prize win.
Other highlights are a number of laboratories containing original machines used by Röntgen and those that followed in his footsteps. Another interesting small museum is the Siebold Museum, dedicated to Philipp Franz von Siebold, a local doctor and researcher who became famous for his studies of Japanese culture and his unique collection of related artifacts, many of which are on display here (guided tours are available).
Address: Röntgenring 8, 97070 Würzburg
11. Martin von Wagner Museum
Founded in 1832, the Martin von Wagner Museum — located in a wing of the Würzburg Residenz — is home to the University of Würzburg's impressive art collection. It's one of the biggest university art galleries in Europe, and highlights of a visit include the chance to view a large number of rare antiquities, an impressive collection of graphic art, as well as numerous important paintings.
Of its antiquities, notable exhibits include items dating back some 2,400 years from ancient Greece, Egypt, and Imperial Rome (including one of Germany's largest collections of ancient vases). Represented in the art gallery section are paintings and sculptures from the 15th to 20th century by leading European artists, while the graphic arts collection features some 25,000 prints and sketches. And as this excellent museum charges no admission, it's one of the top free things to do in Wurzburg. (Group guided tours are available.)
Address: Residenzplatz 2A, 97070 Würzburg
12. Museum im Kulturspeicher Würzburg
Art lovers should also be sure to include the city's Museum im Kulturspeicher Würzburg on their travel itineraries. Founded in 2002 in a former warehouse overlooking the river, this popular art museum features a variety of different styles, including regional artworks and an important collection of modern concrete art from across Europe. Notable among its collection of works from German artists are a series of 19th-century landscapes and portraits, impressionist art, as well as important items from leading Bauhaus movement members.
Other highlights include a vast graphic art collection of over 30,000 works and the six galleries dedicated to concrete art. While in the mood for art, be sure to check into the VKU-Galerie Spitäle, a nicely renovated 18th-century chapel that hosts displays of contemporary art, and the fascinating Kunstschiff Arte Noah, a former cargo ship turned into an art gallery.
Address: Oskar-Laredo-Platz 1, 97080 Würzburg
13. Botanical Gardens: Botanischer Garten der Universität Würzburg
One of the top free things to do in Würzburg is to pay a visit to the city's large botanical gardens (Botanischer Garten der Universität Würzburg). Run by the University of Würzburg, the gardens can trace their roots back to the late 17th century, when it was established as a medical garden. These days, guests can see examples of some 10,000 species of plants, including many rare regional varieties.
Of special interest are collections from Japan attributed to the acclaimed German naturalist Philipp Franz von Siebold. Other highlights include a number of interesting tropical and Mediterranean greenhouses, an alpine house, medicinal plants, and a large herbarium with more than 100,000 specimens.
Also worth visiting is the Mineralogical Museum, popular for its large collections of ancient stones and minerals.
Address: Julius-von-Sachs-Platz 4, 97082 Würzburg
Where to Stay in Würzburg for Sightseeing
We recommend these great hotels in Würzburg located near the city's top attractions:
Luxury Hotels: Perched on a hilltop overlooking the Main river, Schlosshotel Steinburg is an elegant luxury hotel in a bucolic setting boasting some of the best views in Würzburg. Built in the late 19th century, it's an interesting mix of modern and medieval-themed décor, with comfortable rooms, an indoor pool, and a steam room.
Another great option in the luxury category is Hotel Würzburger Hof, an attractive historic hotel with spacious rooms and suites located close to top attractions such as the Marienberg Fortress and the Residenz (it's also an easy walk from the city's main train station). Also worth considering is the highly rated Best Western Premier Hotel Rebstock. Set in a building dating all the way back to the early 1400s, it's just steps away from the Residenz and offers a number of larger suites with separate living areas.
- Mid-Range Hotels: A top choice in the mid-range price category, Hotel Gruener Baum boasts a fantastic location in the Old Town near the Marienberg Fortress. In addition to its wonderful staff, guests benefit from a great traditional breakfast and secure garage parking. The Mercure Hotel Wuerzburg am Mainufer offers affordable rates, contemporary styling, and spacious bathrooms, while the cozy Hotel Alter Kranen, with its mix of rooms and suites, is certainly worth considering.
- Budget Hotels: The sleek, modern-looking Ibis Wuerzburg City is a great choice for those seeking a reputable budget hotel, with comfortable beds and multilingual staff. Other affordable options in the budget category can be found in the nearby town of Veitshöchheim, just a few minutes north of Würzburg. These include Etna Hotel & Ristorante, located in the midst of the town and offering friendly staff and clean rooms, and Hotel Weisses Lamm, popular for its large, clean rooms and handy parking.
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Easy Train Trips: Thanks to its great location smack-bang in the middle of a rail network that connects Stuttgart, Frankfurt, and Nuremburg, Würzburg is a great base from which to explore these historic cities. The attractions of the old Imperial city of Frankfurt, just an hour train ride to the west are a must-visit for those who enjoy exploring on foot, especially if you start in the Römerberg, one of the most picturesque (and largest) public squares.
An hour to the east is Nuremberg, famous for its remarkable medieval castle and its well-preserved old town walls. Although a longer rail journey (it's closer to two hours away), Stuttgart is well worth the effort for its magnificent museums — car lovers won't want to miss the Mercedes-Benz Museum — and art galleries, the most important of which is the State Gallery (Staatsgalerie Stuttgart).
Southern Germany: Southern Germany offers plenty of fun things to see and do for tourists to this culturally rich country. Munich, the capital of the state of Bavaria and the biggest city in the south, is home to many important historic attractions, from magnificent palaces (Residenz) to old town squares (Marienplatz) and its splendid cathedral, the Frauenkirche. Though much smaller, Augsburg is no less important in terms of its historic and culturally significant architecture, which includes its splendid 11th-century cathedral and the Fuggerei, an area of old townhomes built in the 1500s that to this day is operated as a social housing scheme.
Smaller still are the towns of Lindau and Konstanz, two of the many lovely towns and villages that line the shores of beautiful Lake Constance, an area of outstanding natural beauty, which attracts countless hikers and cyclists for its many great trails, some of which will take you completely around the lake's 270 kilometers of shoreline.
Germany Vacation Ideas: Those looking for a fun urban experience should head to the country's capital of Berlin. Here, you'll be rewarded with a chance to explore some of the most important museums in Europe, many of them located on the culturally significant Museum Island (Museumsinsel), a UNESCO World Heritage Site that should be top of your Berlin itinerary. For a complete change of pace, visit the famous Black Forest region, home to the delightful spa town of Baden-Baden and the spectacular Black Forest Ridgeway, one of the country's most picturesque tourist routes.