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While Munich is often recognized as the beer capital of Germany, residents of Franconia know otherwise. This region in northern Bavaria, which is broken down into Upper, Middle, and Lower Franconia, has a strong brewing tradition and a distinct history from the rest of the state. In fact, the region of Upper Franconia has the highest density of breweries per capita in the world and together the three regions produce a thousand different beers at some 300 breweries. Needless to say, beer is a big deal in Franconia.

In addition to beer, Franconia has a lot to offer visitors. An abundance of quaint towns, each with their own personalities and all rich in culture, could keep one busy exploring for weeks. With fewer tourists than, say, Munich, Franconia provides visitors with a glimpse of local life and immerses them in its heritage and culture.

This region is home to huge beer conglomerates, family owned operations, and monastic breweries offering visitors to Franconia a myriad of beer experiences. A multi-day trip is recommended to visit Germany’s beer heartland, allowing for stops in a few of Franconia’s infamous beer hubs. Here is a recommended itinerary for exploring Franconia through its beers, bars and breweries over four days.

Franconia Day 1: A Kulmbach Beer Guide

Get started in Kulmbach, a small town with a mighty beer presence in Upper Franconia. With less than 30,000 residents, Kulmbach has several well-known beers such as Kulmbacher, Mönschof, and wheat beer Kapuzimer, which are exported across Germany and all over the world. The town is understandably proud of the scope of its brewing presence, referring to itself as the ‘secret capital of beer’. Aside from beer, Kulmbach is a quaint and picturesque town.

Lunch at Kulmbacher Kommunbräu

Start your day in Kulmbach at Kommunbräu, an independent brewery situated along the Mühlbach River in the shadow Plassenburg Castle. As a countermovement to the consolidation of Kulmbach’s beer industry in the 1990’s, a group of residents got together to create this independent brewery. Today, the brewery co-operative has over 400 shareholders, each with their own personal stein on display in the restaurant.

The traditional and inviting restaurant serves up their namesake beers alongside hearty local specialties such as a Kulmbacher carpaccio and bratwurst, which locals claim as the best in the region. A charming beer garden out front offers the perfect setting for sampling beers on a warm day.

All of the beers are produced on site in the large copper kettles housed within the restaurant. Kommunbräu makes two beers year round: a traditional Helles beer and Bernstein, a traditional dark beer that’s light on the hops. In addition, a different seasonal brew is offered each month such as Weizenbock, a wheat / bock hybrid, and a strong 7.1% bock beer aptly named Delirium that’s tapped in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The pleasant setting, friendly service, community sentiment and delicious beers will make you want to become a shareholder yourself. Whether or not that’s remotely practical, there are still shares available.

Beer History at Kulmbach Mönchshof

Mönchshof, a beer originally produced by Augustine monks in the Middle Ages, is now a brand that belongs to the Kulmbacher Brauerei. The former Mönchshof brewery is the site of three museums, a restaurant and a beer garden.

The Brauereimuseum (Brewery Museum) provides an in-depth and informative look at the origins of beer, the brewing process, and the inherent traditions of Bavarian and German beer production. Set across 3,000 square metres, this beer museum features old brewing equipment, didactic displays, and interactive exhibits. A visit to the museum is ideal for individuals looking to enhance their understanding of the brewing fundamentals, German purity laws, or traditional brewing processes and instruments. A highlight of the museum is the glass mash tun, allowing visitors to get a rarely seen glimpse into the brewing process. Visitors can self-tour the museum, which is capped off with a tasting of the Kulmbacher beers.

Two recent additions to the complex are a Bakery Museum and German Spice Museum, which are adjacent to the Beer Museum. The Bakery Museum highlights the origins of baking and its importance in Germany, while the Spice Museum describes the impact of trade routes on the country’s access to unique and foreign spices.

After your visit, spend some time in the restaurant to enjoy a few beers and perhaps a snack. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting when the weather is nice, grab a seat in the expansive beer garden and enjoy the surroundings.

Explore the Town

After the beer museum, take in the sights of the town. Head up to Plassenburg Castle where a Franconian branch of the Hohenzollern Dynasty was based. The castle is stunning architecturally both inside and out, with impressive facades best viewed from the courtyard. The castle has multiple exhibits including the Frederick the Great Army Museum, which is the largest display of Prussian weaponry, and the Deutsches Zinnfigurenmsueum, the biggest collection of pewter figures in Germany. Don’t miss the stunning views over Kulmbach from the castle.

Kulmbach’s Altstadt (old town) is the epitome of quaint. Heritage buildings such as the Rathaus (town hall) and the idyllic Marktplatz square are easy to explore on foot, with several restaurants in close proximity. Pick up fresh food at the outdoor market, which is set up Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7am to 12pm year round in the centre of town.

Enjoy a Traditional Franconian Dinner

After a busy day you’re deserving of a traditional Franconian meal at Zunftstube, right in the heart of the old town. Seating is somewhat limited in the restaurant, which alongside the traditional decor contributes to its cozy vibe. With welcoming service, the handwritten daily menu board, and Eku beer on tap, you’ll wish this could be your local spot. Portions are large and prices are reasonable.

Stay: Hotel An der Eiche is a cozy hotel on the opposite side of the main train station when you’re coming from the old town. The location is great, the staff is friendly, and breakfast is included.

Franconia Day 2: A Bayreuth Beer Guide

Beer tradition runs deep here in the capital of Upper Franconia, and locals are extremely proud of their deserving beer reputation. Bayreuth is a also a city that’s rich in culture and flush with stunning and ornate buildings, thanks in part to the legacies of former residents, which include the likes of composer Richard Wagner and Princess Wilhelmine, the daughter of the Prussian King, who commissioned many of Bayreuth’s most extraordinary buildings. Despite its long traditions, Bayreuth also has a distinctly young vibe thanks to a large student population attracted to the local university.

A Town Hall Lunch

From the train station, head straight to Oskar am Markt in Bayreuth’s Altes Rathaus (old town hall) for a hearty lunch of traditional German and Franconian fare in an iconic setting. The classic German furnishings and the steady stream of locals and tourists make for a homey, and at times boisterous vibe. Take a half-litre of the house brew, a refreshing and palatable Helles that pairs well with the menu options.

Visit Mann’s Bräu Beer Hall

About 500 metres from Oskar’s is Mann’s Bräu, a traditional tavern that serves up brews from Becher Brau, a family owned brewery and one of the oldest in Bayreuth, alongside other local beers. Mann’s Bräu is on the small side, but the friendly staff and vibrant locals make it an inviting space. Don’t miss out on the namesake Mann’s Bräu beer, a dark dunkel with strong notes of chocolate.

Tour of the Town

Bayreuth has plenty of intriguing sights within the city, most easily explored on foot. If you’re interested in learning more about the city’s history, which is truly fascinating, I highly recommend arranging a tour for the afternoon. We were whisked around town by our guide, Ingrid, whose knowledge of and passion for Bayreuth made for a truly memorable experience.

If you’re heading out on your own, here is a recommended route:

  • Neues Schloss – The New Palace is a stunning piece of architecture. Be sure to visit inside to get a feel for the life and legacy of Wilhelmine and take a walk through the gardens
  • Haus Wahnfried – The former villa of Richard Wagner and location of his grave.
  • Altes Schloss Ermitage – Built in 1715, the Old Palace is a formidable building with a peaceful grotto.
  • Margravial Opera House – A stunning Baroque style opera house built by Wilhelmine during her reign as Margravine during the 18th century.
  • Stadtkirche – the central church in the city was built in the gothic style and features a simple and understated interior.
  • Festspeilhaus – While a little out of the way, the opera house built by Wagner in the late 19th century is the site of the annual Festspiele, a tribute to the composer’s works.

Herzogkeller Beer Garden

Locals convene at Herzogkeller, the largest and most atmospheric beer garden in Bayreuth, when the weather permits. Perched a top a hill, Herzogkeller serves up a range of beers from local breweries including Maisel’s and Bayreuther Bierbrauerei, which includes the Bayreuther and Aktien labels. Long communal tables are lined up outside and an indoor beer garden provides a jovial ambiance during cooler climates. A menu of beer garden staples like the Herzogkeller-Brotzeitbrettla – a board of breads and cheeses – is perfect for sharing while the various Brotecke – open faced sandwiches – are a great little snack.

Bayreuth Brewing History at Maisel’s World of Beer

Set inside the historic Brauerei Gebr, Maisel’s Bier-Erlebnis-Welt, or World of Beer, is a 4,500 square metre complex that features a brewery museum, active brewery, and restaurant.

The Brauereimuseum (beer museum), recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most comprehensive beer museum in the world, highlights the brewing traditions of Franconia. A range of equipment from former machines used during the breweries first days to more modern mechanisms are displayed across several rooms, which lay out the brewing process for visitors. Further along, a room dedicated solely to beer glasses showcases upwards of 5,500 from all over the world while an adjacent room displays rare and unique enamel beer signs. Visitors can only access the museum through guided tour, which runs daily at 2pm or 6pm. The tour takes roughly an hour and costs 8€.

Dinner at Craft Beer Spot Liebesbier

These days, the brewing done here on site is under the Maisel & Friends brand, a self-described brewing lab, which produces the popular Maisel Weisse as well as other styles such as IPAs, porters and sours – a detour from the ingrained purity laws.

Set amongst the brewery is Liebesbier restaurant and bar, an appropriate name as it translates into ‘love beer’ in English. This sprawling restaurant is quickly becoming a local favourite, and on a Friday evening visit it was absolutely rammed. As one of the first craft beer bars in the region, Liebesbier is taking its role in introducing non-traditional styles of beer to the masses seriously. With 21 beers on tap and nearly 100 more in bottles, the restaurant provides a gateway into the world of craft beer, and the friendly and helpful staff make the experience anything but intimidating for those new to craft or international beer styles.

An impressive bottle list includes a plethora of styles from around the world, which is set out in a daunting 82-page booklet where each beer is given its own description. It’s the ideal spot if you’re keen to try Maisel’s own beers as well as sample others from around the country. The food menu puts a spin on traditional German fare, with a great selection for meat lovers and vegetarians alike.

Stay: Hotel Bayerischer Hof is perhaps the most conveniently located hotel, just steps from the main train station. Offering comfortable rooms and stellar breakfast, it’s a good base when visiting Bayreuth.

Franconia Day 3: Erlangen Beer Guide

Heading south into Middle Franconia you’ll arrive in Erlangen, a medium sized city that has a notable beer history. During the middle of the 19th century, Erlangen was home to 18 breweries, an astonishing feat given its relatively small population. During this period, the city was the largest exporter of beer in Bavaria, even topping Munich, making Erlangen beers famous across the region and country. Beer was traditionally stored in cellars under the castle’s hill, which has been the site of the famous Bergkirchweih festival since 1755, making it the oldest beer festival in the world.

Brauerei Kitzmann Lunch

Upon arrival make your way to Kitzmann brewery, one of a handful of active breweries in the city and the oldest continually-running operation. Kitzmann has been family owned and operated since 1833, though a brewery has been situated here since 1712. The brewery makes a handful of beers and seasonal favourites, many of which have been highly awarded over the years. Kitzmann has an annual output of 50,000 hectolitres, which is incredible considering that their beers are only sold within a 50-kilometre radius. During the two week Bergkirchweih festival, Kitzmann ramps up production of its special Berg beer to fulfill the spike in demand.

Kitzmann Bräuschänke is the brewery’s restaurant, serving up hearty local fare in a nostalgic setting. Wood accents, plaid banquets, a collection of steins and murals of notable individuals set the scene for delicious grilled pork knuckle, Jägerschnitzel topped with a creamy mushroom sauce and of course some of Kitzmann’s beers, which are offered on tap or bottle. Try the unfiltered Kellerbier, it’s most popular brew, and the Dunkles Weißbier, a dark wheat beer. If that isn’t appealing enough, there’s a great beer garden outside for warmer days.

On the Trail of Beer and Culture

After a filling meal, it’s time to take on the beer and cultural sites of Erlangen. The city’s tourism group has a great self-tour highlighting all of the beer hotspots and brewing history of the city. You can download the audio guide, which will direct you to the various stops and provides context to what you’re looking at. It conveniently starts at Kitzmann brewery and takes followers to former industrial breweries, iconic pubs, and historic sites culminating at the impressive site of the Bergkirchweih festival. The entire route is two kilometres and easily walkable.

Additionally, an official Brewery Path of Erlangen was established in 2005 for the 250th anniversary of the Bergkirchweih festival and plots out several of the former breweries that helped put Erlangen on the beer map. A couple of spots overlap with the tour mentioned above, such as Kitzmann, but the overall itinerary is also quite easy to complete. [Download this PDF from the Erlangen Marketing board and head to page 29 for the map and route]

Erlangen is a pleasant town to walk around and explore. The city is divided into the old city and the new city, which was built for the Hugenots who immigrated in the mid 17th century. Due to a fire in the old city, the new city is actually the oldest area of town. Some of the non-beer related sites that you shouldn’t miss in Erlangen include:

  • Marktplatz - a main square in the core of the city that often has food stalls set up. The Marktplatz is also the site of Erlangen's Christmas Market.
  • Schloss Erlangen - This palace was originally built in 1700 although later rebuilt due to a fire. The palace now houses the administrative unit of the local university.
  • Schlossgartens - The gardens that were planned alongside the palace are a lovely spot in Erlangen. The Orangerie is only accessible for events but the exterior is quite something on its own. A Botanical Gardens is also incorporated into the palace grounds.
  • Kollegienhaus –  An impressive building built at the turn of the 20th century, the Kollegienhaus is the central building of Friedrich-Alexander University.
  • Hugenottenkirch - The Huguenots were welcomed in Erlangen in the 17th century and left their mark on the city, including the Huguenot Church that sits in the centre of town.
  • Altstädter Rathaus - The old town hall now houses the city museum, which outlines the history of Erlangen through several exhibits and displays.

There’s a lot of hidden history in Erlangen so hiring a local tour guide is a great way to understand the city and its beer. Our guide, Mrs. Gisella Schütt provided a fantastic overview of Erlangen, from its cultural roots to its vibrant beer traditions.

Happy Hour at Steinbach Bräu

Take a well-deserved break from all that healthy walking at Steinbach Bräu, a brewery and brewpub located right in the centre of town. The brewery began making beers in 1653 yet ceased production in the 1920s. Nearly 70 years later, Steinbach’s great-grandson began making beer on site once again and created an inviting restaurant and pub that’s popular with locals. The beer garden is a great meeting spot in Erlangen and is typically packed during the summer. The year-round beer is a classic Helles named ‘Stork Beer’, but there’s always a special brew of the month, all made using malt from their malting facility on site. A small menu offers some local Franconcian fare – the perfect drinking companion.

Entla’s Keller

A handful of cellars are situated at the base of Erlangen’s Castle Hill, which are visited every year by about one million people for the famous Bergkirchweih festival. Entla’s Keller is the oldest cellar and one that’s open outside of the beer fest from April to September. Rows of communal wooden tables line the area out front of the keller entrance and extend up the hill on raised platforms. Large trees provide ample shade and the many lights and lanterns make for an especially lovely setting when the sun goes down. Entla’s offers tours of the underground labyrinth of cellars on Sundays from April to September, however they are only available in German.

Stay: The Quality Hotel is the closest accommodation to the Berg festival and Entla’s Keller, making it a convenient base when in Erlangen. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, while the buffet breakfast offers a good selection.

Franconia Day 4: Nuremberg Beer Guide

Just a stone’s throw from Erlangen is Nuremberg, Franconia’s largest city. The medieval walled city has a deep and varied history, from its position during the times of the Holy Roman Empire to its prominence during the Nazi regime. Near the end of World War II, Nuremberg was bombed so heavily that 90 percent of the city was flattened in just one hour. With a population of more than half a million residents, and a considerable influx of tourists, Nuremberg offers something for everyone, and its annual Christmas Market is one of the most beloved in Germany.

Go Below The City

Below Nuremberg’s Altstadt is an underground network of cellars that have been integral to the history of the city for nearly 700 years. These cellars were carved by hand in the sandstone and originally used for storing beer in accordance with a local law in the 14th century that made it necessary for anyone brewing or selling beer to have a sufficient cellar. Centuries later, the cellars were imperative in sheltering residents during the intense bombing raids of WWII.

Volunteers from the non-profit group committed to the research and preservation of these cellars conduct excellent tours through the underground network. During the 75-minute tour knowledgeable guides explore the history Nuremberg, its cellars, and the city’s beer traditions while walking visitors through a large section of the subterranean system. Tours of the cellars are offered daily, and while the English tour is only available Sundays at 11:30am, English language audio guides are available during any of the tours.

Lunch at Altstadthof Brewery

The cellar tour begins and ends at the Hausbrauerei Altstadthof, a brewery that was established in 1984 and effectively brought brewing back to the centre of Nuremberg’s old town. The aim of Altstadthof is to use regional and organic ingredients to produce traditional Nuremberg beers, including the unique local favourite – red beer. If you want to get a feel for the breadth of beer in Nuremberg, start your visit with their metre of beer, which is comprised of 11 0.2L glasses of the various beers produced at Altstadthof. The menu offers a variety of Franconian specialties, some which incorporate beer such as schnitzel breaded in crushed malts.

There is a brewery shop directly outside the restaurant, which sells seasonal beers and limited whiskies from the onsite distillery, as well as foodstuffs and Altstadthof Brewery steins. It’s a great spot to pick up a local souvenir or gift.

Walk the Old Town

There’s a free three hour walking tour on Saturdays that takes you through the old city and touches on Franconian history and Nuremberg’s evolution as a city. You can find more information here. If you’re going it alone, be sure to visit these sights:

  • Kaiserburg Nürnberg - Nuremberg's formidable castle was originally constructed in the Middle Ages but much of it destroyed during WWII and subsequently rebuilt. The round Sinwell Tower was unimpacted and the structure built in the 13th century.
  • Albrecht Dürer Haus - An important artist and theorist during the Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer is one of Nuremberg's most prominent residents. His former home, an impressive half timbered house in the old town, is now a museum.
  • Sankt Sebaldus Kirche -  The medieval St. Sebaldus Church was built in the 13th century, though like many medieval buildings in Nuremberg, was rebuilt after sustaining heavy damage during the war.
  • Rathaus - Nuremberg's old town hall, although it's not longer used as the seat of government.
  • Frauenkirche - Along with St. Sebaldus, Frauenkirche is one of the most important churches in Nuremberg.
  • Hauptmarkt - Food and gift vendors offer up all kinds of things in the market, which is also the site of Nuremberg's infamous Christmas Market.
  • Der Schöne Brunnen – The name of this ornate structure translates into Beautiful Fountain, built in the 14th century it sits near the Hauptmarkt.
  • Weißgerbergasse – This narrow cobblestoned street has many well preserved traditional half timbered houses.

Nuremberg has several museums, most notable among them are the Germanisches Nationalmuseum and the Neues Museum. However, there are many others that might peak your fancy – there’s even ones dedicated to Wheat beer glasses and pigeons. If you’re interested in exploring more of Nuremberg’s history surrounding World War II, head a bit out of the centre to the Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds as well as the Memorium to the Nuremberg Trials.

Stock up on Bottles at Die Bierothek

Craft beer store Die Bierothek should be part of any beer enthusiast’s itinerary when in Nuremberg. The impeccably designed shop offers a broad selection of beers, highlighting local and national brews as well as a considerable number of international brands. The shop is expanding across the region and the country, with stores in Erlangen, Bamberg, Stuttgart and Frankfurt, highlighting the evolving tastes and increasing acceptance of non-traditional beers in Germany. Pick up a few bottles to enjoy during your time in Nuremberg or bring home as an addition to your personal collection.

Enjoy a Drink on the Tiergärtnertor

When the sun is out, so are the residents of Nuremberg. One of the most popular spots to convene is in the Tiergärtnertor, the space by the city gate in the altstadt. Locals gather in the area, sitting on the cobblestone, often enjoying a drink from one of the cafes and bars that line the square. Café Wanderer / Bieramt is a tiny yet charming place that serves excellent espresso and has a hefty rotating beer list. There are several tables out front but as the day turns to night, most visitors spill out into the square.

Eat Nuremberg’s Best Bratwurst

While you can find bratwurst on the menu at virtually any German restaurant, most towns staunchly believe that their local variation is the best. This is certainly true of Nuremberg, whose bratwursts are much smaller than what you would find elsewhere yet are beloved by residents. The top spot to try this local specialty is at Restaurant Bratwursthäusle. People cram into this simply adorned eatery to get a taste of the homemade sausages, which are grilled over an open fire in the large grill station in the middle of the restaurant and served up with fresh bread, tart sauerkraut and delicious potato salad.

Have a Night Cap

The Mata Hari Bar looks like any old bar from the street, but inside it’s a local gem. Situated on the picturesque Weißgerbergasse, the Mata Hari might be the smallest bar in Nuremberg but it packs a punch. Offering a good mix of local beers, a large whisky list and inventive cocktails alongside an eclectic clientele, you’re always in for a fun time.

Just across the river is craft beer bar Bierwerk, which offers more than 150 different beers. This spot is new on the scene but has become a hit with locals and tourists alike. The draft and bottle list include some rare and unique brews that are not on offer anywhere else in the country while the staff are ultra friendly and eager to provide recommendations. If you’re looking for a late night snack, Bierwerk offers a menu of meat and cheese boards, sourced with local ingredients.

Stay: Dürer Hotel is a well-located hotel right in the altstadt and steps from the Tiergärtnertor. Rooms are large and have all expected amenities, and most have great views.

This itinerary is easy to do by car or train. We explored the region by train, which was ideal for us. For those interested in visiting Franconia by train, Rail Europe offers tickets and passes for those based in North America.

We’ve only scratched the surface of Franconia’s beer experiences so if you’re interested in learning more, take a look at Franconia Tourism’s beer guide of the region.

Stay tuned for a follow up guide to Bamberg, another notable beer town in Franconia.

Prostly was a guest of Franken Tourismus, though all thoughts and opinions are our own.


Lauren Barth co-founded Departful in 2012 is the Managing Director of Departful Media. Since then she has worked between North America and Europe and has published content in partnership with a variety of tourism boards and businesses based around the world. Lauren is currently based in Toronto, Canada.

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