Passau: German “Gemütlichkeit” with an International flair
Passau has often been praised as the “Venice of Bavaria” – no wonder with its narrow streets lined with small cafés, shops and numerous buildings designed by Italian architects. Taking a summer stroll through town feels a bit like you’re on holiday in Italy, although the eastern Bavarian city of Passau is situated closer to the border of Austria. Life here is easy-going, everything is close and the atmosphere is familiar.
by Bettina Ruhland
Facts & Figures
- Monthly rent:
- 308 €
- Enjoy the ultimate Bavarian experience with a “Breze” and a “Radler”!
Welcome to Passau
Passau boasts an illustrious history which still shapes its image to this day. Perched high above the historic part of town, one can see the “Veste Oberhaus”. A “Veste” is part of a fortress, and, looking at it from below, one can easily make out the inscription “1499”. That’s just one of the years construction was completed at the fortress. In fact, the foundation stone was laid in 1219 and partitions were continually added to the castle until 1800. It’s one of the largest castles in Europe in such a well-preserved condition. Inside, you will find the Oberhausmuseum which stages regular exhibitions on life at the castle and the history of the town.
Standing on the terrace called the “Batterie Linde”, you can enjoy an especially nice view of the city’s most prominent landmarks – the Danube, Inn and Ilz Rivers. All three converge right below the castle, which is why Passau is also called the “Three-River City”. What’s particularly remarkable is the fact that each river has its own colour, making it possible to identify each one. The Danube is blue, the Inn is green and the Ilz is black because it meanders through a moor before reaching Passau. Long ago, trading ships from the Orient carrying salt and spices would dock at the riverside promenade. Nowadays, you’ll find larger ships docked there, offering cruises up and down the Danube. The location at the three rivers has always been of great economic importance to Passau.
The historic centre of town is built on the narrow peninsula between the Inn and Danube Rivers. There you’ll find St. Stephan’s Cathedral, a Baroque church which houses five organs – the largest cathedral organs in the world! Other smaller churches are located throughout the city and the outskirts of town. The narrow streets that descend down the steep river banks are distinctive of Passau’s old part of town. Hidden within these winding streets are numerous restaurants and shops which sell all types of unique and extraordinary items. For example, the shops on Höllgasse are known for their artistic and handcrafted products unlike any you’ll find in Germany.
Don’t forget to visit the Scharfrichterhaus located next to the city hall. It’s a performance venue for comedians whose stand-up routines poke fun at (and sometimes scathe) society and politics. Many of the artists who take the stage are known far beyond Passau.
Living in Passau
Because Passau is relatively small – with around 50,000 inhabitants – you’ll find many opportunities to get together with other students, for example, at city festivals and WG (flat-share) parties. Its university is also one of the smaller ones in Bavaria. All of the faculties are centrally located on campus, situated on the banks of the Inn River. Many students hang out between classes on the “Inn-Wiese”, a large campus lawn, where they relax or hold cook-outs in the summer. Passau’s university campus was selected as Germany’s most beautiful campus in 2009. Another popular meeting place is Pizzeria Padu, which serves typical Italian dishes and offers specials for students.
You should definitely attend a “boat party”, where you can enjoy cool cocktails and great music while your ship slowly trundles up the Danube River. Tickets are available to the general public, and though the price at 30 euros per ticket is a bit steep, it’s definitely worth it!
If you want to get to know other students, we recommend going to one of the many private parties held at flat-shares (WGs) and student residence halls. Since most of them are open to everyone, you can simply show up and join the party. Like other university towns in Bavaria, the pubs in Passau are only open until 2 am. That’s why private parties are especially popular with students. If you want to go out, i.e. go out for drinks and dancing, you’ll find the best locales downtown, the historic city centre and the Innstadt. There are countless bars and cafés awaiting you there. Whether you are looking to spend a relaxing evening playing cards with friends at a pub, or you’d rather go posh and drink cocktails – these districts are the places to go.
The café-bar “Anton” in Luragogasse near the cathedral is the perfect place to have lunch or drink a glass of wine in the evening. The different specials on the menu and homemade beverages (like lemonade and iced tea) make every visit exciting.
Go to the city fairs, like the “Dult”, as often as you can in the summer. Sitting in a tent with a “Breze” (soft pretzel) and a “Radler” (mixed beverage of beer and Sprite) is the ultimate Bavarian experience.
Several festivals take place in Passau every year from spring to autumn, such as the “Dult”, the European Weeks Festival, and the Passau International Film Festival, organised every two years in cooperation with the university. You can buy fresh produce at the weekly market which is open every Tuesday and Friday in front of the cathedral during the summer. In the winter, you can visit the festive Christmas market there which is popular with students, residents and visitors alike. When the weather is nice, there are plenty of recreational activities to do, such as touring the countryside by bike or taking a canoe trip.
What makes Passau so special is its colourful mix of private and public parties, small cafés in the historic district and international festivals. A small city at the Bavarian border where students can gain a good education and enjoy life.
Interview with Rafael from Brazil
Rafael Romão Freitas from Brazil is 23 years old and studies Law in Passau.
Why did you decide to study in Passau?
The University of Passau offers interesting academic programmes to law students. Here we have the possibility of acquiring a certificate confirming basic knowledge of German law or certificates on European and international law. I was also aware that the Faculty of Law in Passau enjoyed a good reputation in Germany. The third reason was Passau itself, a city that I’d only heard good things about. It was important to me to choose a town that would offer me something that I couldn’t get at home. That’s why I chose to come to a smaller university town.
Did Passau meet your expectations? Were you surprised by anything?
There were definitely some surprises. I come from a gigantic city of some 20 million people. In comparison, Passau is a small town and pretty far away from other large German cities. I thought I’d find it tough to get used to living in such a small town. But Passau has a vibrant cultural scene. What’s more, it’s relatively easy to make friends here. Most people who study here come from hometowns or home countries far away. They are open-minded and very interested in foreign cultures.
Was it hard for you to get settled in Germany?
It wasn’t hard because the International Office at the University of Passau and the orientation weeks made a lot of things easier, like finding accommodation. I was already familiar with the language. The most difficult thing for me was dealing with the bank, the municipal authorities and miscellaneous red tape.
What makes Passau a good place to study?
The lecture halls are modern and the libraries are well-equipped and ideal for revising. Because it’s not so big, you get a more personal education here than at other universities. The campus is beautifully situated on the Inn and has a good size. Internationality and the sports and language centre at the University of Passau are also worth mentioning.