Passau: the Christmas markets cruise reaches Germany

Halfway through our week of cruising, Viking Pride reached Germany. (All right, after Vienna we’d also stopped in Melk and Salzburg and all three were fabulous.) Our first port of call was Passau, a city I knew nothing about–even its name was unfamiliar. Its main claim to fame seems to be that it lies at the confluence of three rivers, the Danube, Inn, and Ilz.

Cruise ship docked at Passau on the Danube

Passau eV

Passau is in Bavaria, which is in southern Germany. Interestingly, if you’re hoping for a white Christmas while in Germany, the chances are much better in the south among the Alps than in the more northern provinces. (Update 2010: Wrong, wrong, wrong. Northern Germany can get plenty of snow! So glad I brought my boots.)

Passau is an attractive city but it made less of an impression on me than others I’ve visited in Germany.

Except for the cruise passengers, I don’t recall seeing any tourists at all, which for me is always a plus. In the morning, there was a short group excursion to Cafe Simon, an historic bakery that specializes in gingerbread, or Lebkuchen, that most Christmassy confection, which works equally well for sweet snacks, Christmas decorations, and home construction–some of the gingerbread houses you see in Germany are pretty big and elaborate.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral lies in the center of town and houses the largest cathedral pipe organ in the world (probably–there’s a bit of difference of opinion here). If you’re lucky, your ship will be docked when there’s a concert.

Outside on the main square, the Christmas market was bustling with townsfolk. I mentioned that the market in Dresden had many stalls selling brushes; here there were a lot of wonderful wooden bowls, unfortunately, a bit heavy to haul home.

The most memorable part of our stop in Passau was lunch, namely, because my friend and I stumbled across the perfect restaurant, which I chose for its irresistible name: die Heilig-Geist-Stiftschenke, or the Inn of the Holy Spirit. Since Passau is right on the Austrian border, the menu was largely Austrian, which is a good thing. The interior had an ancient hunting lodge look: dark wood wainscoting, vaulted ceilings, antlers, and a huge green ceramic stove in one corner. It was festive as anything.

So no regrets about Passau.


  1. We’re taking a Viking River Cruise this Christmas, and are especially looking forward to visiting the Christmas Markets along the way. Thanks for the great information about Passau, which is one of our stops.

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