Erlangen is a university town with a population just over a 100,000. Here visitors can look into a typical Franconian town without the overwhelming crowds of tourists you’ll find in larger cities in Bavaria. This small city is food obsessed. Traditional German fare and upscale cuisine are equally valued in a town that prizes the bounty of Bavarian agriculture.
Erlangen contains some of the best-preserved Baroque architecture in the whole of Germany. The Hugenots’ legacy is immortalized in the centrally located Hugenottenplatz. This public square holds an impressive daily farmers’ market. The market is always bustling with locals doing their daily shopping. Choose from local fruits, vegetables, cheeses and meats for an impromptu snack.
Being a university town means a significant percentage of students, and a correspondingly large number of inexpensive bars and cafes. Steinbach Brau on Vierzigmannstrasse, a local brewery near the city center, and Bogarts, Gueterhallenstrasse 2, opposite the shopping center, are two popular destinations. Many of the younger generation frequent the bars located near the Arcaden, the indoor shopping mall. The Brasserie, Nürnberger Strasse 3, is a perfect combination of bar and restaurant. Situated alongside the main pedestrian area of the city, outside dining provides a great spot for people watching. For entertainment to accompany your beer, visit Musikkeller Strohalm , Hauptstrasse 107. This large cellar features live music and is quite popular among the students.
Erlangen is a fantastic food city, ranging from typical homestyle Franconian fare to adventurous cuisine. Atler Simpl, Bohlenplatz 2, serves such dishes as Nürnberger bratwurst, dumplings and potato salad. Many of the surrounding villages have great restaurants offering local food, but Alter Simpl is the best bet for traditional food within the city. Café Mengin, located near the market square and adjacent to the Erlangen Schloss, serves well-made German fare as well as several vegetarian options. The outdoor seating offers great views of the city’s main garden. For lighter dishes, stop by the Erlanger Teehaus, on Friedrichstrasse. This café serves tea, coffee and sweets and its backyard garden is worth a visit. For more upscale meals, try Basilikum, on Altstaeder Kirchenplatz or Altmanns Stube, on Theaterplatz.
Erlangen also boasts numerous international restaurants and cafes including Greek, Turkish, Italian and Chinese options. Stopping by any number of Turkish cafes for a Döner kebab is a good, filling option for lunch on the go. Bruno is a hidden gem of an Italian restaurant on Schiffstrasse. While enjoying a meal there, be sure to stroll along the street for great retail shops and hole-in-the-wall bakeries.
Beer is celebrated with equal fervor as the food in Erlangen. The largest annual event in the city is the Bergkirchweih, a two-week long festival in late May which celebrates beer. Beer cellars, booths, tents, live music and amusement rides entertain festival-goers. A seating area for 10,000 marks this as the largest open-air biergarten in the whole of Europe. The festival draws a million people to the city every year and has been held since the mid 18th Century. The beer cellars are situated up a hill, about a fifteen-minute walk from the city center. If you plan on visiting the city during this event be sure to book your hotel reservations well in advance, as lodging fills up quickly for the festival.
Once you have exhausted your stay in Erlangen, use the city as a jumping off point for travel to other locations in Germany. Trains leave daily from the Baunhofplatz to such cities as Nürnberg, Bamberg, Munich and beyond. Or rent a car and get lost in the too numerous to count little towns and villages that dot the landscape of Franconia.
Written by and photos by Morgen Young for EuropeUpClose.com