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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrGermany is renowned for being home to some of the most charming towns in all of Europe. Cities like Cologne, Dresden, and Koblenz (to name but a few) are postcard perfect treasures, yet among all of them, you may be hard-pressed to find one which is as enticing as Regensburg. The town, which sits on the confluence of three rivers (the Danube, Regen, and Naab), is one of Germany’s oldest and seems to have the best of everything. Its stunning UNESCO-listed center is simply superb, the cobblestone alleyways, imposing cathedral, and myriad of other architectural gems make it an absolute delight to explore. Small, compact, and easily navigated on foot, Regensburg is one of the easiest and most surprising destinations in Bavaria. Less-known than others, it is the kind of town visitors head to for its history, are left dumbfounded by its beauty, and rave about it for years. This is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
A young, vibrant university town, Regensburg offers an unrivaled chance to experience Bavarian life at its best. Riverside beer gardens, festivals, museums, river cruises, amazing food, and more beer gardens than you can poke a pretzel at; this is a must-see spot for anyone visiting Germany.
Brief HistoryRegensburg was one of the first settlement built by Marcus Aurelius in today’s Bavaria and was an important trading village in Roman times. The medieval center, which remained blissfully unaffected by the bombing in WWII (well, for the most part anyway) is one of the most pristinely kept in the country. Its 2,500 year-old history is etched on every stone and around every corner, and the splendor of its most golden times, when it was a Free Imperial City for six centuries, is still evident today. The former capital of Bavaria became pivotal in the trade between Northern and Southern Europe, after its striking stone bridge (Steinerne Brücke) was built in the 12th century. Many of the magnificent mansions still standing today were built by rich merchants who made their fortunes here.
Yet a turn in trading winds, more conveniently sought via other routes, caused a dramatic decline in the prosperity of Regensburg, for many centuries. Nevertheless, thanks to the area lacking any major military presence during both World Wars, its historic center escaped almost entirely unscathed. A nearby oil refinery and aircraft factory were both destroyed yet luckily both were far enough away from Regensburg. Today, along with a thriving local tourism industry, Regensburg is renowned as one of the best university cities in Germany. Young yet ancient, avant-garde yet traditional, Regensburg is a delightful place in which to spend a few days.
- With more than 500 bars in its town center alone, Regensburg boasts the largest concentration of drinking establishments of any city in Germany
- University students make up more than one fifth of the population
- Regensburg has one of the strongest economies in the country
- The historic center is home to over 2,400 heritage-listed buildings
- This is where Oscar Schindler , the man whose actions inspired the move ‘Schindler’s List ’ lived before emigrating to South America
- The cathedral took almost six centuries to complete
- The city is now home to 150,000 people and three well-respected universities
- In Italian, the city is still only known by its Roman name: Ratisbona
- Visitors can still admire the remains of towers built when Regensburg was a walled city
City OverviewThe city is quite spread out away from the riverside, yet for the great majority of visitors exploring the outer reaches of Regensburg is only needed when wishing to explore the splendid Walhalla monument about 10kms east of the city. The medieval Old Town Center will likely take up all your time and attention whilst here, and is a place easily explored on foot. Crossing from the northern to the southern side of the Danube and exploring both sides at great length is not only convenient but also very rewarding. You can spend endless days here visiting museums, churches and historic buildings, and enjoying river cruises, brunches and refreshing sunset beers, without ever the need to hop on a bus or taxi. This, among many other things, is what makes Regensburg such a delightful holiday destination.
The Old Town Center is on the southern shores of the Danube, where you will also find the greatest concentration of accommodation and eating establishments.
HighlightsIf visiting for the first time, hop on the tour bus which departs from the southern entrance of the cathedral square every hour or so, and offers commentary in various languages. This will help you get your bearings and give you an idea of where to spend more time and, perhaps, which areas to avoid if they hold little interest to you. This is a great intro to the city.
St. Peter’s CathedralRegensburg’s St. Peter’s Cathedral is the most imposing landmark in town, set just a block back from the shores of the Danube and overshadowing just about everything else. The Cathedral Square was the heart and soul of Regensburg for centuries and the most thriving trading and socialising hub. The vertiginous spires, stained glass windows, and intricately carved façade make this an absolute masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Head here for Sunday Mass, despite your religious inclinations, and you’ll have the privilege of listening to the revered boys’ choir and amazing organ, both of which are internationally renowned. You’ll no doubt spend hours exploring this section of old town alone, where you’ll discover a gorgeous Treasury, Bishop’s Palace, and several Chapels dating back to the 9th century AD.
Alte KapelleThe Old Chapel of Regensburg stands in complete contrast to its more famous cathedral yet is just as astounding, albeit for different reasons. Baroque in design and opulent in décor, the chapel’s subtle exterior hides a magnificently lavish interior. Alte Kapelle is over 1,000 years old and boasts intricate decorations, a gilded ceiling, stunning frescoes, and am organ blessed by Pope Benedict WVI during his visit here, to his hometown, in 2006. Bright, colorful, and a little over-kitsch, this is the one church in Regensburg which has no shame in flaunting its Bavarian roots. This is, in fact, the very first Bavarian church ever built. Access to Alte Kapelle is allowed only during mass service twice a day. Times do vary so check with info board out front when you arrive in town. You’ll find this church just two blocks behind the Cathedral, on the road towards the central station (Hauptbahnhof).
Stone BridgeSteinerne Brücke has connected two side of the Danube River for almost an entire millennia. Only 98 feet long and, perhaps inconspicuously plain, is one of the most superb examples of medieval architecture still left standing in Germany. Back when it was built, it was considered an absolute feat of engineering and nowadays it is renowned as the best ‘viewpoint’ in town. From the middle of this pedestrian-only bridge, you’ll enjoy the most superlative views of Regensburg, especially at sunset. On the south-west corner of the bridge is where you’ll find the Bridge Tower Museum where documents and artifacts from the building of the bridge are on display. Over to the eastern end is where you can savor a delicious sausage roll at the historic Wurstküche, a small and casual sausage stall which has reputedly been serving up the city’s best hot dogs for more than 800 years!
Along the riverside right in front of the sausage stand are departure piers for the many river cruise boats. A €10 ($12) sunset sightseeing cruise along the Danube is about the best value-for-money romantic activity in all of Regensburg.
Regensburg Museum of HistoryOn Dachauplatz just east of the cathedral, is where you’ll find this monastery-turned-museum which showcases the anthropological, artistic and cultural history of Regensburg. Roman relics are the highlight here, although the building itself is well worth the time and admission price. Grab an audio set as you enter, as English info is sadly lacking. Extension of the museum is currently underway.
Palais Thurn und TaxisThis historical castle sits right in the heart of Regensburg and, should you be lucky enough to visit around Christmas time, you’ll get the chance to discover one of Germany’s most amazing and atmospheric outdoor markets within its gates. The 8th-century palace was built by the Imperial Postmaster Anselm Franz von Turn und Taxis and remains, to this very day, in ownership of this illustrious family. On a tour, you’ll get to see priceless artwork, historic carriages, antiques, and lavishly furnished rooms. Timed guided tours are given in German only, but English-language audio-guides are offered to non-German speakers.
HerzogsparkThis small but beautiful botanical garden is set on the shore of the Danube, about 3kms north of Stone Bridge. Walking here from the historic center, along the river’s edge, is a wonderful way to reach the park and to stroll through some of the less-visited streets of Regensburg. Herzogspark was once the private garden of the Thurn und Taxis family but came under municipal ownership in the 1930s. Here, you’ll see a 13th-century tower which you can access in summer and which grants splendid riverside and city views; as well as several small botanic gardens home to a vast collection of local flora.
Other famous landmarks include Scots Monastery, the former Benedictine Abbey of St. James, which was founded by Irish missionaries but spent most of its existence under the care of Scottish monks, hence the name. Basilika St Emmeram which, much like Alte Kapelle, boasts a subdued exterior but utterly opulent interior.
CuisineBeing a vibrant university city with a healthy population of youngsters on a budget, Regensburg’s food scene is as varied as it is inexpensive. You can find everything here, from Chinese to Turkish, Italian, Indian, Vietnamese and every other cuisine under the sun. But, considering you are in Bavaria, and in one of Germany’s oldest towns, it would be a travesty to neglect the most traditional side of Regensburg’s culinary world.
For delectable grilled sausages you really can’t walk past the historic Sausage Kitchen (Wurstküche) next to the Stone Bridge right along the riverside. Order a serving of grilled sausages, which come served on a bed of sauerkraut and with a side of home-made mustard, and you’ll be savouring over two centuries of local culinary tradition.
Continue your tastebud education at the nearby Weltenburger Am Dom, a superb traditional restaurant found right by Cathedral Square. Renowned for their amazing burgers, this restaurant also offers all the Bavaria specialties, like pork knuckle, schnitzel, spaetzle, sauerkraut and various bread and potato dumplings. A gorgeous outdoor, shaded area makes this the most comfortable and atmospheric restaurant around.
For wicked home-made cakes and coffee, head to Cake Bar (Kuchenbar) on the little island which sits in the heart of the Danube, just across the Stone Bridge. This café is quite small but on gloriously sunny days they do set up a few tables outside. A wide selection of delectable cakes on offer daily and, most would agree, about the best dessert spot in all of Regensburg.
NightlifeAny city with this many 20 year-olds is going to boast a pretty hearty nightlife. We’re not quite sure on the statistics yet we do have an inkling that Regensburg has a higher-than-usual concentration of student bars and nightclubs. If you wish to enjoy several drinks and a dance you won’t have an issue finding a place nearby your accommodation.
If, on the other hand, you’re after a little more subdued scene, perhaps involving light drinking and a bit of socialising with locals, head to Murphy’s Law Irish Pub, which offers a wide selection of drinks, finger food and laid-back crowd. Hemingways is not that dissimilar in looks, yet boasts a much younger crowd and louder music, so take your pick.
If you find the bar scene too young, hip and happening for your tastes, then simply enjoy a leisurely walk in the pedestrian section of Old Town, where social life is at its best. If visiting in July or August you can enjoy an open-air cinema night at the Armin Wolf Arena or one of the gazillion other festivals held by the riverside just next to the Stone Bridge. The city is lively till the later hours, so whether you wish to enjoy a late meal, a few drinks, a romantic stroll, or full-on party nights, you’ll find Regensburg will deliver on all counts.
ShoppingIn the Old Town centre is where you’ll find many independent boutiques, selling interesting local crafts and hand-made jewellery. Many hidden gems are found along alleyways branching out from the main pedestrian street, and here you’ll discover art galleries and beautiful home-ware shops and general bric-a-bracs. Down Gesandtenstrasse are designer clothing boutiques with many international brand names you’ll no doubt recognize from home. Königstrasse is the ideal street for anyone under 30 with lots of trendy shops selling the latest and hippiest gear. For a historical touch, check out Confisserie Prinzess (the oldest confectionary shop in the country) and Elsässer, a most revered candle-making gallery and shop, whose masterpieces reside in some of the most prominent European churches, including St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
How to Get InRegensburg can easily be reached by train from Munich, on a very pleasant 90 minute journey. Hourly train connections also link the city to Berlin, Dresden, Cologne, Stuttgart, and Hamburg. If coming from (or going to) farther afield, you will also find connection to Paris, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Amsterdam, and Zurich.
The closest international airports are located in Munich and Nurremberg.
How to Get Out and AboutThe central train and bus stations in Regensburg are right next to each other, just a few blocks south of Old Town. Further south are the suburban hoods and university campuses, and anything north right up to the shores of the Danube is the tourist section. Once you are here, by whichever means of transport, there will be very little need for you to use the (rather comprehensive) bus network. The Altstadt Bus runs short loops around the historic centre and is a great way to get your bearings upon first arrival. After that, the best way to get around is on foot.
If arriving by car, it’s highly advisable that you find a hotel with parking near the train station, as most of the tourist centre is pedestrian only and the few streets which are not, are usually narrow and one-way. Keeping your car safely parked for a few days while you’re out exploring is a much more convenient option.
AccommodationRegensburg boasts some really exceptional boutique hotels, most of which are located right in the heart of Old Town. For cheaper options, head out just a couple of blocks south, and look for hostels near the train station.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Jul 17, 2015