Free Imperial City
After precisely a year since the first and only time I’ve flown to Nuremberg, I managed to grab an even better deal this time to the same place, however this time with a different plan: reaching the UNESCO listed city of Regensburg on Saturday, and nearby Ingolstadt on Sunday. Nuremberg it is therefore and without hesitation, the perfect base to reach these cities and the many others nearby as we did the year before, with Bamberg the highlight of that trip. It’s the major airport and transport hub in the region, and it will not, possibly, be the last time I get here in order to continue enjoying the many other sights and idyllic villages nearby.
Regensburg was by far a long time in the wish list of places to go. In this occasion with a double good reason; basically enjoy the beautiful and historic old town, and getting onto another World Heritage Site listed place. Countless this year so far. To the people who know me, you know the deal, for these who recently follow me, I am a heavy collector of UNESCO sites, and at the same time my lifetime dream would be visiting every country in the world (properly visiting not just ticking “I’ve been there”), it is a lifetime dream to be in as many WHS as possible.
The city, although small, has a lot of sights and things to see and do. Miraculously it is one of the few cities in the country that survived almost untouched during the World War II, and as such, it’s one of the most complete, largest and best preserved medieval town in Germany and also one of the most visited attractions in the country. As the UNESCO refers to, it’s the largest medieval old town north of the Alps and so well preserved, dubbing it “Italy’s most northern city”.
It’s urbanism is directly the result by the location at the confluence of three rivers: the Danube, the Naab and Regen rivers. Islands and bridges are the most notorious sights all over, with special attention to the famous Stone Bridge over the Danube and from where you will get your postcard perfect picture from the northern bank of the river, with the bridge and the old town in its full right across in front of you.
Pretty much, wherever you are and walk in the city there is a sight next to you. One after another, and not just these being the “important ones”, but actually in every building. So greatly preserved and restored, so colourful and so much history in their walls, some of which with few Roman remains implemented as are the remains of the East Tower of the Porta Praetoria. There’s quite a lot to see being honest, this is a city that will require you the entire day to fully explore and enjoy therefore I would not recommend you coming here if your time is tight and limited.
Food-wise is the same story. Big sizes everywhere, great quality and competitive prices. Of course some tourist traps apply but are easy to avoid by comparing few restaurants / breweries beforehand. The most traditional dish is this region is the Nürnberger Bratwurst (grilled sausage). I love sausages, especial German ones, but this one is not my favourite because of the stronger pork flavour. Of course there are many other hundreds sausages to chose from, so don’t worry if pork is not your taste. And of course, the Nürnberger Lebkuchen, a kind of gingerbread eaten mainly around Christmas time that you can anyway find all year round.
For more information about Regensburg check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Germany’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Regensburg
- Stadtamhof The northernmost island of the three along the Danube River and north of the historic town. This island forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing together with the old town.
-Main Street Known simply as Stadtamhof, in an orientation north to south linking directly to the north side of the Stone Bridge is full with old and historic merchant houses.
-Monastery and Church of Saint Mang Dating from the early 18th century however built on place of much older structures than once stood.
-Hospital Church of Saint Katharina Located to the south of the island near the Stone Bridge.
-Stone Bridge Built between 1135 and 1146 across the Danube River, it is consider a medieval bridge marvel. When built, it permanently linked the trade between Venice and the north, making Regensburg a very wealthy city back in the days.
- Jahn-Insel This middle island is directly linked to the other 2 and the old town farther south by the Stone Bridge that crosses through it. There are great views from here of both the Stadtamhof, the Old Town, the Danube and the many houses in between the canals.
- Old Town Right across the Stone Bridge on the southern bank of the Danube after the tree islands in between. The largest best preserved medieval centre in Germany.
-Bridge Tower The access gate to the city from the bridge.
-Salzstadel The Salt Warehouse, attached to the Bridge Tower was built in 1620 to store salt that the ships were bringing during the salt trade.
-The Sausage Kitchen As funny it might sound, that’s the real meaning. It was built adjacent to the Stone Bridge during its construction period, and therefore considered to be the oldest open public restaurant in the world.
-Fischmark/Keplerstraße The main street running parallel to the Danube is full of old medieval warehouses and historic buildings. The best is if you turn right after crossing the Stone Bridge (west of the city), and follow a zigzag way when touring.
-Fish Market A small square along the street surrounded by colourful buildings.
-Rutingerhaus Farther ahead along the street. One of the best preserved patrician houses in the city. Nowadays the Regensburg City Archives.
-Saint Oswald Church Located along the street at the intersection where it meets the Danube by the Eiserner Bridge. Dating from the 13th century with changes and extensions over the centuries. The interiors are superb in wood, and an 18th century organ.
-Weißgerbergraben The next major street, starting by the Eiserner Bridge heading south inside the old town by its western edge.
-Arnulfsplatz One of the most beautiful squares in the city entirely surrounded by old merchant houses.
-Bismarckplatz The next square after Arnulfsplatz.
-Regensburg Theater Located in between Arnulfsplatz and Bismarckplatz, it is over 200 years old.
-Jakobstor One of the few remaining medieval city gates. You can see them from the Theater and square along Jakobstrasse.
-St Jacob’s Cloister and St Blasius Church One across each other in the southern section of Bismarckplatz.
-Former Saint Emmeram’s Abbey Continuing south of the city along the western edges of the old town. This huge complex of buildings was a Benedictine monastery, nowadays known as the Schloss Thurn und Taxis and Imperial Abbey of Saint Emmeram since its conversion to a Royal residence. Founded in 739 and in continuous expansion and changes through the centuries, it is an architecture masterpiece combining many styles. Don’t miss the Romanesque building at the front, and the landmark courtyard inside.
-Obermünsterstraße/Grasgasse Take this road from few meters north east of Emmeram’s Abbey to head towards the east of the old town and reach the next sights.
-Maximilianstraße One of the most elegant in the city, the principal shopping thoroughfare leading towards the Cathedral area at the north.
-Dachauplatz Not exactly along Maximilian, but meters east right before reaching its northern terminus. It’s home to the Historic Museum of the city.
-Alter Kornmarkt At the northern end of Maximilianstraße, one of the true heart old city centre squares.
-Alte Kapelle The Old Chapel, occupies the entire south side of the square.
-Saint Joseph Church Built in 1673 is a clear example of Italian Baroque style. You’ll see it at the southeast corner of the square.
-Buildings 4, 5 and 5A The northeast corner of the square is marked by these 3 buildings with a tower implemented in between.
-Buildings 1, 2, 3 and 3A The northwest corner of the square is flanked by this collection of buildings of different shapes and colours.
–Niedermünster Church Behind the buildings mentioned before. One of the largest Romanesque structures in the city greatly unchanged since 1146.
-Herzogshof The Duke’s Court along the western side of the square, easy to spot for its size and yellow colour. It was the residence of the Bavarian duke of Agilolfing since the 6th century, and even if it looks quite new it’s not, the lower floor dates from the 1200 in Romanesque style.
-Römerturm Dating from the 13th century as one of the access gates into the city when it was fully walled. It’s linked to the Herzogshof by a brick arch.
-Cathedral Square After you cross the Römerturm you are in the largest square in the historic centre with the most celebrated sights.
-Diocesan Museum At the other side of the Römerturm, housed in an early Gothic church built in 1230.
-ACHAT Hotel Facing the Cathedral housed in a former palace, occupies the entire southern side of the square.
-Dom The Cathedral, built from 1275 until 1634, and the towers completed in 1869, is one of the most important and finest examples of German Gothic architecture. It dominates the old town and can be seen from other parts of the city across the rivers and bridges.
-Buildings Absolutely every building and house surrounding the square and adjacent streets are a sight on their own, greatly preserved and restored.
-Adler Apotheke Founded in 1610 it is one of the oldest in the country, and oldest in the city. Nowadays it acts as the pharmacy museum. Located just north heading towards the Goliathstraße.
-Neupfarrplatz If you keep on following an optimal sightseeing tour as the one I am listing here, then head south from the Cathedral towards this square. This was the once thriving Jewish quarter back in the days and the architecture all around impressive.
-Neupfarrkirche Located at the centre of the square built in 1519 at the time of the destruction of the Jewish Quarter.
-Wahlenstraße Along this narrow street linking the Neupfarrplatz to the Kohlenmarkt/Rathaus square you will see the tallest of the medieval towers once so popular among rival families who wanted to build the highest.
-Goldener Turn The highest residential tower north of the Alps. A status symbol in the Middle Age.
-Rathausplatz One of the last sights left to see in the city in this tour, yet home to one of the most impressive constructions in Regensburg, the Old City Hall. From 1663 until 1806 it was seat of the Imperial Diet.
-Haidplatz The last of the squares within the historic city, it is also one of the most charming and beautiful. Directly linked with the previous, the Rathausplatz. Notice here as well another of the Middle Ages towers from a wealthy family.
- Outside of the city While in the nearby of the old town there are many mansions, palaces and wealthy merchant houses worth to walk pass and admire, with the city is well enough. However, if you get some spare time to reach a place then it would be:
-The Walhalla Located east of the city along the Danube, on top of a small hill, was built upon orders of Ludwig I of Bavaria as national monument to German patriotism and greatness. It does indeed account for greatness, a reproduction of the Athens’s Parthenon built in costly materials, a hall of fame that honors laudable and distinguished people in German history.
The nearest international airports are both Munich 115 kilometres south and Nuremberg, 110 kilometres to the north. Since we arrived at Nuremberg, I will describe our experience from here. Serving a large amount of destinations both national and European routes, you will need to make a stop-over at other major German cities for inter-continental routes (Munich being be the best choice because of proximity). The airport is the only one in the country to be linked to the city centre by a metro line, the U2, which takes you directly to the central train station where you can interchange to any of the other metro lines of the city, buses, trams and of course railways such as the lines to Regensburg or Ingolstadt, both of which our objective on this weekend trip.
Coming overland is another good option. High-speed trains criss-cross Germany with Nuremberg being a big junction linking the south to the north, west to the east and beyond into the neighbouring countries. Yet it’s not just only the trains, but a large network of long distance buses and the Pan-European bus routes. If coming from southern Germany, then it’s highly likely your train or bus will be stopping at Regensburg before continuing north towards Nuremberg, hence no need to get there first to then having to get backwards.
Within the city, your best choice is on foot. Most of the streets in the historic core are pedestrianised, and bearing a small electric bus there are no other means of public transportation in this area. For farther neighbourhoods there is a good network of public buses, however a day-tripper will not eve need to take any transport to move around the city.
As for any major city and of such importance tourism and business-like, the amount of hotels in Regensburg is a good reflection of these facts. You have a great selection of any kind from the top of the range to more modest and anything in between. However, remember key dates like summer months and Christmas time, both are the most expensive seasons not only in hotels, but also to find a flight deal.
This is the second time we flew to Nuremberg in order to access some secondary cities in our agenda. A year ago we went to Bamberg, while in this occasion to Regensburg and Ingolstadt. Still, Nuremberg was our perfect base with the greatest choice of hotels and best deals. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
In both of our trips here we’ve found a great deal at the Derag Livinghotel, in Obere Kanalstrasse 11, not far south west from the old city centre and near the Gostenhof metro stations on Line 1 and the Plärrer station on Line 2. Great location to be honest, few minutes walking distance to the Waffenhof mit Spittlertorturm and Frauentorgraben Street, right by the southwestern section of the medieval walls, and 10 mins walk to the central railways station. A 4* property with nice facilities. It did not come with breakfast included hence I cannot comment on this if it was any good or bad, however the room was nice, large and well maintained, a full kitchenette with all appliances and plenty of space in the living room, separate from the bed itself. The staff were very polite and friendly who took our wishes at first instance, while small details as free coffee/tea and apples in the lobby at any time makes a difference with any other hotel.