Forchheim is a wonderful, tiny town in northern Bavaria, known in the region as “das Tor zur fränkischen Schweiz,” or the gateway to Franconian Switzerland. It is a delightful place to visit for the day while touring the beautiful countryside.
Forchheim’s rich medieval history has been well preserved as evidenced by its most striking building, the half-timber Rathaus or town hall built between the 14th and 16th Centuries. It is the focal point of the city center, and the adjacent Rathausplatz (Town Hall Place), closed to cars, is the site of a variety of festivals and markets throughout the year.
Another famous half-timber building is St. Katharina’s Hospital and the accompanying chapel, both built in the 1300s. Other noteworthy religious structures include; Martinskirche, a church constructed between the 12th and 15th Centuries with layers of various architectural styles, and Marienkapelle, a chapel dating back to the 1100s. The Kaiserpfalz once served as a palace of the prince-bishop of Bamberg, similar to the Schloss Seehof in function. The structure is well known in the region as the home of the oldest mural paintings in Franconia, dating back to the 14th Century. Interestingly, in Forchheim many of the medieval buildings are so well-preserved many continue to be used as functioning space, rather than house museums. For instance, the Rathaus is home to the tourist information board and the mayor’s office while St. Katharina Hospital serves as an assisted living facility.
The main pedestrian street, or Hauptstrasse, of the town is full of small cafes and shops. It is closed to traffic, so it’s perfect for strolling and window-shopping. The Hauptstrasse contains a small brook, known as the Bächla, which runs along-side the cobblestone street. The Hauptstrasse runs directly to the town hall. Many historic half-timber homes are still located along this street, as well as more modern structures.
There are several good dining options in Forchheim. Café Wauers, on the Rathausplatz, is a popular choice for alfresco dining and people watching. Located in the city center, the Stadtlokal Restaurant serves very good Franconian fare while international options abound here as well; Ristorante Pinocchio offers Italian dining and there are also Chinese and Mexican restaurants available.
There are festivals aplenty in this picturesque hamlet. A Carnival festival and parade is thrown in January while the months of April and May host Theatertage, a festival of plays and drama. Annafest draws people from far and wide and is held at the end of July and the beginning of August. This local beer fest is held in the Kellerwald and the four breweries located in Forchheim all participate. Some locals prefer its quaintness to the hectic, tourist filled Berg held earlier in the year in Erlangen.
Like most of Franconia, Forchheim celebrates Christmas with a real flare. An annual Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas festival, is held in the city center and the historic town hall is transformed into a beautiful Advent calendar, the largest in the world in fact.
Forchheim is part of the greater Nürnberg transport area, so arriving in the town from Nurnberg is quite easy. From Nürnberg the town can be accessed by bus or taxi, or another option is to rent a car and drive to Forchheim and other quaint villages in and around Franconian Switzerland.
Written by and photos by Morgen Young for EuropeUpClose.com