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Bayreuth in Bavaria has a rich Wagner heritage

Discover the Medieval Secrets of Three Unforgettable Bavarian Towns: Bayreuth

If you’re planning a trip to Germany’s Bavaria, you’ll find plenty of medieval towns and attractions to visit. For example, you can join hordes of travelers flocking to Upper Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle, one of Germany’s most spectacular sights. Maybe you’ll thinking about trekking with the tourists to the magnificent Renaissance city of Augsburg and its 70 meter high Perlach Tower which soars above the Old Town. And if you visit in the fall, you can bond with thousands who swarm to Munich’s Oktoberfest.
Don’t get me wrong. These are great places to visit. But if you’re looking to take a step back in time without the crowds, you might want to take the road less traveled. You might want to stroll over the cobblestoned bridges and lanes of Bamberg, Bayreuth and Regensburg, and visited their historic Old Town Halls, churches and palaces.

Bayreuth: Richard Wagner and more

Bayreuth, the largest city in Upper Franconia, is best known for its ties to composer Richard Wagner. Wagner was attracted to Bayreuth because of the immense depth (27 meters) of the stage at the Markgräfliches Opernhaus (Margrave’s Opera House or Margravial Opera House). This Baroque Opera House (located at Opernstraße 14), was built between 1744 and 1748 and restored a number of times. It is one of Europe’s few surviving theatres of the period.
Bayreuth by Maureen Bruschi

Unfortunately, Wagner felt that this box styled theater was inappropriate for his operas. The city of Bayreuth catered to his needs and offered him Grüner Hügel (green hill) to build his Festspielhaus or Festival Theatre (located at Festspielhügel 1-2). This opera house was specially constructed for the performance of Wagner operas.

On May 22, 1872, Wagner celebrated the cornerstone ceremony of his Festspielhaus by conducting an unforgettable concert, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in the Margravial Opera House.

Every summer the month long Bayreuth Festival (also called the Richard Wagner Festival) is held in the Festspielhaus. Don’t expect to get your hands on tickets for these special summer performances anytime soon.

Today Festspielhaus, most famous for its outstanding acoustics and architecture, is considered one of the world’s greatest opera houses.

If you’re planning to visit Festspielhaus, it’s about a 30 minute walk from the city center. You might want to take a car or public transportation. Also, the theatre is only open to the public via tours and not during rehearsal times or during the Festival in the summer (Phone+49 911-8109400482-10).

Another Wagner attraction you won’t want to miss is the former residence of the Wagner family, Haus Wahnfried, located at the end of Richard-WagnerStraß. Today, this villa houses the Richard Wagner Museum and the Richard Wagner National Archives. Close by you’ll discover the graves of Wagner and his wife Cosima.

Walking Tour
In addition to a city devoted to Wagner and his operas, Bayreuth also offers fascinating palaces, churches and museums that reveal its history and culture. If you’re planning a walking tour of Bayreuth, stop off at the Tourist Office located at Luitpoldplatz so you can locate Bayreuth’s famous sites.

With map in hand, you’ll discover the New Palace, located at Ludwigstraße. Margrave Friedrich and the Prussian Princess Wihelmine, sister of Frederick the Great, resided in the New Palace. If you have time, you may want to visit the Palace’s Margravine Wihelmine Museum, the Garden Rooms, the Cedar Room, the Music Room and the Cabinet of Fragmented Mirrors.

Take Friedrichstraße, lined with marvelous town houses and palaces, to Kanzleistraße. Along this route you’ll find a number of key landmarks, including Bayreuth’s famous piano manufacturer “Steingraeber & Söhne. Inside this building you’ll find Franz Liszt’s original grand piano located in Rococo Hall.

Continue down Kanzleistraße and you’ll see the Gothic Stadtkirche or city church and the Historical Museum, formerly the town’s Latin School. Take Maximilianstraße to the Markplatz (Market Square). Here you’ll discover the Old Town Hall which today houses the Museum of Fine Arts. Stay east on Maximilianstraße and you’ll arrive at the Old Palace, seat of the Margravate’s government since 1603.

If You Go:
Most major airlines fly into Bavaria’s Munich Airport or Nürnberg Airport. Bayreuth is easy to reach by way of A9 and A70. For more information visit Bayreuth

Maureen C. Bruschi is a freelance travel and sports writer and photographer. She lived in Istanbul, Turkey for two years and has traveled to over 15 countries. She has been published in a number of publications including Travel Post Monthly, The Writer, BootsnAll Travel,, blog and USTA Middle States Section.

© 2010