Franconia: The Bavarian Tuscany
Upper Franconia has the highest density of beer breweries in the world. For many people, nothing beats visiting a Franconian beer garden, sipping an ice-cold beer underneath shady chestnut trees. If you want to cool off, you can go to one of the most beautiful caverns in Bavaria or speed down the slopes on a toboggan.
by Bettina Ruhland
About the region
Franconia is situated in the northern part of Bavaria, but after you’ve been there a while, you’ll discover that the region has distinct traditions and a proud history of its own. This is where you’ll find Franconian Switzerland – a nature reserve with many castles and opportunities for recreation. The region is home to numerous medieval towns, nestled in the idyllic landscape. Visitors can experience the cultural highlights of today and discover the traces of Franconia‘s historic past.
Take the regional train from Nuremberg or Bayreuth to the small town of Neuhaus. Get on the bus 343, otherwise known as the Beer, Lunch and Castle Express. At the weekends, this bus will take you through the region and after about half an hour, you’ll reach the Teufelshöhle (Devil’s Cave), the first stop on your tour through Franconian Switzerland.
Going deep and rising high (Tour 1)
The Teufelshöhle is a stalactite cavern and is icy-cold – even in the summer; the temperature inside hovers around nine degrees Celsius all year round. In this subterranean world, you’ll discover the papal tiara, an organ and an entire skeleton of a prehistoric cave bear. On a guided tour through the cavern, you can learn interesting facts about how stalactites and stalagmites form. There is no need to sign up in advance for a tour; simply ask at the ticket counter when the next tour begins (tours in German, admission price for students around four euros).
From there, you can continue on foot to the lake Schöngrundsee. The question is – should you head toward the lake first, or climb up the mountain? If you decide for the mountain, then you’ll have the chance to take the summer toboggan run to the right of the lake. On the Frankenrodel (summer only) and the Frankenbob slides, you’ll zoom down into the valley at breakneck speeds. The Frankenrodel is a 1,160m-long stainless steel slide with lots of curves and zigzags. But if you’d rather “plunge” instead of slide, you can try out the bungee trampoline near the toboggan run.
My opinionA friend of mine at university first told me about the breath-taking landscape and things to do around Nuremberg. Although I come from Bavaria myself, I wasn’t familiar with the region of Franconia. In the meantime, I’ve become a real Franconia fan!
Proceeding along the edge of the woods, you continue on your way to Pottenstein. After these physical activities, the restaurant Gasthaus Krone on the marketplace is a perfect spot to take a break. Here, you can sit outside and enjoy the specialties of Franconia. An insider tip for sweet-tooths – the Apfelküchle (apple tart) with vanilla ice cream. This classical Franconian dessert is usually served only in the evenings, but when it comes to Apfelküchle, the cake chef is always willing to make an exception.
For the rest of the day, it’s back to the Middle Ages! On the other side of the marketplace, there’s a small street to the right that leads up a steep incline to Burg Pottenstein. It’s the oldest castle in the region and the central landmark of the town. Once you’ve reached the top, you can visit various exhibitions inside the castle itself.
At the Scharfrichtermuseum (Executioner’s Museum) on the marketplace, be prepared to witness the sinister and brutal deeds of the past! The museum presents one of the darkest chapters of medieval history, rife with executions, the undead and severed heads. Paying the four-euro admission fee, you’ll encounter fascinating tales of torture and its instruments, and the fates of former prisoners.
On the next day, you will take the Brewery Route. We recommend staying overnight at the youth hostel in Pottenstein, but you could also take the Beer, Lunch and Castle Express back to Neuhaus if you’d like. The bus stop Pottenstein B470 is located in the centre of town. If you start from Neuhaus, take the regional train in the direction of Nuremberg or Bayreuth.
On the Brewery Route (Tour 2)
On your second day in Franconia, take the Beer, Lunch and Castle Express again and disembark at the last stop Waischenfeld. Perched above this picturesque medieval town is Waischenfeld Castle, which is also where the tour begins. In the tavern located in the castle courtyard, you can try a Waischenfelder Burgbier (castle beer). Or simply enjoy the view of the city from the viewing platform. A large medieval market with vendors, court jesters and knights takes place at the castle at the end of August.
From here, you take the same way back down, over the river and left down Fischergasse which will lead you out of town. At the edge of town, you’ll spot the sign “Brauereienweg” (Brewery Route) with an arrow, pointing you in the right direction. Keep your eye out for this sign for it shows you the way along the entire route.
Passing through a natural tunnel of trees and shrubbery, you’ll soon find yourself in the village of Nankendorf. There’s a brewery here, too, but there are more traditional ones coming up, so just keep walking! In the beer garden at the Krug-Bräu restaurant in Breitenlesau, you can experience one of the most traditional sides of Franconia. Here you’ll find guests sitting under large chestnut trees, drinking mugs of cold beer fresh from the tap – the Franconian way of life, pure and simple! Native Franconians like to drink their beer with Scheuferla (crispy, roasted shoulder of pork) with dumplings and a side dish – a culinary specialty of the region.
After this extended break, it’s time to head back. Simply return the same way you came, following the arrows pointing to Waischenfeld. A small path through the forest and other signs will lead you back to the centre of town.
This is a perfect tour if you like being out in nature and don’t mind walking long distances. Taking the breaks into account, the tour takes about four and a half to five hours. Naturally, you could also sit down on any of the benches along the way and eat your own packed lunch – but enjoying a cold beer under chestnut trees in a Franconian beer garden is an experience you shouldn’t miss. Before starting your tour in Waischenfeld, we recommend checking the bus timetables to find out when you have to catch the bus back. In this way, you can plan your breaks better on your tour.
If you really want to experience what the region has to offer, you should stay for an entire weekend. Then you can combine the two tours with an overnight stay.
- The Beer, Lunch and Castle Express (bus 343) only runs from May to November on Saturdays and Sundays.
- You can only take the tour along the Brewery Route (tour 2) at the weekends because it’s not so easy to get to Waischenfeld with public transportation during the week.
- Burg Pottenstein is closed on Mondays.
- To view the timetable for bus line 343, visit the VGN website – the public transport authority for the greater Nuremberg region.