Bamberg is one of my favourite small towns in Germany.
It’s set among rolling hills. There’s a picturesque river running through it. Most of the town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.
Oh, and there are nine separate breweries in town with combined millennia of experience brewing amazing beer – including the city’s world-famous Rauchbier.
I backpacked through Bamberg once. I stayed a few nights and had an amazing time.
Here’s the Wandering Boozebag’s travel report on a German town that is absolutely worth visiting.
Bamberg has a typical German history. It was part of the Holy Roman Empire. Monasteries and abbeys got involved at some point.
Bamberg is based across seven hills. Each hill is crowned by a church.
It’s the second best-known city in Europe founded on seven hills. Apparently, Bamberg tour guides call Rome “the Italian Bamberg”. Everyone’s a comedian.
There were witch trials in the 1600s. I learned a new German word while visiting Bamberg: Drudenhaus or ‘witch prison’. I didn’t actually ever hear that word there. I read it on the Bamberg Wiki page 30 seconds ago.
Today, Bamberg is a university town. The University of Bamberg was founded there in 1647. That sounds old to me, but I’m sure it’s like the 30th oldest university in Germany.
What happened to Bamberg during the most exciting and controversial part of German history, World War II? Well, Adolf Hitler convened his “Bamberg Conference” in 1926 to foster support.
If you want the complete history of Bamberg, you can read it. It’s not overly exciting.
Bamberg and the American Military
When traveling around the United States, you’ll find a surprising number of Americans familiar with Bamberg.
The reason? Bamberg was an important base for the Bavarian, German, and American military forces. They were stationed at Warner Barracks, which had been occupied by U.S. Forces from the end of WWII.
I’ve met a couple Americans stateside who knew of Bamberg.
I also met a bartender at the Irish bar in Bamberg who was born and raised in America – but stayed after the base was closed.
I went to order a beer in German and he laughed and spoke to me in American. Go figure.
Bamberg Backpacking Itinerary: Things to Do in Bamberg
I took the train into Bamberg after visiting Bacharach and the Rhine River Valley.
It was a pleasant, easy train ride along mostly regional trains. Took about 4 hours. There were rolling hills and river valleys the whole way. I sat on the top deck of a double decker train and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I stayed at the Sleepy Owl Hostel, which was perfect.
My hostel was a 5 minute walk from the train station. A 10 minute walk into downtown. There was an authentic kebab shop on the corner. My room was spacious and nice. Huge common kitchen room.
Oh, and there was a rooftop patio where I could chill and drink my favourite local beers.
Woke up and walked around the corner from the hostel for a coffee and breakfast. Worked in my hostel room until noon.
Walked into town to check out some of the breweries.
I ended up at Schlenkerla Brewery first. They had good rauchweissbier (yes, smoke wheat beer), which I figured was a good first beer of the day.
I sat by myself until a friendly Swedish retiree named Niels joined me. He bought me a couple more beers and we had a very nice chat over the hour.
I walked back through town and stopped at Die Bierothek Bamberg. It’s a great little store on the corner by the main bridge through town. It has tons of bottled beers from local breweries. The clerk was happy to help me in English when he saw me looking like a lost dipshit tourist.
Bamberg has a great castle on its highest hill called Altenerg. You can take a bus to it. I hiked up to it. It took about an hour from my hostel.
It’s a beautiful walk that takes you across the entire town of Bamberg.
The climb is gradual, but I was sweating by the top on a sunny day.
The view was definitely worth it. There’s a restaurant at the top where you can have a beer, although it was closed for an event when I was there.
I walked back into town, stopping at Bamberger Dom (a big ass church above town). It’s a nice spot for photos. There’s a nice garden called “Rosengarten”.
There’s also a gift shop where you can buy some famous alcohol made by the local monks.
After that, I came back to the hostel and met a Finnish dude who was doing a carpentry trade apprenticeship in town. I convinced him to go out on a Thursday even though he had work the next day.
We went to the most famous brewery in town – Spezial. We met a solo British traveler there and boy did the night take off from there.
We ended up across town at Schlenkerla, which is where I learned one of my favourite legends in town:
Several breweries in Bamberg have a window facing onto the street. You walk up to the window and rent a mug for a deposit of around 2 to 4 EUR. Then, they fill it up with good, local beer. You stand with your mug full of beer on the street and hang out with a bunch of other people doing the same thing.
The story goes like this: wives in Bamberg told their husbands that they weren’t allowed to go into the bar. The bars came up with a clever solution: they built a window facing the street, then handed beer mugs out the window. When the husbands got home piss drunk, their wives would ask if they had been into the bar. The husbands could honestly answer no. Amazing. No wonder why men ruled the world for thousands of years.
So we hung out on the street with a good crowd of people. I think we were the only three people speaking English there. There were young and old people. Guys. Girls.
The night was just getting started.
Eventually they kick you off the street and end the brewery street party. We asked for recommendations and found a bar down the street called the Green Room. They had a deal for six Jagerbombs for like 20 EUR, so we split that between the three of us (smart). After that, the night got a little blurry.
We closed down at Mulligan’s Pub, a genuine Irish bar in the middle of Bamberg. That’s where I met the American bartender I mentioned above. Good, typical, cozy Irish bar. Lots of friendly people.
Walked home and had a night cap on the hostel patio with my new friend. Pretty good fucking day in Bamberg.
The Finnish guy, by the way, called in sick to work the next day.
Woke up, had a kebab and coffee for breakfast around the corner from the hostel, then caught the train to Pilzen, Czech Republic
Bamberg Travel Tips and Tricks
The town is very walkable. You can walk from one end to the other quite easily. As with any German town, there’s also great public transit.
University students hang out along the bridges in the middle of town, chilling and drinking beer. If you’re feeling social, they seemed pretty welcoming.
A bar called Zum Sternla is the oldest pub in Bamberg. It was closed for renovations when I was there, but I peaked inside. It looked really cool and was built in 1380.
The Rauchbier (smoke beer) isn’t for everyone. The Schlenkerla Rauchbier was my favourite. It’s super smoky but very drinkable. Other Rauchbiers were genuinely hard to get through a whole pint.
You can take a city bus that tours you around to the various monasteries, hills, and churches around town. I just walked to Altenberg instead and skipped the other hills, but it’s an option.
I recommend the hostel I stayed at – Sleepy Owl. It wasn’t overly special and didn’t have a great crowd or atmosphere (I was there in April). However, I still met a couple great people there. The rooms and bathrooms were nice and clean. The rooftop patio was a great place to chill. I think there was one other hostel option in town.