The history of Weißenburg is generally traced back to the Roman fort that was built in the area towards the end of the first century. The settlement, which included Thermae, lay on the border of the Roman Empire and on the Tabula Peutingeriana from the 4th century it had the name Biriciana. To see all the object what have been found in the area you have to visit the nearby museum, but by visiting the castellum you can get a good idea about the dimensions. The castellum grounds have been left open, with markers of the walls and buildings and of course the famous reconstruction of the gate and walls. Germanic tribes destroyed the fort and settled in what is still the city centre. The first mention of the name Weißenburg is in a deed dating from 867. The city became the seat of a royal residence during the reign of the Franks and according to legend, Charlemagne stayed there to supervise the construction of Fossa Carolina.
Weißenburg lost its independence in 1802 and became part of the Bavarian kingdom in 1806. It was however saved from insignificance with the construction of a railway between Nuremberg and Augsburg which goes through the city and which supported industrialization. Following WWII over 6,000 refugees and people expelled from the territories which Germany lost settled in the city and have since played an important role in its industry and culture.
The many stages in the history of Weißenburg can still be seen today. There are many ruins from the Roman times. One of the finest is the remains of a Roman bath which was excavated in 1977 and has been turned into a museum. The city wall from the Middle Ages has survived almost intact with its towers and in the Gothic Town Hall the city’s elected members have held their meetings from 1476.
The city became a Free Imperial City in 1296 and continued to grow until the Reformation. Following the example of Nuremberg the city joined the Protestant side but it suffered heavily in the ensuing wars. However, the rights of the city as a Free Imperial City and an Imperial Estate were restored in the final peace treaty and some growth resumed. Despite its insignificant size and economic importance, the city, like the other 50-odd free imperial cities, was virtually independent.
The Ellinger Tor is the most famous City gate of Weißenburg (Magnificent and richly decorated at the side facing out of the town, simple and neat from the other side.)
The Bismarck tower is a memorial to the first German chancellor Otto von Bismark.
If you feel yourself energetic, the walk up from Weißenburg and around the fortress is well worth while. Especially to see Wülzburg, which is about 2 kilometers east of the center of Weißenburg. The path is very steep in parts, and not signposted. Expect to walk about 10 Km for the return journey. What started out as a Benedictine Monastery, then became a square fort and later a pentagonal fortification. The tour will take you through its many iterations. Arriving at Wülzburg there is a historical fortress from the Renaissance-Age in Germany. It stands on a hill 200 meters above Weißenburg, at an elevation of 630.5 meters, and was originally a Benedictine monastery dating from the 11th century. It is one of the best-preserved Renaissance fortresses in Germany. Today it is as locality a part of the city of Weißenburg. It was converted into a fortress from 1588 to 1605 by George Frederick Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach.
In the 19th century it was an garrison of the Bavarian Army. During World War I, Charles DeGaulle (the late French president) was imprisoned at the Wülzburg. The Nazis also used it as a prison camp during World War II; it was here that the Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff was held for over a year before he died of TB. After the war it was a refugee camp.