Würzburg: Das Gasthaus
Baroque with a refined aftertaste

The romance of wine on the River Main is a stylish delight. Visitors will also find Baroque opulence, creative beers made by an American, and a whisky with a Franconian character. Insider tips for an indulgent city break in Würzburg. A story by Dietmar Denger (text and photos)




Reading time: 13 minutes

Würzburg for connoisseurs

A late afternoon visit to the Old Main Bridge is a must. This is definitely the place to be at this time: at the wine counter of the “Alte Mainmühle” inn, local Franconians mix with tourists from all around the world for the relaxing post-work ritual on the Old Main Bridge.

Two Japanese tourists with thick, horn-rimmed glasses scurry about trying to find the best photo spot to capture some of the bridge’s 12 saints. The statues, whose figures include the Franconian kings Pippin and Charlemagne, ensure that the bridge dating from the 12th century, doesn’t collapse under the weight of so many visitors.

Those who wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the bridge can find more secluded spots by the river on the Main Promenade near the historic ship crane from the 18th century. And on board the small “Main-Kutter Würzburg” there is a charming ship’s bar with the best views of the Main Bridge and the Fortress Marienberg.

Fortress and Residence: total ostentation!

Würzburg’s most striking building, the fortress and residence, was built here as a result of the clerical desire to live in grand splendour. Where the white walls of the Marienberg rise up high above the city, some 3,000 years ago the Celts sought protection from ancient villains in the dark panic rooms of a bleak refuge castle.

The new castle was the Residence of the Prince-Bishops from 1253 to 1719 before being rebuilt as a Renaissance Palace in 1600. Below it the small houses of the Main District - Würzburg’s oldest district was once home to the artisans and fishermen - cling onto the narrow slope between the castle and the river. The Felsengasse is a particularly tight squeeze.

Vom Würzburger Mainufer aus kann die Alte Mainbrücke und die Festung Marienberg aus einer neuen Perspektive betrachtet werden

677 square metres: the largest ceiling fresco in the world

The fortress, in comparison, is huge and yet failed to offer protection from claustrophobia. In the 18th century, Würzburg’s church dignitaries moved to a superlative new building on the other side of the river. The opulence of Würzburg’s bishops in the Baroque era is only matched by the residences of France’s Sun King.

This plump monarch was not just a trendsetter in terms of extravagance. The mighty Residence is so reminiscent of Versailles that the Paris scenes of the new version of the film “The Three Musketeers” was recently filmed in Würzburg.

The UNESCO World Heritage site is home to a staircase with the largest ceiling fresco in the world, as well as 300 rooms, some of which are as big as indoor tennis courts. Anyone who got bored of the host and was not inclined to teetotalism would have been delighted by the range on offer in the basement. Even today, the barrels are still lined up in an endless maze of passages in what is now the “Staatlichen Hofkeller”, where you can get a little tipsy without even tasting the wine.

Wine on the Main: prime location and winetails

Along with some small outfits, there are two other big wineries in the city: the Bürgerspital zum Heiligen Geist and the Weingut Juliusspital. They all benefit from a prime location: the Würzburger Stein vineyard is the first thing you see when you arrive here by train from the north, heading for the main railway station. Vines wherever you look, the largest contiguous single vineyard in Germany!

No wonder wine is omnipresent here. Various wine festivals are held here through the spring and summer, with the loveliest taking place in July in the Hofgarten of the Residence.

The oldest still drinkable wine, a “Steinwein” dating back almost 500 years, is stored in the Bürgerspital.

"Bürgerspital-Weinstuben"

With so much tradition, a bit of fresh blood is good. That is exactly what has happened successfully in the “Bürgerspital Weinstuben”. After years cooking in the best award-winning restaurants in the country, Alexander Wiesenegg has brought many new ideas back to the family business.

It’s not only the menu where Wiesenegg has added his own style: at the entrance to the restaurant with its attractive vaulted ceiling, the “Weinbar” makes a cool lounge. It encourages a creative interaction with the Silvaners, Rieslings and Burgunders from the winery. A colourful atmosphere is created through the lighting and in the glass.

“With our winetails - wine-based cocktails - we are experimenting with natural aromas from fruits and herbs,” says Wiesenegg. Sacrilege? “No, it goes down really well!” And when it comes to gourmet cooking, he again likes to look beyond Franconia’s borders.

As well as Franconian classics such as Blaue Zipfel and Schäufele, he is not shy to introduce international dishes from as far apart as Italy and China. “However, it’s important in such a traditional establishment to be cautious about your changes and stay loyal to your regular clientele.”

Würzburg: Neben einigen kleinen Betrieben finden sich zwei weitere große Weingüter in der Stadt: das Bürgerspital zum Heiligen Geist und das Weingut Juliusspital

Beer after wine: oh, how fine!

For Chris Sullivan it’s important that the people in the wine city of Würzburg remember to enjoy their beers too and remain open to new ideas. That requires a good helping of pioneering spirit and self-confidence. The rangy American has both of these in spades. At Halloween he sometimes jogs through Würzburg dressed in a skeleton costume brought with him from his home state of Oregon.

“SMaSH” is the name he gave his small brand, which stands for “Single Malt and Single Hop”. Instead of following the craft beer trend with exotic aromas, Sullivan has gone in the opposite direction. In some respects he takes the purity law to the extreme and uses only the finest ingredients: “My beer is brewed with Barke, an old barley variety, which gives it a distinctive historic malty character. For hops I use Tettnanger, one of the oldest hop varieties,” explains Sullivan.

When naming his beers he relies on creative local colour. This started a couple of years ago with his hoppy “Herbipolis Retro Lager”. Herbipolis, the “herb city”, is the Latinised name of Würzburg. And this beer does exactly what it implies: there is a fine hint of citrus on the nose but also an exciting tanginess.

And that’s not all. Even “pine resin, sun-dried straw and a little green apple”, is the verdict of the beer experts at the shop “Bierothek”, one of the retail outlets where Sullivan sells his creations. “But all that comes just from the hops,” affirms the beer artist with his lumberjack shirt and hipster beard.

Whisky from Würzburg: Four Barrels for a Halleluja!

 “82 Chapters to Newcastle” is the name of the small new brand marketed as “Distilled in Scotland, specially matured in Germany.” At the Frankfurt International Trophy, the trade fair for alcoholic drinks, sommeliers, trade journalists and master distillers singled out the eight-year-old single malt “Vier Fässer für ein Halleluja” (Four Barrels for a Halleluja) out for a gold medal, explains Hadrian Bromma, who runs the project with his father and father-in-law. The name is a play on the maturing process. “Most whiskies spend their whole life maturing in a single barrel. Our whisky changes barrel four times.”

It is distilled in the Scottish “Highland Distillery Ardmore”, and spends its first years there. It is then finished off in the Hofkeller of the Residence, where it can breathe in the special climate along with thousands of wine barrels.

“Above all, the air is extremely dry. It is also really warm compared to other cellars,” says Bromma. The result is that some of the noble liquid evaporates in the air. “Known as ‘the angels’ share’, this evaporation amounts to a steep 20 percent,” explains the expert, “which gives the end product its intensive finish”. You can taste the difference.

Würzburg: Flaschen der Biermarke

And with that, the city tour ends where it started: on the Main Bridge, late in the evening, when the tourists have long since vanished back to their hotels or cruise ships. On one side, the Old Town skyline with the Rathaus and church towers is beautifully illuminated, on the other the moon is rising over the fortress. A real treat. To be enjoyed with wine, beer, whisky - or just neat!

Würzburg: Die alte Mainbrücke wurde im 12. Jahrhundert erbaut und verbindet die Altstadt mit dem Mainviertel
Staatlicher Hofkeller: Der Weinkeller des Weinguts gleicht einem Labyrinth

Things to Do and See

Let's go-Listicle: What to see and experience in Würzburg

More City features from all over Bavaria

Berchtesgadener Altstadt mit Hirschenhaus (links) und Marktbrunnen

Somewhere between Watzmann and Jenner

Berchtesgaden offers visitors a great mix of mountain panorama and old town flair. Perfect for a day trip with aperitivo on the Schlossplatz

Read more
Blick vom Hofgarten auf Schloss Ehrenburg in Coburg

Royal Touch

What do 31-centimetre-long bratwursts, Queen Victoria and Albert, and a huge castle complex have in common? You can't get around them in Coburg!

Read more
Nördlingen: Blick vom Turm Daniel

Middle Ages, Miocene & Manga

City walls, alleys and town houses bring the Middle Ages back to life. But the history of the region goes back 15 million years more

Read more
Kurparl Bad Kissingen im Sommer

A spa like no other

Bad Kissingen, a spa par excellence, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2021. Read these tips!

Read more
The Band Loisach Marci in the Partnach gorge

A Famous Duo

Garmisch-Partenkirchen offers nature experiences, cultural enjoyment and the Bavarian way of life. We reveal the most beautiful highlights

Read more

Along the wall!

Bike tour with artist and Bavaria insider Thomas Neumann to Munich's most casual streeta-art-spots. A colourful day across Munich

Read more
The Landshut Wedding takes place every four years

A leading role

Medieval boulevards, charming alleys, a castle and the world-famous Landshut Wedding. This city has what film crews are looking for

Read more
Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Plönlein

Romanticism ob der Tauber

The medieval Rothenburg attracts visitors with half-timbered houses, small museums and a lot of history and sights. Our tips

Read more
Die Mädchen posieren vor dem Adler

Full steam ahead for children

Nuremberg has plenty to offer for teenagers, too. And it’s not just a handful of adults saying that, but our 17-year-old reporter, Jonas

Read more
Max-Josefs-Platz und der Glockenturm der Stadtpfarrkirche St. Nikolaus in Rosenheim

A touch of the south

Romans, salt trade, Inn shipping, railroad - many influences have shaped Rosenheim. Today, the city scores with southern flair and ...

Read more

News from Bavaria

Get first-hand tips on stories, travel reports and events!