While many cruise ship tourists who visit my city go on a guided tour, a few intrepid adventurers decide to go it alone. For these folk, I’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Wurzburg on a cruise.
This post aims to give you a walking tour that you can do in a day easily, taking in the main tourist attractions, while giving you some insider tips of what to see in Wurzburg. You probably won’t have time to visit all the attractions on this list, so choose the ones that you want to see and wander past the others.
Cruise Ports in Wurzburg
Let’s set off! You’ll most likely be at the new Wurzburg Cruise Port right underneath the Löwensbrücke (officially called the Ludwigsbrücke but because of the stone lion statues, known in Wurzburg as the lion’s bridge). It’s about a 10-minute walk from here into town. When you get off the boat, turn to your left and walk along the promenade, right under the Festung Marienburg (the Fortress on the hill).
If you are at the Neuer Hafen Cruise Port in Wurzburg, then you are just about the same distance from town, just further downstream. There is a footpath along the river, or you can walk along the main road till you get to the Congress Centrum then walk along the river past the Alter Kranen (the old crane) till you get to the Alte Mainbrücke.
At the Alte Mainbrücke, we will begin our tour.
Self-Guided Walking Tour of Wurzburg
If you prefer a guided tour, the city offers tours in English during the summer months, currently Thursday through Saturday at 11 am, starting at the Falkenhaus (Tourist Information). The tour takes 1 1/2 hours.
From the River Main to the Dom and Falkenhaus
Now, you’ll want to save the Alte Mainbrücke, the bridge with the statues, till later. We’ll come back to it. For now, head into the city. Anglophiles should stop at Eton Place to stock up on shortbread and whisky. A couple of doors down is the shop Formschön. Here you’ll find pretty accessories, silk scarves, herbs and spices and a whole lot more. And now you are at the Rathaus.
Take a moment to pop into the memorial for the 16th March 1945, and the model showing Wurzburg after the terrible night of bombing. There isn’t an official tour of the Rathaus, but you can take a look inside.
The department store Woehrl behind the fountain has a gorgeous rooftop cafe with a view over the river.
When you come back out of the Rathaus, face away from the bridge, looking up the street towards the large building with two bell towers. The shop, Schlier, on your left as you walk up is good for little gifts such as tea-towels or fancy tablecloths (straight through the underwear section and up the stairs).
Opposite Schlier, you’ll find the WVV, the public transport company in Wurzburg. You can buy a daily ticket here if you want to take a tram or a bus, but most of the city centre tram stops also have a machine where you can buy tickets. A daily ticket costs at present €5.40 for one person, €10.90 for a family. The WVV offers a Culture Route bus trip that takes you around the city, starting at the Residenz.
In the Dom (Cathedral), tours are only in German, but if you are here between Easter and end of October, try and time your visit so that you are at the Dom around midday. At 12.05pm, there is a short organ concert for 15 minutes.
There are an astounding 60 churches in Würzburg, and you could hop from one to another in the city centre. If that’s your cup of tea, pop into Neumuenster next to the Dom, and the Marienkappelle (Church of Our Lady).
From the Dom, you can take a ride in a horseless carriage for €10 per person for a 15-minute ride or €19.50 per person for a 45-minute ride.
Walk further along the main street to the Marktplatz (Market Square) and the Falkenhaus which houses the city library and the tourist information. If you are in need of a coffee, Cafe Michel is the place to go. They have a whole range of different strudels to try, including savoury ones.
Squirrel Street to the Bishop’s Palace
The Marktplatz is split into two squares, the Obere Markt (where the Falkenhaus) and the Untere Markt where you’ll find the farmer’s market and the best Bratwurst in the city. Right in front of the Marienkappelle (Chapel of Our Lady), the glass pavillion houses little shops that mainly sell specialities from the region. The first Bratwurst stall, Knüpfing – or as they are locally known – Geknickte. To ‘knick’ something is to bend or break in half. These long sausages are broken in half in order to fit them into the bread roll. Order ‘eine mit’ – with mustard or ‘eine ohne’ – without mustard and you’ll sound just like a local!
Go back to the Obere Marktplatz, passing the Falkenhaus again, and go up the street called Eichhornstrasse (with the clothing shop Zara on your right). This street name translates to Squirrel Street. See how many squirrels you can spot on the ground as you walk up this street.
Talking of looking at the ground, when you are out and about in Würzburg, and indeed in other cities in Germany, look out for the Stolpersteine. These miniature memorials commemorate the victims of the Third Reich regime. The small brass plaques with the name of the residents who were deported or murdered by the Nazis are an effective reminder of those who are missing.
Pop down the side street Martinstrasse on your right (Rösner bakery on the corner) to take a quick look at the Lusamgarten, where the Middle Ages minstrel Walter von der Vogelweide is buried. On the other side of the street, is Wilhelmstrasse, where you’ll find Cafe Fred, and on Herzogenstrasse, the Italian bistro Casa del Gusto, both great for a quick lunch, and Amon – a wonderful store for keen bakers.
Back on Squirrel Street, walk up to the giant QR code on the ground. At the corners of the QR code, you’ll find mini codes, exact replicas of the huge one on the ground. Take a photo of it to see which website opens up. The road splits here, but you want to keep the right which will lead you up to the theatre.
From the theatre, turn to your right again and you’ll discover the Residenz. The Residence Palace offers daily tours in English, which take just under an hour. Afterwards, you can take a stroll through the gardens or, if you prefer less manicured gardens, go through the wrought iron gate at the left side of the Residenz, walk up to the end of the road and take a stroll through the Ring Park. This green oasis circles the city where the city walls used to be.
If you wish to visit the Festung Marienburg, you can catch the Culture Route bus from the Residenz. Purchase a day ticket and use this as a hop-on-hop-off experience, or a return if you want to go straight to the Marienburg and back.
The City Train also departs from the Residenz. To help you decide which of these options is best, I’ve compared them for you.
If you wish to take a detour, it’s about a 15-minute walk to Shalom Europa, the Jewish Museum, which is open Monday to Thursdays. You can take the bus (Route 9) from opposite the theatre.
When you are standing with your back to the Residenz, look to your right. The large building, in the same architectural style, is the Staatliche Hofkeller Winery. Their wine cellars run under the Residenz. There are tours, but not in English but do pop into the lovely wee shop and have a look around.
When we walk back towards town, passing the theatre and going straight down the road, we come to the next of Würzburg’s three wineries, Bürgerspital. This winery was founded in 1316 to finance a Spital – a hospital. Even today, the sale of wine supports the retirement homes run by the company in Würzburg.
The glossy new winebar is a great place to have a snack. They do ‘Franconian Tapas’, where you can try mini portions of traditional meals, such as Gerupfter (Camembert cheese with paprika spice) and Mini Bratwurst. If you are here in the summer, then go around the side of the building to the Weingarten.
Do peek into the old Weinstube though, where locals regularly have a Schoppen (a 0.25l glass of wine). When they renovated a few years ago, I was really glad to see that they left this old part of the building intact.
At 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm you can catch the Glockenspiel at the Bürgerspital. The merry chimes of 13 bells play as the figures of pilgrims Kilian, Colonan and Totnan are shown, then winemakers dance and toast those watching.
Keep walking down the Theaterstrasse to Barbarossaplatz and the top of the impressive Juliuspromenade. The building to your left as you walk down is the Juliusspital, the third of the famous Wineries in Würzburg. Like the Bürgerspital, it was founded as a way to finance a hospital. The main building along the street is still a hospital. About halfway down the street, you’ll find a large gateway to the inner courtyard. The Rokoko Apotheke (rococo pharmacy) is open from 3 pm to 4 pm from Monday to Friday.
Go through the next archway to the gardens of the Juliusspital. There are daily tours of the wine cellars in German. Check the website for details of English tours as they change from season to season.
If you don’t have time to take a tour, walk through the garden. To your left is the Garten Pavillon, originally used as a ceremonial hall for festivities. It was used a lecture hall by the Institute of Anatomy for over 100 years before being used for the newly-founded Institute for Pathology from 1845. The sculptures show two anatomists, one holding a heart and the other holding a skull. The Garten Pavillon has been returned from its rather grisly usage back to the original function as a hall for celebrations.
Turn to your right and walk out of the garden to find a miniature Weinberg (vineyard). Take a good look at the stones under the vines. Notice the different colours. These are stones from the wine-growing area of Franconia: Sandstone, Shell Limestone, and Keuper. As you sail on the Cruise Ship down the River Main, look at the colours of the buildings. Between Frankfurt and Wurzburg, around the area of Miltenberg and Wertheim, you’ll notice the houses are built of red sandstone. That’s the Bunte Sandstein on the right. The middle stone is yellow, like the Residenz in Wurzburg and the buildings in the area around Volkach. And finally, the grey Keuper is the same colour as the buildings you’ll see as you continue your trip down the Main. You can see that the geology of the region is reflected both in the architecture and in the taste of the wine. The same grape variety, grown on each of these areas, results in very different tasting wine.
Along the River and the Brückenshoppen
Come back through the gardens to the Juliuspromenade and walk down to the river. You can walk under the Alter Kranen (Old Crane). This crane was used from 1773 to 1846 to transfer goods on and off riverboats. The buildings are now home to several restaurants, from a simple Biergarten to an Italian pizzeria and a Steak House.
The pizzas at Locanda are as big as a coffee table and guests are encouraged to share. You can even have each half of the pizza with a different topping. In warmer weather, you’ll find lots of students with their takeaway pizzas sitting on the banks of the river, drinking wine and chatting. This has become such a local tradition that the city has set up a designated Pizza Bin (trash can for my American readers!) along the promenade. See if you can spot it.
As you walk back along the banks of the river, you will see the Main Kutter, during the summer months. Although this boat wasn’t used for this purpose, it always reminds me of the Waschschiffe – the Washing Ships – that, up till the advent of the washing machine, were found along the river. The women would bring their clothing to the Washing Ships to scrub them clean, without having to worry about them drifting away.
If you want to find out how else the River Main was once the centre of life in Würzburg, there is a wonderful Fisheries Museum just over the Alte Mainbrücke. It is open the first Sunday in the month from 11 am till 1 pm (check the website though to be sure).
Now you are back at the Alte Mainbrücke. It is the bridge with the statues and it is where one of the loveliest traditions has been established in the past years. The Brückenshoppen. ‘Brücke’ is German for ‘bridge’, and a ‘Schoppen’, is the local measure of a glass of wine – 0.25l or about 1/2 pint (US). We talk about ordering a ‘Schoppen’ instead of a ‘glass’ of wine. A Brückenshoppen is, therefore, a glass of wine on the bridge!
The Brückenshoppen has grown from the one restaurant offering an aperitif outside on the bridge to every nearby restaurant and bar selling chilled wine in summer and Glühwein in winter.
Top tip — if you don’t want to stand while you drink your wine, go down the side of the bridge (past the English shop Eton Place) and turn left at the traffic light. Under the bridge, there’s a little bar with stools for the tired and weary. You can also reach it from the bridge, just go down the stairs opposite the entrance to the restaurant.
The Mainmühle Restaurant and Mainwein are often quite busy but if you nip across the bridge to Brückenbäck, you’ll probably not have to queue as long. And if you want a snack to go with your wine, check out the organic cafe Köhlers (where you can also buy wine to take on the bridge).
From the bridge, it’s just a short walk back to your cruise ship. I hope you’ve enjoyed your day in Würzburg and will come back again to spend more time in our gorgeous city.