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Wurzburg, Germany

 

   Introduction to Wurzburg    The Residenz   The Fortress  Other Attractions

 

Best Places to Visit on the Romantic Road Germany

Wurzburg

 The glorious Court Chapel in the Wurzburg Residenz

Wurzburg Germany, a modestly sized town with a population of 140,000, occupies a scenic location on the banks of the Main River and is surrounded by agricultural land use. 

The Old Main Bridge connects the eastern and western portions of the  city. The  prominent Marienberg Fortress, which had predecessor forts dating back into prehistory, is atop a hill to the west of the river.   The “Old Town” and the world-famous Residenz are located on the floodplain to the east of the river. The city is compact and made for walking.

Wurzburg has a noticeably peaceful ambiance.  There are a number of interesting sights in town and the Old Town is a great place for wandering.

During your tour, take time to experience the Markt and the Domstrasse.  This is the most direct way to get to the Old Main Bridge (the Altes Mainbrücke ) for a scenic view of the Fortress Marienberg.  It i also, takes you through a  vital pedestrian zone filled with shops, good restaurants and is a very pleasant place to stop, have a meal and watch the town’s residents go about their daily business.

Along the Alte Mainbrucke (Old Main Bridge) in WurzburgThe city has a long history with precursor settlements dating back several centuries before the birth of Christ.  In the 7th Century (AD), the Irish missionaries converted the town’s residents to Christianity.  Unfortunately, a duke of Franconia murdered Saint Kilian and two other missionaries (their statues can be found on the Old Main Bridge). 

The town has been associated with Charlemagne, Frederick Barbarossa and was the home of the Prince-Bishops of Wurzburg and the famed woodcarver Tilman Riemenscheneider.  The town suffered defeat in the Thirty Years War and was conquered by King Gustav of Sweden.  In 2004, Wurzburg celebrated the 1300th anniversary of its founding.

It is a tribute to the dedication and perseverance of Wurzburg’s citizens that there are any attractions for the visitor to see.  Late in 1945, as World War II raced to an end, the city was fire-bombed and in twenty-minutes the air raid destroyed most of the city’s buildings, including the Residenz and the Dom.  Unfortunately, their damaged exterior shells were all that remained standing of these once majestic monuments.  Over the next half-century the city was rebuilt, the masterpieces restored and historic Wurzburg once more became a beautiful and interesting place to visit.

The best places to visit in Wurzburg are the Residenz and the Fortress Marienberg.  If you have time, you might want to take a peek at the towns’ interesting collection of churches, specifically the Käpelle (an 18th century Baroque chapel near the River Main designed by Balthasar Neumann - on the same side of the river as the Fortress), as well as the Dom (the city’s soaring cathedral), the Neumünster-Kirche and the MarienKapelle.  These churches offer interesting architecture and each contains several beautiful pieces, many the work of the hometown artist Tilman Riemenscheider.  The churches are all in close proximity, but if you are pressed for time, skip the others and take in the Marienkapelle.

The Residenz

The front entrance to the Wurzburg ResidenzMost visitors to Wurzburg come to see the Residenz, an architectural and design masterpiece that is one of the important Baroque palaces of Europe.  Officially titled the Residenz of the Wurzburg Prince-Bishops, this monumental palace was constructed during a twenty-four year period dating from the laying of its foundation stone in 1720. 

Due to the relatively short construction period, the building has a unified design, mainly influenced by Balthasar Neumann, which has not been significantly altered since it was constructed.  Although the majority of the building was destroyed in a 1945 air raid, most of the furniture, art, and collectibles has been removed from the building and placed in secure storage during the War.  The Residenz was slowly restored to its former glory and today it is one of the finest palaces in Germany.

Built by and for the Prince-Bishops of Franconia, the Residenz shows the unfettered devotion that the royalty had for creating a milieu for themselves that was based on the best that money could buy.  The building is constructed in a grand style, but the beauty of its interior and its extravagant Rococo decoration is even more stunning.

The ticket office is to your right as you enter the Residenz.  Be sure to get an audio tour guide when you arrive to help you understand the amazing variety of objects that you will see.  Plan on spending at least two hours at the Residenz as it is one of the grand treasures of Germany.  Since photography of the interior is not allowed, consider buying the official guidebook at the entrance kiosk, as it is worth every penny (or Euro cent).

Start your tour in the bright, Garden Hall (Gartensaal), a room that mirrors in miniature, the dimensions of the vestibule outside.  The Garden Hall is delightful, in part because of the amazing ceiling frescos and in part because of the closure given the room by the ring of columns around its edge.  Take in the beauty of this room and then head to the second floor where an amazing collection of treasures awaits you.

The  majority of the first floor consists of a cavernous vestibule that you must cross to ascend to the second floor.  Attached to the north side of the Vestibule is  a marvelous staircase by Treppenahus that is one of the glories of the Residenz.  In addition to the geometric precision and  beauty of its design, the staircase is capped with a large vault that you will notice only after beginning your ascent of the stairs.  In turn, the vault is covered with a painting by Giovanni Tiepolo that is reputed to be the largest fresco ever created.  The fresco is a masterful work and complex enough to require several minutes of study to notice all of the images and themes that it contains.

               Tiepolo's cileing above the Treppenhaus Staircase in the Residenz

On the second floor, you will enter the White Hall with its masterful stuccowork (all white, of course), proceed through the regal Imperial Hall (Kaisersaal) and then to the Northern Imperial Apartments and the State Gallery.  The Northern Imperial Apartments are filled with treasures (mainly Rococo) too numerous describe. Ostentatious, beautiful, outrageous and divine are some of the word that come to mind when you explore these elegant rooms.  Much, but not all, of the original and reconstructed decorative work in these rooms was by local craftsmen. 

The Audience Room, Green Room, Bedrooms and Guest Rooms are lavishly decorated and include numerous items that will attract your attention.  At the end of this wing, you will find the Green Lacquered Room (late Wurzburg Rococo) that is as outstanding as its color scheme is unexpected.

From the Imperial apartment, you will proceed to the  State Galleries, which include masterpieces by Venetian artists and those of others whose works were related, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.

After this, you will encounter the Ingleheim Rooms, a block of 10 rooms that were the last decorated in the Residenz.  They are known as the Sensenheim rooms and t they were decorated for that era.  These roomshave become noted as fine examples of early neoclassical design in Germany.

Although there is much to see here, it is likely by this time that you will have a “design” overload. Except for the Princes Hall, these are the last rooms on your tour.  When finished, head for the Court Chapel (Hofkirche - see photo at the top of this page). You will have to use the main exit and then enter the Chapel, which is at the southwest corner of the Residenz.  The Chapel is small but visually stunning.  Its architecture is balanced in a manner that makes its rich and extravagant decorations appear integral to its message.  The Chapel a glorious sight and photography is allowed, so do your best to capture the amazing elegance of the Hofkirche.

The garden side of the Wurzburg ResidenzAfter all that time inside, head for the Court Gardens (Hoftgarten).  The Residenz is an urban palace and development of the gardens was restricted by available space, but the gardens may be even more beautiful because of this restriction.  The views of the Residenz from the elevated Promenade behind the East Garden are stunning.  If you are rushed for time, skip the gardens, but know that you are missing a real treat especially in spring and summer.

Another view of the Gardens of the Wurzburg ResidenzOpen year round, with shorter hours in autumn and winter.  The Southern Apartments and Mirror Cabinet can be seen only by participating in guided tours, which are provided twice a day. See the official website  of the Residenz for details on time and the price of admission.


Parking at the Residenz.

It seems like parking in German towns often adds a new twist.  The lot at the Residenz, which is actually the square fronting the Residenz, is automated.  After entering through the automated gate, park your car and look for the ticket dispensers that are at the west end of the square. You goal is to get the machine to dispense a parking ticket, but you should pay no money, at this point, for the privilege.  Instead, the ticket merely stamps the time of your entry. 

Next, take the ticket back to your car and place it in a visible location on the dashboard before entering the Residenz to show that you are parked legally.  Retrieve the ticket from your car when you are ready to leave the lot and take it back to the machine.  When you insert it, the display will tell you how much you owe.  Insert the required fee, and your  newly validated ticket will be  returned.  You must insert this ticket in the slot in the automated gate to raise the arm and exit the parking area.

There is much more to see in Wurzburg.  The  Festung (Fortress Marienberg) is worthy of a visit and the city offers several additional interesting attractions. as well.  Click here to continue  your exploration of Wurzburg.

NextThe Festung Marienberg and other Wurzburg attractions

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Wurzburg seems to have a large number of cafes specializing in delicious pastries.  Calorie counters should wear blinders  when visiting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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