Passau – The City of Three Rivers

Passau, Germany – Danube River Cruise:

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City of Three Rivers

Passau is strategically located at the confluence of the Danube, Inn, and Ilz rivers, near the Czech and Austrian borders. This City of Three Rivers is a popular stop on any Danube River Cruise itinerary. It is a picturesque and worthwhile place to visit, with lots for the tourist to see and do.

Origin of Passau

Passau was once the Celtic settlement of Bojodurum, and it later became the site of a Roman camp, Castra Batava. It was made an episcopal see in 739 and in 1217, the bishops became princes of the Holy Roman Empire. In spite of revolts by its citizens for municipal freedom, the prince-bishops managed to rule Passau until 1803. A devastating fire in 1662 caused severe damage to the city. Italian Baroque masters were brought in to rebuild the town, giving Passau a distinctly Baroque character.

Things to See in Passau

The town is dominated by the Veste Oberhaus fortress. Sitting on the hill across the river from Passau old town, it was built by the prince-bishops to watch over the commerce in the rivers. The site is now the home of the Oberhaus Museum and from here there are panoramic views of Passau and the Danube.

The magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral, with its three characteristic green onion-domed towers, is another of Passau’s highlight attractions. It is located on the highest point of the old town and the site incorporates the remains of an earlier Gothic structure. The cathedral contains one of the largest church organs in the world, with 17,974 pipes. If you are there at midday between May and September, you can enjoy an organ concert by these mighty organs. Be warned though that these performances are very popular and during the peak summer months the cathedral is packed.

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Organs of St Stephen’s Cathedral

The Neue Residenz, the residence of Passau’s prince-bishops reflect the time when the city was ruled by the prince-bishops. Scattered around town too are several of the city’s fine churches, in varied styles, which reflect that era of Passau’s history. Many of these churches are classical concert venues for Passau’s festivals such as the Europäische Wochen.

In Passau’s Gothic Town Hall there are paintings which depict episodes in the town’s past, including its association with the Nibelungen legends. At the Niedernburg Convent (founded 8th century) lies the tomb of Gisela, the first Queen of Hungary.

Passau was an important medieval trade and shipping centre. The Inn River salt trade and the making of knife and sword blades were traditional occupations. In fact Passau became a major producer of swords thanks to a superstitious belief by swordsmen that the Passau sword had magical powers.

A Vibrant City

About a fifth of the town’s population of 50,000 are students at the University of Passau, which is renowned for its Economics, Law, Theology and Computer Science institutes. It is no surprise to note that Passau is the economic, cultural, and communications centre of south-eastern Bavaria. It has city and state libraries, a municipal theatre, and other cultural institutions. Industries in Passau include a bell foundry, brewing, and the manufacture of optical instruments, textiles, and tobacco.

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Danube pleasure cruises

Danube River Cruises

Tourism revolves around people arriving on river cruises, but as Passau is close to the Czech Republic and Austria, coachloads of tourists arrive from these countries as well. Passau is also a popular holiday destination for Germans. At the Donauschiffahrt pier you can book Danube riverboat trips and excursions. There are also many river cruises from Passau to as far as the Black Sea, and a steamer service to Vienna.

Where to Stay in Passau

If you like river views, the family-run Schloß Ort, located near the confluence of the three rivers, is a popular choice.  Visitors have a choice of hotels in the Rathausplatz, such as the Hotel Wilder Mann or hotels in historic buildings in the centre of Passau, such as the Hotel Weisser Hase.  For the complete list of Passau hotels, see Here.

Don’t know where a place is? Try this map (opens in new window): Map of Germany

Or visit our zoomable Google Satellite Map page TRAVEL TO GERMANY WITH US: PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS

Other Germany pages:

Travel to Germany: a Europe Tour that’s a lot more than Beer, Lederhosen and Cuckoo Clocks!

When to travel to Germany for your tour: weather and seasons

Useful facts, dates and links to help you plan your tour of Germany

Book your sightseeing tours or day-trips in Germany online

Book your Passau hotel online HERE


Kaiser Wilhelm’s Monument






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  1. avatarmichael says

    I am a single older gentleman, I would like to experience or the River Danube between Passau (Ger) and Viena (Aust).
    Can I actually walk on the banks of the River?
    What is the best time to dothis cruise?

  2. avatar says

    Most of the European river cruising operators offer Danube River Cruises so there are lots of options to choose from. I’ve copied you the link for the European River Cruises website and if you scroll down the page you’ll see the extensive list of Danube cruises available. Passau to Vienna is usually included as part of a longer cruise, for example Passau to Budapest.

    I suggest that you select an itinerary that’s interesting to you and discuss this with a travel agent – I’m not sure where you’re located.

    In regard to your question about walking on the banks of the River, whereas most of the riverboat moorings are quite central, they are actually not close enough to the places of interest so the cruise operators organize coaches to transport passengers into the towns or villages for sightseeing. How much sightseeing you do depends on how much you can manage the cobbled-stoned streets of the medieval villages and towns. During our travels, we’ve met quite a number of travellers in their 80s who were really fit!

    **Be warned that the river cruise operators have to run to schedule as their times for going through the locks are fixed. Sometimes passengers don’t understand this and think that they’re being rushed at a destination**

    As regards the best time to do a cruise, we like cruising in August when the weather is warmer and you can enjoy the beautiful river views from the sundeck. Winter cruises are generally cheaper, but the experience will be very different.

    Hope the above helps.

    Kind regards,

  3. avatarRosie says

    Hi, I would like to travel along the Danube, using local transport and ferries. I would like to plan my own itinery and hop on/hop off ferries, trains or buses. Is this possible or too ambitious?
    Can you give me any pointers, to achieve this. The web sites seem to sell very expensive ‘cruises’. I want to ‘travel’, probably staying in hotels on land.
    Thanks Rosie G

  4. avatar says

    Hi Rosie,

    Apologies for the late response.

    Firstly, I’d like to clarify that we do not sell the ‘very expensive cruises’ that you mentioned. The river cruising information on our site is for information only.

    River cruising is a specific travel experience where the main mode of transport is on the river boat and one of the greatest attractions is that you don’t have to pack and unpack each day as the river boat is your hotel on water. All your meals are included and on the better cruises your holiday is a hassle-free, 5-star experience. That’s why the prices for these cruises are more expensive. We’ve been on a couple of these and thoroughly enjoyed them and from the popularity of river cruises these days is an indication that holidaymakers are choosing this form of travel as well.

    What you’re proposing to do will be a very different experience. If you intend visiting all the countries that the Danube flows through you will need to do a lot of planning, i.e. which sections of the Danube you intend visiting and then to line up all the transport requirements. If you’re an experienced traveller, I’m sure you can do it and it also depends on how much time you have as well. Unfortunately, we do not have information on local ferries or local river cruise operators.

    The only tour operator that I’m aware of that sells day tours on the Danube is Viator. So when you’re Budapest or Vienna you could do one of their tours.

    I suggest that you start with the Tourist Office of each of the countries that you intend visiting and see if you can get the information you need.

    Good luck with your planning.

    Kind regards,


  1. […] Passau was a destination that we were very much looking forward to visiting on our Vienna to Paris river cruise and for a while it was touch and go as to whether we would be able to stop at this historic city. If ever there was any city that would be susceptible to river flooding, it must be Passau. Famously known as the City of Three Rivers, Passau sits on the confluence of three rivers – the Danube, Inn, and Ilz rivers. […]

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