The Top 16 Things to Do in Passau, Germany

Located between three rivers and heaven, Passau is a city of natural beauty and religious pilgrimage. Founded over 2,000 years ago, this is one of the oldest cities in Bavaria, an important point in Roman history, and a popular cruise ship stop.

Located on the border with Austria, it is known as the "City of Three Rivers," as Inn, Ilz, and Danube all meet here among rolling hills. Its strategic position made it a city of great wealth from Roman to modern times, and its scenic landscapes and northern Italian-style buildings make it a top destination in Germany, also known as the "Venice of Bavaria."

Explore every corner of the city with the top 16 things to do in Passau.

01 of 16

View the Meeting Point of Three Rivers

Passau's three rivers, Danube, Inn and Ilz

GettyImages / westend61

9640 Passau, Austria

Passau is also known as the Dreiflüssestadt, which means the "City of Three Rivers." It is because the Danube, Inn, and Ilz all intersect here in a picturesque setting.

The waters whirl together here, each providing a different color. You can admire it from above on the city's hills or walk alongside it on the Innpromenade. The path is a joy for pedestrians and bikers, while the grassy area is ideal for lounging and picnics. Look for the statue of Emerenz Meier, a local author, and poet.

02 of 16

See the Biggest Organ in Europe

Dom zu Passau


Michael Fuchs/Getty Images 

Stephansplatz 3, Innere Stadt 1010 Wien, Austria
Phone +43 1 515523530

St. Stephen's Cathedral (Dom St. Stephan) is a stunning centerpiece of the city with its spectacular tiled roof and spire poking into the sky. This church has stood in this spot since 730, and it is the largest baroque cathedral north of the Alps—but the real treasure lies inside.

This is the home to one of the largest church organs in the world. The first organ was constructed in 1733 and has been added to throughout the centuries. It now has almost 18,000 pipes, over 200 registers, and four chimes. It consists of five different organs that are connected through six different consoles, some using mechanical action and others relying on more modern electric action. One master organist can play the entire instrument.

A 30-minute concert is held daily at noon from May to October, except on Sundays and holidays. This is enough time to relax to the music and admire the ornate baroque decoration and frescos. If you need more time, there are also longer evening concerts on Thursdays.

03 of 16

Look Down from a Fortress

Veste Oberhaus (fortress) in Passau

GettyImages /  Norbert Eisele-Hein


Oberhaus 125, 94034 Passau, Germany
Phone +49 851 396800

The best view of Passau and the rivers is from the fortress atop the hill. Veste Oberhaus was built in 1219 on St. Georgsberg. It was meant to display the power of the Holy Roman Empire that once extended to this region. Its strategic location over this junction of rivers was an excellent defensive position, and today is the premiere viewpoint.

The fortress reflects the changing styles of the times, from gothic to renaissance to baroque. This beautiful building holds a showcase of the history and art of Passau in a museum environment. It also is home to a youth hostel (Jugendherberge ), a restaurant, and an open-air theater.

If you prefer to skip the climb, there are shuttle buses available from the center.

04 of 16

Climb the Heavenly Ladder

Passau's Mariahilf Monastery

GettyImages / Raimund Kutter


Passau offers a staircase up to the sky. The heavenly ladder of 321 covered steps takes pious visitors up the Mariahilf Monastery. Traditionally, pilgrims kneel and pray at each step.

Once you've reached the monastery, visitors can explore the complex. Its simple design takes advantage of the views and includes a Rococo chapel, paintings by Bergler, and remnants of wars against the Turks. The old sacristy has a pilgrimage museum with a silver treasury.

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05 of 16

Step Back into Roman Times

Passau's roots reach back to Roman times. The area was settled sometime between 250 to 450 AD and was the Episcopal seat of the Roman Empire in 739 AD.

Artifacts and excavations are now on display at the Römermuseum. The site was discovered in 1974, and the museum was opened in 1982. A film offers insight into the development of the archaeological site along with 600 exhibits.

Outside, there is a playground to entertain kids who have had enough of history.

06 of 16

Snap a Picture of the Tower

Schaiblingsturm in Passau

GettyImages / westend61


Schaibling Tower (or Schaiblingsturm) is an easily identifiable landmark of Passau. Its crisp white outline against the river and sky is a relic from when it was built as a fortified tower in the 14th century. It also protected against the waves in the harbor and stored powder and salt for trade.

It has been used for everything from Hitler Youth to a high school to a home for starving artists. It was last renovated in 2004, with repairs in 2013 after a flood.

07 of 16

Mark the Floods on the Old Town Hall

Passau Alte Rathaus

GettyImages / Barry Winiker


Like most German towns, the Alte Rathaus (old town hall) is a central feature of the town. Its 14th-century neo-gothic spire can be seen from all corners of the town.

Located on the banks of the Danube, note the watermarks near the entrance that show how high the water has reached throughout the years. 

Inside, the Great Assembly Room has ornate stained windows depicting historical events in Passau throughout the centuries. Works by renowned German artist Ferdinand Wagner are also highlighted.

08 of 16

Explore Artists Alley

Höllgasse in Passau

GettyImages / James Ronan


Höllgasse in Passau is also known as "Artists' Alley." Follow the rainbow painted on the narrow cobble-stoned route to artisan shops and art galleries.

Featuring work by local artists, paintings are displayed outside on sunny days for potential clients to peruse. This is the ideal location in Passau to shop for souvenirs.

Another location for shoppers is the Sunday market.And if you visit during Christmas, go to the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in the Altstadt (old town) for a glühwein and a slice of stollen.

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09 of 16

Eat Traditional Bavarian Cuisine

Schweinshaxe mit Kartoffelknödel
Bernt Rostad

The Bavarian colors of blue and white cover sturdy wooden tables. The name, Wirtshaus Bayerischer Lowe, translates to "Bavarian Lion," which also evokes the flag.

Located in the center of the altstadt, this is the place to indulge in traditional Bavarian cuisine. Weisswurst, schweinshaxe, spätzle, and more. 

The spacious biergarten is a pleasant place to relax in the warmer months, but it is family-friendly throughout the year. And on Sunday, kids eat for free!

10 of 16

Marvel at the Riches of the Bishop's Palace

Passau Residence

GettyImages / Jrg Biegler


The crisp details of the New Episcopal Residence (Neue Bischofliche Residenz) set it apart from the other lovely buildings nearby. It was the palace of the bishop and actually dates back to the 1700s. It takes up the entire square, and its courtyard is a calming respite.

Inside, riches of Passau when it was the capital of the largest diocese of the Holy Roman Empire are on display. The rococo stairways and the fresco of the Gods of Olympus are highlights in the Museum of the Treasure of the Cathedral.

11 of 16

Visit the Oldest Church in Passau

St. Pauls Church Passau

GettyImages / Helmut Reichelt


St. Stephen’s Cathedral might be the grandest in Passau, but St. Paul’s Church is actually the oldest church in town.

Also located in the Altstadt (Old Town), it was founded in 1050 and named for St. Paul. It is in the baroque style with a black and gold altar.

12 of 16

Examine the World’s Largest Collection of European Glass

Glass Museum in Passau

The Passau Glass Museum (Glasmuseum Passau) holds the world’s largest collection of European glass. The museum, opened in 1985 in the Hotel Wilder-Mann, covers the art of glass-making in over 30,000 exhibits.

Techniques have changed throughout the centuries and reflect the styles of baroque, Rococo, Jugendstil, Biedermeier, art nouveau and art deco. There is an impressive amount of Loetz pieces, including Hofstötter vases from the 1900 Paris Exposition.

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13 of 16

Contemplate Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art in Passau on the banks of the Danube has a grand collection of modern art by German and international artists. It was founded by the son of local artist Georg Philipp Wörlen, and much of the permanent collection is from Worlen’s cubist and expressionist works.

14 of 16

Go to a 17th-Century Theater

The Landestheater Niederbayern is the city theater. Founded in 1645 as a ball house by Prince-Bishop Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, it has served as a variety of artistic venues. Today it is used for opera, musicals, concerts, and dramatic performances with room for 350 people.

15 of 16

Laugh With the Germans

Scharfrichterhaus in Passau

The ScharfrichterHaus is a well-known restaurant and political cabaret, the perfect place for popular German comedians to take to the stage to share their pointed commentary on life.

The name translates to "executioner’s house," and the building is from the year 1200. The cafe is modeled on a Viennese coffeehouse, while the restaurant offers more formal dining. 

16 of 16

Cruise the Danube

Cruise the Danube in Passau

GettyImages / Damien Te Whiu


Passau's famed rivers make it the ideal stop for river cruises. Book a trip beforehand, or find cruise info at the Tourist Information Office. Whether you get off for a day trip or an overnight, Passau has enough to fill your time.

If you want to watch the ships from the land, Fritz-Schaffer Promenade juts into the Danube and offers the perfect viewpoint of the boats. 

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The Top 16 Things to Do in Passau, Germany