What we love about the Castle Altenburg in Bamberg is the fact that you can see it from pretty much all over town, even at the very outskirts. The castle towers high above the city and valleys. After all, Bamberg is also known as the Town of Seven Hills among which the Altenburg hill is the tallest.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy a visit at the Altenburg castle. Whether you come just for a quick visit for the vistas, climb the tower or enjoy one of the best hikes in Bamberg around here, you have options.

Even if you cannot make it up here, make sure to look for it when exploring the city center and Bamberg’s sights.

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pointed archway on a cobblestone courtyard with view over roofed castle walls
Altenburg Castle courtyard and walls

How to get there

The high castle of Bamberg is located on the mountain Räthkuppe, the highest point in town.

If you want to put the geographical location into your GPS: 49.880474°, 10.86992°

The official address is Altenburg 1, 96047 Bamberg.

By car

If you’ve rented a car in Bamberg, you can drive up to the castle Altenburg. There are two public parking areas, which can be used and that are free.

There is one at the top, around the bend close to the castle entrance.

Another parking lot is located underneath the castle and has more space. You just have to walk for 10 minutes up the stairs through the forest. It’s a nice walk.

  • Address: Parkplatz für Burgbesucher, Weinbergweg 8, 96049 Bamberg

By public transport

There are no buses going directly to the castle. You still need to walk up the mountain for a bit.

With one bus route you can get onto the trails from two different stops.

On foot

It is entirely possible to walk to the castle from the city center, though you need a little less than an hour to do it and it’s not particularly scenic as you are traversing residential areas before hiking up the mountain.

The Castle

History

The Castle was first mentioned in 1109, the Middle Ages, during the property transfer from bishop Otto von Bamberg to the Saint Jacob College.

In 1124, the castle chapel was commissioned by Bishop Otto I to honor the Saints Walpurga, Philippus and Jacobus.

However, the chapel with Neogothic elements that you see today dates back to 1834. If you look closely, you can see a knight from Bamberg’s city coat-of-arms on the final stone.

The castle as a whole survived the War of the Peasants from 1524/1525 but was heavily damaged in 1553 as a result of pillaging after the Second Margrave War and further through an earthquake in the 18th century.

In 1801, a local physician bought the castle to live in it and his friend, the popular author and playwright E.T.A. Hoffman resided in one of the towers for a while before moving into a house in town.

He also lived in one of the small houses and doodled caricatures on the walls. The building is now known as “E.T.A.-Hoffmann-Klause”.

In 1818, the castle was integrated into Bavaria’s first Historical Monument Preservation associations to specifically prevent further degradation.

The former medieval Palas (grand castle building) was rebuilt on top of the remaining cellars in a then contemporary historistic style with Neogothic elements in 1901 and 1902. To see its original furnishings, visit the Knights Hall (Rittersaal).

Conservation efforts took place multiple times throughout the 19th, 20th and early 21th century. Still, the original rectangular shape was never restored.

What you can see today are the castle gate with circular walls, the tower, Palas, some cellars and the original residential building.

wooden elements around windows on historic stone building of castle Altenburg
main castle building

Courtyard and walls

Getting into castle walls, walking on the historic walls and around the moat is free. You can enjoy a close look at the medieval structure and surrounding valleys.

The Altenburg Castle sits on the highest mountain among the Seven Hills of Bamberg and, as a result, offers sweeping views over the city below and the rolling hills and forests in the distance.

So get onto the walls and one of the round towers for a great outlook.

You might also spot a small well, which used to be surrounded by its own building and is about 30 meters deep. Some of its stones were actually used to change the northwestern tower.

Another thing you might notice is a kennel with a fake bear figure inside. This is in reference to the fact that bears used to be held on the castle in the 20th century. The last bear died in 1982 and was the last castle bear of Germany.

You can see the live cam with the view over Bamberg here.

Tower

The central castle tower offers an even better view of course. After all, it sits 400 meters (437 yards) above sea level, the mountain itself is 86 meters (94 yards) high and the tower has a height of 33 meters (36 yards).

You can enter the tower for a small fee of 1 euro (in cash), which you put into the donation box at the entrance door. There is a narrow winding staircase inside the round tower leading up to the first floor, so being vertigo free definitely helps. From there, you can climb a wooden ladder to get into the upper parts of the tower.

Wear solid shoes and watch your head and shoulders when ascending.

If you pay attention, you can see an iron cage hanging from the top of the tower. It’s called fire basket (Feuerkorb) and was supposed to have been used for signal fires to communicate with the castle Giechburg in the nearby town Scheßlitz.

However, nowadays it is believed to have merely been added to the castle to use for lighting plays in the 20th century.

Museum

It is not possible to visit the castle and its rooms unless you book a guided group tour here*.

However, the tour seems to be only available in German.

Restaurant

Sadly, on 1 November 2023, the restaurant shut down permanently and its inventory was auctioned off. It isn’t clear what will happen next to the former locale. You can see their goodbye post on their facebook page here. No specific reason was given.

view into green valley with houses and mountains in the distance
view from Altenburg Castle into the valley

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