What’s in Passau, Germany? You will be surprised – there’s a lot. We stopped in this city as part of the Danube River Cruise that we took a couple of years ago, and we would like to share with you several options, should you plan to visit.
Passau in a nut-shell
To make you appreciate Passau more, let’s start with some information we learned about this German city close to the Austrian border.
Known to many as The Three Rivers City due to its location at the Danube, Inn, and Ilz rivers’ confluence, Passau had a rich ancient Roman history. Unfortunately, the Old Town got consumed by a devastating fire in 1662. When it was rebuilt, notable Gothic and Baroque architecture became part of its much-admired treasures.
Passau tourism focuses on The Three Rivers, The Old City, and its Gothic and Baroque architecture. Sections of the Bishop’s former 13-century fortress (Veste Oberhaus and the Veste Niederhaus), located atop a mountain between the Danube and the Ilz, dominates the city. Its location provides a perfect vantage view of Passau.
How to Get There
We got straight to Passau after our stop at Regensberg as part of our Danube Cruise. If you are flying in, the nearest airport to Passau is Linz (LNZ). However, most people pass through Munich (MUC).
You can also reach Passau by train, bus, rideshare, or driving from either Linz or Munich. If you like to drive and enjoy the scenic countryside, you can rent a car for the trip. Here is a useful resource you can check out if you opt for the latter.
When Best to Visit
Passau’s location and relatively temperate weather make the city a perfect tourist destination the whole year-round.
- Summer (May to September): This is an excellent season to visit Passau and enjoy outdoor activities, with daily high temperatures averaging above 22 degrees Celsius. The city’s location on the Danube River makes it a popular spot for summer tourism from the river cruises. Note, though, that July is the busiest month for tourism in Passau, so expect hotels and flights to be more expensive during these months.
- Winters (November to February): This is typically off-season. However, if you prefer the colder weather (average temperature below 7 degrees Celsius), December is a great time to visit and immerse yourself with the locals and enjoy the Christmas markets.
- Spring (March to May) and Autumn (October to November): Nature blooms during Spring and Autumn offer pleasant weather, perfect for strolls through the Old Town and the other attractions. These are also shoulder seasons with the least boat traffic and visitors and relatively lower price tags on accommodations and flights.
As we have previously shared, we always time our European vacations during shoulder season. With less crowd and beautiful weather to enjoy the sights, October has become a favorite month, and our cruise’s timing couldn’t be more perfect.
Where to Stay in Passau
We did not have to book separate accommodation during our stop at Passau – one of the benefits of being on a river cruise.
If you visit Passau, not through a river cruise, there are plenty of available options. These would include hotels, apartments, bed & breakfast, hostels, or other budget accommodation facilities. The choice is yours. Booking your accommodation can be quickly done online. There are several online booking platforms available. You need to check out the best hotel booking site to search for your accommodation of choice.
Things to do in Passau Germany
Now let’s get on the options we had during our river cruise stop in Passau, Germany. We had one onshore excursion as part of the cruise package and optional tours that we can book through them in addition to or as a replacement of the included one.
The major ones we considered were:
Walk the Streets of Passau
Our cruise package included this onshore excursion. The tour takes you through the distinctive Italianate-style streets of Passau that showcases a pastel rainbow of building facades along the way. You will swoon over the impressive architecture of the Bishops’ Residenz, the 14th-century Rathaus (Town Hall), as well as the 17th-century Baroque wonder St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
After the guided tour, you will have free time to explore the rest of the city on your own. Or, you can go for other optional tours as your schedule allows.
Explore Bavaria by e-Bike
If you love nature and the countryside landscape, you can head out of Passau by e-Bike along the Inn River. After a few minutes out of the city limits, you will find yourself in farm fields and small riverside forests. Germany and Austria flank the banks of the Inn river. As such, you can head out from Passau in one country, then return through another.
Hike and Explore the Passau Hills
This optional tour allows you to marvel at Passau’s sublime setting at the confluence of three rivers from hills that gives you the best vantage points in the city.
Explore Mariahilf Hill, named after the pilgrimage church above the Inn River. According to legend, the Habsburg Emperor Leopold I prayed to St. Mary to lift Vienna’s Ottoman siege. Pilgrims have flocked to the church in the light of the miracle, and that tradition continues up to now. You will then hike down the hill and cross the Inn to explore the ancient Bishop’s see. You can also hike up the Veste Oberhaus, the mighty fortress perched atop St. George’s Hill, a peninsula between the Ilz and Danube Rivers. After enjoying the city’s spectacular views and surroundings, you will visit the museum inside the fortress.
Below is a nice video that provides a peek into the city of Passau.
Immerse in a Bavarian Beerfest
Bavaria is famous for its rich centuries-old tradition of brewing beer, regulated by a purity decree known as the Reinheitsgebot. Things may have changed over time that resulted in the lifting of some of the rules. However, there are still purists around that brew some of the world’s finest beers in this tradition.
This optional tour allows you to participate in a festive Oktoberfest-style celebration on a sprawling riverside Bavarian farm. You will get the vibe of an authentic German party with traditional music and locally brewed beer. You can even join in the dancing and savor German favorites such as pretzels and local ham.
Fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle by Plane
If you want to see the famous fairy-tale castle of Neuschwanstein that inspired Walt Disney and enjoy a flight over the surrounding countryside, this optional tour is for you.
History tells us that Ludwig II of Bavaria insisted that the castle’s name and design reference the Swan Knight, one of the characters created by the world-renowned composer Richard Wagner, who he admired. You will admire the castle’s beautiful inner garden, which is surrounded by a walled courtyard, as well as the interior decor of the castle’s rooms.
You will have time to explore the beautiful Hohenschwangau valley, have lunch at a local restaurant, and enjoy free leisure before your trip back to Passau.
Head Out to Salzburg
Another fantastic optional tour is a visit to Salzburg, one of Austria’s most picturesque alpine cities, the location of the movie The Sound of Music, and Mozart’s birthplace. The drive from Passau to Salzburg will take you past charming mountain villages, rolling hills, and pristine lakes. The ride and the whole visit take the entire day.
The movie Sound of Music is an all-time family favorite. We do not fail to watch the film when it runs on cable now and then. Visiting the filming location was a chance in a lifetime for us, so we chose to do this tour. Check out our separate post on that experience.
History, art, authentic German food, the local market finds. These are some of the exciting things to do in Passau, Germany. You will even have the opportunity to be in Germany and Austria in one day.
Whether it is part of a river cruise, a road trip, or a getaway vacation to this part of Europe, your options on how to spend and optimize your stay are unlimited. We hope this post will entice you to start planning your trip to Passau, other parts of Bavaria, or Austria’s nearby cities close to the German border. Check out available resources through the search facility below.
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