Every year on the second Sunday of September, Germany opens its doors to many of its otherwise closed historic buildings, archives and forgotten places. It’s called Day of the Open Monument (Tag des offenen Denkmals) and one of the coolest events for history lovers and those with lots of curiosity when travelling Germany. Plus, it’s free!
The next date for the Tag des offenen Denkmals in all of Germany is Sunday, September 8, 2024.
What is Tag des offenen Denkmals?
If you’ve been visiting Germany for some time, you know that we charge for entry, museum visits and such. There’s rarely anything for free. And even if you do enter free places, like churches, donations are still expected to some degree.
This is because Germany takes preservation very seriously and there are nationwide laws and regulations on exactly how to preserve, restore and rebuilt buildings that are deemed of historical value.
In typical German fashion, that is often done so over the top that buying old buildings is a huuuuge hassle as well as time and money constraint, be it for private or public use.
But for one day of the year, even private people can open their doors to their historic properties and you can get have a look around. And it’s honestly fascinating. And perfect for those who are chronically curious or just love learning new things.
What can you see in Bamberg?
For one, three of the main museums in Bamberg open their doors for free on the Day of the Open Monument:
- Old townhall/Altes Rathaus
- Old courtyard/Alte Hofhaltung
In 2023, the places that opened up to visitors in addition to these museums were:
- Residence from 1726
- Fire brigade museum/Old stables
- St Sebastiani chapel
And to give you some insights into all of these (because I went and ran across town to catch these in time like crazy), here is a blog post about what I saw and some of what I learned.
And if you’re here to do some sightseeing in Bamberg, you can easily combine this and view some iconic monuments and buildings in Bamberg while walking between the stops.
I’ll leave out the town hall, the courtyard and the gallery for now, since they are accessible throughout the year.
Its German name is Haus zum Benedikt.
This historic storage building right in the center of the Old Town of Bamberg opened up its 7 floors to visitors for Day of the Open Monument in 2023 and discussed the architecture and its uses over time.
Nowadays, it is the Museum for Islamic Art run by the University of Bamberg.
The location was very important because from one side it used to have direct access to the river and the then harbor at what is now known as “Am Kranen”.
From the other side, markets were positioned right there, starting from Grüner Markt up the street to the other river.
So, not surprisingly, it took advantage of this ideal trading location and was used as a corn and flour storage. Its roof got four levels just for that purpose. The cellar was used for cooling products, such as meat or alcohol.
Over time, doors were added, side buildings added and on a guided tour (which is in German), you see the traces of where. I find that really fascinating.
For example, the ceilings used to be lavishly decorated with stucco and hand painted elements showing Greek god inspired scenes. But when tastes changed, they were covered up, new walls pulled in and were lost until being rediscovered a while ago.
As a result, the rooms themselves still look rather bland but some elements were laid bare to give an idea of how it could have looked. You have to use your imagination for that.
Residence from 1726
I love visiting abandoned places and this house was one of those. Now it’s going to be completely restored and remodeled to serve as a residential house again.
But before that I got to visit and it was super interesting to see the plastic floors and wallpapers peel off. To climb up the creaky, wonky wooden stairs into the dusty attic.
There were even newspapers from the 50s lying around.
Fire brigade museum/Old stables
Outside of the old city center, in near vicinity to the train station is a pretty baroque building in pink and yellow.
It naturally stands out and I had been wondering about it before and was happy that I now got to have a peek inside.
This very long-stretched, rectangular building was built as a horse stable.
None of that was very visible anymore. Half of the structure was used for storage of slabs of stones, wood beams and statues. I saw Jesus lying on a mattress instead of at a cross.
The other part now serves as a place for exhibiting old pieces of work attire, equipment, gadgets and cars that the local fire brigades throughout time used.
St Sebastiani chapel
This chapel is rarely open throughout the year, only for special occasions, such as in January and September to celebrate the Saint it is dedicated to.
The St Sebastian chapel might be small and outside of the city center, but has had a rich history and changed hands quite a lot.
Originally, it was part of a bigger hospital complex to house people riddled with then uncurable diseases, such as pest and syphilis. Hence, the street name it sits on: Siechstraße (infirmary road).
The saint Sebastian made sense as the chosen protector for those seeking solace in religious prayer. He is the patron of war, hunger and pest and historically, he was a Roman martyr from the 4th century.