Passau: three rivers, one baroque city

Passau, located in the Niederbayern area next to Austria’s border, is known as the “City of Three Rivers.” Situated between the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers, Passau offers visitors a picturesque and historic weekend getaway.

After a devastating fire destroyed the city in 1662, Passau was rebuilt by Italian master builders in the baroque manner. It took more than 20 years to rebuild and remodel the historic landmarks, churches, squares and quaint alleys that can be seen today.

Three of the most well-known master builders were the architect Carlo Lurago, the sculptor Giovanni Battista Carlone and the painter Carpoforo Tencalla.  
One of their masterpieces is the Cathedral St. Stephan (Domplatz) which is located in Passau’s downtown area.

The cathedral combines many characteristics of the baroque style, to include colorful frescos on walls and ceilings, sculptures and decorations. According to the official Passau website,, the cathedral houses the world’s largest organ. With 17,974 pipe organs, 233 registers and four carillons, all of which can be played at the same time, the organ makes for an incomparable acoustical experience.

For visitors interested in listening to these “heavenly” sounds, organ concerts are offered Monday to Saturday at noon through October. An evening concert is held every Thursday from 7:30-8:30 p.m. Tickets for the afternoon concerts cost €4 and the evening concert is €8. After taking in the cathedral’s art and music, visitors should not miss out on some of Passau’s more worldly treats.

The “Greindl Pralinenwerkstatt,” or praline factory, which is located next to the cathedral (Domplatz 2), offers pralines, fine chocolate creations and homemade “Erbeer Limes,” a strawberry drink.

One of Greindl’s special treats is “Bruchschokolade,” or chocolate bark. Chocoholics can choose from 40 different flavors ranging from macadamia nut and rum almond to strawberry yoghurt, hazelnut sesame and cranberry.

Leaving the Domplatz behind, visitors can stroll along the historic downtown area with its hidden side alleys and small shops that offer home decor, artwork, jewelry and trinkets.

St. Paul’s church (Rindermarkt 1) is located next to the “Paulusbogen,” or arch, one of the five oldest gates that originally served as the city’s main entrances.
The baroque church was built in 1680 and features a majestic high altar decorated with golden ornaments. The altar painting depicts the beheading of the apostle Paulus.

The Rindermarkt features outdoor cafes offering ice cream, snacks and cocktails. Caffe Bar Centrale (Rindermarkt 7) is a popular stop, serving Italian snacks such as “tramezzini” sandwiches and antipasti. 

For Bavarian food, visitors can stop by restaurant “Goldenes Schiff” (Unterer Sand 8). The restaurant offers a beer garden and serves traditional favorites  such as ham hocks, “Kaspressknödel” (cheese dumplings) with ham and sauerkraut.
Another landmark is Passau’s old town hall (Rathausplatz 2), with a 38 meter-high tower that was built between 1889 and 1892. The “Grosse Rathaussaal,” or hall, which was designed by the Italian master builders Lurago and Carlone back in the 17th century, features baroque frescos and wooden decorations on its walls and ceilings.

Across from the old town hall, on the other side of the Danube River, the “Veste Oberhaus” fortress overlooks Passau from St. Georg’s Mountain. Built in 1219, the Veste Oberhaus is one of Europe’s largest and most well-preserved fortresses.
The fortress features an exhibition that allows visitors to experience what life was like in Passau during the Middle Ages, as well as learn about the city’s history past and present. Visitors to Passau can also tour the city by boat during a “Dreiflüsse” (three river) round trip voyage on the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers.

“I was truly impressed by the city’s historic atmosphere and the fact that all the old buildings and churches are well preserved,” said Margit Beck, of Stuttgart, who recently visited Passau. “I mainly liked the alleys and the special stores with their one-of-a-kind offerings. The city is simply amazing.”

Passau will celebrate its 350th anniversary as a baroque city with the “Passau Parockt” festival from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. For more information, visit