Gravel path for bikes

Engineering series 5: Rhine-Main-Danube Canal


Apart from hiking, cycling is one of my favorite activities during weekends or short vacations.

Bike tours alongside the Rhine-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 about three and a half hours with my mountain bike.

Short overview

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

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

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

The Rhine-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).

The economic importance of the canal has declined in the last decades however, and the structure has been made accessible to an increasing extent for touristic purposes.

Cycling tours

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

The track starts in Nürnberg at the Wöhrder See (a barrier lake) in the district Jobst, leads shortly after through the city of Fürth, later through Erlangen (1) and Forchheim (2) and ends at the train station in Bamberg (3).

There exist a couple of different trails alongside the canal so small variations of the tour are not a big deal.

Fuchslochsteg ("Foxhole crossing") and river Pegnitz, Nürnberg
Fuchslochsteg (“Foxhole crossing”) and river Pegnitz, Nürnberg

Infrastructure for bikers is almost nonexistent unfortunately (that means primarily food and beverage supply), but there are a couple of bicycle workshops near Forchheim close to the track.

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

Rhine–Main–Danube Canal near Erlangen
Rhine–Main–Danube Canal near Erlangen (1)
Lock near Erlangen and bank vegetation
Lock near Erlangen and bank vegetation

Especially idyllic is the track-segment between Forchheim and Bamberg, and one can watch ships chugging down the canal occasionally.

Technically it is possible to take a bath or swim in the canal on a hot day (I did do that at it was very refreshing). But it is not allowed in all places, especially near the locks and within a city boundary.

Lock near Forchheim
Lock near Forchheim (2)

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 (cycling across the Lila Brücke is easy and convenient) and take a look at the half-timbered houses and the remains of the city wall.

Rhine–Main–Danube Canal near Bamberg
Rhine–Main–Danube Canal and bike trail a few kilometers short of Bamberg (3)


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

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

Part of the reason is that it was almost unscathed after the end of the 2nd World War, as one of the very few cities in the territory of the “German Reich”.

Alte Hofhaltung (entrance)
Alte Hofhaltung (entrance)

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

Most remarkable buildings are probably the Bamberger Dom (Bamberg Cathedral) and the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall).

But you must not miss all the other sights, and let’s not forget the delicious Franconian beer (give also the smoked beer a try).

Featured image: Gravel path alongside the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal

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