Main–Danube Canal, view to the Franconian Switzerland

Main-Danube Canal


Cycling is one of my favorite outdoor activities during weekends or short vacations, and bike tours alongside the Main-Danube Canal between Nuremberg (German: Nürnberg, Middle Franconia) and Bamberg (Upper Franconia) belong to my personal subset of uncomplicated and convenient tours which do not demand much of a preparation.

There are virtually no climbs, and the track is more or less on my doorstep. For the seventy kilometers from Nürnberg to the city center of Bamberg, I need roughly three and a half hours with my mountain bike.

The Main-Danube Canal: quick digression

The Main-Donau Kanal with its overall length of about 170 kilometers was completed in 1992. It connects the river Main near Bamberg with the Danube in Kelheim1.

There existed a predecessor structure, the Ludwig-Donau-Main-Kanal, built in the mid-19th-century.

The Main-Danube Canal is part of a larger canal system designed for big cargo-ships. This system as a whole (Europakanal) offers a navigable connection between the North Sea (Nordsee) and the Black Sea (Schwarzes Meer).

However, the economic importance of the canal has diminished in recent decades, and the structure has been made accessible to an increasing extent for touristic purposes.

1 Bamberg is situated at the river Regnitz, but the Main is only a few kilometers away

Cycling tour Nuremberg-Bamberg

The illustrated (below and on the map) bicycle track is entirely plane and doesn’t feature any challenges worth mentioning.

My tour usually starts at the Wöhrder See in Nürnberg (1, see map) in the district Jobst, leads shortly after through the city of Fürth, later through Erlangen (2) and Forchheim (3) and ends at the train station in Bamberg (4).

There exist two different trails alongside the canal actually, so small variations of the tour are no big deal (“Kanalroute” and the slightly longer “Talroute”).

Unfortunately, there is comparatively little infrastructure for cyclists available (that means primarily food and beverage supply), but you can find a couple of bicycle workshops near Forchheim in proximity to the track.

Lock near Erlangen (2), bank vegetation in midsummer
Lock near Erlangen (2), bank vegetation in midsummer

Some of those shops provide bike tubes from machines in case one has a flat tire and stores are closed.

Especially idyllic is the section between Forchheim and Bamberg, and you will see ships chugging down the canal occasionally.

Main–Danube Canal and bike trail a few kilometers short of Forchheim (3)
Main–Danube Canal and bike trail a few kilometers short of Forchheim (3)

Here you can also catch a glimpse of the Franconian Switzerland in the east, with the entrances to the region not really far off from the Main-Donau Kanal.

Technically it is possible to take a bath or swim in the water on hotter days. But it is not allowed in all places, near the locks and within a city boundary in particular.

Main–Danube Canal and bike trails near Strullendorf
Main–Danube Canal and bike trails near Strullendorf

If you want to know how a quite typical Franconian city looks like, you can make a side trip to the city center of Forchheim (by cycling across the Lila Brücke) and take a look at the half-timbered houses and remains of the city wall.

Main–Danube Canal and bike trails a few kilometers short of Bamberg (4)
Main–Danube Canal and bike trails a few kilometers short of Bamberg (4)

The city of Bamberg

This article would not be complete without a glance at Bamberg, the final destination of this tour.

Bamberg (80.000 inhabitants) in Upper Franconia is the most beautiful city in Germany in my humble opinion.

An important reason for this is that the historic districts were almost unscathed after the end of the 2nd World War. Bamberg didn’t share the fate of many not so lucky cities in the territory of the “German Reich” that were bombed to ruins.

So one can marvel at scores of old buildings in their original state during a stroll through the city center.

Remarkable and well-known buildings and ensembles (beside many others) are the Bamberger Dom (Bamberg Cathedral), the Alte Hofhaltung and the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) all within a few paces of each other.

I’ll see you there on my next tour.