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Strengthening residents’ connection with their gardening heritage in Bamberg (Germany)

In the city of Bamberg, traditional gardening practices are part of the city’s strategy to promote urban sustainability. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped to strengthen the local community’s connection with its gardening heritage: traditional gardening businesses have flourished while adapting to new developments in gardening trends.

About Bamberg

Bamberg is a growing midsize town and an urban district in the south of Germany, in the state of Bavaria. The Town of Bamberg was inscribed on the World Heritage List under criteria (ii) and (iv) in 1993. It is a good example of a central European town with a basically early medieval plan and many surviving ecclesiastical and secular buildings of the medieval period.

"From the 10th century onwards, this town became an important link with the Slav peoples, especially those of Poland and Pomerania. During its period of greatest prosperity, from the 12th century onwards, the architecture of Bamberg strongly influenced northern Germany and Hungary. In the late 18th century it was the centre of the Enlightenment in southern Germany, with eminent philosophers and writers such as Hegel and Hoffmann living there."

Climate-related impacts

By 2020, the temperature in Germany has risen by 1.7 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial age (Foken, 2021). The mean temperature in Bamberg has increased by approximately two degrees in the past 40 years, while the trend for mean yearly precipitations has reduced by approximately 5% (Meteoblue). The city is also affected by the urban heat island effect, whose effects are worsened by climate change and urbanisation, as buildings block cooling winds coming from the Main and up towards the Regnitz valley (source).   

"It is evident that in the more than 140 years of reliable measurements in Bamberg, the climate has shifted from humid forests towards dry forests. (…) Also, the health of the population is endangered by the increase in imported mosquitoes, such as the Asian tiger mosquito, which is spreading in Germany. Added to this is the stress caused by hotter temperatures (significantly more days with temperatures that do not fall below 20 degrees even at night)."

Monthly anomalies of temperature and precipitation 1797 - 2022 - Bamberg. Source: meteoblue.com

Traditional knowledge and practices

The World Heritage site comprises three urban districts, including the Market Gardeners’ District. The typical gardeners’ houses and their cultivated areas show how gardener families have lived and worked for generations. The inner-city commercial horticulture in Bamberg, practiced since the Middle Ages, is unique in Germany and was included in the German Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016.

Unfortunately, the number of gardening businesses that remain active in Bamberg has decreased considerably. Of the more than 500 horticultural businesses that once existed, about 30 are still active today. Competitive pressure, climate change, and lack of follow-up are just some of the reasons behind the decline.

Aerial view of parts of the Market Gardeners’ District.
Author: aerowest. Source: Bamberg Municipal Building Department
Market Gardeners' District in the Town of Bamberg. 
Author: Jürgen Schraudner. Source: Bamberg City Archive. 

Climate action solutions and strategies: reconnecting residents with their gardening heritage 

In modern days, market gardening in Bamberg is carried out by a group of approximately 30 gardening families. The families have formed an association to market their produce at a local level and keep alive the centuries-old gardening tradition. Local gardeners have also revived the cultivation of historical crops, such as liquorish, which had a very strong presence in the city until the 1960s, when its cultivation was abandoned due to cheaper imported alternatives.

"Urban green spaces are considered an appropriate way to reduce urban heat island effects and provide comfort to the nearby occupants. In addition to cooling the actual space, urban green spaces are also able to influence the surrounding area, and this phenomenon is called the urban green space cooling effect. "

In addition to the action of local families, the Bamberg World Heritage Office has developed a gardening programme that connects aspects of city planning, heritage protection, tourism, and horticulture. It consists of awareness raising activities, financial incentives for gardeners, thematic tours, a marketing campaign, and a sustainable land use approach. Gardening has been included in the exhibition in the Bamberg World Heritage Visitor Centre, and is included in the wider strategy to improve the urban sustainability of Bamberg.

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic had both positive and negative impacts on Bamberg’s gardening culture. On the one hand, the pandemic presented Bamberg gardeners with new challenges. A survey taken among the gardeners by the World Heritage Office and the Bamberg Gardeners’ Interest Group reflects that 75 % of the garden companies agreed that the most significant difficulty during the spring and summer 2020 was keeping track of the changing regulations.

On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rising interest in urban food production and gardening. Most of the Bamberg nurseries reported higher sales compared to the same period of the previous year. Bamberg nurseries offer a large variety of herbs, shrubs and vegetable plants, and cut flowers, among other things. 87.5% of those surveyed said that the current pandemic had increased the demand for local garden products. The survey results show that customers want to support local producers in a targeted manner and are presently attaching greater importance to short transport routes and sustainability.

The Bamberg nurseries have also observed that their customers prefer to shop in an outdoor environment and favour personal relationships with producers. In the Bamberg nurseries, customers buy from certified masters of their profession and directly from the producer. If anyone needs help with cultivation and plant care, the Market Gardeners’ District is the right place to go.

Bamberg Gardeners’ Interest Group. Author: Jürgen Schraudner. Source: Bamberg Gardeners’ Interest Group.
Bamberg gardeners present their vegetables in a parade through the city. Author: Roland Rinklef. Source: Bamberg World Heritage Office

The ongoing efforts by local communities and the Bamberg World Heritage Office have created an opportunity for the residents of Bamberg to strengthen the connection with their gardening heritage and promote sustainable consumption patterns. At the same time, experiences with new forms of gardening, such as self-harvest gardens, show that gardening in Bamberg continues to evolve along new paths. The next challenge, gardeners and site manager say, is to make this a lasting change.

Source: Ms Patricia Alberth, Site Manager, City of Bamberg, 2020.

Contribution towards global goals

How does this case study contribute to the global commitments of sustainable development, climate change action and heritage conservation?

© Pressestelle Stadt Bamberg

Sustainable development

The initiative aims to contribute towards sustainable development by addressing the following Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Target 8.9: the initiative aims to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Target 11.4: the continuation of historical practices by the local population aims to improve the safeguarding the world’s cultural and natural heritage.

Target 11.7: the initiative aims to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green spaces through the continuation of traditional gardening practices and the maintenance of historical gardens in the city. 

Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Target 12.3: the initiative aims to reduce food waste by promoting local food production.

Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Target 13.1: the preservation of historic green spaces can strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change-related hazards (heat waves and droughts) by mitigating the urban heat island effect and providing cooling to the urban areas. 

Climate change

Increasing temperatures and reducing precipitations worsen the urban heat island effect, affecting the liveability of the city. 

The historic city includes family garden markets that produce local food, strengthen the community networks and act as cooling spots within the urban area. 

Preserve historic green spaces in the city and promote community use.
Build on historic values to promote sustainable practices, such as local food production. 

Historic Urban Landscape

The continuation of historic gardening practices by the local community of Bamberg can contribute to the implementation of the approach of the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape by:

  • Conserving traditional urban practices and natural elements of the historic city
  • Promoting the engagement of local communities in heritage preservation and maintenance
Financial tools Civic engagement

Learn more

Discover more about the details of the case study and the stakeholders involved.

© Reinhold Möller, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
To learn more

Bamberg World Heritage Office


© UNESCO, 2021. Project team: Jyoti Hosagrahar, Alba Zamarbide, Carlota Marijuán Rodríguez. 
Cover image: Market Gardeners District in the Town of Bamberg; Author: Jürgen Schraudner; Source: Bamberg City Archive

Note: The cases shared in this platform address heritage protection practices in World Heritage sites and beyond. Items being showcased in this website do not entail any type of recognition or inclusion in the World Heritage list or any of its thematic programmes. The practices shared are not assessed in any way by the World Heritage Centre or presented here as model practices nor do they represent complete solutions to heritage management problems. The views expressed by experts and site managers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Heritage Centre. The practices and views shared here are included as a way to provide insights and expand the dialogue on heritage conservation with a view to further urban heritage management practice in general. The described potential impacts of the initiative are only indicative and based on submitted and available information. UNESCO does not endorse the specific initiatives nor ratifies their positive impact.