As a girl born and raised in Passau, I can hardly contain my excitement that ExperiencePlus! offers two Danube tours (Bicycling the Danube Plus! Czech Republic and Prague and Bicycling the Danube Passau to Vienna) that include a day in this lush little gem nestled between three rivers that merge into the Danube.
Hit the old town and you are close to everywhere you need to be to experience Passau and it’s cobblestoned alleys, the truly pompous baroque cathedral, the fortress, the merging of the three rivers, cafes, shops… The old town is easily walkable and you may be fooled into thinking you are in Italy instead. The church organ in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral is famous as the largest church organ in the world. Until Americans decided to build a larger one, that is.
There’s a lot to do, so here it goes:
Hotel Weisser Hase – ExperiencePlus!’s choice for our stay in Passau. It’s located right at the pedestrian area with its numerous shops and offers easy access to the old center of town and the rivers. (It is the hotel on the corner behind us in the photo above! Photo by Gasoline Photography)
If you are traveling on your own you might also consider:
Hotel Wilder Mann – The hotel is located right by city hall and houses a glass museum with its over 30,000 pieces representing glass arts and crafts throughout the centuries, starting in 1680.
Pension Goldenes Schiff – If you’d like your stay to be a bit more rustic and authentically Bavarian, you may want to consider this option. This little guest house also runs a traditional Bavarian restaurant and cozy little beer garden with excellent fare.
Food and coffee
Café Anton – My absolute favorite! It’s hidden away in an alley right around the corner from St. Stephen’s Cathedral, offers delicious coffee, home-made bread, excellent European-style breakfast. Its quirky interior and quiet little courtyard, alongside their excellent food and beverages made me fall in love with this place immediately. Kick back and forget all worries while relaxing and reflecting about what you’ve seen so far in this pretty town.
Zum Fliegerbauer – Take a trip to the countryside while still only being a stone’s throw (or cab ride) from the bustling town. Housed in an old 18th century farm estate surrounded by flower and vegetable gardens and even some chickens running around this restaurant offers regionally sourced organic traditional food and refreshing beverages. Listen to the birds, bees and rustling leaves while enjoying a cool beer or even a Radler – a lager beer mixed with lemonade. A real treat on a hot day and its name means “cyclist”. How can you not want to try it!
Aran – Even though the Aran is a coffee shop chain, it made it on my list. The Aran serves excellent cakes and tortes, as well as heavenly bread, and coffee, of course! Their philosophy is aligned with the slow food movement. My main reason for putting it on the list is the 1873 Italian Renaissance style villa the cafe is housed in. The building is called Villa Bergeat and boasts a light-flooded interior, a solarium, fireplace and an indoor fountain in front of a colorful mural. Even though the Aran is a self-service coffee shop, not really traditional for Germany, – it is a great place to hang out and relax.
Biergarten and Bräustüberl Hacklberg – This brewery with brewpub and beer garden is another one of my favorites, especially this green and lush oasis of a traditional beer garden. Growing up, we used to play in this labyrinth of shrubs and trees for hours, never wanting to go home when our parents were ready to call it a day after a summer’s afternoon at the lake, a nice Radler, and traditional food at the beer garden. Coming back as an adult (or so…), this natural jungle labyrinth of twigs, leaves and little trails beaten by children’s feet seems pretty small but we had fun for hours in there. And it’s not a real or constructed labyrinth, it’s just trees and bushes… Leave it to the kids, they will all simply love it! The beer is brewed on location and I would say it’s one of the best ones in Passau.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral – Largest church organ! What else can I say? It’s a beautiful baroque cathedral and the seat of the Catholic Bishop of Passau. You may want to attend an organ concert here, which take place from May to October every day (except Sundays and holidays).
Veste Oberhaus (Oberhaus fortress) – Passau’s bastion with an amazing view and a museum. Superb views all over Passau and over to our Austrian neighbors! It’s a nice 45-minute to an hour hike up switchbacks amidst trees on a path interspersed with stairs. While climbing, you will gain a wide view over Passau, its green hills, red-roofed buildings, candy-colored houses and churches, as well as, the merging point of the three rivers. The footpath is called Ludwigsteig and can be accessed from the Luitpold Bridge. You can view some pictures here, but the site is in German. There are also buses available, which take the road (naturally).
Ortspitze/Dreifluesseeck (Corner of the three rivers) – This is the merging point of the three rivers. You may want to consider taking a walk along the River Inn, which has a nice river promenade to stroll along, people-watch and enjoy the scenery while savoring some gelato. Depending on how far you go, you can check out the Campus of Passau University. If you’re ready for a break from all that walking, you may want to stop in at Café Innsteg, which has a sunny elevated terrace, a cute little beer garden by the river and various dishes and beverages.
Town Hall – Parts of this sturdy and thick-walled medieval building is open to the public. It houses city offices and the city hall. Breathe in the magic of centuries – its beginnings d bate ack to the 13th century. I never tire of trying to get my head around its age and serene majesty, and that it is still used as a city hall, so alive and well! Look for the flood marks on the outside wall of the tower. The city has been keeping track of its highest floods throughout the centuries. There are biannual floods which are a part of everyday life in this town, and people who live int he flood prone old town simply learn to not keep anything in the basement. The flood in 2013 was the highest in 500 years – coinciding with my wedding celebration in Passau! A truly unique wedding for us and our friends and family from the US and all over Germany. Excitement was had not only due to our happy reason for celebration, but also from a short period of questions whether we could have the party at all. Most of the town and large parts of the country were flooded, making travel difficult and leaving us afraid that we’d have to cancel the wedding. In the end, everything worked out and we had a memorable, brilliant and sunny day full of love and fun. Even more memorable with the flood slowly receding and the clean-up work going on around us.
Museums and Guided Tours
The Passau tourism website is a helpful resource. I would definitely recommend taking a guided tour around town. You may also want to take a little river cruise to view the city and its surroundings from its waterways.
With all this, I have been pretty much focusing on the core of Passau and things across the Danube. Passau has a whole other quarter across the River Inn, which is fittingly called Innstadt (Inn Town). There you will find the Pilgrimage Church Mariahilf. It literally translates to “Mary help us”. The church has stairs – 321 pilgrimage steps – apparently, we Passau folks enjoy climbing!
Finally, if you like baked goods, do get a “Butterbreze” at some point at one of the bakeries scattered throughout the city. It’s a Bavarian pretzel, cut in half with butter spread on it and the halves put back together. It’s a popular breakfast or snack on the go. Bavarian pretzels just as they should be, with the crispy crossed “arms” in the middle and a soft thick side. While I’ve found some pretty good pretzels here in the US, I haven’t been able to find one that is just right. Also, in Bavaria we like to eat them with butter, as opposed to dipping it in mustard, as it is done in the US. Which, admittedly, is a pretty tasty way to do it too! I recommend getting one in the morning, as they are still nice and fresh.