While living in Germany for six years, I made plenty of day trips to Regensburg. It’s so easy to get to and the vibe of the city is relaxed and fun. My favorite thing to do is wander through the picturesque alleys of the medieval old town, and then stroll down to the river and enjoy some amazing sausages from the oldest bratwurst stand in the world.
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A Brief History
Like Frankfurt, Regensburg is one of the oldest cities in Germany with roots going all the way back to its early days as a Roman fort on the edge of the empire. Later, the city went on to become a center of trade and religion in the Holy Roman Empire. From here, kings, dukes, and bishops would rule the region that would later become Bavaria.
Regensburg’s old stone bridge (Steinerne Brucke), built in the mid-12th century, was the only bridge crossing the Danube between Nuremberg and Vienna. As a result, the city became a center for long distance trade. Later, it was awarded Free Imperial City status and business and trade really took off.
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The city suffered through the wars and plagues that ravaged Europe but the old town survived even through the bombing campaigns of World War Two. Today, Regensburg is known for having one of the largest and best maintained medieval city center in Germany. In fact, the old town, with its more than 1500 medieval buildings, is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. (Source)
To get a really good feel for the city before you go out exploring on your own, this 45 minute Regensburg train tour really provides a great basis and helps you get oriented.
Things to Do In Regensburg
Regensburg Old Town
The historic center of the city is one of our favorite old towns in Germany. Every time we visit we find a new side street, square, or covered alley with some stunning architectural marvel. With over 1500 renovated, reconstructed or refurbished medieval buildings, there is always something new to discover.
St. Peter’s Cathedral – Regensburger Dom
I remember the first time I saw this amazing gothic cathedral with it’s twin spires climbing into the sky-wow! St. Peter’s cathedral is the most impressive Gothic cathedral in Bavaria. We were lucky enough to catch some of the boys choir performance on one trip and an organ recital on another.
Don’t miss the cathedral treasury exhibit in the Domschatz museum next to the cathedral. This was the first place I encountered relics and reliquaries. Let’s just say what a surprise it was to peer into the tiny crystal windows to see small pieces of bones and fingers of saints, martyrs and apostles.
Basilica of the Nativity of Our Lady Regensburg
The name of this old catholic basilica is certainly a mouthful, and the interior is just as ornate. As far as Baroque basilicas go, Regensburg’s is high on the list and sure to impress.
Old Town Hall – Altes Rathaus
Thie 13th century gothic and baroque was the center of government for hundreds of years. The impressive clock tower and colorful, ornately decorated facade of the old town hall are a perfect example of medieval German architecture.
Don’t just settle for a view of the exterior, however. Take the guided tour inside to visit the old Imperial assembly hall and, as expected, the “torture chamber” in the cellars below.
Records dating back to the Roman empire identify a settlement and military fort where Regensburg center is today. The romans were expert engineers and builders so it’s no wonder that some of their handiwork can still be found today. In fact, visitors can step back through time and enter the city through the oldest Roman structure in Germany, the Porta Praetoria.
Old Stone Bridge
After years of being covered up in scaffolding, the Old Stone bridge is fully restored and adding its charm and beauty to the Danube waterfront. The bridge is a shining example of medieval stonework mastery built in the mid 13th century. Why not take a stroll across the bridge and back for some beautiful views of the old town?
The Salzstadl, or salt warehouse, is a newer addition to the river front, being built in the 1600s, about 300 years after the stone bridge. Today this impressive building houses the tourist center, a museum with exhibits documenting the earliest history of the city, and a superb cafe. For a small fee, you can climb the tower for a birds-eye view of the old town.
The oldest wurst stand in Germany, possibly even the world, is located in an old builders shack steps away from the Salzstadl. The Wurstkuchl has been serving up their delicious sausages for nearly 900 years. These meaty morsels are popular with locals and tourists alike so expect a line.
Festivals and Markets
A German friend of mine once told me that Germany has five seasons-summer, fall, winter, spring and … festival season. Nowhere is this more true than in Bavaria where any reason is a good reason to have a festival. Of course, Regensburg has its fair share of festivals and markets.
Wochenmarkt (Farmer’s Market)
Like most European cities and towns, Regensburg has a weekly farmers market right in the center of the city. Farmers, butchers, and bakers come from all around the region to offer their best produce and products every Saturday morning. The market is set up in stalls, tents, and trailers in a small square behind the Basilica on Domstrasse.
The city really sparkles and shines, however, during the Christmas season. Decorations festoon street lamps and store fronts and Christmas market stalls line the squares and streets of the old town. Shoppers flock to this fairytale setting for their Christmas shopping and to enjoy Bavarian Christmas favorites like feuerzangenbowle and other mulled wines.
One of the the most romantic Christmas markets in Germany is held in Regensburg at the Thurn and Taxis castle. This market is a paid entry, but it is well worth it to visit the castle grounds and enjoy some of the best music and spirit the season has to offer. Check out our Bavarian Christmas Market Itinerary article for more market information.
Bürgerfest and More!
Festivals like the Dult in late May and again in late August, the Bürgerfest in July, and the castle’s concert and theater festival keep locals and visitors coming back for more every year. This is Bavaria, so put on your lederhosen or dirndl, and get out there and party!
Getting To and Around Regensburg
Regensburg has been a center for trade and travel since the earliest days and is still easily reached via train, bus, car, or even river cruises. Like all German cities, transportation within the city is efficiently planned and easily navigated. The nearest airports are in Munich and Nuremberg which both have excellent ground transportation connections.
Driving and Parking
Driving in Regensburg is easy and stress free. Traffic flow is controlled and well signed making it easy to get around the city. Traffic cameras watch for speeding and running red lights so most drivers follow the rules very closely. One final note of caution, avoid driving in the old town where traffic is restricted to permit holders only.
Parking can be hard to find near the old town but we have a few locations that always had available parking spots. While visitors might find a few street parking spots in the side streets, the best bet is to head right for the Market Hall. Here, the Parkhaus am Dachauplatz (D.-Martin-Luther-Straße 2, 93047 Regensburg) usually has plenty of parking at an affordable price.
Traveling by train in Europe is really the way to go. Train travelers in Bavaria should take advantage of the Deutches Bahn Bavaria Pass allowing one day of unlimited travel on all public transport anywhere in Bavaria. Use the pass for a day trip to Regensburg from Munich or Nuremberg.
Visitors not using the Bavaria pass can use city buses on a pay as you go basis or with a day pass that covers travel for up to five people (perfect for families). Bus tickets and passes can be bought at kiosks or on the bus.
When is the Best Time to Visit Regensburg?
If you’re looking for fine weather, and let’s face it who isn’t, then the best months to visit Regensburg are May and September. Of course, if you’re more interested in the Christmas markets than late November and into December are the way to go. Regardless of when you go, dress in layers and be prepared for anything.
Where to Eat
We have a few favorites in Regensburg for good, hearty German fare. Of course, at the top of the list is a plate of wurst and kraut at the Wurstkuchl. This is rustic dining on picnic tables along the river, but definitely a must for at least one meal. Wurstkuchl, Thundorferstraße 3
For a great sit down meal and an excellent local beer get a table and a glass of beer at the Regensburger Weissbraühaus. The beer at this brewpub is fresh, and goes down easily on a hot summer day. Their traditional Bavarian dishes are out of this world. Regensburger Weissbräuhaus, Schwarze-Bären-Straße 6.
Our other best bet for lunch or dinner is the Hacker-Pschorr Wirtshaus and Biergarten in the old Augustinian Monastery. Here you really are mixing history with culinary delights as you’re dining in an old 13th century monastery. How cool! Hacker-Pschorr Wirtshaus, Neupfarrplatz 15.
Best Hotels in Regensburg
There are plenty of great places to stay in Regensburg, and almost all of them are cheaper than staying in Munich. If you are driving all over Bavaria to see the sights, it’s a great place to hub. You can compare hotel prices and see what I mean.
Whether visiting Germany as part of a river cruise on the beautiful Danube, or soaking up some beer and good times at the Oktoberfest, everyone should make time for at least a one day visit to Regensburg, one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. The World Heritage old town and the classic Bavarian culture and culinary delights are sure to please.