Travel planning

Travel Tips: Passau, Germany – a local’s guide

As a girl born and raised in Passau, I can hardly contain my excitement that ExperiencePlus! offers two Danube tours (Bicycle the Danube and the Czech Republic 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 its 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.

There’s a lot to do, so here it goes!

Head over to our hotel recommendations!

  • 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.
  • 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, 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/Dreiflüsseeck (here’s a map for a suggested walk) – 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 in the 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.
  • Stroll to the Innstadt quarter – (See the map with a suggested walk.) In your explorations, you may want to consider strolling across the river Inn and take a peek and coffee break in the district that is called Innstadt, literally translating to Inn and town. It’s wonderfully narrow alleys and town square will make you feel like you traveled back in time. Enjoy a delicious cup of coffee in the square and visit the Roman Museum just down the alleyway. On that side of the river, you will also find the Pilgrimage Church Mariahilf sitting enthroned on the top of the hill. 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.

Flood marker in Passau
The city hall’s walls with flood markers documenting historic flood levels.