How to Spend a Day in Passau, Germany

July 21, 2016 (Last Updated: October 21, 2021)
by Carolyn
Aerial view of Passau, Germany

My visit to Passau came about by chance.  My husband and I were staying at the small village of Niederranna on the Danube about 35 kilometres upstream from Passau and although I’d heard and read a lot about the town, it wasn’t one I intended to visit on that particular trip. 

I’m really glad, though, that circumstances meant I was able to spend one day in Passau, Germany.

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When our planned day of bike riding along the Danube from Niederanna came unstuck, Erich, the friendly owner of the guest house where we were staying, suggested a visit to Passau.  It turned out to be a real highlight.

“Head straight to Veste Oberhaus (the castle on the hill),” Erich told us. “You can park there and walk down to the town centre.”

The River Danube in Passau The Danube is a popular stop for river cruise ships but day cruises are also possible.

We followed Erich’s instructions and after parking, we wandered around the fortifications of the 13th century castle and enjoyed the panoramic views from up high.  It’s not hard to see why a visit to the castle is one of the best things to do in Passau.

In Passau, the Danube, Inn and Ilz Rivers converge, with the historic town centre surrounded by water, so the views from up here were magnificent and I can see why a visit to Veste Oberhaus is one of the most popular things to do in Passau.

With the brightly coloured rooftops of the city’s buildings, the towers of the old town hall (Altes Rathaus) and St. Stephan’s Cathedral, Passau’s skyline is quite impressive.

In the distance, directly opposite Veste Oberhaus, on the far bank of the River Inn, sits the Kloster Mariahilf, a pilgrimage church.

Danube view from Passau castle View of the Danube and Passau surrounds from Veste Oberhaus.

Before leaving the castle and heading down to the town centre, we couldn’t resist a traditional German lunch at Das Oberhaus, the on-site restaurant.  

With a postcard setting overlooking the town and delicious food, it was a meal to remember.  Of course we ordered the Wiener schnitzel with potato salad, followed by apple strudel and washed down by a wheat beer for my husband and a white wine for me.

It was just as well then that there are 200 steps to descend to reach the historic town centre!  

Lunch overlooking Passau What a backdrop and what a meal! This lunch was one of the best we have had in Europe.

Once on flat land, we crossed the Danube and spent some time wandering around the town centre.  The city of Passau is home to about 50,000 residents but the historic centre is compact and easy to walk around.

After a devastating fire wiped out the city, it was rebuilt in the 17th century by Italian baroque masters.  The pretty pastel-coloured buildings are particularly charming, particularly those with ornate windows but they are not the only highlight of the Old Town.

Passau old town Pretty pastel coloured buildings and cobbled streets make the historic centre of Passau a must-visit.

Here you can visit the green onion-domed St. Stephan’s Cathedral, home to the world’s largest cathedral organ, the New Bishop’s Residence, numerous museums and the gothic-style Town Hall

On the wall of the Town Hall, water levels from all the Danube floods over the centuries are marked.  We couldn’t believe the levels reached in the 2013 floods and in 1501 the water levels were even higher!

After wandering the cobbled streets and alleyways of Passau, we found ourselves on the banks of the River Inn and followed a footpath to the end of the promontory where the Danube and Inn meet.  

Building in Passau Look at the detail above the windows of this building. This is typical of many buildings in the town.

It was now mid afternoon and the Danube was busy with river cruise ships arriving in town to dock for the night.  What a sight it was to watch these ships glide up the river.  

We didn’t have time for a cruise on the Danube but day excursions are available from Passau. Ask at the Passau Tourist Information Centre for details.

Flood level marks at Passau The flood level marks on Passau Town Hall. My husband – in the mauve shirt – is 178cm tall, so you can see how high the flood waters were in 2013.

With our visit to Passau coming to an end, we climbed the 200 stairs back up to the car park at Veste Oberhaus.  I did look longingly at the afternoon tea options at the restaurant where we had eaten earlier – but I resisted!  After all, I was still full from lunch.

River cruise ship onthe Danube in Passau A Viking River Cruises ship docks in Passau for the night.

Where is Passau?

Passau is located in Bavaria, Germany close to the Austrian border.  It is 78 kilometres from Linz, 118 kilometres from Salzburg and 191 kilometres from Munich.  

How to get to Passau

If you don’t have your own car, Passau can be reached by regular train services from Germany and Austria.

From Munich to Passau by train, the journey takes 2 hours 15 minutes, with services operating every hour.  Its about 30 minutes quicker by car.

The trip from Vienna to Passau by train also takes 2h:15 (hourly services) but allow almost three hours to drive between the two cities.

TIP: If you are driving to Passau from Vienna, I highly recommend a stop at Melk Abbey. 

Even though its in Germany, when youre in Passau Austria is close by. You could easily incorporate a visit to Passau as part of self-drive  holiday in Austria. See my suggested itinerary here.  

The nearest airport to Passau is Munich.

Most river cruise companies stop at Passau on their Danube River cruises.  

Passau is also a popular stop for cyclists who are cycling the Danube. Passau to Vienna is probably the most famous section of the bike path, although some cyclists ride as far as Bratislava.

A day in Passau Germany

Where to Stay in Passau

A range of accommodation is available to suit all budges. No matter whether you prefer to stay in an apartment, hotel or hostel, Passau has plenty of options.

Two highly rated hotels in Passau are:

Click here to browse more accommodation in Passau  

Alternatively, you can stay outside the city as I did.  I chose the Gasthof Draxler in Niederranna (Austria) for its location right on the banks of the Danube.

Where to Eat in Passau

I highly recommend Das Oberhaus at Veste Oberhaus above Passau. Visit the website for opening hours.

Read our > Bavaria Travel Guide to discover more great places to visit in Bavaria.


How to spend a day in Passau, Germany