Regensburg is a popular port on any Danube cruise. The Bavarian city with Roman fundaments has always been defined by its relationship with the mightiest European river. 2,000 years of history can be explored within its ancient city walls, and believe me, there are many things to do in Regensburg.
I recently re-visited Regensburg as part of my project to document the best day trips from Munich. The beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site is deeply entrenched in Bavaria’s most ancient history, and I felt it was time to write a detailed Regensburg travel guide for you.
As a Bavarian local, I made extra sure to add some insider tips and my personal recommendation instead of just a standard list of all the tourist attractions in Regensburg. I also made an effort to look for the best places to stay (which you will find at the very end).
But, let’s get started with my list of the best places to visit in Regensburg, shall we?
The best things to do in Regensburg
1. Old Stone Bridge
The Stone Bridge (‘Steinerne Brücke’) is one of the most important symbols of Regensburg. It dates back to 1135 AD and is considered to be the oldest still existing bridge in Germany and a marvel of medieval architecture.
The bridge underwent quite a couple of changes in the past 900 years. Mainly it lost the two towers sitting in the middle and the far end. Also, mills used to sit on the pedestals below the mighty arches. Both were lost in the middle of the 18th century and weren’t replaced (if you want to see some ingenious bridge architecture, check out my Bamberg travel guide)
As a tourist, you should definitely walk all the way across to the Stadtamhof quarter on the other side. From here, you can take a lovely picture of the old town!
Tip: Visit the UNESCO World Heritage visitors center (entrance is free) inside the big building at the start of the Stone bridge.
2. St. Peter Cathedral
The gothic Regensburg Cathedral (‘Regensburger Dom’) is another important landmark you have to visit. Construction started in 1275 AD but the gigantic edifice wasn’t finished until 1869 when the two towers were finally added. It reminds me of the St. Lorenz church in Nuremberg.
Other than the magnificent high altar made from silver, the interiors are quite austere and it’s also very dark. Like many other churches in Germany, the Regensburg Cathedral was “purified” in the middle of the 19th century – meaning all baroque additions were removed with the intention of restoring the ensemble what that generation perceived to be the medieval original.
You should definitely take note of the otherworldly beauty of the stained glass windows. Almost all windows (with the exception of the clerestory) still illuminate the church interior with their original medieval beauty. Only a few additions were made by Prof. Josef Oberberger 50 years ago.
Tip: Make sure to visit the adjacent 12-century Allerheiligenkappelle and the treasury inside the Cathedral museum.
3. Walhalla memorial
The Walhalla is a neo-classical memorial in the suburb of Donaustauf build to honor celebrities “of the German tongue”. Germany, as we know it today, is quite a new phenomenon. Before Napoleon’s conquest in 1806, Germany has been a collection of more than a hundred city-states and profane and ecclesiastical fiefdoms.
Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria envisioned the memorial to gather momentum for the unification of Germany. It was finished by famous architect Leo von Klenze in 1842 and now houses busts of 130 notable celebrities – politicians, sovereigns, scientists, and artists. Also, the view of the Danube valley is quite spectacular from the Walhalla.
Note: Bus number 5 will get you there in about 20 minutes. You need to get off at Donaustauf, Walhallastraße and then walk the stairs up to the monument.
4. Old Town Hall
For almost 500 years, Regensburg has been a free imperial city. When emperor Friedrich II granted Regensburg its privileges in 1230 AD the rich patricians immediately build a representative town hall with a huge festival hall. The building was continuously enlarged in the ensuing years. Because Regensburg was one of the richest and biggest cities in the empire, it quickly became an important meeting place of the Imperial Diet.
The Imperial Diet meetings of the Holy Roman Empire were quite a peculiar thing. Every odd year the most important representatives of the empire met in one of the big cities of Germany to discuss matters of state as early as 777. It is somewhat a predecessor of the German parliament today. But beginning from 1594, the diet met only in Regensburg.
Usually, the sessions lasted 2 months, but in 1663 the members couldn’t come to a mutual consensus, so the Imperial diet was prolonged further and further. 5 years later (yes you read that right), the envoys finally accepted the Perpetual Diet of Regensburg, which met on two days per week inside the Old Townhall of Regensburg until 1806.
You will also be able to see one of the few remaining authentic torture chambers in Europe. The so-called “painful questioning” was reserved for capital offenses and practiced until 1770. Quite like a miracle, the chamber wasn’t dismantled after it fell into disuse 200 years ago.
Note: You can only visit as part of a guided tour (roughly 60 minutes). You can buy the tickets at the tourist information on the ground floor.
PS: If you are into authentic medieval staterooms, then you might also want to visit Salzburg in nearby Austria. Here is my travel guide.
5. Schloss St. Emmeram
These days, we are used to getting answers to our e-mails and text messages within minutes. But in medieval times, it often took months. Franz von Taxis was responsible for installing a (then modern) horse courier system in Germany at the end of the 15h century. Because the news was as important back then as it was today, the family of Thurn and Taxis quickly advanced to one of the richest and most important aristocratic families in Germany.
When the post system finally became a state-matter, the family was given the buildings of the Sankt Emmeram monastery in Regensburg as reparations in 1810. They quickly transformed the medieval ensemble into a regal palace fit for a line of princes. Today, it’s the largest privately held palace in Europe and some members of the family still live there, especially the reigning Gloria, Princess of Thurn and Taxis.
Parts of the palace, especially the staterooms, are open to the public for a small entrance fee on most of the days of the year. There’s also a wonderful treasury and state carriage museum you definitely put on your list of things to do in Regensburg.
You can also visit ancient medieval cloister, which looks as beautiful as on day one.
6. Saint Emmeram’s Abbey
There is another reason you should visit Saint Emmeram: Even though most of the former abbey has been transformed into a palace for the Thurn and Taxis electors, the church from 780 AD is still there.
Here, Saint Emmeram was buried in 690 and the church was expanded quite a couple of times ever since – the last time in 1050. Then, between 1731 and 1733, the famous brothers Cosmas Damian and Egid Quirin Asam transformed the interiors into a baroque masterpiece which you can still see today.
Only the western transept retains the original wooden ceiling from 1050 and parts of the medieval murals. Do visit!
7. Porta Praetoria
As early as 5000 BC people have been living in what is now called Regensburg. Things changed dramatically, however, when Roman Emperor Marc Aurelius erected a castrum in 179 AD to protect the mouth of the river Regen. Two notable buildings from that time are still visible today.
Definitely drop by at the famous Porta Praetoria. The former Roman gate is now part of one of the best hotels in Regensburg, but still as magnificent. At the far end of the old town. You can also find quite a lot of remnants of the Roman city wall and even visit the remains of a roman brewery!
8. Museum of Bavarian History
The fantastic Museum of Bavarian History on the banks of the River Danube is the newest addition to the many tourist attractions in Regensburg. It opened in June 2019 and houses an interactive exhibition that leads you through more than 100,000 years of history.
The modern building is quite spectacular and I promise you the bi-lingual exhibition (English & German) is not boring in the least. There is even a gigantic 360° panorama video installation. Here’s the official website.
9. Golden Tower
Regensburg was a rich city during medieval times. Just like in Italy, rich patricians build impressive city fortresses to exhibit their wealth. Bologna once had 180 such towers and it must have looked like Manhatten today. Most of the family towers in Regensburg didn’t survive the ages. They did not serve a real purpose after all and most of them were torn down merely a hundred years later in the 14th century.
The Golden Town in the Wahlenstrasse 16 is one of the few exceptions north of the alps that survived the last 800 years. It’s altogether 50 meters high and was built in 1250. You cannot climb the tower, but you can access the inner courtyard and see the lovely Renaissance arcades
10. Go on a cruise on the Danube
Last, but certainly not least, you should not miss the opportunity to go on a little Danube river cruise while you are in Regensburg. The Danube valley is very beautiful and there are many companies offering little day tours or 2-hour cruises.
In summer, I recommend you to take a boat down to the Wallhala, so you get to combine two entries on my list of the best things to do in Regensburg.
Other things to do in Regensburg
I said it before: Regensburg will give you the unique opportunity to explore more than 2,000 years of Bavarian history. Which means this list of my favorite places to visit in Regensburg is hardly complete. There are two further museums you should be aware of: The Ostdeutsche Galerie and the Historische Museum Regensburg.
I also just mentioned two churches out of many others. Basilica of the Nativity of Our Lady is quite worth seeing, and so is the Neupfarrkirche and the Dompfarrkirche.
Above all, you should take your time and explore the famous old town of Regensburg which thankfully survived World War II almost completely. The Haidplatz is quite popular and you might want to see the famous Goliath House on your Regensburg tour as well.
You could even plan to stay a night and see the Donaustauf Castle or even the fabled Kloster Weltenburg and the Kelheim memorial. Both attractions are only a short drive away (40 kilometers) from Regensburg and make for a fantastic day trip.
Either way, you should definitely get in contact with the local culinary traditions. The famous Wurstkuchel restaurant has been serving traditional sausages in all their variants for over 500 years. If you like it sweet, then Dampfnudel Uli will be a fun place to eat some traditional Bavarian dessert: steamed yeast dumplings with vanilla sauce. The latter is considerably less touristy and my favorite!
Where to stay in Regensburg
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Despite its glorious past, Regensburg is a rather insignificant city these days. 145,000 people live and work there (as of 2018). While there are quite a lot of tourists, the majority actually uses the port to embark on their Danube cruise. As a result, there are not all that many excellent hotels in Regensburg.
Here is my selection for you of places I felt deserved to be mentioned.
Luxury hotels in Regensburg
Mid-Price hotels in Regensburg
Budget hotels in Regensburg
Best time to visit Regensburg
The best time to visit Regensburg is definitely summer, so June until September. Considerably warm temperatures and lots of sunshine will provide the ideal conditions to explore the city. That’s also the time the local Danube cruise lines operate – so it really makes sense.
You should be aware that the city will be quite crowded in August when both locals and international tourists use the summer holidays for a couple of days off. That being said, crowds are quite manageable.
Regensburg has quite the exquisite Christmas market (one of the best in Germany, in fact), so December might be a good choice as well.
Other than that, I’m sure you will be able to enjoy Regensburg throughout the year. Just be aware that most museums will be closed on Mondays!
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