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The Emerald Experience > River and city guides > Passau City Guide

Passau City Guide

Guide to the German city of Passau, famous for being in the confluence of three rivers

Affectionately known as the city of three rivers, Passau is largely characterised by its superb location on the confluence on the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers. Paired with the wonderfully preserved baroque architecture, and the domineering 13th century hilltop fortress, Veste Oberhaus; Passau becomes a charming and enchanting city to approach by water, and explore by foot. 

Like many riverside towns and cities, Passau was originally selected as a settlement thanks to its strategic positioning, and remains of the original Roman-built fortress can still be explored today. Rich in history, centuries of Bavarian culture can be explored as you navigate your way around this charming, small city.

Typical of the cities of Bavaria, Passau’s architecture is wonderfully without uniform, as colourful buildings have seemingly erected themselves atop and aside one another – creating a charmingly authentic spectacle.

Despite its city status, Passau is a relatively small settlement, with a population of around 50,000 people and a centre which can be easily explored on foot. Many of the city’s highlights line the three rivers which fork through Passau, accommodating culturally stimulating strolls along the banks of the waterways.

Thanks to the close proximity of Passau to the borders of the Czech Republic and Austria, the city enjoys a multicultural atmosphere. And although the population is only made up of a small percentage of students, the historic city remains vibrant with a large number of traditionally appointed restaurants and beerhalls on offer.

If you’re lucky enough to drop anchor in Passau during the summer months, the city boasts a large number of beer gardens, allowing you to enjoy the German sun with a Bavarian beer. There truly is no more authentic way to pay homage to the Bavarian region when holidaying within the Passau city limits.   

Must See Sights

Alongside the three rivers of Passau, the beautiful old streets of this small city possess endless wonders to explore and enjoy.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

The baroque 17th century church of Passau, St. Stephen’s Cathedral has long been the seat of the Catholic Bishop of Passau. The exterior and interior of the cathedral have both been ornately decorated – befitting the historical status of the city. The massive organ and grand bells alone make the Cathedral a wonderful site to explore on a sunny Passau afternoon.

Veste Oberhaus

The 13th century fortress which predates most of Passau, Veste Oberhaus cuts a protective figure above the city streets and locals. Founded in 1219, the fortress sits between the Danube and the Ilz atop the St. Georgsberg mountain crest, and has been updated and upgraded innumerate times over the centuries.

With no modern threats on Passau’s horizon, Veste Oberhaus has been turned into a museum of the city, an art gallery, restaurant and youth hostel – providing a great insight into the history of Passau. The wonderfully white building includes a number of open courtyards within the fortified walls, providing a splendid stroll through history.

The Glass Museum

Locally known as Passauer Glasmuseum, Passau’s glass museum boasts one of the world’s largest glassware collections. The 30,000 pieces which have pride of place throughout the museum’s exhibitions include artworks from baroque, Rococo, Empire, Biedermeier, historicism, art nouveau and art deco and modern eras.

The museum was opened in 1985 by the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, attracting adoring visitors in their droves every year since.

Artists’ Alley

Running parallel to the Danube is a small cobbled street known affectionately as Artists’ Alley. Home to a grand number of small local art shops and exhibitions, the alley is a great place to slowly peruse, and maybe pick up a souvenir or two.

The alley itself has even become a work of art, with local artists adorning the cobbles with coloured patterns, creating a wonderful view and helping guide visitors through the street. 

Innpromenade

Whether you’re on foot or cycle, the Innpromenade is a beautiful route alongside the river Inn. Winding alongside the banks of the waterway, the Innpromenade explores parks, ancient tunnels and tree-lined streets. On a sunny summer day with the plant life in full bloom, there are few more romantic routes to traverse with the other half in all of Germany.

Dotted throughout the route is a number of small eateries and shops, giving you the chance to stop for light refreshment or retail therapy.

And the undoubted highlight of Innpromenade is the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz – a truly unique and wondrous spectacle. 

Fast Facts

Despite its relatively modest size, Passau boasts some wonderful records, charming facts and bewildering stats – here are a few of our favourites.

  • Passau is home to the world’s largest cathedral organ. The pipe organ within St. Stephen’s Cathedral possesses 17,774 pipes and 233 registers.
  • The University of Passau, founded in 1973, is the youngest university in Bavaria.
  • But it has earned a reputation as Germany’s best university for studying English Law.
  • Passau is twinned with the wonderfully named New Jersey town of Hackensack.
  • The statue of a young woman on the banks of the Danube in Passau is Emerenz Meier, an author and poet born in the city.
  • It’s possible to walk to Austria in just 20 minutes from Passau’s city centre.
  • Passau hosts the most Bavarian of events, a beer festival, twice a year with rides, beer halls and bands.
  • The city centre is largely pedestrianised, perfect for a little window shopping and exploration.
  • Maypole climbing races are a popular event amongst the men of Passau, challenged to climb to the top of the maypole and ring the attached bell.
  • Food is served throughout the day in the Bavarian restaurants of Passau, lending itself perfectly to a Bavarian tapas experience.