Bayreuth City Breaks
Best known for hosting the annual Bayreuth festival, this German town is dominated by its musical history and offers both a Wagner and a Liszt museum. Wagner's house and tomb can also be visited, but he town has much more to offer than its famous musical history. The Neuse Schloss and park are centrally located and Bayreuth offers an excellent Botanical garden.
- Flight time from London: 1 hour 40 min
- Nuremberg Airport: 85km from the city centre; transfer time about 59 min
- Nearest railway station: Bayreuth Hauptbahnhof
- Currency: Euro
The Old Castle Hermitage
The Altes Schloss Hermitage, 3 miles north of Bayreuth, makes an appealing departure from the sonorous and austere Wagnerian mood in much of the town. It's an early-18th-century palace, built as a summer retreat and remodelled in 1740 by the Margravine Wilhelmine. Although her taste is not much in evidence in the drab exterior, the interior, alive with light and colour, displays her guiding hand in every elegant line. The extraordinary Japanischer Saal (Japanese Room), filled with Asian treasures and chinoiserie furniture, is the finest room. The park and gardens, partly formal, partly natural, are enjoyable for idle strolling. Fountain displays take place at the two fake grottoes at the top of the hour 10-5 daily.
Brauerei and Buttnerei Museum
Near the centre of town, in the 1887 Maisel Brewery building, the Brauerei und Büttnerei-Museum reveals the tradition of the brewing trade over the past two centuries. The brewery operated here until 1981 when its much bigger home was completed next door. After the 60-minute tour, you can quaff a cool, freshly tapped beer in the museum's pub, which has traditional Bavarian Weissbier (wheat beer).
The Festspielhaus is surprisingly plain but this look is explained partly by Wagner's desire to achieve perfect acoustics. The wooden seats have no upholstering, for example, and the walls are bare. The stage is enormous, capable of holding the huge casts required for Wagner's largest operas. Performances take place only during the annual Wagner Festival, still masterminded by descendants of the composer.
The B-22 highway cuts through the Fränkische Schweiz - or Franconian Switzerland - which got its name from its fir-clad landscape. Just north of Hollfeld, 14 miles west of Bayreuth, the Jurassic rock of the region breaks through the surface in a bizarre, craggy formation known as the Felsgarten (Rock Garden).
The Hofgarten Passage, off Richard-Wagner-Strasse, is one of the fanciest shopping arcades in the region. It is full of smart boutiques selling everything from German high fashion to simple local craftwork.
Within the town centre itself, the Bayerischer Hof contains the town's most intriguing dining choices. The hotel has a selection of restaurants offering both French and Franconian cooking. The Hans-Sachs-Stube, an air-conditioned replica of an old inn, has walls covered with pictures of famous opera singers who have performed in Bayreuth or dined here. You can also dine at the hotel's bistro, Spanische Stube. The best cuisine, however, is found at the Gendarmerie, the main a la carte restaurant. The food is very refined here, combining inventive French dishes with the best of Franconian fare. Each dining room has a different decor, although the seasonally adjusted menu is the same in all three.
The building, which lies outside the centre of town, was constructed as a private hunting lodge and has a hexagonal baroque tower. The cuisine follows the culinary traditions of France, Italy, and Germany with menu items that might include lobster risotto with basil, stuffed halibut with caviar sauce and kohlrabi noodles, and terrine of sweetbreads. There is also an impressive wine list.
This restaurant is cosy and popular; it offers some of the best value food in town. Set in the heart of town, Oskar's has a large central dining room, designed like a greenhouse and flooded with sunlight, and a trio of smaller, cosier Stuben that have wood-panelling and a sense of updated Franconian tradition. Menu items include lots of old-style Franconian favourites, such as loin of beef with horseradish sauce and Bayreuther-style Klos (potato dumplings), roasted pork, schnitzels, baked salmon, and sauerbraten. There's also a short list of pasta, soups, and salads. Whenever a particular vegetable or fruit comes into season, expect lots of emphasis on it in the list of daily (or weekly) specials.
This charming and well-managed restaurant is partially contained in a mill that was built in the 1600s. The rest is in a modern (but antique-looking) extension that was added in the late 1970s. Today, views from its tables encompass the Mühlbach River and its cuisine focuses on the specialities of Franconia, particularly in the use of freshwater fish such as carp and trout. The fish are kept in large holding tanks and aquariums, and can be prepared in virtually any way you specify.