With 3.3 million overnight stays in 2017, Nuremberg is a renowned destination for both business travel and leisure tourism. Day-trippers and getaway tourists love spending time in Franconia’s metropolis, though significantly fewer people take the opportunity to get to know the area around Nuremberg. Some people visit Bamberg, even fewer Bayreuth. And it seems, hardly any foreign travelers know about the region between the three cities: Franconian Switzerland!
In fact, Franconian Switzerland is one of the largest nature parks in the whole of Germany and a real hidden gem when it comes to Franconian tourism. The region is well known for its impressive caves, rock formations, and mountain scenery. Also, it is home to medieval castles and ruins as well as an old brewing tradition that can still be experienced today.
As a local Nuremberg resident, I take numerous day trips to the Franconian Switzerland region every year and appreciate the nature park for the variety of activities it offers. Before starting to work at a budget hotel in Nuremberg, I hadn’t realized that a lot of tourists simply don’t know about the beauty and diversity of this place. So, I began recommending the area to guests who had multiple days in Nuremberg and didn’t know what else to do. The feedback was tremendous and for some tourists, their day trip to Franconian Switzerland even became the highlight of their Nuremberg trip.
In this post, I’ve listed 9 incredible ways to explore Franconian Switzerland, and I am sure there will be at least one thing for everyone. Whenever you travel to Nuremberg and still have a spare day or two, consider going to this incredible part of Germany and experience the beauty and diversity yourself.
Several attractions for people of all ages are located in the Franconian Switzerland Nature Park.
The Sommerrodelbahn (alpine slide) in Pottenstein offers great fun for kids as well as adults. There are two different slides available, a stainless steel hollow and an all-weather slide on rails. On the premises, you may also find a bungee trampoline.
Other particularly exciting attractions for families are the wildlife parks of Hundshaupten near Egloffstein and Hufeisen in the Veldenstein Forest. They are home to more than 40 domestic and rare animals that have been living in the spacious park grounds for over 45 years.
At the Rabenstein Castle, you may also experience the art of falconry. Inside the facility (admission: 4 €), falconers will give you an exclusive insight into the training of gyrfalcons. Not only does the institution display the beauty of falcons, but also focuses on their protection and conservation as they are considered an endangered species.
Apart from that, you may travel back in time and take a ride with the old 1960s steam train from Ebermannstadt to Baehringermühle. Trains are running between May and October. Tickets are available online.
2. Beer Tasting & Breweries
The Franconian Switzerland region has a total of 71 breweries and the highest density of breweries in the world. Almost every village has its own private brewery and offers not only home-brewed beer at very reasonable prices but also hefty local Franconian food. By the way, the place with the highest density of independent breweries within the area is Aufseß, which has a population of 1500 and four breweries.
Tasting different beers will be convenient if you go on one of the numerous beer trails, such as the famous Fünf-Seidla-Steig near Gräfenberg, the Brauereienweg near Aufseß or the 13-Brauereien-Weg. Check this site for more information on beer trails.
3. Exploring Caves
Franconian Switzerland is home to more than 1000 caves of every size. Those caves are characterized by their enormous stalagmites and stalactites of different shapes and sizes as well as their limestone pillars. As a result of environmental protection and conservation activities, not all of them can be explored. However, Sophie´s Cave, Devil´s Cave and Bing Cave may be visited on a daily basis.
Devil´s Cave (Teufelshöhle), Schüttersmühle 5, 91278 Pottenstein
Opening Times: Summer: 09:00-17:00; Winter: Sunday 11:00-15:00.
Admission: Adults €4.50; Kids (<15 y/o): 2,50 €.
Bing Cave (Binghöhle), 91346 Wiesenttal
Opening Times: Summer 10:00 – 17:00
Admission: Adult €4.50; Kids (4-14 y/o): 2,50 €.
Sophie´s Cave (Sophienhöhle), 95491 Ahorntal
Opening Times: Summer: Tu-Su: 10:30-17:00
Admission: Adult: €5; Kids (4-14 y/o): 3 €.
Every year, many day-trippers come to Franconian Switzerland to spend the day hiking on one of the 650 hiking trails in the area. Not only are the hiking trails diverse and amidst unspoiled nature, but they meet every level of athleticism – the occasional hiker, the professional mountaineer as well as families with kids.
Signposted beer and brewery hiking trails invite you to trek from one brewery to the next and immerse yourself in the Franconian beer culture. There are also arts and sculpture trails, which will lead you to extraordinary pieces of art that had been integrated into nature. Moreover, part of the German Castle Road crosses Franconian Switzerland. Hiking there you may get to see up to 170 impressive medieval castles and ruins. On top of that, some of the hiking trails are wheelchair-friendly and accessible for disabled people.
A few years back, the tourism association also came up with a popular option, the so-called hiking without baggage. You can book three different tours of either five, six or seven days of hiking without heavy bags through the tourism office.
The Wiesent River, a tributary stream of Regnitz River, offers excellent water sports opportunities, such as kayaking or canoeing on a 30 km stretch.
Additionally, you will find another fantastic place for kayaking if you drive north of Bamberg towards Lichtenfels, from where you can paddle down the Main River. Along this river stretch, you’ll find an abundance of flora and fauna. Some people even call it the Amazon of Germany.
6. Rock Climbing
A beautiful mountain landscape and slopes of varying difficulty make the Franconian Switzerland Nature Park the most famous rock climbing spot in Germany. Rock climbers from all over Europe come here every year to see the unique rock formations and have a challenging climbing experience on one of the 12,000 climbing routes available.
Local climbing schools offer courses for beginners and advanced climbers and even organize annual climbing camps you may participate in. The municipalities and regional organizations operate eco-friendly and provide different climbing concepts that combine both fun climbing and environmental conservation.
7. Mountain Biking
Just like hiking, mountain biking is one of the most popular activities amongst tourists in the Franconian Switzerland nature park. With numerous challenging tours and signposted exploration trails with different levels of difficulty, the area attracts many bike enthusiasts every year. In Obertrubach and Ebermannstadt, you may also find bike camps for both beginners and advanced bikers, who want to brush up on some mountain biking techniques.
For detailed information and tour guides, also check out the MTB-Center in Heiligenstadt.
8. Sightseeing (Nuremberg, Bamberg, Bayreuth)
The Franconian Switzerland Nature Park lies within the triangle of Nuremberg, Bamberg and Bayreuth, three unique cities with an immense cultural and historical heritage. With medieval architecture, numerous interesting museums, a very distinct beer culture and a variety of events throughout the year, all of the towns are worth a visit, though Nuremberg is the largest, most famous and most diverse of the three. You can easily visit Bamberg and Bayreuth in a day while I recommend spending at least two days in Nuremberg.
Nuremberg is Bavaria´s second largest city and the unofficial capital of Franconia. The town is most famous for its annual Christmas Market, which is the largest in Europe, its beautiful Old Town with a medieval city wall, a hilltop castle as well as its historical heritage regarding the Nazi regime and World War II. Last but not least, Nuremberg features various culinary delicacies, such as the famous Nuremberg Sausages, locally-brewed beer, and gingerbread.
Bamberg is a fascinating Franconian town with a medieval Old Town awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site honor. Bamberg is renowned for its romantic narrow streets, old houses, an abundance of pavement cafés and 10 unique local breweries that gave the town its nickname beer capital of Germany.
Bayreuth is the largest town in the Upper Franconia region and rich in culture and history. The city has become most famous for hosting the Richard Wagner Festival, an annual music and theatre festival focused on operas written by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner. Bayreuth is also home to numerous museums and baroque buildings. You’ll get a great overview of the Upper Franconia town in this in-depth post about Bayreuth; perhaps also take a look at this lovely video about Bayreuth to get a visual of the city.
9. Visiting Medieval Castles & Villages
In the Middle Ages, the Franconian Switzerland region was crossed by numerous trade routes, which is the reason why you can still find a total of 170 old castles, ruins and fortresses in the area today. Those medieval buildings are also part of the romantic Castle Road. You may see the remains of medieval life and enjoy both the romantic and the mystical atmosphere of the old architecture pretty much all over the Franconian Switzerland Nature Park.
Among the most popular castles are Rabenstein Castle, Castle Egloffstein, and Waischenfeld Castle.
Find more information on the romantic Castle Road as well as the castles in Franconian Switzerland here.
German castles are your thing? Then make sure to check out some of the beautiful castles north of Bavaria, such as the medieval Eltz Castle, the offbeat Leuchtenburg Castle or the famous Wartburg Castle.
In addition to the castles, you may also travel back in time while visiting some of the old villages. Some of them are still pretty rural and give you an insight into traditional village life. Cultural events, such as village fairs, church fairs, and beer festivals, are also an excellent opportunity to visit the villages and experience their traditional vibes.
Also, watch this lovely drone video put together by Kopterfilmteam and see what this scenic nature park looks like in fall.
Planning A Trip To Germany?
If you’re looking for travel inspiration, beautiful nature parks, awesome photo spots, fairy-tale castles and medieval towns, these posts have got you covered:
>> Authentic Off-The-Beaten-Path German Towns You Have To Visit
>> Discover Medieval Germany In 14 Days – A Sample Itinerary
>> Ultimate Franconia Beer Guide: 12+ Unique Beers You Have To Try In Southern Germany
For more detailed travel tips, city and castle guides, check out the Germany section and make sure to sign up for e-mail updates to receive a notification once I upload a new post!