Lots of American travelers make their way to Germany, and, in fact, it’s recently edged out France as our third most visited European destination, after the U.K. and Italy. The most popular German destinations include Berlin and Munich, but two delightful smaller cities to see Regensburg and Bamberg, both located in the Franconia region, not far from Munich. Both offer a rich taste of rural Bavaria. While many Danube river cruises stop at these towns, they’re also easily accessible from Munich by car or train.
Located along the Regnitz river, Bamberg is sometimes called the city of beer, given the area’s extensive brewing history. (Try the truly unique taste of smoked beer with sausage while you’re there. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I liked it.) The city earned its UNESCO world heritage designation thanks to its baroque-style buildings and picturesque setting. It’s known as a “city of seven hills,” with each hill crowned by a church. Explore each one and you’ve more or less seen the entire city.
Two lovely Bamberg hotels to consider include the Messerschmitt and the Hotel Nepomuk. The former is more traditional and the latter is more contemporary, and both have terrific restaurants. A unique evening tour is the Night Watchman’s walking tour around the town. It’s a great way to walk off a rich dinner while learning about the town’s history.
Situated on the Danube river is Regensburg, a town that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It makes sense to visit around the same time you’re in Bamberg, given their proximity. The architecture of Regensburg dates back more than 2000 years: especially noteworthy are the buildings from the 11-13th centuries that line its narrow lanes. The city boasts a large university population and a celebrated boys choir, which performs in the city’s top attraction -- its Cathedral. For lodging, I suggest either the Sorat on the river or the Hotel Orphee in the old town. They are both traditional-style German hotels. (There’s nothing design-y or trendy about the options in Regensburg.)
Finally, I suggest renting a bike for both cities. Both are pedestrian-friendly, but you can also ride along the riverbanks. Both of these destinations afford wonderful river views along the Franconian countryside.