Bavaria has a wealth of cultural assets of international repute. They range from medieval cities to castles and abbeys, and from agricultural and industrial culture to modern architecture. We will show you 16 cultural treats.
Right on the border: Friedberg Castle
High above the Lechfeld flood plain lies the town of Friedberg. The House of Wittelsbach built it as a stronghold against the neighbouring Augsburg. This past can still be glimpsed in the partially preserved town wall and the castle. A Renaissance building with medieval origins. It has been extensively restored.
The main showpiece is the museum. Here the history of the castle and the town are presented, incorporating modern media displays. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Friedberg was a clockmaking centre of European renown. A collection shows valuable Friedberg clocks from this time. Also on display are rare pieces of Faience (earthenware with a white glaze), which were manufactured in the castle. The museum also features archaeological finds, sacred art and works by local Friedberg artists.
wittelsbacher-schloss-friedberg.de (only in German)
Cultural mix in Günzburg
Günzburg lies in Bavarian Swabia where the rivers Günz and Nau flow into the Danube. It is around 50 kilometres west of Augsburg. The town is an attractive combination of 500 years of Austrian history (from 1301 to 1806 the town was politically under Austrian/Habsburg rule) and a traditional Swabian way of life.
The picturesque old town has many attractive features: the historic market place, which was once on the mail route from Vienna to Paris (and has hosted a weekly market since 1395), the Unteres Tor gate, the Frauenkirche (a Rococo masterpiece by Dominikus Zimmermann and a precursor of the Wieskirche), a tollhouse, charming streets, a landscaped civic park and much more.
bayerisch-schwaben.de (only in German)
Magnificent Prince-abbots: Kempten Residence
The Benedictine Abbey in Kempten was founded in the year 750. Under direct rule from the 11th century, it was subject only to the Emperor. Karl IV elevated it to a princely abbey (whereby the abbot held the rank of a sovereign prince over the earldom of Kempten). It was destroyed in the Thirty Years War. In 1652 it was rebuilt as a monumental abbey.
The double courtyard was replicated in Ottobeuren a hundred years later. Magnificent state rooms (1732 to 1742) with stucco, sculptures and paintings, including by artists of the renowned Wessobrunner School. An outstanding example of South German Rococo. The no less splendid Church of St. Lorenz was erected at the same time as the Baroque monastery. The monastery was dissolved following secularisation in 1803.
kempten-tourismus.de (only in German)
Medieval boomtown Regensburg
The old town of Regensburg together with the island of Stadtamhof on the north bank of the Danube is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the best preserved medieval city in Germany. In its heyday from the 11th to the 14th centuries, Regensburg was an important trading centre on the continental trade routes to Bohemia, Italy, Russia and Byzantium.
It also had links to the intercontinental silk routes. The exchange of cultural and architectural influences continue to characterise the city image today. The World Heritage complex reflects the expansion of the city around the year 1320. Information and exhibitions in the Visitor Centre on the Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge).
Royal dream: Neuschwanstein Castle
Internationally famous, fairy-tale castle above Hohenschwangau. It is viewed as a masterpiece of Historicism. Superb location against the backdrop of the Ammer Mountains. Conceived by King Ludwig II as the ideal medieval knight’s castle and a place of retreat. Based on the Wartburg. Building work began in 1869. Walls made of brick, pale limestone only used for the façade.
The interior features picture cycles inspired by Wagner operas. Also modern technology, including hot air central heating, an electrical call system and a modern kitchen. Ludwig only spent 172 days in the castle and died in 1886 before its final completion. The castle was opened to visitors seven weeks after his death. Today it is the most important tourist destination in Bavaria.
Roman heritage in Eastern Bavaria
The Upper-Germanic Roman Limes was almost 550 kilometres long. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, it marked the border between the Roman Empire and Germania. It is the largest ground monument in Germany and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Around 160 kilometres of the once fortified walls run through modern-day Bavaria: from Aschaffenburg to Eining near Regensburg. From there, the border is marked by the Danube.
Numerous remains and museums in Eastern Bavaria remind visitors of the border. These include the Baierweinmuseum in Bach near Donaustauf, the Roman fort in Eining, the Roman Spa and Bath Museum in Neustadt an der Donau, the Quintana Museum in Künzing, the Roman treasures in the Gäubodenmuseum Straubing and the Roman Museum of Castle Boiotro in Passau.
ostbayern-tourismus.de (only in German)
A piece of Athens: the Walhalla
The Walhalla boasts a splendid location high above the Danube near Donaustauf. The classicist temple surrounded by columns was designed by architect Leo von Klenze. He based it on the Parthenon on the Athens Acropolis. It was commissioned by King Ludwig I, who wanted to pay homage to German-speaking historical personalities. Objective: to portray a united cultural nation.
The name Walhalla refers to the warrior paradise of German mythology. Opened in 1842. The interior features marble cladding, a frieze of figures, commemorative plaques for and busts of rulers, generals, scientists and artists. The collection is regularly added to. The last addition was in 2019 in the form of a bust of the painter and sculptor Käthe Kollwitz. It currently houses a total of 131 busts and 65 commemorative plaques.
Italian import: Landshut Residence
Landshut is the largest city in Lower Bavaria. It had its heyday in the Late Middle Ages as the capital of the duchy of Bayern-Landshut. The opulent Landshut Wedding is re-enacted here every four years. Impressive old town with many Gothic and Renaissance monuments.
One highlight: in 1536, Duke Ludwig X ordered the construction of a city palace based on the Palazzo del Te in Mantua. He commissioned Italian artists for the work. They built what is now know as the “Italian building”, the first Renaissance palace north of the Alps. The vaulted ceiling has been painted with a series of Humanist pictures.
The last of its kind: Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth
Margravine Wilhelmine of Bayreuth, the younger sister of Friedrich II of Prussia, had an opera house built to mark the wedding of her daughter. It was opened in 1748. It is deemed to be the best-preserved free-standing Baroque royal theatre. The interior decoration was done in Italian Late Baroque style by the brothers Galli da Bibiena. All in wood!
In terms of size and magnificence, the Margravial Opera House was on a par with theatres in Vienna, Paris and Venice that no longer exist. In contrast, the theatre in Bayreuth is still as it always was: complete with all its ornamentation, paintings and authentic acoustics. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012. In later years, the Opera House attracted a certain composer named Richard Wagner to Bayreuth ...
A work of art - the Würzburg Residence
Würzburg is the seventh-largest city in Bavaria. Its golden age was predominantly in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it acquired some significant buildings. The Residence, commissioned by the Counts of Schönborn, is of European importance. It is one of the loveliest Baroque palaces in Europe. The build was overseen by the brilliant court architect Balthasar Neumann. Built and decorated: 1720 to 1779.
The Residence reflects key architectural trends of the time: French palace architecture, Viennese Baroque and Northern Italian palazzo and sacred architecture. It features a unique series of rooms: vestibule, staircase, White Hall, Imperial Hall. The staircase is famous for having the world’s largest contiguous ceiling fresco, created by Venetian Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. It has more than three hundred Baroque and Rococo rooms, of which 42 are now open to view. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981.
The Kaiserburg – symbol of Nuremberg
The castle at Nuremberg is two castles in one. It consists of the Burggrafenburg and the Kaiserburg. They date back to around the year 1000. In the Middle Ages, the castle was one of the most important imperial palaces. The Burggrafenamt region was held by the Hohenzollerns for a long time. Later it was transferred to the Brandenburgs, which is when its real ascendency began. Over time, Nuremberg became a significant trading and financial centre and an independent Imperial City.
The city took over the castle and incorporated it into the city’s defences. Later still, the castle was used purely for representational purposes. It was rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries in line with contemporary tastes. An exhibition provides information about the continued existence and function of the castle, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and the importance of Nuremberg in the Late Middle Ages.
Medieval icon Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg is located in Middle Franconia, on the edge of the Nature Park Frankenhöhe. In the High Middle Ages it was the centre of power of the Staufer dynasty. After that, it came under direct rule of the king. It’s heyday was in the 14th century. Later, its importance diminished and it stagnated. This is one reason why the medieval old town has remained largely unchanged.
Today, Rothenburg is a world-famous tourist attraction and a highlight of the Romantic Road. With everything that a romantic heart could wish for: half-timbered houses, narrow, crooked streets and a city wall complete with towers. Art highlight: the Holy Blood Altar by Tilmann Riemenschneider in the Gothic Church of St. Jacob. Also museums and historic events such as the Schäfertanz (Shepherd’s Dance) and the Meistertrunk (The Master Draught).
“Never again!” Dachau memorial
The concentration camp of Dachau was built just weeks after Hitler’s rise to power (he was named Chancellor of the Reich on 30 January 1933) on the site of a former munitions factory.
This place of imprisonment and terror operated for twelve years. It became a globally recognised symbol of Nazi terror. Initially it was used as a prison for political opponents of the Nazis, but after the pogrom of 9 November 1938 many Jewish citizens were brought here, followed after the outbreak of war by prisoners from occupied countries. The prisoners had to endure forced labour. They were also used as guinea pigs for medical experiments. Dachau was a training place for concentration camp guards and SS officers, who were later deployed to extermination camps.
The main camp supported around 110 satellite camps. Of the 200,000 prisoners, around 41,500 were either killed or died due to the inhumane conditions. Twenty years after liberation of the camp on 29 April 1945, this memorial was erected on the site. It is visited by more than 900,000 people each year.
Cosmopolitan! Munich Olympic Park
The large-scale, extensive Olympic Park is located in the north of Munich. It is the ideal place for walking or playing sport. Laid out for the 1972 Olympic Games, the site contains some of the most important buildings of modern-day Munich. These include the Olympic Stadium with its world-famous tented roof, the Olympic Tower and the Olympia Schwimmhalle. It forms a deliberate contrast to the monumental architecture of many other sports venues. A cheerful, fresh graphic design that deliberately eschews the often misused signal colour red.
The Olympic site opens onto a park with a mountain and a lake. In recent architectural criticism, the Olympic Park is praised as a “symbol for the spiritual freedom and light-hearted openness” of the Federal Republic and seen as a showcase of modern Germany.
Wendelsteinbahn industrial monument
The Wendelsteinbahn in the Mangfall mountains is the oldest active rack railway in Bavaria. It is under historic protection. The industrialist Otto von Steinbeis had it built between 1910 and 1912. Around 800 labourers, mostly from Bosnia and Italy, worked under very difficult conditions.
The electric-powered train has an elevation gain of at least 1,200 metres. It has over ten galleries, seven tunnels and thirteen bridges. A hydroelectric plant was built to provide the energy. The railway starts in Brannenburg in the Inn valley. It ends at 1,723 metres, a hundred metres below the summit.
A mountain inn was opened close by in 1883. The railway is seen as a technical miracle and a milestone in opening up the Alps to visitors. From the top there is a fantastic 360 degree panoramic view. Since 1970 there has also been a cable car up to the Wendelstein from Bayrischzell-Osterhofen.
Good old times in Glentleiten
A look back at the agricultural history of Upper Bavaria is on offer in Glentleiten. More than sixty original preserved farmhouses and other agricultural buildings can be seen and accessed in this open-air museum. Together with a folkloric collection, they reflect agricultural customs and daily culture, working practices and traditions.
The extensive grounds also feature gardens, meadows and woodland. Historic farm breeds live there and ancient varieties of fruit and vegetables are also grown on site. The museum also has exhibitions on topics such as water supplies and milk processing, as well as special exhibitions and craft demonstrations. The Glentleiten site is at around 750 metres near Lake Kochelsee. A second location is the Amerang Farm Museum in Chiemgau.