The Franconian Switzerland (German Fränkische Schweiz) is an upland in Franconia, northern Bavaria and a popular tourist retreat. Located between the Pegnitz River in the east and the south, the Regnitz River in the west and the Main River in the north, its relief reaches 600 meters in height.
The Franconian Switzerland is one of the oldest and most popular holiday areas in Germany. It was given its name by Romantic artists and poets in the 19th century who compared its landscape to Switzerland.
The Franconian Switzerland is the region with the highest density of breweries in the world.
This is a overall rural area so many people might speak with an audible Franconian tinge to their German. However, hotels — and especially the bigger ones — will almost always have someone who can speak English, and overall people will be very helpful and open-minded if you try to speak German even if they themselves will switch to English immediately.
Ebermannstadt is considered the "entrance to Franconian Switzerland", and regular trains from Forchheim connect to that city year round. Other than that, this area is sadly underserved by public transport.
From Ebermannstadt there is a touristic steam-railway to Behringersmühle going on most weekends in the summer and some special occasions in the winter. For more see below.
Although the steep slopes can take their toll on untrained riders, the view of the scenery and the landscape more than make up for it.
Keep in mind that especially during weekends in the summer, the small roads that go through this area often can't deal with the mass of people coming and going. As many roads are very curvy, it is also difficult to overtake anyone driving very slowly — which is quite common due to people enjoying the scenery from their car and only going 60kph in places where 100 are allowed.
- Aufseß - record-holder for the greatest brewery density in the world
- Forchheim - a former Kaiserpfalz (temporary residence of the Holy Roman emperor) with the prince-bishop’s palace, 14th century
- Ebermannstadt - old Franconian timbered buildings and Feuerstein Castle (today also used as a youth hostel)
- Gößweinstein - Basilica Pilgrimage church of the Holy Trinity
- Muggendorf - river Wiesent and ruin Neideck
- Pegnitz - old townhall from 1347
- Pottenstein - with Cave Teufelshöhle and a Sommerrodelbahn (a kind of summer-only dry toboggan)
- Streitberg - Cave Binghöhle as well as a castle-ruin
- Thurnau - Castle Thurnau and St.-Laurentius-Church.
- Waischenfeld - river Wiesent and castles of Waischenfeld, Rabenstein and Rabeneck
- Wonsees - Sanspareil Rock Garden of Margravine Wilhelmine and Zwernitz Castle
- The scenic railroad from Ebermannstadt to Behringersmühle that was converted into a tourist attraction when commercial services stopped now offers rides in historic steam-driven locomotives throughout the summer.
Franconian Switzerland is the Mecca of German and European rock climbers. Every climber has to come here once in his lifetime to have at least a look at the famous action-direct climb. The limestone in this area is plentiful and the local scenery and breweries make it a nice weekend retreat. For German standards the safety (amount and quality of bolts) is really high here, though it does not reach the French standards. See frankenjura.com for online topos and access descriptions.
Franconian Switzerland have more of 1000 caves of every size.
- "Devil's Cave" (Teufelshöhle) in Pottenstein
- "Bing Cave" (Binghöhle) in Streitberg
- "Sophie's Cave" (Sophienhöhle) in Ahorntal
Most caves are full of bizarre columns of limestone and stalagmites and stalactites of various shape and size. Guided tours telling you about the history of the caves and their discovery as well as pointing out particularly spectacular rock-formations are widely available and usually the only way to access the caves. Keep in mind that most parts of the cave will be around 4°Celsius year round.
The river Wiesent is the only still allowed river for paddling, canoeing and kayaking in the Franconian Switzerland. The stretch of river, around 28 km, is especially for fans of light white-water (Class I Easy and Class II Medium) to recommend.
Beer-drinking could easily be put in "Do" as a thing to do in Franconian Switzerland. The density of breweries is the highest in the world and literally every village has its own pub serving home brewed yeast juice at very reasonable prices, along with hefty local Franconian cuisine.
The biggest hazards in this region are natural. When climbing or canoeing you should apply general rules of safety to minimize any risk of injury or accident. Other than that, this region is as safe as it can get.
Visit Bamberg to see the medieval town and try the local smoked beer (Rauchbier) or to Bayreuth, is famous as the host of the Richard Wagner Festival, furthermore the Markgräfliches Opernhaus is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Nürnberg and Erlangen are also reasonably close for a day trip.