The town was first mentioned in 1034, at that time under the name Ammenberg. It became an important trading centre in the Middle Ages, exporting mainly iron ore and iron products. In 1269, together with Bamberg, the town became subordinate to the Wittelsbach dynasty that ruled Bavaria.
In 1329 the town and the entire region fell to the Palatinate branch of the Wittelsbach family. The region adopted the name Upper Palatinate. It was no longer part of the duchy of Bavaria politically, though in geographic terms it was regarded as Bavarian and the region was part of the Bavarian circle in the organization of the Imperial Circles. In the 16th century, the rulers of Upper Palatinate turned to Protestantism. The town turned to Lutheranism. Later attempts of the ruling family to introduce the more radical Calvinism failed due to the reluctance of its citizens. In 1628 Amberg and Upper Palatinate became part of the electorate of Bavaria. The inhabitants were given the choice to return to Catholicism or emigrate. Many families left the town and moved to the Free Imperial Cities of Regensburg and Nuremberg.
On 24 August 1796, during the French Revolutionary Wars, the city and its environs were the locale of a major battle at which 35,000 French, under the command of Jean Baptiste Jourdan fought with 40,000 Austrians under the command of Archduke Charles; the French suffered significantly more losses in this Austrian victory. Amberg was the regional capital of Upper Palatinate until 1810 when power was transferred to the larger city of Regensburg.
After World War II, when Bavaria fell into the American Sector, Amberg was home to Pond Barracks, a United States Army post. I.F.Stone writes about it in his book Underground to Palestine (pp. 31ff). The post was closed in 1992 and the facility turned over to the local community for housing, most of it for social housing.
In late 2018, the town was the site of the Amberg attacks, resulting in Rainer Wendt asking the Federal government to take a stand on the case. The city was said to be "in a state of emergency."Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Minister of the Interior, visited Amberg for consultations.Horst Seehofer, Federal Minister of the Interior, said "the violent attacks are worrisome."
Jews had settled in Amberg before 1294, when the first documentation can be found. Shortly after, in 1298, thirteen of the town Jews died during the Rindfleisch massacres. Nevertheless, in 1347 six families received permission to settle in Amberg and twenty years after, in 1367, a Yeshivah was opened in it, though the Jewish community was expelled from Amberg in 1403. Upon the expulsion, the synagogue was annexed to the nearby church. Twelve Jews remained in town in 1942. The few survivors returned to the town after 1945, and a displaced persons camp named Amberg - located nearby the town - housed mostly Jewish refugees and survivors. As a result of immigration from the former USSR to Germany, the Jewish population in town grew to about 275 in 2003. A synagogue exists in town nowadays.
Amberg has 25 sub-districts, which include its surrounding villages:
A defining feature of the town is the Stadtbrille (literally: town spectacles) - a bridge, originally a part of the town fortifications, whose arches reflected on the river waters resemble a pair of spectacles.
Other tourist attractions in Amberg include:
Market Square, which contains the Gothic town hall (built in 1358) and the late-Gothic parish church of St. Martin
A well-preserved section of the medieval walls and gates
The baroque Franciscan monastery on the Hill of Our Lady Help of Christians (Germ. Mariahilfberg) above the town. This hill was given its name during the bubonic plague in the Thirty Years' War in 1633/4 when the locals beseeched the Virgin Mary to rid them of the plague.
The 'Little Wedding House' (local German dialect Eh'häusl), claimed by town authorities to be the world's smallest hotel. Built in 1728, the 2 metre wide hotel was 'sold' to young couples for one night to circumvent laws prohibiting marriages between poor people.
The town museum (Stadtmuseum Amberg) includes exhibits on life and industry in Amberg, the history of clothing and works of Michael Mathias Prechtl and houses travelling exhibitions.