See a less touristy part of Germany
in this ancient city
article and images by Carole Terwilliger Meyers
Located at the northern-most point of the upper Danube River and an easy 1½-hour train ride northwest of Munich, this prosperous town was the original capital of Bavaria (about 900 years ago). A two-night stay will let you see the important sights.
Little damaged by World War II bombings, Regensburg is one of Germany’s best-preserved cities and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It retains its medieval city center, with narrow winding streets and more than 1,200 Easter egg-colored ancient buildings that are still in use. Churches and their attendant ringing bells fill this small-scale town, and the Stone Bridge dating from 1146–with 16 huge arches–is also still used by locals. Instant orientation is provided by the Dom’s twin towers, which are visible from just about everywhere. Evenings are vibrantly alive with locals who actually reside in the old town center. Despite these many draws, Regensburg remains off the beaten track for foreign visitors.
Several lodgings in the town’s center stand out. In a building that dates to 1810 and is a former bishop’s palace, the Hotel Bischofshof am Dom is adjacent to the town’s famous cathedral. Entry is through an arched portal leading into a large stone courtyard that in good weather becomes a beer garden. Rooms are attractively and comfortably furnished–one has mint green-with-polka dots wallpaper in the bedroom and a pink-with-white version in the bathroom, which blessedly also holds a deep tub. Nights are quiet. Mornings begin with the clanging of the town’s church bells, and breakfast features eggs with deep-orange yolks and dense dark bread studded with whole hazelnuts. Note that some sections have no lift to upper floors. Also well-situated opposite the cathedral is the brand new ACHAT Plaza City Regensburg. Within the thick medieval walls of the former duke’s court, its decor is ultra modern and windows double glazed.
Major sights in this compact city are all within a few minutes’ walk. On arrival day, you can begin with a snack or lunch at the Schifferl Backerei, which is so conveniently located that you’ll probably be back several times and also on departure day to pick up a lunch. A few blocks away, the Altes Rathaus/Town Hall is home to the Imperial Diet Museum/Reichstagmuseum. Dating from the 13th and 14th century, this impressive Gothic building is well preserved and contains rooms occupied by the Imperial Diet from 1663 to 1806 (“diet” in this case is a technical word for “place of assembly”). The original dungeons and torture chamber are visited. In the few blocks from here to Dom St. Peter’s/St. Peter’s Cathedral you’ll pass many unique shops that beg for a browse. The massive church has a French Gothic edifice and is famous for its well-preserved medieval stained-glass windows. It is home to a famous boys’ choir, the Chor Dompatzen, which sings every Sunday morning at 10 a.m. Mass.
A full second day of activities might include a leisurely 50-minute “Strudel” boat ride leaving from the Old Stone Bridge, followed by lunch nearby at a riverside picnic table at Wurstküchl–the oldest sausage tavern in the world (it dates to the 17th century). Order succulent Regensburger pork sausages with house-fermented sauerkraut and delicious housemade sweet mustard. Lunch for two with beer, about $25. Getting to the magnificently furnished Thurn and Taxis Castle takes you on a journey through the town’s winding cobblestone streets, where you’ll find more intriguing shops. The 18th-century palace was built around a former 8th-century monastery by a family that remains one of the wealthiest in Germany and which still lives here. Tour available.
Restaurants abound, from cafes on the plaza to beer gardens on the back streets, to upscale hotel bistros. One that covers most bases is the Hotel Bischofshof am Dom (see above). It has several venues, including a nicely appointed restaurant, a more casual winestube, and, in good weather, an outdoor beer garden. The menu features local specialties, including weinerschnitzel, a house salad with a deliciously addictive dressing, and crisp German beer. Dinner for two with beer or wine, about $40 to $80. The cozy new brewhouse Regensburger Weissbrauhaus is set on a busy shopping street with several department stores and serves up delicious local fare that goes perfectly with its German brews. Dinner for two with beer, about $30.