Wurzburg Residenz: Definitely not just “another old building”

While the Atla docked in Wurzburg all day, those of us joining in the optional excursion to Rothenburg weren’t in town very long. Fortunately it was long enough for a visit to the Residenz, where the bishop-prince of the mid-1700s dwelt in baroque opulence.

Okay, I’ll admit it. A baroque “palace” for a church official. In Germany. With lots of gold leaf. After a full day of touring already. It didn’t sound like a great way to end the afternoon. But, when our guide, Gunther, offered to let some stay on the bus and return to the Atla without the tour, I didn’t speak up. No one on our bus did.

‘Sure glad I didn’t.

We trekked across the broad cobblestone plaza leading to the residence. You can’t really call it a “home” because it’s simply too much to imagine anyone living in this place, let alone having leftovers or having to remember to take out the trash. But I guess bishops didn’t have to worry about that. This one in Wurzburg had more than 500 servants to take care of those details. He just had to look official and deal with all the bowing and scraping being done to curry his favor.

And maybe he took some time to look up at the ceilings in his home. I know I sure would have spent at least two-thirds of my daily hours lying back on a bench and staring upwards. This place has a fresco in the Imperial Hall and another over the palatial stairwell; each is magnificent and each was designed and painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

I’ve never been one for old fancy buildings, just because they’re old and fancy. Yet walking into the Wurzburg Residenz and falling under the spell of these two frescos (frescoes?) wasn’t a choice I had; it just happened. My favorite is the one over the stairwell; it is the world’s largest ceiling fresco (677 square meters). It depicts four continents of the world; the colors are rich and realistic and the details are numerous. The most amazing thing about this painting, though, is what effect it has on the viewer: Tiepolo’s skills with perspective and draftsmanship resulted in a trompe l’oeil effect that “fools the eye” more than any other piece I’ve seen. Swaths of deep red cloth appear to drape off the painting toward the ground, a spotted dog looks so real I expected him to wag his tail, legs of a painted figure seem to physically extend off the image’s edge. In short, two dimensions become three effortlessly. I was amazed.

Other rooms, including a gold and mirrors number that almost hurts the eyes, followed these first two rooms, but none had the impact on me that Tiepolo’s work had. At dinner back on the Atla that night, passengers were still talking about the effect the paintings created and the feelings it left them with.

My advice: Even if you’re not an “old building” kind of tourist, take this tour. And take time, too, to just sit and look heavenward. You’ll be astounded. And glad you didn’t skip it.



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9 thoughts on “Wurzburg Residenz: Definitely not just “another old building”

  1. hi tonya and mom!!! this looks amazing, and like you are having a GRAND time. I am so happy for you both. I’ve got to say, the Tiepolo’s really do it for me as well, what an incredibly gifted artist. your stateroom looks quite comfy, and i love the thought of leaving the window and sheers open at night to be awakened by sights and sounds totally foreign.

    all in all, a ‘wiener,’ as dad would say! MUCH LOVE to you both, hugs and safe travels! pnut #2


  2. Barbara Willis

    I am so excited to to see this after seeing your pictures & reading about it. My stepmom & I are going to be visiting Wurzburg on day 8 of our Christmas market tour. We’ve been on a Christmas cruise 2 years ago and were planning on just visiting the markets since we dont have enough time during our”free time” & skip the historical tours. But this is one I don’t want to miss! Thank you for sharing your blog & cruise!


  3. Karen Baker

    Thank you for sharing that tour! You describe the tour so beautifully. The fresco is magnificent, just as you said. What great memories you are going to have!


  4. We are going on this same cruise Sept 1-16. In our booklet this is an included tour and not optional. Glad for your information.


    • On our cruise, the Wurzburg Residenz was included at no extra charge; the optional part was the Rotenburg tour/German lunch. If you opted for Rotenburg, the “free” Wurzburg Residenz followed up the Rotenburg tour on the way back to the ship that afternoon. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, Linda!


      • Thanks We leave Monday and are getting very excited. One question I had is on tipping local guides and drivers. The local guides i get but are the drivers employees of Viking. Viking told me on a call that I can just add the tips to our bill but this does not make sense to me since they are not on the ship


  5. Hmmm…not sure if the drivers actually “get” a share of the group tip you can give at the end of your cruise; I was left with the impression that the ship’s crew gets that and splits it (the extra envelope is for the ship’s program director). On our excursions, most of the drivers had a basket for tips (usually a euro or portion thereof, it seemed) at both the front and middle steps of the bus.


    • Thanks that helps and how about the local guides did you just hand them your tip?


      • Oh, Linda, I think you’ve already left for your cruise, but here’s my answer: Yep, you just hand them the tip when you finish the tour. People walk up to the guide at the end (when the good ones spend quite some time answering specific “where do I find/buy/eat” questions) and press the bills into their hand. The guides always say “thank you.” FWIW, at one point I had no euros with me so I slipped the guide American dollars–and he thanked me because he said he’d be heading to the US soon and it would come in handy.


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