64km (40 miles) E of Bamberg, 92km (57 miles) NE of Nürnberg
Nearly everything you’ll want to see in this little city set amid rolling hills is related in some way to two extraordinary past residents, Richard Wagner and Margravine Wilhelmine. The legacy of Wagner (1813–83) includes an annual festival of Wagner operas in the Festspielhaus, the concert hall he built, and Haus Wahnfried (Richard-Wagner-Museum), where the composer lived and is buried.
Even without this Wagner connection Bayreuth would stand out on the Bavarian landscapes, thanks to Margravine Wilhelmine (1709–58), sister of Prussian King Frederick the Great, a granddaughter of Britain’s King George I, and an outsized personality who shaped the city’s cultural and architectural landscape. A gifted artist, writer, composer, and decorator, Wilhelmine set about turning Bayreuth into a German Versailles. She commissioned the building of the Markgräfliches Opernhaus (Margraves’ Opera House), one of the finest and best preserved Baroque theatres in Europe, and the Neues Schloss (New Castle), in which nearly all the rooms have retained their original Baroque and Rococo decor. She also transformed Schloss Eremitage (Hermitage Castle) into a glamorous country seat with a grand English-style garden. You can easily spend half a day here seeing so much creative outpouring of past centuries.