Like most places in the world, Bavaria is far more than the stereotypical pretzels, leiderhosen, and beer steins. When exploring the region this autumn, I had the chance to visit Regensburg – a mid-sized city with an amazingly well-preserved history and vibrant tourism industry.
Most people who visit Regensburg come aboard a river cruise ship, but it’s enjoyable and worthwhile to visit however you can. Whether you want to dive into the history like I did, eat delicious Bavarian food, or just wander around the UNESCO World Heritage Site that makes up most of old town Regensburg… you can! Regensburg has it all, and is easy to get to. Here’s everything you need to start planning your trip to visit Regensburg.
A Sneak Peek of Regensburg
Take a look at Regensburg in this video I made during my stay!
The History of Regensburg
For a history lover like me, Regensburg has a fascinating story. Settlement at Regensburg, near the confluence of the Danube, Naab, and Regen rivers, dates back to the Stone Age. The Romans established a settlement as early as 179 AD, and Regensburg played an important role for the Roman Empire through the early 1000s AD.
In the Middle Ages, Regensburg was a star in the trade industry, being located conveniently along both rivers and overland trade routes. During this time, tradesmen and craftsmen from across the world came through Regensburg. This helps explain why so much architecture is influenced by Venetian and southern European design, as well as why so many craftsmen still call Regensburg home.
Regensburg was a Free Imperial City through most of this period, meaning it was only accountable to the Holy Roman Emperor, rather than state or federal legislation. The city was also home to the Imperial Diets (formal assembly) where all ambassadors came together to discuss policy and other government issues. This culminated in the Perpetual Diet of Regensburg, from 1663 to 1806, and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.
Without getting too much in the weeds, some other important historical notes about Regensburg:
- It is the location of the Thurn & Taxis palace, where the massively influential family is still present.
- The old town of Regensburg avoided destruction in the bombings of World War II, but nearby factories and airfields were destroyed.
- Regensburg Old Town has UNESCO World Heritage Site status, and is celebrating the 10th anniversary of their status in 2016.
- Oskar Schindler is one of many refugees of World War II who once called Regensburg home.
I could go on ad nauseam about the fascinating history of this mid-sized Bavarian town; instead, read more on Wikipedia. Or, if you’re in Regensburg, book a walking tour with Ms. Ann Hiley, author of Regensburg: A Short History.
What to See & Do in Regensburg
The highlight of visiting Regensburg is exploring the old town. Even if you have no other itinerary, it’s possible to spend several hours wandering the cobbled streets and window shopping. The old town isn’t very large, taking 15-20 minutes to walk from end to end, but it’s a labyrinth of alleys and narrow roads.
There are plenty of spots to stop and enjoy the scenery, too. Be sure to visit the old stone bridge across the Danube river. It offers great views of the city, and you can explore the parts of Regensburg on the other side of the river.
If you want some more structured activities to spend your time:
- Visit St. Peter’s Cathedral: Regensburg’s main cathedral is home to one of the largest collections of medieval stained glass in Europe. It’s truly impressive to walk into the massive dark interior and spend time examining each window in turn – there are a lot of them.
- Tour the Imperial Diet Museum: Interested in more history? Take a tour of the Imperial Diet Museum, including the old assembly hall and prison cells. You’ll learn more about Regensburg history than you can possibly fit into your brain.
- Cruise on the Danube to Walhalla: With the river so close at hand, it’s tempting to explore farther afield. Book a spot on the sparkling Kristalprinzessin ship operated by Donauschiffahrt Würm & Koch. The cruise takes a few hours, and allows you to see or stop at Walhalla, a beautiful neo-Romanesque hall of fame to German history.
Where to Eat & Drink in Regensburg
Since the era when Regensburg was a famous trade stop and hosted Imperial Diets, a variety of travelers have brought delicious food to the city. There are far more restaurants and biergartens than I could list in this section, but here are some of my favorites.
Haus Heuport: With a beautiful view of St. Peter’s Cathedral, this restaurant walks a delicate line between fine dining and medieval dining hall. They specialize in Bavarian dishes, delicious ingredients, and great service. (Domplatz 7)
Dicker Mann: A more traditional option, Dicker Mann feels a lot like an English pub, but is distinctly German in their menu offerings and beer choices. A great spot for schnitzel or goulash along with a cup of grog to warm you up on a cold day. (Krebsgasse 6)
Wurstkuchl: One of the greatest sausage restaurants, and one of the oldest continually operating restaurants, in the world. Naturally, they specialize in sausages, usually boiled, and served in portions of six, eight, or 10 per order – along with sauerkraut and mustard. There’s nearly always a line. (Thundorferstraße 3)
Hans im Glück: A more modern option, they offer delicious burgers and fries in a funky atmosphere. A true hipster hot spot, you can get boozy drinks, sweet potato fries, and their special Hans im Glück sauce. Technically they’re a franchise/chain restaurant, but worth it anyway. (Kohlenmarkt 6)
Other great restaurants I didn’t have a chance to try:
- Storstad (Watmarkt 5) – Fine, modern German dining
- Weltenburger am Dom (Domplatz 3) – Traditional beer garden & burgers
- Regensburger Weissbrauhaus (Schwarze-Bären-Straße 6) – Bavarian & German food & beer
Where to Stay in Regensburg
As a popular spot for travelers in Bavaria, there are plenty of accommodation options. Here are some highlights:
- Hotel Jakob: Located on the Western edge of the old town, the Hotel Jakob is a classic European hotel with modern, spacious rooms. Continental breakfast is included, and the general manager is wonderfully hospitable. From €88 per night. (Jakobstraße 14)
- Dicker Mann: Located above the Dicker Mann restaurant, there are a small number of rooms available for booking each night – right in the heart of the old town. Rooms are updated and each has a theme (such as “Little China in Regensburg” and “Italian Fireplace Room”). From €95 per night. (Krebsgasse 6)
- Bischofshof Braustuben: A little ways outside the old town (accessible by car), this family-run hotel and brewery are great if you have more time and want to experience more than just the historic city center. From €115 per night. (Dechbettener Strasse 50)
- Castle Hotel Regensburg: Steps from the palace of Thurn & Taxis, this low-cost hotel/hostel/B&B is a great option for budget travelers. Nothing fancy, but it covers all the basics and is well located for exploring the city. From €69 for a single, or €120 for an apartment. (St.-Peters-Weg 3)
How to Get to Regensburg
Regensburg is located in the northeastern part of Bavaria, roughly 45-minutes from the Czech border. There are several ways to get to Regensburg for your visit.
- By boat: If you’re coming by river cruise, you likely have accommodation and most of your itinerary planned. Cruises come into port just outside the city and provide transport into the old town for your explorations.
- By plane & car: The nearest airports to Regensburg are Munich, Nurnberg, and Stuttgart. From there, you will need to rent a car (or take the train, below) to reach Regensburg. Regensburg is at the intersection of A3 and A93.
- By train: Train is the easiest way to reach Regensburg by land. You can reach Regensburg by taking a 90-minute train direct from Munich, or a 30-minute train direct from Nurnberg. Book on Bahn.de.