Richard Wagner's Festival Theater (Festspielhaus
) in Bayreuth
The festival city of Bayreuth in Upper Franconia (Oberfranken) is relatively quiet most of the year until the Richard Wagner Festival settles in for 30 days every summer. Bayreuth features a wealth of impressive baroque and rococo architecture, as well as freshly-brewed Franconian beer in the local Biergartens. Although the city remains fairly tame compared to the much larger cities in Germany, the presence of almost 10,000 students at the University of Bayreuth means an active nightlife is not difficult to find.
The town of Bayreuth first emerged during the Middle Ages, with a typical Bavarian street market in the center of town. In its early history, Bayreuth was only a small village in the Hohenzollern Empire and suffered many plagues and wars. The town was completely destroyed during the Hussite war in 1430, suffered major plagues even until 1602, and incurred major damage by fires in 1605 and 1621. Margrave Christian from Kulmbach moved his residence here in 1603, and after the Thirty Years' War the town began to develop as a more important city with more distinct baroque architecture. When Margrave Friedrich married Wilhelmine, the sister of King Frederick II of Prussia, Bayreuth began to develop its current appearance.
Margravine Wilhelmine was an active lover of the arts and architecture. She commissioned famous Italian architects to design the Margravial Operahouse, which was the largest in Germany for over a century. It still stands today as one of the most ornate baroque opera houses in the world. In addition, Wilhelmine expanded the Margrave's summer residence and gardens and commissioned the architecturally impressive New Palace. During the reign of Friedrich and Wilhelmine, the arts flourished in Bayreuth. The magnificent opera house even attracted Richard Wagner to Bayreuth in 1872 until his death 11 years later. Since then the city has had an integral relationship with Richard Wagner. The Richard Wagner Festival started in 1876 to commemorate and perform the works of the famous composer. During the Nazi rule, Hilter considered Bayreuth one of the most important cultural centers in Germany, and as such, Bayreuth was heavily bombed during World War II. In the last half century, Bayreuth has rebuilt, continued the Richard Wagner Festival and grown quietly, mostly around the University, which was established in 1975.
Bayreuth is famous in Germany as the host of the Richard Wagner Festival (Festspiele) each year from July to August. In that respect, most of the tourist industry has evolved around the life and times of Richard Wagner as well as Margravine Wilhelmine, one of the major contributors in bringing the arts to Bayreuth. For most of the year, Bayreuth is quiet, somewhat out of the way of the major tourist itineraries. However, during the Festspiele, the town fills to capacity; hotels are nearly impossible to book and the traffic almost slows to a stop. Winter is normally overcast and wet, with temperatures not deviating too far from freezing. The springtime can be relatively cool, but the weather slowly becomes more pleasant and is welcomed by numerous street fairs and festivals (See Events). Summer is also pleasant, punctuated by occasional hot days. During the warmer seasons, outdoor cafes and Biergartens abound in the cobblestoned city center.
The Tourist Information office provides lots of very detailed information. They are located at Luitpoldplatz 9, between the city center and the train station (office hours M-F 9AM-6PM & Sa 9:30AM-1PM yearlong, also Su 10AM-2PM May - Oct). The offer a two-hour city tour (in German) daily at 10:30AM (only Saturdays from Nov-Apr) for 5.50 €. The meeting point is the TI office. For visiting the sights and taking the buses, they offer the Bayreuth Card, which provides three days of free bus travel, the city tour, and entry to 9 different museums (11.50 €, available at the TI, at many attractions, and at some hotels). Combination tickets are also available for the Margravial Operahouse and New Palace for 8 €, and the Kombikarte Bayreuth allows entry to any three city museums for 10 €. The TI office also provides city maps and city/regional maps for bicyclists.
Frequent train services connect Bayreuth to other regions of Franconia and Northern Bavaria. Regular services exist seven days a week to and from
- Regional-Express (RE) trains once an hour (66 minutes travel time). Many times these trains separate en route, so make certain to board the correct train segment.
- As a stop on the Interregio-Express (IRE) service between Nuremberg and Dresden (49 minutes from Nuremberg, 3.5 hours from Dresden)
- Direct RE trains every two hours (2.5 hours)
- Otherwise a change in Nuremberg or Lichtenfels is necessary
- Dresden - With the IRE in 3.5 hours
- Bamberg - 1.5 hours by RE, sometimes a change in Lichtenfels is necessary
The Hauptbahnhof (main train station) is located approximately 1 km north of the city center, easily accessed by foot. Several buses also run from the train station to the central bus station in the town center (Lines 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, and 13).
Bayreuth is easily accessible on the autobahn A9, approximately 70 km north of Nuremberg and 40 km south of Hof.
The nearest airport with regular commercial service is located in Nuremberg. Many international flights arrive in Germany via Frankfurt or Munich, however. The nearby [Bayreuth] is available for private planes or to charter planes.
The bus network around Bayreuth provides extensive coverage of the city and surrounding areas, with most buses running in 20-minute intervals. The central bus station (Zentrale Omnibus Haltestelle, ZOH) is located one block north of Maximilianstrasse near the city hall (Rathaus). The bus plan and schedule can be found at the website for BVB-Bayreuth  (in German only). Day passes (Tageskarte) are available.
Compared to larger cities, Bayreuth is relatively easy to tackle by car. The pedestrian-only area in the center of town is confined to a few streets, and parking garages are easy to find.
Biking is easy and convenient in Bayreuth. Many scenic bike paths radiate from Bayreuth into the surrounding areas.
Most sights of interest are easily reached by foot within the city. Exceptions to this are the Festspielhaus and the Eremitage, both of which are easily accessed by bus or bike.
Most attractions in Bayreuth hail from the residence of Margravine Wilhelmine and her husband Margrave Friedrich. A diligent supporter of the arts and culture, Wilhelmine brought Italian architects and French builders to construct many of the town's historical landmarks. As such, much of the architecture reflects heavy baroque and rococo influences. With its wide pedestrian streets, the city center is easy to stroll, and provides a pleasant contrast to many other Bavarian towns loaded with medieval architecture. During the summer many cafes and ice cream parlors set up outdoor seating on the main shopping streets, Maximilianstrasse, Sophienstrasse, and Von-Römer-Strasse. The attractions below can easily be combined with cheaper combination tickets. A ticket to the Margravial Operahouse and New Palace are available for 8 €. In addition, a ticket to visit any three attractions (Kombikarte Bayreuth) is available for 10 €, either from the ticket office or the tourist information.
- Festival Theater (Festspielhaus), Festspielhügel 1-2 (Bus 5 to Am Festspielhaus), ☎ +49 (09 21) 7 87 80, . Open Daily except Mon. 10AM and 2PM (Dec-Apr) or 10AM, 11AM, 2PM, and 3PM (Sept-Oct). Built in 1872, this opera house still ranks among the best in the world in design and acoustics. Home to the Richard Wagner Festival every summer (see Events below). Just north of the main train station, take bus 5 to Am Festspielhaus. The grounds are crowded, tours seldom, and tickets rare during the annual Richard Wagner Festival in late July-August each year. 5 €. (latitude,)
- Garden Museum Fantaisie Palace and Park (Schloss and Park Fantaisie), Bambergerstr. 3, 95488 Eckersdorf/Donndorf (Take bus 8231, 8433, 8446, or 8449 towards Donndorf to stop Fantaisie), ☎ +49 (09 21) 73 14 00 11, . Open Daily except Mon. 9AM-6PM (Apr-Sept) or 10AM-4PM (Oct 1st-15th), closed Oct. 16th to Apr 1st. The 18th century palace designed by the daughter of Margrave Friedrich and Margravine Wilhelmine, features Germany's first garden design museum. Located 5 km west of Bayreuth, take bus 8231, 8433, 8446, or 8449 towards Donndorf to stop Fantaisie. 3 €. (latitude,)
- Hermitage/Old Palace (Eremitage/Altes Schloss), Eremitage 1 (Take Bus 2 or 3 to Eremitage), ☎ +49 (09 21) 7 59 69 37 ([email protected]), . Open Daily 9AM-6PM (Apr-Sept) or 10AM-4PM (Oct 1st-15th), closed Oct. 16th to Apr 1st. The old palace of Margrave Georg Wilhelm on the outskirts of town, the palace was expanded and the gardens created by Wilhelmine as a summer residence. The ornate fountains begin their waterworks on the hour from 10AM to 5PM. Guided tours are available. The Eremitage is approximately 6 km outside Bayreuth, take bus 2 or 3 to Eremitage. 2.50 €. (latitude,)
- Margravial Opera House (Markgräfliches Opernhaus), Opernstr. 8, ☎ +49 (09 21) 7 59 69 22 ([email protected]), . Open Daily 9AM-6PM (Apr-Sept) or 10AM-4PM (Oct-Mar). The baroque opera house, commissioned by Margravine Wilhelmine and designed by famous Giuseppe Galli Bibiena and son Carlo from Italy, was completed in 1748 and remained Germany's largest opera house until 1871. This ornate opera house partially drew Richard Wagner's attention to Bayreuth. 5 €. (latitude,)
- New Palace (Neues Schloss), Ludwigstr. 21, ☎ +49 (09 21) 7 59 69 21 ([email protected]), . Open Daily except Mon. 9AM-6PM (Apr-Sept) or 10AM-4PM (Oct-Mar). The new residence of the Margrave Friedrich and his wife Wilhelmine after their old residence burnt down. It was designed and built by the French builder Joseph Saint-Pierre, and completed in 1754. The entrance fee includes entrance to the two museums inside: The Museum "Margravine Wilhelmine's Bayreuth" and the museum "Bayreuth Faience - Rummel Collection," featuring porcelain manufactured in Bayreuth in the 18th century. Rooms of interest include the Garden Rooms, Cedar Room, Old Music Room, and the Cabinet of Fragmented Mirrors (designed by Wilhelmine herself). 5 €. (latitude,)
- Castle Church and Tower (Schlosskirche and Schlossturm), Schlossberglein 5, 95444 Bayreuth, ☎ +49 (09 21) 885 88. Opens for prearranged tours. The court chapel and tower were also commissioned and built by Friedrich and Wilhelmine, completed in 1758. The burial vault of the Friedrich and Wilhelmine is located here. The spiral staircase in the tower features a ramp to bring supplies up to the guardroom, which has a great view over the town and to the nearby Fichtelgebirge. 1 €. (latitude,)
- Spitalkirche (Spitalkirche), (At the west end of the main market street Maximilianstrasse).
- Stadtkirche (Stadtkirche). The Stadtkirche is since 2006 closed and undergoing renovations.
For a town of its size, Bayreuth is rich in museums; over two dozen can be found in and around the city. Noteworthy among the many are the Richard Wagner Museum and Franz-Liszt-Museum, documenting the lives of these prominent German composers, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Maisel's Brewery and Cooper's Museum, as well as the museums located in the New Palace: Bayreuther Faiences - The Rummel Collection, The State Galleries and Margravine Wilhelmine's Bayreuth. Every fall the museums offer a Bayreuth Museum Night (Bayreuther Museumsnacht). On this night, a single ticket allows entry to every museum in the city from 8PM until 2AM. (Typically either late October or early November, see Tourist Information or the website [|http://www.museumsnacht.bayreuth.de/] (German only) for more precise information)
- Archeological Museum (Archäologisches Museum), Ludwigstr. 21 (Italian Building of the New Palace), ☎ +49 (0) 9 21 / 6 53 07, . End of April to beginning of November: 10AM-3PM on Saturdays, or by appointment. Archeological finds from Upper Franconia and laid out in eight rooms, spanning the stone age through the middle ages. Most text descriptions might be only in German. 1 €. (latitude,)
- Bayreuther Faiences - The Rummel Collection (Sammlung Bayreuther Fayencen), In the New Palace, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21/7 59 69 21. A collection of porcelain manufactured in Bayreuth between 1716 and 1788. See New Palace above for more information. (latitude,)
- British American Tobacco's Historical Collection (Tabakhistorische Sammlung der B.A.T.), Maximilianstr. 33, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21/7 64 53 10. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM; Jul - Aug: also open Mondays. A collection of over 500 objects from British American Tobacco. The history of tobacco culture is presented, encompassing smoking, pipe, and chewing tobacco. This museum is part of the Museum of Art. 1.60 €. (latitude,)
- Catacombs of Bayreuth's Aktien Brewery (Katakomben der Bayreuther AKTIEN-Brauerei), Kulmbacherstr. 60, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21 / 401-234 ([email protected]), . Tours Saturdays at 4PM, or group tours by prior arrangement. Aktien Breweries provides an interesting tour through the sandstone beer caverns that operated from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Since the caverns stay very cool throughout the year, appropriate clothing is recommended. (latitude,)
- Fire Brigade Museum (Feuerwehrmuseum), An der Feuerwache 4, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21/4 82 99, . Open upon prior arrangement. A collection of fire engines from different eras and regions. (latitude,)
- Franz-Liszt-Museum, Wahnfriedstr. 9, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21 / 5 16 64 88. Sep - Jun: 10AM-noon & 2PM-5PM; Jul - Aug: 10AM-5PM. The house of Franz Liszt, the famous German composer and father-in-law to Richard Wagner. Very near the Richard Wagner museum. 1.60 €. (latitude,)
- German Freemason Museum (Deutsches Freimaurer-Museum), Im Hofgarten 1, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21 / 6 98 24 ([email protected]), . Tu-F 10AM-noon and 2PM-4PM; Sa 10AM-noon. A museum run by the German Freemason's presenting the history of the organization. (latitude,)
- German Typewriter Museum (Deutsches Schreibmaschinenmuseum), Bernecker Str. 11, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21/2 34 45. M-F by telephone appointment. A collection of typewriters dating back to 1864. The collection in Bayreuth began in 1936, and has expanded ever since. Free. (latitude,)
- Historical Museum (Historisches Museum), Kirchplatz 6, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21 / 7 64 01 11 ([email protected]). Tu-Su 10AM-5PM; Jul - Aug: also open Mondays. This museum chronicles the history of Bayreuth from a small Bavarian village to one of the most culturally-important small cities in Germany. The 17th century building provides a suitable setting for the historical collections. 1,60 €. (latitude,)
- Iwalewa House (Iwalewa-Haus), Münzgasse 9, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21/55 36 81, . Tu-Su 2PM-6PM. Afro-cultural center of the University of Bayreuth. Free. (latitude,)
- Jean Paul Museum, Wahnfriedstr. 1, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21 / 5 07 14 44 ([email protected]). Sep - Jun: 10AM-noon & 2PM-5PM; Jul - Aug: 10AM-5PM. A small museum dedicated to the life and works of the German poet, who lived his last years from 1804 - 1825 in Bayreuth. The museum is located in the former residence of Richard Wagner's daughter Eva. 1.60 €. (latitude,)
- Little Poster Museum (Kleines Plakatmuseum), Friedrich-Puchta-Str. 12, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21/8 24 58. Tu & Th 4PM-6PM and by appointment. A collection of contemporary poster art primarily concerning popular culture advertisements (such as movie and performance advertisements). (latitude,)
- Maisel's Brewery and Coopers Museum (Maisel's Brauerei und Büttnerei Museum), Kulmbacherstr. 40, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21 / 40 12 34 ([email protected]), . Daily 2PM. The Guinness Book Of World Records' Most Comprehensive Beer Museum occupies the first brewery building of Maisel's Brewery (taken out of commission in the 1970s). The 90 minute tour covers the entirety of the brewing process, and of course finishes with a glass of Maisel's Weissbier. Group tours for 12 or more people can be booked by calling in advance. 4 €. (latitude,)
- Museum of Agricultural Tools and Equipment (Museum für bäuerliche Arbeitsgeräte), Adolf-Wächter-Str. 17, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21/5 75 15, . May - Oct: M-F 9:30AM-noon, Su 2PM-5PM; Rest of the year and for groups, irregularly or by appointment. A collection of agricultural equipment highlighting the tools and techniques of farmers from Upper Franconia. What started as a private collection by Günter Schmidt was taken over by the city and offered as a public museum starting in 1972. Housed in a historic farmhouse. 1.50 €. (latitude,)
- Museum of Art (Kunstmuseum), Maximilianstr. 33, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21/7 64 53 10, . Tu-Su 10AM-5PM; Jul - Aug: also open Mondays. Housed in the former city hall's Renaissance-style building, the Museum of Art offers alternating collections of sculpture and painting. 1,60 €. (latitude,)
- Museum of Natural History (Urwelt-Museum Oberfranken), Kanzleistr. 1, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21 / 51 12 11 ([email protected]), . Tu-Su 10AM-5PM; Jul - Aug: also open Mondays. The museum in the main pedestrian shopping area highlights the life, geology and minerology during the last 500 million years of Upper Franconia. In front of the museum looms a giant dinosaur statue, along the main shopping street. 2 €. (latitude,)
- Museum of Wilhelmine's Bayreuth, Museum Das Bayreuth der Wilhelmine. Museum highlighting the life and culture of Bayreuth during the time of Margravine Wilhelmine. The collections are part of the New Palace, see above for more information. (latitude,)
- Natural Science Museum (Naturkundemuseum), Karolinenreuther Str. 58, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21/75 94 20, . Nov - Feb: Tu-F 9AM-4PM, Su 10AM-3PM; Mar - Oct: Tu-F 9AM-4PM, Sa-Su 1PM-5PM. This small museum in a farmhouse just outside the city describes the flora and fauna of Bayreuth and Upper Franconia. The museum is especially designed to engage and educate children. 1.50 €. (latitude,)
- Richard Wagner Museum, Richard-Wagner-Str. 48, ☎ +49 (0) 9 21/7 57 28 16, . Apr - Oct: 9AM-5PM M,W,F,Sa,Su, & 9AM-8PM Tu,Th; Nov - Mar: 10AM-5PM daily. The composer's old residence (Wahnfried House, Haus Wahnfried) has been converted to a museum chronicling his life and works. The composer, his wife, and their dog are buried in the garden. The museum may be of lesser interest to non-German speakers, as it has few English translations. 4 € Sept - Jun, 4.50 € Jul - Aug. (latitude,)
- State Gallery in the New Palace (Staatsgalerie im Neuen Schloss), Ludwigstraße 21 (In the New Palace), ☎ +49 (0) 9 21 / 7 59 69-0. Apr - Sept: 9AM-6PM daily; Oct - Mar: 10AM-4PM (closed M). Occupying three rooms of the palace, this exhibition features 80 works of art from the late baroque. 4 €, entrance fee is included with entrance to the New Palace. (latitude,)
- Court Garden (Hofgarten), (Behind the Neues Schloss). Open 24 hours a day year round. The court garden of the Neues Schloss, this park provides a welcome bit of green in the middle of the city. On sunny days, you can find many residents here relaxing or exercising with a little sport. Free. (latitude,)
- Hermitage (Eremitage). See Hermitage/Old Palace above for information.
Bayreuth is home to the Richard Wagner Festival for 30 days every year in July and August, when his operas are performed at the Festspielhaus. During the festival, huge crowds flock to Bayreuth for a chance to see the performances. It is estimated that the waiting time for tickets is between five and ten years. For inquiries, contact the Tourist Information office for ideas on the best ways to obtain tickets. Sometimes (with a little luck), last minute tickets can become available.
Maisel's brewery also hosts a Wheat Beer Festival every year in either April or May. (More information on the dates can be found through the Tourist Information or at Maisel's website, . The festival usually extends over a long weekend (Thursday - Sunday) and features various bands and festivities each day. Entrance is normally always free. A Fun Run and kids programs are also offered.
Drink some of the local wheat beer - Hefeweizen - it is perhaps the best sipping beer in the world.
When traveling in summer, make sure not to miss the beautiful Theta beergarden. It is located in the hills above Bayreuth and it's hard to get there. But even taking a taxi would be worth it. For active people it is possible to do a very nice hike here from the Festspielhaus
Nightlife is not the thing Bayreuth is famous for. A really good place for concerts and parties is the Glashaus on the university campus.
The young University of Bayreuth was established in 1975 and currently has an enrollment approaching 10,000 students. More information at .