Highlights of the Routes

Cities & Markets

The history-steeped cities along the banks of the rivers clearly belong to the main attractions of the Five Rivers Bicycling Route.  One of them is more beautiful than the others and welcomes tourists with historical flair and Bavarian charm. The many historic markets along the route are not as large nor as well-known perhaps, but nonetheless picturesque and inviting.

Amberg - the unofficial capital of the Upper Palatinate impresses with its medieval silhouette. (E4/5)

The city on the river Vils can look back on a more than thousand years of history. Over several centuries, this city formed the center of iron ore mining and development and was the capital of the Upper Palatinate. Therefore, Amberg is still gladly known today as 'the secret capital of the Upper Palatinate'. Its almost completely preserved town wall with numerous towers and gates once made it the best fortified city of the elector city. A unique water gate is the symbol of the city. The so-called 'city glasses' spanned the river Vils and conjoins the former elector castle with the city arsenal. When the sun shines, the two arches reflect in the water and draw the image of a pair of glasses.

Kelheim - past periods here have left their mark, from Celts to King Ludwig.  (E1/2)

The city, the roots of which reach far back into the stone age is well protected at the confluence of Altmühl and Danube.  The Celts created one of the largest settlements in Germany here: 'Alkimoennis'.  Centuries later, the Romans crossed the Danube at this point and built Limes. But the most flourishing period for Kelheim was after the middle ages: the Ducal City conveniently located at the Danube crossing became a flourishing trading centre.  The opening of the Ludwig Danube-Main Canal in 1846 gave the impulse for additional recovery.  The former wealth of the city today testifies to the magnificent Baroque buildings of the Asam Brothers and, of course, the Hall of Liberation, which is visible from afar on the Michelsberg.

Neumarkt i.d. OPf. - Historic centre of the ancient trade route from Nuremberg to Regensburg.  (E3)

The city is idyllically located in the valley basin of the Jura mountains, majestically guarded by the castle ruins of Castle Wolfstein, the landmark of the Neumarkt. Thanks to its favourable location between Nuremberg and Regensburg, the place developed already in the middle ages to prosperity and into an important trade centre.  Street names such as Glaser -, Mad Hatter, and Bräugasse still resonate with this period. In the 19th century, the Ludwig Canal and the railway continued the economic momentum.  Thus arose the first bicycle factory in Europe during this time with the express works here.  Today, the center of the Western Upper Palatinate is waiting with a beautiful historic centre, four breweries and the equivalent of five museums: the palette ranges from the City Museum to the White Sausage Museum. 

Nuremberg - Imperial Castle and Franconian timber-frame picturesque views traversed by the arms of the Pegnitz.  (E3/4)

Since the middle ages, the Imperial Castle serves as a landmark of Nuremberg which overlook the picturesque half-timbered houses of the old town. In its narrow streets, you will find important buildings such as the House of Albrecht Dürer, the Germanic National Museum and, of course, the Church of our Lady.  Under its large clock, the seven electors make the rounds every day and pay homage to the Holy Roman Emperor Karl IV. "Man-running" (German: Männleinlaufen) is the colloquial name of the drama which is played out here. The beautiful fountain is also located on the main market area like a Gothic spire and proudly rises 19 meters in height.   But Nuremberg, with its exciting delicacies, waits beneath the beautiful buildings in the old city: over the course of many centuries, its inhabitants of southern Germany have crafted and designed the biggest rock cellar labyrinth in the sandstone at the foot of the Castle.  Originally used for the manufacture and storage of beer, the stable pillars turned to be used a safe haven during the 2nd World War.

Regensburg - world heritage site with southern charm and glorious past.  (E1/E5)

The name originates from the Latin name 'Castra Regina'.  The Roman Legionary camp laid the foundation stone of the city that would become the richest and most populous city developed in the middle ages in whole Germany.  Today, the capital of the Upper Palatinate has 150 000 inhabitants.  Medieval buildings dominate the old town as well as the stone bridge.  It was completed in the 12th century and supported further prosperity as the first permanent bridge over the Danube in Regensburg.  At that time, it was a construction miracle, which served as a model for many other bridge structures.  A masterpiece is also the Gothic St. Peters Cathedral; whose highly visible filigree towers are one of the landmarks of the city. Regensburg gained fame by the "everlasting Imperial Diet day" which convened here almost 150 years ago. The Emperor is represented in these convened meetings by the Prince of Thurn and Taxis.  Their descendant, the Princess Gloria von Thurn and Taxis now resides in the castle St. Emmeram, one of largest private castles throughout Europe.

Beilngries (E2)

A Southern touch lies above the small town at the confluence of the Sulz and Altmühl rivers. In its historic center, the medieval city walls, Baroque architecture delight and inspire and likewise the colored towers of the Parish of St. Walburga.  For a long time, the state-recognized resort belonged to the prince-bishopric of Eichstätt, and benefited from the Southern architects of the rococo and baroque styles, which were engaged throughout there. Also, Castle Hirschberg perched on a hill above the town dates from this time.

Berching (E2/3)

A picturesque medieval town situated between the Main-Danube - and the Ludwig-Danube-Main Canal.  The city center is completely historical, with a perfectly preserved town wall ring and 13 towers.  In this setting grew up the composer Christoph Willibald Gluck. The Museum Berching is about the life and work of the world famous reformer of Opera.  On the south side, the Main-Danube Canal with its steamships borders the historic centre.  Here, the well-known event 'Magic fire on the canal' (German: "Kanal im Feuerzauber") takes place in the summer.  During many days, the still water acts as central point of the festivities, whose peak represents the big fireworks followed by a torch swimming.

Dietfurt a. d. Altmühl (E2)

The city of Dietfurt a.d. Altmühl has remnants of the city wall, a historic town hall, the Museum in the Hollerhaus and a still-functioning Mill Museum.   But above all, the city is known as "Bavarian China". Legend has it that the Dietfurter had barricaded themselves in the late Middle Ages upon arrival of the tax authorities "like the Chinese" behind the walls of their city.  The area around Dietfurt anno 1869 became known as Chinatown is specified in a scientific article in the Eichstätt pastoral journal. The designation "Chinese" came into the vernacular speech of Dietfurters and since 1954 a Chinese Carnival is celebrated.  The city of Dietfurt is proud of their Chinese fountain, dragon fountains and also proud of the Bavarian-Chinese Summer, which is a main attraction with its delicacies and other special events.

Hersbruck (E4)

The small city of Hersbruck is picturesquely situated in the wide valley of the Pegnitz.  It makes a great impression with its historic centre and romantic half-timbered houses, the gate towers and the winding streets.  The castle ensemble on the Pegnitz, wherein today stands the District Court, is very much worth a visit. The German Shepherding Museum is also worth a visit.  Located in the middle of the old, historic part of the city, this museum provides information about Frankish pastoral culture as well as about shepherding worldwide.

Kallmünz (E5)

The historic site at the confluence of the river Vils and Naab enchants every visitor.  Crowned by the ruins of a huge castle, it is nestled in a limestone rock landscape which takes on the form of unique images.  No wonder, then, that the romantic 'market under the rock' with the winding streets and colourful houses has magically attracted artists since time immemorial.  The idyllic riverscape, the medieval atmosphere of the market, and the breathtaking view of the castle ruins elicit visitors even today into enthusiastic amazement.  Directly on the Naab, the natural youth campground in the neighbouring Zaar offers an ideal accommodation option for youth groups.   Also, there are opportunities for a boat tour on the Naab.
Get in the mood for Kallmünz and click on the link to the film clip from Sat1 Bayern - Experience My Bavaria: Trip to Kallmünz (Summer 2023).

Lauf a.d. Pegnitz (E4)

Under Emperor Karl IV, the settlement of Lauf was raised to the status of city. But since time immemorial, the waterfront was a decisive factor for the economic development of the village.  Together with the timber wealth of the surrounding forests and close to the mining areas in the Upper Palatinate, these factors formed the foundations for the prosperity of the city.  Already before the founding of the city, there were several mills, which took advantage of the flow of the Pegnitz.  Today a flour mill and an iron works can be seen in the industry Museum of the City of Lauf. Worth seeing is also the Kaiserburg Castle, which is surrounded on a Pegnitz-Isle and hides treasure behind thick walls: a unique coat of arms hall, which can be visited as part of a guided tour.

Rieden (E5)

Romantic vineyards are situated on the river Vils.  Already around 800 AD the Castle of the Lords of Ruden stood on the mountain tail skid abovethe market, also from which the current name derives. North of there, there is a prehistoric ring wall founded by Celts and Narisks . The still existing remains of the walls are probably from the first half of the 12th century.  One of the biggestEquestrian Centers in Europe is in Kreuth. Roundabouts vineyards, cosy country inns invite passers-by to make pause.

Riedenburg (E2)

Picturesquely nestled, the historic town is situated within the fantastic scenic beauty of the Altmühl, surrounded by striking Jurassic rock and three castles.  While Ravenstein and Tachenstein are preserved as ruins, the well-preserved, sprawling plant of the Rosenburg can be visited.  The Crystal Museum is also worth a visit: it houses the world's largest rock crystal group.

Schmidmühlen (E5)

The historic centre of Schmidmühlen lies nestled in the valleys of Vils and Lauterach on a peninsula between the two rivers. One of the largest iron hammers of the Upper Palatinate as well as a port for shipment of ore was located here in the middle ages.  The "Upper Castle" from the 16th century that holds an art sensation with its secular Renaissance frescoes today is the focal point of the market.  The cast image of a Moorish dancer on the fountain in front of the Castle recalls the most famous son of the town, Erasmus Grasser.

Sulzbach-Rosenberg (E4)

The charming town can look back on a long and traditional history.  The impressive castle was seat of counts and residence of the Wittelsbach Duchy.   The former capital of new Bohemia grew to wealth and prosperity through ore mining and iron smelting which the Gothic town hall today also represents.  In addition, one of the most important medieval long-distance trade roads that connected Prague and Nuremberg passes directly through the city, the so-called "golden road" and favored international trade.  Today, Sulzbach-Rosenberg has a lively cultural life and numerous museums.

Wendelstein (E3)

This attractive place with much Franconian timber-frame can look back on a long history.  Even today, numerous historical traces lead back into this eventful time.  In the outlying small black Lohe, the Church of all Saints with the carved altar by Tilman Riemenschneider is a true gem and Castle Hammer lies directly along the Old Canal.  The Manor House in Röthenbach bei St. Wolfgang serves to protect a ball mill and a pilgrimage church dedicated to Saint Wolfgang. A historical trail shows the history and technical development of the Old Canal and gives information about the flora and fauna of the region.  In the early summer, the Jazz & Blues Open attracts visitors from near and far to Wendelstein.

Additional Highlights:

Forts, Castles and Palaces

It's no secret that aristocrats and the rich opted for the most scenic places for their seat of influence. Cliffs and hills high above the river valleys were particularly popular.  Because the tour combines five rivers, the tour also cycles by a variety of castles.  The Imperial Castle in Nürnberg as well as Castle St. Emmeram in Regensburg are the clear points of culmination during this route. But also the Kaiserburg Castle with its coat of arms hall in Lauf, the Elector's Palace in Amberg and the Knights' CastlePrunn with its unique landing high above the Altmühl Valley deserve a visit. A particularity of the former mountainous regionis the Hammer Castles situated on the banks of the river, especially on the banks of the Vils. These castles represent the gallant residences of those who rose to wealth and prosperity through the cultivation of iron ore. One imposing example is the Baroque Hammer Castle.

Caves & Cliffs

Towering cliffs and deep-cut caves are characteristic of the jagged Karst mountain topography of the Bavarian Jura and Frankish Alb.  The most famous example is the Danube gorges at Kelheim. The Juniper heaths in the lower Vils are wildly romantic and the Hoppe Cliffs in Pentling opens to a great view over the wide valley of the Danube.  Wonderful panoramas can often be seen from the heights of the Franconian Jura mountains.  If you have a passion for caves, pay a visit to the dripstone cave Schulerloch at Essing or the Easter Caves near Neukirchen.

Churches & Monasteries

The Bavarian Jura is purely Asam baroque. The Weltenburg Abbey laid the foundation stone for the glory of the two brothers as well as the frescoes of the pilgrimage church Maria Hilf, and the brothers also designed the monastery in Ensdorf, Saarland. The magnificent rococo Palace of Roman Catholic Diocese of Schloss Hirschberg, towering high above the city of Beilngries looks back on a long and varied history, including the former Cistercian monastery at Pielenhofen that majestically guards the quiet banks of the Naab.  The Benedictine Abbey of Plankstetten was founded in 1129 as a Bishop's private monastery, and from the period of its founding, there's still the Romanesque crypt.  Featured monuments from far earlier eras include the massive fortress Church of St. Vitus in Kottingwöhr and theKirchenburg St. Veit in the Middle Franconian Ottensoos. The foundation stone of both churches dates back to the 12th century.  The imposing ruins of Monastery Gnadenberg are only two hundred years younger, the first Birgitten Monastery in Southern Germany.

Art & Culture

Rivers have always been considered the tributaries and main areas of exchange within a region: on the banks of rivers trade, increased influence and wealth flourished.  A special state symbol of wealth is the Liberation Hall Kelheim. Additional cultural monuments from various eras as well as numerous museums testify even today to the long and eventful past of the region.  So, the Archaeology Park at Altmühl Valley and the old station at Hartmann Court leads us back to an era long before our time.  In Hersbruck, the German Shepherding Museum provides key informations on way of working and everyday life of this traditional profession.  Also the historic Bath House in Pommelsbrunn provides insight into the traditions and ways of life of past centuries, and likewise the Altmühl Valleys Mill Museum in Dietfurt a. d. Altmühl as well as the Mining and Industry Museum in Eastern Bavaria in the Culture Palace-Castle Theuern provide insights into more recent cultural developments and ways of life as well. To learn more about modern times, visit theIndustry Museum in Lauf, the Air Museum in Amberg or the Literature House in Oberpfalz in Sulzbach-Rosenberg. The bridge Canal at Schwarzenbruck is quite an impressive testimony of the technical feats in the construction of the Ludwig Danube-Main Canal. Art plays an essential role in the Bavarian Jura: The Market at Beratzhausen offers a sculpture park, where about 30 works of art are featured along the idyllic promenade running the length of the Schwarzen Laber.  The dreamy place of Kallmünz, once visited by Wassily Kandinsky, can provide "Painter's Corner" with art galleries.

Cuisine & Beverages

The Bavarian Jura and Franconian Jura are renowned far beyond their borders for their broad pallet of offerings from Nuremberg gingerbread and sausages to a type of Smorgasbord (German: Schlachtschüssel) known most of all in Amberg-Sulzbach and Nuremberg regions through to the "Shovels" (German: Schäufele), which is known to be a particular Frankish dish. In the Nuremberg region, there is also the one-and-only "Shovel King" (German: Schäufele König) in all of Germany. Continuing with tasty lamb dishes in the upper Palatine Jura to the delicate asparagus, which thrives in the loose soils around Kelheim.  In the fall season, the wild weeks in the Nature Park & Reserve of the Hirschwald are highly recommended and in October the New Market Delicacy Weeks with ever-varying annual themes are likewise given as recommendations. Not to be excluded, of course, is beverage Nutrition. Throughout the region, micro-breweries serve in-house bar-brew in cozy, lush biergartens.

Baths & Relaxing

Where so much water flows, there are numerous opportunities for a dip in the cool water. Some places which are ideal for bathing, such as in Matting on the bank of the Danube or another ideal place for bathing on the bank of the Naab in Etterzhausen, offer the possibility to swim in the river currents. In Happurg, there is a quarry pond which is inviting for a lazy day's soak in the water. On not-so-hot days, you can relax in the Fackelmann Thermal Baths in Hersbruck or the Electors' Bath in Amberg. 

Travelling by Ship & Sail-towing

The specialist term towing is used if barges are drawn by powerful horsepower on the stagnant waters of the channels through the landscape.  In this way, goods were transported already during the times of King Louis. Today, you can re-experience this historic means of transportation on lovingly restored barges while traversing the Ludwig Danube Main Canal in Mulhouse or in Burgthann Schwarzenbach.  On the Danube, ferry stations in Matting and Prüfening offer you the opportunity to ferry across the river. Also, it is possible to take the ship for a tour on the Main Danube Canal as well as the Danube.  For further information about this tour by ship, see ÖPNV & Schiff (ÖPNV & ships) A canoe trip makes for perfect the holiday experience along five rivers.  Numerous opportunities and boat rentals are located along the Pegnitz, Naab and Vils.


The former home of Pope Benedikt XVI in Prüfening and Europe's longest wooden bridge are also worth a visit: The Tatzlwurm in Essing.  If you're travelling along with kids, don't miss the forest adventure centre in Sinzing/Schönwerth.