Richard Wagner casts a long shadow over BAYREUTH. For most of the world Bayreuth and Wagner are synonymous, as though outside the social and musical spectacle of the Festspiele no other Bayreuth existed. Yet the town you see owes more to the passions of another remarkable individual, the Markgräfin Wilhelmine (1709–58), who transformed it into a graceful baroque Residenzstadt. Her Baroque quarter wraps itself around the eastern and southern sides of the Altstadt – both compact enough to be explored easily on foot. The leafy Hofgarten stretches east from her Neues Schloss to Wagner’s Villa Wahnfried, while his Festspielhaus is on high ground north of the centre. It’s also worth venturing out to Wilhelmine’s summer palace, Eremitage. Quite the paparazzi hotspot during the Festspiele, Bayreuth is a quiet, stolidly respectable place the rest of the time, though Wilhelmine’s magic ensures it’s worth a stay of a day or two.
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