Although Bavaria lives up to all its wonderful cliches of lederhosen, dirndls and of course its beer-supping, thigh-slappingly jolly festivals, the Southeastern state in Germany Bavaria offers much more than just a fine place to get drunk. It’s a place where pristinely glossy landscapes are punctuated with story-book castles, traditional churches and neat and medieval towns which go about their-warped business in a peaceful, pristine kind of way. Having some family roots in Bavaria, it’s a region that will always have a special place in my heart and when I visit I always feel very much at home. On this trip me and Gary our team videographer went to explore Regensburg, a university city hailed as the best preserved medieval city in Germany, offering a heady combination of a beautiful skyline, impressive historic monuments and legendary Bavarian hospitality. The Old Town of Regensburg (with Stadtamhof) is a UNESCO World Heritage site and over the decades the city has risen through the affluence stakes to become one of the most sought-after places to live in Bavaria. Outside Germany though, it’s a place that still remains very much under the-tourist-radar and I believe it’s a city destination that deserves a lot more attention. Here’s what to do in Regensburg in 48 hours, if you visit at Christmas…
Wander the lanes in the Old Town
Chock full of magnificent medieval structures, Regensburg’s wears its UNESCO badge with pride and takes its heritage extremely seriously – for example most of its buildings are now officially preserved and protected from alteration, so if a resident wanted to repaint a house, for example, its colour has to conform to those used in the past. It’s an extraordinary place, a mix of fine historic buildings, modern restaurants and cosmopolitan bars, and a seemingly endless network of narrow, atmospheric cobbled lanes lined with gorgeous boutique stores. Untainted by tourism, it’s an area where you can immerse yourself in its immaculate medieval wonderfulness and feel just like a local. At Christmas, the atmosphere in the lanes turns up several notches and this is when the elegant buildings are adorned with hundreds of twinkling lights and when the shops start selling truly exquisite handcrafted Christmas decorations which you could easily gawp at for hours.
Go for a drink in one of the cosy bars
This time of year Germany seems to have own version of Hygge going on and there’s no better place to experience this than in one of their bars or restaurants. Wander the city centre’s cobbled lanes, gawp at the Christmas lights and then trade in the dark, chilly winter night for a cosy drink or two at one of inviting bars which are often illuminated by soft warm lighting. Drinking in Regensburg is still as traditional and laid back as you’d expect it to be in Bavaria to be but also exceptionally classy. Some of the best bars – Orphée, Kaminski, Hemingway’s – lurk in the maze of alleys between Haidplatz and Neupfarrplatz so best to head there for starters.
Spend an evening at Thurn and Taxis Christmas Market
This is the Christmas Market of your dreams, seriously. Regensburg’s Old Town has hundreds of listed buildings but this palace and its grounds are the jewel in the crown – in the middle of the 18th century the princes of Thurn and Taxis, created a magnificent castle and from the 29th November to the 23rd December it turns into a magical Christmas Market that could have been plucked straight out of a storybook. Known locally as the ‘Romantic market’, the entrance is a flame torch illumined path which leads down to a vast collection of traditional stalls huts decorated with freshly cut branches of pines and spruces and selling winter rugs, Christmas ornaments, clothing and handcrafted metalware all encircled by a sea of sparkling lights. Smaller illuminated pathways lead up to alfresco champagne bars perched high on a hill or down to traditional children’s fairground rides or Glühwein stalls. A visual feast for all the senses; smoke from open campfires billows into the frosty darkness, the aroma of burnt candy and caramelised almonds permeates the air and the regal sounds of bugles signal the start and end of the festivities perfection in a Christmas Market!
Dine out in Stadtamhof
Stadtamhof is small Bavarian neighbourhood located in the middle of the independent city Regensburg. You can reach it just over the stone bridge that crosses the Danube River (which is the oldest preserved bridge of its kind in Germany). It’s a place where where residents enjoy the peacefulness of the offset location on the banks of the Danube where they are still only a stone’s throw from the city. It’s an elegant and picturesque neighbourhood lined with a fine collection of bars, restaurants and small shops which are still run by the same families generations old. With a great choice of restaurants which have a real local vibe, it’s also one of the best area’s to eat out in the city.
Visit the atmospheric cathedral
One of the city’s main attractions is Dom St Peter, one of Bavaria’s most impressive Gothic cathedrals. Its walls contain beautiful 14th-century stained glass, and it’s known for its highly acclaimed boy’s choir that sings at mass on Sundays. During December head there to catch the truly atmospheric spectacle of listening to the choir practice Christmas hymns as each note echoes around its magnificent walls.
Explore the Advent Christmas Market
This time of year Regensburg’s is home no less than four separate Christmas Markets and this is another must see to add to your list. I last visited Regensburg in the summer and this area is a beautiful beer garden which enjoys a much-envied spot on the Danube River. During the winter it turns into a magical Christmas market with views of the beautiful illuminated cathedral and a collection of traditional stalls, flanked by open campfires, a towering Christmas and more freshly made culinary delights and gluehwein than your stomach can handle.
Stay at the Green Spirt Hotel
The Green Spirit Hotel was accommodation for our stay and it’s a place that perfectly captures Regensburg’s new unique boutique vibe. Set in a historic 18th-century building which was once a brewery (very Bavarian!) it now is a hip hotel with a modern annex, a chic dining room, stylish but quirky minimalist decor and a wonderful courtyard garden which comes complete with a greenhouse (used to grow vegetables and herbs used by the hotel chef). Adorable!
We were guests of Germany Tourist Board but all our views are our own. All photos (expect Green Spirit Hotel) by Gary Nunn.