German Sights

Upper Franconia in Bavaria

A Guide to the Region's History and Attractions

The Upper Franconia region is one of the seven administrative districts of Bavaria in southern Germany.

It is also known as 'Oberfranken' in German. The historical region of Franconia in the northern part of Bavaria is nowadays split into three parts. 'Mittelfranken' ('Middle Franconia') and 'Unterfranken' ('Lower Franconia') are the other two regions.

Upper Franconia borders the states of Saxony and Thuringia, as well as the Bavarian administrative regions of Lower Franconia, Middle Franconia, and the Upper Palatinate. It also shares an external border with the Karlovy Vary Region in the Czech Republic.

Rock formations in Franconian Switzerland
Rock formations in Franconian Switzerland

Natural Attractions

Upper Franconia covers a variety of landscapes, from low forested mountain ranges through to strange rock formations and hidden caves. Here are some of the top natural attractions to explore in the region.

  • Franconian Forest (Frankenwald): Located in the north of Upper Franconia, this low mountain range features dense forests, rolling hills, and picturesque valleys. It offers excellent opportunities for hiking and exploring nature.
  • Fichtelgebirge: Situated in the northeastern part of Upper Franconia, the Fichtelgebirge is a mountain range known for its stunning landscapes. It includes peaks like the Ochsenkopf and offers activities such as hiking, skiing, and snowboarding.
  • Franconian Switzerland (Fränkische Schweiz): Franconian Switzerland is characterised by dramatic rock formations, deep valleys, and charming villages. It’s a popular destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, cave exploration, and canoeing.
  • Main River Valley: The Main River flows through Upper Franconia, creating a picturesque landscape with vineyards, rolling hills, and historic towns along its banks. It offers scenic beauty and opportunities for leisurely walks or bike rides.

Cities and Towns in Upper Franconia

Bamberg, Germany


Bamberg is a charming historical town renowned for its well-preserved medieval and baroque architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is known for the magnificent cathedral, picturesque old town, and unique “Little Venice” district. Its lively brewing tradition offers a distinctive 'smoked beer'.



Bayreuth is renowned for its annual Bayreuth Festival, dedicated to showcasing the operas of Richard Wagner. Explore the charming streets lined with Baroque and neoclassical architecture, visit the impressive Margravial Opera House, and relax in the Hermitage parklands.



The town is home to the massive Veste Coburg, a fortress above the centre which can be reached on foot through the former court gardens. Coburg also has an attractive old town below which is worth taking the time to explore.

Historical Overview

The history of Upper Franconia dates back to prehistoric times. Evidence of human presence during the Stone Age has been found in caves on the Fränkische Alb. The region was influenced by various cultures and experienced both Frankish and Slavic migration.

In the Middle Ages and early modern period, Upper Franconia consisted mainly of two historical territories: Hochstift Bamberg and the Hohenzollern principality of Bayreuth (also known as Markgraftum Brandenburg-Bayreuth). There were also many small feudal lordships.

The Margravial statue in Bayreuth
The Margravial statue in Bayreuth

In the 19th century, with the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and subsequent political changes, Upper Franconia became part of Bavaria.

Industrialisation brought economic growth to the region, particularly in sectors such as textiles, porcelain manufacturing, and brewing. Major cities like Bamberg and Bayreuth flourished during this time.

The tourism industry in Upper Franconia has become increasingly important. The city of Bamberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest tourist city in the region and benefits from river cruises on the Main-Danube Canal.

View of Bamberg in Upper Franconia
View of Bamberg in Upper Franconia

Bayreuth attracts many visitors to the Bayreuth Festival and the Margravial Opera House, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Coburg is also an important tourist destination with its old town, Veste Coburg fortress, Ehrenburg Palace, and Coburg State Theatre. The annual Coburg Samba Festival is the largest event of its kind outside of Brazil and attracts around 200,000 visitors each year.