Here Are Some Classic Things to Do in Passau!
Are you heading for the south of Germany? A stop in Passau might be a great idea! This beautiful small city sits where three rivers meet – and has its own beautiful castle, charming old town, and natural beauty.
We really liked our time in Passau. We visited on an extended trip through Germany and Austria and got to do the hike up to the castle, see the famous cathedral, and admire a few other sights. It’s also a popular city to visit on a Danube River cruise!
So, this post is all about our time in Passau and some of the best things to do there. Whether you are visiting in the summer to see the Veste Oberhaus (Castle) or in the winter for the Christmas markets, there’s something in Passau for lots of different interests!
We’ve got many other helpful articles on visiting Germany so be sure to check them out:
- Must-Knows for First-Time Germany Travel
- Learning Useful German Phrases
- Great Things to Do in Regensburg, Germany (coming soon!)
If you want to see a short video about our visit to Passau, you can watch it on YouTube here.
Things To Know When Visiting Passau, Germany
Before we dive into all the things that you can do in Passau, we thought it would be helpful to tell you a little bit about Passau and share some trip planning advice for Passau. This includes the best time to visit, where to stay in Passau, and other details.
Interesting fact: Passau is a city in the south of Germany – very, very close to the Austrian border. The city was settled on a long strip of land and is popular because it was established at the point where three rivers – the Danube River, the Inn River, and the Ilz River – meet! This unique geography is why the city got its name as “The Three Rivers City”.
The city has a rich Roman history, was basically completely burned down in 1662, and the more recent Old Town was re-built/established in the 17th century. This is reflected in the architecture, cobblestone alleyways, and notable buildings like St. Stephan’s Cathedral!
Best Time to Visit Passau
Located in the south of Germany but still a little far from the mountains, Passau has a pretty normal seasonal rotation. This means that if you want summer heat you can confidently aim for summer and if you want Christmas markets with (potentially) snow you can aim for December.
As mentioned above, the location on the Danube River means that the city is a popular spot for summer tourism from the river cruises – notably Viking River Cruises. We visited in the late summer and honestly, it wasn’t too busy but we did see a number of walking tours walk through the Old Town.
If you want to avoid the boat traffic and related visitors, you might consider the shoulder season of the spring or fall – with fall definitely being a pretty time to visit the region. Of course, if you visit in December, you get to explore Christmas in Passau and potentially other stops on your trip!
Getting To/Around Passau
Passau is pretty easy to get to. The city – located in the German state of Bavaria – is right on the border with Austria and a short driving distance from larger centres like Munich and Linz. If you travel by car, there are a number of parking lots/spaces available close to the river.
If you are travelling to Passau on the train, the main train station is to the west end of the city centre – west of the Old Town. We actually walked to the Old Town from the station and it only took approximately 20 minutes to the heart of it (Residenzplatz). The FlixBus stop was also right in front of the train station on Bahnhofstraße.
Because of the proximity to Austria, the train station has both DB Bahn as well as OBB (Austrian train company) machines and counters you can buy tickets from. Depending on where you’re coming from (and your next destination), it’s worth checking out ticket prices from both companies since they can differ noticeably. We compared prices online before we bought our tickets from Passau to Linz and were able to save quite a bit of money that way.
It should be noted that the Danube River path is very popular with cyclists on multi-day bike tours so you can also definitely get to Passau on a bike. It’s a very common mode of transport that the city is familiar with – there were multiple bikes happily parked inside our hotel’s front entrance.
Once you are in Passau, the city (and especially the Old Town) is very walkable with many pedestrian-only streets and pathways that follow the city perimeter. Walking along the rivers is a lovely experience.
Passau also has a transit system made up of buses. There is a central bus station located at the east end of the train station (south of the Stadtgalerie Passau shopping mall). You can check the official transit website for Passau to learn about fares and routes.
Where To Stay In Passau
Even though Passau is a smaller city, there are still a number of accommodations to choose from if you are staying a night or two. Particularly, there are a number of authentic hotels and guesthouses located in the heart of the Old Town and the river banks surrounding it.
>> You can check here for hotels in Passau.
We booked a little bit last minute at the end of the summer but still had a great stay at Hotel Wilder Mann. The hotel had a very authentic feel and was clean and secure. It was located right beside the Old Town Hall (Rathaus) with views of the Castle directly from the front of the hotel. It’s also VERY close to the main boat docks for river cruises.
Fun Fact: The Passau Glass Museum is actually located IN the hotel, so that’s pretty neat to explore if you have the time! More on the museum below in this post.
One thing we’d suggest is to book in advance if you are going to Passau in the summer because cruisers and bikers can create a significant demand for accommodations. If you want another great hotel option right in the heart of the Old Town, check out Altstadt-Hotel Passau.
If you are looking for a hostel or budget accommodation, there is actually a top hostel (HI Hostel Jugendherberge Passau) located at the Veste Oberhaus (Castle) up on the hill overlooking the city!
Friendly Disclosure: We paid for our hotel stay ourselves and were not told to include it in this article. This is our legitimate review.
Things To Do In Passau, Germany
Now that we’ve gone over a few key points to know when planning a trip to Passau, here is a list of the things that you can do and visit while there. The city isn’t huge so there isn’t a TON to do and see but there’s certainly enough to keep you busy for a day or two. The city also makes a great place for a tranquil retreat by the water!
Explore the Old Town
Also known as the Altstadt, a visit to Passau isn’t complete without a true wander of the Old Town. It’s a very pretty city centre with a distinct Baroque architecture throughout. This current layout and many of the buildings are from a similar time frame because the city suffered a devastating fire in the year 1662!
On your wander through the Old Town, you shouldn’t miss the Residenzplatz (or Residence Square). This “heart of the Old Town” is where you can see the Cathedral, Residence Building, cafes, shops, and a central fountain known as Wittelsbacherbrunnen (shown above).
If you didn’t already notice from the photo above, there are a number of notable places of worship all around the city. Some of the highlights are the Church of St Michael, the Gisella Templom, St. Stephan’s Cathedral (mentioned below), and St.Paul’s Church – all shown above. Close to St. Paul’s Church, you can hang out at Rindermarkt which is a nice area with cafes and shops.
>> If you want to learn more about the city centre and the Old Town, consider booking a 1-Hour Guided Passau Walking Tour!
Stand at the Dreiflüsseeck
Of course, you can’t come to Passau and not stand at the “Dreiflüsseeck”! Roughly translated to “point where three rivers meet” this very tip of the city overlooks where the rivers continue on as just the mighty Danube River. You can actually see the different river speeds collide as they become one flow.
While admittedly the Danube and the Inn are the main rivers that collide, the Ilz does factor in to make the point a unique spot. The point itself also has a nice little green park to hang out in which is quite pleasant. There’s also a playground if you travel to Passau with kids.
Walk the River Promenades
Because the rivers play such a large role in shaping the city (pun intended), the waterfront pathways are worth exploring while in Passau. You really get the scale of the city and the uniqueness of the geography if you go for a wander.
For reference, the river on the north side of the city centre is the Danube while the river on the south edge of the city is the Inn. To walk along the rivers from the Old Town, head north to hit the water (it won’t take long) and then follow the Danube east along the Donaukai to the Dreiflüsseeck. Across the river, you’ll see Ilzstadt (an area) and the Castle up on the hill.
Go around the point and now follow the Inn River heading east along Innkai. To the south across the river you will see Innstadt (an area) as you follow the old city walls. As you walk the south side along the Inn, you will come upon the Schabling tower (shown below). You’ll end up under the Marienbrücke (bridge) with a green space in front of you.
This green space has a metallic looking sculpture by the water. This is called the “Mahnmal für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus” which translates roughly to “The Memorial for the Victims of the Nazi Regime”.
The little park along the Inn is a tranquil place that faces across the river to the Kirche Mariahilf (mentioned below). There are benches to have a nice rest, a large play area for kids (search for Spielplatz an der Innpromenade), and loads of birds – mainly ducks and pigeons all getting along which was fun!
Hike up to the Veste Oberhaus + Museum
Once you’re done walking the river paths to get your bearings, it’s time to get back to the Danube side of the city and head up to that large castle on the hill – Veste Oberhaus!
Founded and built back in the year 1219, the castle was celebrating its 800th year birthday when we visited! Today, the Castle is a top attraction in Passau with a Museum and other things that you can visit.
To get up there, you have two options: You can hike up the stairs/pathways from the foot of the Danube OR you can hop on a shuttle/tour bus that leaves from the Old Town.
We opted to hike to snap photos along the way. If you are able to do it, it’s a great exercise and worth the climb. There are even little lizards on the rocks that were looking to catch some sunshine. The paths are well-marked by signs. To begin your hike just cross the Luitpoldbrücke and look for the staircase in front of you.
At the top, you can explore the castle museum which covers the history of the castle. The Observatory Tower is another point to visit. There is also a Castle App you can download that is basically JUST about the Castle so that’s handy to have! You can learn all about visiting the Castle at the official website for Veste Oberhaus.
Aside from the castle itself, the views from up there are just gorgeous. We’ve already shared a photo in this post – and there’s another one in the next section for you to see. There is also a restaurant up there – but we will get to that, too!
It should be noted that there is another smaller little “castle-like” building on the river that seems to be in the shadow of the Veste Oberhaus. This is the Veste Niederhaus – which is a later addition to the larger castle complex.
Veste Niederhaus was built where the Ilz River and the Danube meet. Presumably, this was for strategic importance as the two structures are connected via a long battlement that runs up the hill! The Niederhaus is not open to the public but it adds to the history of the complex.
Address Veste Oberhaus: Oberhaus 125, 94034 Passau, Germany
Enjoy a Pint at the Oberhaus Restaurant
Honestly, we wouldn’t usually slot in a restaurant or cafe as a “thing to do” unless it’s a classic food or drink to try or an overall experience worth writing about. Having a pint (or bite to eat) at Das Oberhaus is absolutely worth mentioning.
Once you are up there visiting the Castle, this restaurant and beer garden is right beside the lookout where you get the best views of the city. So, if you fancy yourself a little sit down for a rest, this is the place to do it. There’s even a playground onsite if you travel to Passau with kids.
The nice thing is that you don’t even have to explore the Castle to enjoy the restaurant and views – you can just go up there for a beer, meal, dessert, or otherwise. There’s a large bright interior dining area and lots of patio seats outside. Prices weren’t even that expensive given the potential “touristy” allure of the place.
We got a table right up against the edge overlooking the city – and it was honestly fantastic. This was also towards the end of our experience in Passau so overall it was a perfect way to sit under the shade, see the city, and have a cold one!
Address: Oberhaus 1, 94034 Passau, Germany
Check Out St. Stephan’s Cathedral
If you are visiting Passau, there’s a good chance you will not miss its massive cathedral sitting in what feels like the middle of the Old Town. This is St. Stephan’s Cathedral – and it is definitely worth a visit!
Built back in the mid-1600s – after fire destroyed the one before it – the cathedral was completed in around 1693. Today, you can go inside to visit or worship and admire the beautiful frescoes. You can see the exterior is also very beautiful with the green domes visible from afar.
The other big reason people know the Cathedral is because of the pipe organ inside. With almost 18,000 pipes, this organ used to be the world’s largest pipe organ! Unfortunately, the organ has been surpassed but the organ in St. Stephan’s Cathedral still holds the title of the world’s largest church organ.
As such a notable place to visit and thing to experience, you can actually attend organ concerts throughout the year. We didn’t get to hear one but we really want to the next time we visit! You can learn more about the Cathedral on the official website.
>> If you want to dive deeper into this special building, you can do a Guided Tour of the Cathedral!
Behind the museum, you will find Domplatz – or Cathedral Square – which is where Passau hosts its Christmas market if you visit in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Passau in winter would be super lovely with the water and ice and old town colours. You can learn more about the Christmas markets here.
Address: Domplatz, 94032 Passau, Germany
Visit the Old Town Hall (Rathaus)
Back at the north side of the Old Town, you will find a tower close to the Danube. This is the tower of the Old Town Hall which was under renovations when we visited. That said, it’s a beautiful clock tower that makes a good photograph.
Inside the old town hall, there isn’t much to see but you can gaze upon some extravagant paintings inside the interior halls. The building is in use as an administrative building for Passau so it’s functioning and not too much of an “attraction”.
However, as with many of the old town halls you’ll find across Germany, there is a restaurant/brewhouse located inside of it. These places can be a good spot to usually find an authentic (sometimes slightly touristy) German meal and experience. Passau is no different with Löwen Brauhaus Passau located right at Rathausplatz (Town Hall Square).
Address: Rathauspl. 2, 94032 Passau, Germany
Explore the Glass Museum
Once you are done looking at the Town Hall tower or having a sit down on the patio square, why not go and look at some glass? The Passau Glass Museum – located across the street from the Town Hall IN the Hotel Wilder Mann (where we stayed) – has quite the collection to see.
Inside, you can check out around 15,000 pieces of glassware on display! These pieces range from different time periods so you can see different designs from the 1700s all the way to the 1950s.
In case you are interested: The museum actually has over 30,000 pieces in its collection but not enough space to showcase it all at once! If you are interested in visiting the Glass Museum, you can learn more about visiting here.
Address: Schrottgasse 2, 94032 Passau, Germany
Visit the Museum of Modern Art
If you are a fan of modern art, then you might be surprised to know that there’s a Museum of Modern Art in Passau. Known as the Museum Moderner Kunst in German, this museum by the Danube river specializes in 20th-century art and also art from this century.
The museum also features art from local artists and can have rotating exhibits (like photography) so there might be something going on that interests you when you stop by. You can learn more about visiting on the official website.
Address: Bräugasse 17, 94032 Passau, Germany
Walk the Höllgasse Artists Street
Known as the Künstlergasse in German, there’s a street/alleyway in Passau that is home to a number of artist galleries, artisan shops, and other things to check out. This cobblestone street is easy to spot because there are painted stones to follow – how fitting.
We actually had a little wander along the street but didn’t go inside any of the shops because we were running out of time. We usually like to have a look at what locals are up to in towns/cities so we will have to do that next time!
Address: Höllgasse 16-18, 94032 Passau, Germany (follow the paint!)
Enjoy the Passau Dachshund Museum
If you are looking for a unique thing to do in Passau – or you are a lover of doggies – then you should visit the Passau Dachshund Museum, called Dackelmuseum in German. This museum is located just around the corner from Residenzplatz in the Old Town and is dedicated to the wiener dog!
Inside, you will see everything connected to this tiny breed of dog – from statues and figurines to photos, postcards, and more. In fact, the museum boasts the world’s biggest collection of wiener dog-related memorabilia – with more than 4,500 pieces on display!
So, if you yourself own a wiener dog OR you know someone with one, definitely stop by to grab then a souvenir and support a local museum in their quest to showcase the greatness of the wiener dog! You can learn more about visiting here.
Address: Große Messergasse 1, 94032 Passau, Germany
Explore the Cathedral Treasury Museum
Known as the Museum am Dom in German, this unique museum is actually located in the linking building between the Cathedral and the Prince Bishop’s Residence building.
Inside, there are over 200 artifacts (cups, paintings, and other items) in the Large Hall that act to showcase the complex historical timeline of history and religion in the small city over approximately 800 years! You can learn more about the museum at the website here.
Address: Residenzpl. 8, 94032 Passau, Germany
Go on a Danube River Boat Cruise
Once you are done on land, you might want to get out on the water to experience the area. In fact, you might be in Passau for the very reason of catching a cruise!
Whatever the case, you can hop on a boat and head down the river on a short cruise to see the natural beauty of the surrounding area. Check out the Three Rivers Sightseeing Cruise for this kind of experience. You can also use the cruise as a way to get to another city on your trip like Linz, Austria which is down the Danube from Passau.
There are a few boat cruises to choose from depending on the season you are visiting and the length of the cruise you are looking for. You can learn about all cruise types on this official website for the Danube cruises from Passau.
Address: Aim for “Anlegestelle A11” at 94032 Passau, Germany but there are more docks
Wander the Roman Museum Castle Boiotro
Known as the RömerMuseum Kastell Boiotro in German, this open-air museum and physical museum building are located on the grounds of an old fort from the year 300!
Today, you can check out the old defensive walls and watchtowers which have been preserved to take you back in time. Inside the actual museum, there are a number of artifacts and exhibits which allow you to get a glimpse of the history of the site, the area, and the people who once called it home. You can learn more about visiting at the website here.
Address: Lederergasse 43, 94032 Passau, Germany
Pro Tip: If you are over visiting the museum, there is a pretty little church – Kirche St. Severin – which is close by to see, too. It’s near the Severinstor (an old stone tower).
Hike to Wallfahrtskirche Mariahilf
Last – but certainly not least – is a beautiful place to visit upon a hillside – the pilgrimage church Mariahilf. Founded in the year 1622, the church, towers, fountain, and overall complex were added to over the course of the 1600s.
There is a staircase leading up the hill that is made up of 321 steps. At the top, you can also get great views of the rivers and city below – but from the other side than the Castle mentioned above! If you want to learn more about a visit, you can visit the website here.
Address: Mariahilfberg 3, 94032 Passau, Germany
And there you have it – some of the top things to do in Passau. The city isn’t huge but we would say there’s enough to see and do if you are stopping through for one to three days. We really liked the city and would recommend a visit to this unique part of Germany!
As always, Happy Passau Waddlin’,
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