While most tourists visiting Bamberg stay in the gorgeous Innenstadt because there is plenty to do, wander around, and experience there for a day or two, if you are truly looking for some amazing things to do in Bamberg, you absolutely need to put vising the stunning Bamberg Altenburg Castle on your itinerary!
I’ve been to more than my fair share of castles in Germany, but I absolutely LOVED the beauty, quietness, and just how few people were at the Schloss Altenburg Bamberg. Maybe it was because it was a pretty miserably hot day and there were threats of impending thunderstorms so not many others wanted to make the trek up the decently sized hill or maybe because it really is just a great, underrated gem. Either way, head to Altenburg and you won’t be disappointed, either!
In this article, I’ll cover everything you could possibly know about going to the Bamberg Castle. We’ll go over EXACTLY how to get there, what to expect, a bit of the history, and more.
Altenburg Castle Info
Opening Hours: 9am-9pm
Address: Altenburg 1, 96049 Bamberg
Cost: Free entrance onto the grounds. More info on possible tours below. 1 Euro to climb the tower
A Bit of History
Since Bamberg itself dates back over 1000 years, there is good reason to believe that there was some sort of establishment on top of one of the “Seven Hills of Bamberg” way back when. However, we don’t have actual documentation of Altenburg until the early 1100s when it was most likely used by locals to come together and stay in for protection in times of attack.
As church and state got horribly entwined eventually, the Bishops became rulers of the land and in the 1200s they took over what was there and used it as their place of residence.
For the next 600 years, Altenburg faced what most castles over time have encountered. You know, the typical fires burning most of it down, landslides, rebuilding, these invaders, those rulers, looting, deterioration, yada yada yada.
In 1801, a local Bamberg doctor decided to purchase what was left and rebuilt much of what we actually see today. So, despite it giving the vibe and feel of a gorgeous, medieval castle, it actually is relatively recent (although done in a preservation attempt for historical purposes)
The Castle Today
Today, the Altenburg Castle is on the official Germany “Burgenstrasse” (Castle Route), so you KNOW it is good enough to go check out for yourself! There are numerous buildings and towers that you can explore, walk around, and enjoy. There is the rebuilt main castle and Knight’s Hall, a restaurant, and an absolutely lovely outdoor Biergarten.
Altenburg Castle Tours
I’ll admit that I didn’t personally do a tour when I went to the Bamberg, Germany Castle (I much prefer to just wander. Hence the “WanderInGermany” name!) But if you’d like to do one, you can contact the Bamberg Tourismus or the Office of Applied Archaeology to arrange for one (Note: I am not sure if there are any tours available in English, but you can always ask!)
Getting to the Castle Altenburg Bamberg- Germany
Bamberg is known as the “7 Hill City” and “Franconian Rome” because of its hills surrounding the city. The tallest of those is the Räthkuppe “Mountain” which is where the Altenburg Castle is plopped right on top of. While in the Bamberg Innenstadt, it feels like Altenburg is on the outskirts of town, but it is still very much within Bamberg, although, arguably not EXTREMELY easily accessible.
The absolutely easiest way to get to Castle Altenburg in Bamberg is simply by car, be it your own or a quick taxi ride. In just 10 minutes from the heart of the Innenstadt, you’ll be at the castle.
There are 2 parking lots you can park at, both free for visitors.
- “Parkplatz für Burgbesucher” (Parking for Castle Visitors): 5-10 minute walk from the lot to the castle
Weinbergweg 8, 96049 Bamberg
- Parkplatz Altenburg: Right at the top parking spaces
Personally, if you can do a few stairs, I recommend doing the Parkplatz für Burgbesucher (that’s what it’s called in Google) because you can take a really beautiful short walk in the forest, which just adds to the ambiance of then entering the giant castle!
When I was debating how to get to the castle, my hotel recommended just taking a taxi. Since I like to be stubborn and do what I want, I ended up making my own way, buuuut I will just say that I only slightly regretted that decision a few times as I trekked up (but more on that below). Here are two taxi companies you can contact:
By Walking/ Hiking
The other main option is for you to just hike from town to the castle. After you leave the main areas of the Bamberg Old Town, you pretty much stay in the residential areas of town. So, when I say “Hike” I really only mean that in the sense that you are going to be walking uphill for a good chunk of the way and it’s not just a “leisurely stroll through town,” per se.
Bamberg Innenstadt to Altenburg Castle Walk: 35-45 Minutes (one way- not including time at the castle)
Distance: 2.5 kilometers (~1.5 miles)
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (Ok, it’s actually easy but for those of us who have eaten one too many Doners, it is doable but still a good trek!)
Approximately 140 meters gained
By Bus and Walking
You can follow the hiking route exactly as I did it from my Kamoot Map. My step by step directions on the buses I took are written below.
Note: There are no buses that take you directly to the castle itself. You can find ones that will get you *Closer* but it will still be a good 20 minutes or so walk from there, all mostly uphill.
This is exactly what I personally did when I went to the Altenburg Castle. I can’t say it gained me a TON of time by taking a bus, but hey….I recently broke my leg and foot just a few months ago, so any rest for my wonky ankle is better than none! Here is EXACTLY how I did it (not saying this is the best way, but I enjoyed it!)
I’m honestly SO happy that I did this because I would have missed so much if I had just gotten a taxi/drove straight to the castle!
Pro Tip: There are several different buses that get you out in the vicinity of the Burg, so it may be helpful for you to just put in your Google Maps and click the “train” icon to see the bus options for whatever time you are planning to leave:
Aussichtspunkt Kirchen Bamberg (Altenburger Str. 88, 96049 Bamberg)
GPS 49.884449090811565, 10.874518338927468
I Took the 918 Bus from the Bamberg Schranne Bus Stop
- In the Direction of: Pettstadt (Lkr. BA) Ärztehaus
- Getting off at: Bamberg Dorotheenstr.
The Bamberg Schranne bus stop is basically around the corner from the Rathaus. Since I had the Bamberg Card, the buses were free during my stay. I hopped on the bus and even though it was only 3 stops and literally only a few minutes ride, it saved me about 15-20 minutes of walking (in the 90 degree weather that day! Sooo I’ll take that as a win!)
After getting off the bus in what felt like what was just a typical residential area, I backtracked just about a block back up the Panzerleite Strasse and then
- Turned Left on Dorotheenstrasse and then took the next
- Right on Altenburgerstrasse
Here’s where my GPS and the signs varied. My GPS said to just keep going straight on Altenburgerstrasse, but I am SO glad that when I saw the Fussweg zur Altenburg sign on the right hand side of the street that I just followed it!
Walk Through the Altenburg Rothof
GPS Coordinates: 49.886246, 10.876886
Right along the Altenburgstrasse, I saw the sign for the protected nature reserve, the “Altenburg Rothof” and whenever I’m given a choice to enjoy a path through nature vs on a road, I happily take the route where I may see sheep grazing in the meadows, butterflies fluttering around, and commanding views.
I was absolutely shocked at how only one other person passed me on my way up to the castle! It was such a lovely, quiet walk in what felt like a world away from the tourists in town, yet it was only a few steps from the actual road! This eventually led to the…
It’s slightly embarrassing to admit that I was huffing and puffing a bit as I slowly climbed the hill (again, can I just blame it on the mid 90 degree (34 Celcius) temps and recently bum foot and NOT the fact that I’m probably just reeeeaaaallly out of shape??) While I desperately needed the bench that came into view, I plopped down and then looked out.
You’re greeted with stunning, sweeping views out over Bamberg. It’s called the Aussichtspunkt Kirchen Bamberg (Bamberg Church Viewpoint) on the map because the Michelsberg Kloster and Bamberg Dom dominate the “skyline” in a sea of red roof tops. Even if I wasn’t gasping for air and needing to chug some water at this point, I still would have sat here for a while regardless just to enjoy the silence and beauty. It was then that the church bells rang out and it was just a wonderful moment to step away from the hustle and bustle of sightseeing!
Continue to the Parkplatz
From the viewpoint, you’ll continue to walk up. There are a few paths, but since you can’t miss seeing the castle, just follow a path in that general direction and it will eventually connect you back up the main Altenburgstrasse which will then pass the parking lot.
Walk through the Waldlehrpfad Altenburg
After passing the parking lot, you’ll see a set of stairs that tucks into the forest. Follow those up along the “Waldlehrpfad” (literally meaning “Forest Trail.”) A few mosquitos decided it was lunch time as I walked the 10 minute path up from the parking lot to the castle, but it was still a nice little stairway jaunt.
As you reach the top of the stairs, you basically walk smack dab into one of the fortress walls.
It’s moments like this that make me just love castle exploring! Walking out of a forest to the foot of a medieval castle wall!? No, you aren’t in a fairytale. YUP! This is Germany!!!! Turn right along the path at the castle wall and continue to head up some more stairs where you’ll then be confronted with the castle gate and moat.
Returning Back to Bamberg By Walking/ Bus
I decided that I wanted to take a different route back down the hill than I took up and yet again, I was REALLY happy I did! I didn’t pass a single other walker and so I felt like I had the whole forest to myself!
Walking back out of the moat, instead of heading down to the right back down from where we came, I walked straight a few more steps to the other parking lot. I followed the parking lot to the end where another path (Rinnerstieg) started. From this path, I just simply followed it all the way down to the main road of Wildensorger Strasse. On this street, turn right. There really wasn’t a sidewalk or walking path, so I did have to just walk on the street for about 3-5 minutes.
Take Bus 910 back to the Innenstadt
On Wildensorger strasse, you can catch the 910 bus on the right hand side of the street. Again, depending on exactly where you want to go will depend on where you’ll want to get off in town. If you are heading back to the Innenstadt the best stops are probably either back to the Schranne Bus stop (near the Rathaus) or at the Domplatz bus stop.
Total Time: It only took me about 15 minutes to walk from the castle to the bus stop and then it was only about 5 minutes on the bus to the Domplatz, which is where I got off the bus.
Important Note: The 910 Bus only runs once an hour (currently at about 40 after the hour) so you’ll want to plan accordingly so you aren’t just sitting by the side of the road for an hour!
Exploring the Castle
Since I wasn’t doing a tour, I just spent about an hour just wandering around the castle grounds.
Castle Gate and Moat
Like I said earlier, it almost feels like a fairytale as you walk upon the moat bridge that connects to the entrance of the castle. It’s moments like these that I love to let my imagination run a bit wild as I envision what the moat and castle looked and felt like 500 years ago in its glory days!
As you walk through the entrance, you’ll see a small, barred off castle chapel.
Keep walking and you’ll come into the beautiful castle courtyards. From here, just wander around inside the castle grounds. The area itself is relatively small, especially if you aren’t taking a tour inside. However, there are still some really cool things to walk around and look at!
The tower, one that even Rapunzel would be jealous of, is one of the first structures you’ll see in the courtyard. If you’d like, you can climb it for a small token gesture of 1 Euro. There is a cute little box that you can just toss your coin into and then you are free to twist and climb up the many steps on the dizzying spiral stairs aaaalllll the way to the top.
Just behind the tower is the outdoor Biergarten. Honestly, I could have just sat here for hours! There was hardly anyone else there on the hot summer afternoon I was visiting and after the steep climb up to the castle, a refreshing Radler was just calling my name! Sitting under the shade of the trees as you simply look around at the castle grounds was a treat!
Of course, you can also grab a bite to eat. Although, I will say, even I found it a bit hard to read the German “Schreibschift” (cursive) so if you are planning on eating there, it wouldn’t be a horrible idea to have a look at the menu online and have a game plan of what you might want to try to order.
Altenburg Castle Restaurant
I’m assuming that the Biergarten is seasonal and that in the winter, the restaurant, which is inside the castle building, is open. However, on the day that I was there, just the Biergarten was open.
Altenburg Castle Restaurant Hours (Plan accordingly):
- Tues- Sat: Noon-2pm & 6pm-9pm
- Sundays: Noon-2pm
- Closed Mondays
Climb The Castle Walls
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a castle expert. So I actually have no idea what these areas would be called, but because “Turret” sounds fancy and royal, let’s go with that. So yeah, go climb up the castle turret and get fantastic panoramic views of the countryside! If you were too lazy (like me) to actually do the tall tower climb up to the top, don’t worry, you get great views here, too!!
There are also sections that you can walk along the wall itself also.
The Burgbär (Castle Bear)
Just before taking the few steps up the turret, you’ll notice a very peculiar image that just doesn’t quite seem to fit into the surroundings. Built into the side of the castle wall, you’ll see what looks to be bars to a cage and inside a curious looking life size photo of a bear. Yes. Bear.
Apparently, several bears were kept at the Altenburg Castle for what I can only presume to be a tourist attraction. The last bear, Poldi, who died in 1982 was the last castle bear in Germany (Yup, apparently Moat Bears were a real thing in castles???)
You can see what it looked like at Altenburg with the bears in this throwback video.
ETA Hofmann Klaus Building
I won’t be the first to pretend like I’m a well versed person on operas and art, so I’ll admit that I had no idea who Ernst Theodor Amadeus (ETA) Hoffmann was before I visited Bamberg. But apparently, he was quite the composer, artist, and writer who also just so happened to spend part of his life in Bamberg. And when his good buddy, Friedrich Adalbert Marcus decided to buy the castle in 1801 and offered Hoffmann a place to stay at the Burg, I can’t say I blame him for taking Marcus up on the offer!
And while I actually still don’t know much about Hoffmann, one thing I did learn is that while he was staying at the Altenburg castle, he hated being disturbed by people. So much so, that he created a “large speaking tube” that he would shout insults at anybody trying to make their way up to the castle! Now, THAT’S a scene I’d love to be a fly on the wall for!! And now I’m genuinely curious what an insult int he 1800s would have consisted of!
You don’t need a ton of time at the Altenburg Castle itself, but for the effort that it takes to get there, it is actually still well worth the journey! The views are absolutely fantastic and it is a great way to feel like you are a bit more “off the beaten path” in Bamberg. While the castle is mostly restored and rebuilt, it is still an absolutely beautiful structure that is fun to step back in time to explore on your own!