Regensburg is a delightful Bavarian city at the edge of the famous Danube River and renowned for its well-preserved medieval Old Town. In fact, it’s one of the best preserved medieval towns in all of Germany, earning it UNESCO World Heritage status. There are so many wonderful things to do in Regensburg, Germany!
Regensburg, Germany: What to See
I was fortunate to spend a whole week here based in Old Town for work and wasted no time scouting the best places for views, delicious eats, and appreciating art and architecture.
Regensburg is one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. And also makes a great day trip from nearby Munich (90 minutes by car or a two hour trian ride) if you have less time.
As the fourth largest city in Bavaria, it’s got a richly preserved history with architecture that transports travelers back in time.
You’ll see vestiges of its years as a major Roman fort in 179(!), its early history as the capital of Bavaria, and its affluence as an economic and political powerhouse in the Middle Ages. And that’s just for starters!
Even today, the medieval Patrican houses and towers—along with narrow cobblestone lanes—still define this town’s character.
Fortunately, Regensburg survived World War II mostly in tact so visitors today can appreciate its unique beauty.
Here’s where to explore in Regensburg…
1. Explore Old Town
The historic hub of Regensburg is Old Town, which separates it from Stadtamhof, once a separate medival village but now incorporated into Regensburg, just across across the Old Stone Bridge.
Spend the majority of your time exploring Old Town.
Wander the narrow cobblestone streets to visit the Old Town Hall, Cathedral of St. Peter, St. Emmeram’s Basilica, and more. This is the heart of it all!
2. See St. Peter Cathedral
The best way to get your bearings in Old Town is to look for the steep Gothic spires of St. Peter Cathedral, also known as Regensburg Cathedral, which you can see from just about anywhere; it’s the jewel of the city.
The cathedral was built around 700, and then rebuilt in High Gothic style after a fire in 1273.
It’s also home to a wonderful choir , the “Domspatzen” (or Cathedral Sparrows, in English), one of the oldest boys’ choirs in the world.
In fact, the choir dates all the way back to the year 975! Today, these young singers do concert tours worldwide.
St. Peter Cathedral is also the resting place of all manner of important bishops throughout the ages.
Where to Stay in Regensburg
Stay at Bohemian Hotel. This charming 12th century hotel with elegant furnishings is conveniently located in the heart of Old Town, close to UNESCO sites and within easy walking distance to boutiques and restaurants.
You can check out prices and availability here.
3. Tour the Old Town Hall (+ Torture Chamber)
This place (Altes Rathaus) looks pretty benign, right? You might even say…beautiful and welcoming?
Today, the buttery building to the left is a helpful Tourist Information Office.
The ornate doorway to the right is the entrance to Regensburg Old Town Hall, which has been welcoming dignities from around Europe since the 13th century!
Regensburg is an Imperial town, that is to say, it was a self-ruled city but still subordinate to the Holy Roman Emperor.
And in this very town hall, princes from across the Roman Empire gathered to solve huge political crises behind closed doors and vote on important issues of the day.
But here’s the thing…In the bowels of the Old Town Hall is a an actual torture chamber! An interrogation chamber with a one-way mirror. Racks. And all manner of scary devices.
Including a dark cell for drunken nobles (and those awaiting a last meal of stew and beer before kneeling before the hangman).
Arguing women were pilloried outside in the town square. But arson? Murder? Coin forgery? Those deeds were punished by immediate execution.
And if the accused weren’t so quick to confess, some of the lovely devices below usually did the trick.
4. Visit Germany’s First Coffee Shop
Cafe Prinzess was Germany’s very first coffee house in 1686! Coffee made its debut in Cario and Syria in the 16th century before appearing in Europe in the 17th century.
And then, courtesy of French merchants, coffee houses began to pop up in Marseille, Paris, England, and finally here in Regensburg.
Today, you can still get a coffee here (head upstairs) but Cafe Prinzess is famous for its cakes and chocolates.
And they did not disappoint. In fact, I’d rate them better than the substantial number of Swiss chocolates I sampled in Zurich.
You’ll find Cafe Prinzess conveniently located just opposite the Old Town Hall.
5. See the Goliath House Mural
It’s hard to miss the huge and colorful mural on The Goliath House, which was built around 1260.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage landmark here in Regensburg and is located on the southern base of the old Roman fort.
Back in the 12th century, traveling theology students called themselves “Goliards” after their patron saint, Golias; hence, the name Goliath House.
The mural itself depicts the legend of David and Goliath and was created in 1573. It’s the perfect photo spot in Regensburg!
6. Visit Saint Emmeram’s Basilica
Saint Emmeram’s Basilica, now known as Schloss Thurn und Taxis, traces its roots all the way back to 739 when it was founded as a Benedictine monastery.
It was built at the grave of the bishop Saint Emmeram.
Later, it was transformed into a luxe residence in 1816. And today, it’s considered one of most important monuments of its style anywhere in Germany.
Be sure to check out the 11th century Romanesque-Gothic cloister. And don’t miss the neo-Renaissance marble staircase. The two story ballroom is stunning.
7. Stop in Haidplatz
Haidplatz is the big wide square right in the middle of Old Town.
The name of the square goes back to the name “Heida” for an area that used to be overgrown with bushes near the Roman camp Castra Regina (more on that below).
Today, this is where big events are held in Regensburg. From the Bavarian Jazz Weekend in July to the beautiful Christmas Market during the holidays, it all happens here.
But even if you miss those events, you should stop for an inexpensive lunch at the food stand here.
For 5 or 6€, you can enjoy a fabulous lunch of Bavarian sausage, sauerkraut, and a giant pretzel. (Specify your mustard preference: Sweet or spicy?)
8. See Porta Praetoria
Porta Praetoria is one of Regensburg’s oldest structures. Back in Roman times, it was the north portal at the fortress of “Castra Regina”, or “fortress by the river Regan”.
Emperor Marcus Aurelius stationed 6,000 of his soldiers here in Regensburg at this fortress of to ward off any northern German tribes that might want to invade.
And today, right here in Old Town, you can still see a remnant of this famous wall that was established during the Roman Empire to protect the Roman’s northern frontier in 179 AD/CE.
At one time, this fortress covered 60 acres(!) and included 18 towers, four double wide gates, barracks, a military hospital and more.
Today, it’s a free open air museum you can wander through. If these stones could talk, huh?
9. Check out the Juan d’Austria Statue
In 1571, a huge bronze statue was erected of John of Austria (Juan d’Austria) here in Regensburg, not far from Haidplatz. It’s a magnificent monument to 16th century art.
Who exactly was Juan d’Austria? And why did he merit such a monument to his likeness?
He was the hero of the Battle of Lepanto, where a navy fleet of the Holy League (a coalition of Catholic states) struck a major defeat to the Ottoman Empire.
And that’s a key historical event in Europe. In fact, this battle was the largest naval battle in Western history…with 400 warships.
It marked the turning point in the military expansion of the Ottoman Empire into the Mediterranean.
When you’re there, be sure to note the bronze plaques on the sides of the pedestal that depict the fleet and the battle. (Not pictured below.)
10. Climb a Bell Tower
There’s no better way (besides a drone) to fully appreciate the views in Regensubrg than from above.
So find a bell tower and climb the steep steps up.
A popular spot is the bell tower at the evangelic church Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirchengemeinde Dreieinigkeitskirche (Evangelic church Lutheran Trinity Church) in Old Town.
There’s a small fee to climb all the way up into the bell tower but the views are incredible.
You’ll see the tall spires of St. Peter Cathedral peaking through all the colorful building facades and red tile roofs from here.
11. Walk across Old Stone Bridge
One of the best things to do in Regensburg is to enjoy a leisurely stroll across the city’s famous 12th century Old Stone Bridge. It’s got 12 arches.
For more than 800 years, this bridge over the Danube was the only way to get from Old Town over to the district of Stadtamhof.
This bridge is a masterful medieval construction. And at one time, it’s likely that an ancient city gate may have abutted the south end of it.
In the 17th century, watermills were built here to create currents. (Unfortunately, the Bavarians burned those during the Thirty Years War.)
Spring had sprung in Bavaria when we were there in May so the air was filled with the scent of charcoal and sausage and laughter as college students barbecued on the river banks.
(And lots of squealing brakes from rampant bicycles everywhere!)
12. Look for Patrician Towers.
Regensburg is famous for its patrician towers. These tall towers were essentially monuments to the wealthy and powerful people of medieval times.
The goal was to lay claim to the tallest tower in the city. You can find the most famous and tallest of them, the Goldener Turm (golden tower) at Wahlenstraße 14. And see the pink tower at Watmarkt 4.
Goliath House on Goliathstrasse (see Goliathaus mural above) is another.
13. See Stadtamhoff.
If you keep walking over the Old Bridge from Old Town in Regensburg, you’ll be in Stadtamhoff, which was once a separate medieval village but now enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status as part of Regensburg.
Things to see here include the rococo church and monastery complex of St. Mang as well as the hospital church of St. Katharina.
The Andreasstadel, which used to be a salt warehouse in old times, now houses artists’ studios, galleries, and a cafe.
14. Visit a Biergarten.
There’s nothing better than spending time by one of the biergartens down by the river. We enjoyed a delightful evening with a group of Steve’s local colleagues at Spitalgarten.
As an American, I was in awe watching the server heft one DOZEN huge beer steins all at once!
15. Taste-test Bavarian Pastries.
Whenever I travel, I love to pop into local bakeries and ask: “What is the specialty that comes from here?”
In Regensburg, I heard about these two pastries below made only here (but didn’t get the names sadly since the bakery was swamped) and embarked upon a little taste test.
It was a tie: both were delicious.
Bavaria is also famous for Schneeballen or “snowballs” which are intertwined strips of pastry wrapped into a ball and then deep-fried. You can get them either in a chocolate gaze or dusted with sugar, nuts, coconut or cinnamon.
Or you might find Quarkballchen or “quark balls”…more fried balls that are fluffy on the inside and typically coated in a powdered sugar and cinnamon mixture. Great with coffee!
16. Visit Walhalla Memorial
On our last day in Regensburg, we visited the incredible Walhalla Memorial, just outside of Regensburg.
The memorial is essentially a “hall of fame” (housed in a neoclassical building) to honor notable German (and other) celebrities. It was built in the mid-1800s and includes more than 2,000 busts, paintings, and plaques.
It’s not so much a “must-see” museum, as an impressive monument with a beautiful view of the Danube, as it sits high on a hill.
Ideally, you’d bicycle here straight from Regensburg along the Danube.
(Get there early in the day or reserve ahead as the rental bicycles were all sold out on the day we wanted to visit.)
The bicycle path is flat and scenic, but bring a bike lock and prepare for a serious but short-ish hike up the hill at the end.
17. Eat at the historic Regensburg Sausage Kitchen.
Head directly down to the Danube to taste test sausages at the oldest sausage kitchen in the world. The “Wurtkuchl” (i.e., Sausage itchen) is the oldest continuously open public restaurant in the world!
This is where construction workers fueled up in the 16th and 17th centuries so they could complete their work on the Stone Bridge and St. Peters Cathedral.
The specialty here? Sausage, of course, served with caraway seed rolls, homemade sauerkraut and mustard. Plus, they serve a specialty of six sausages on a bed of sauerkraut.
In German, this specialty is “Secs auf Kraut”….which sounds a lot like Sex on Kraut.
That led to a cute little original video by the Tourism department that features six people posing as sausages trying to squeeze onto a mattress together.
Regensburg is a delight.
Whether you’re taste testing your way through biergartens and bakeries or touring the famous art and architecture here in Old Town, you’ll not soon forget beautiful Regensburg.
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