Things to do in Augsburg
Augsburg is a piece out of history and I really wish we had more than just an evening in a place that evidently had lots to explore. Surely the largest city in Germany’s Romantic Road deserves more than just a quick jaunt. For the record, I need to mention, it’s about time the Romantic Road had its place in the sun as a honeymoon cliche. It’s so pretty that I was appalled that I hadn’t heard of it ever. As for the names of the towns, they’re all such a delicious mouthful quite like the pudding pretzel. An ooze of custard and a mishmash of pleasure-sounds posing to be Town Names. Augsburg - you’d find so many sigh-sounds tucked away in those eight letters if you took it with your hands and tore them into bite-sized pieces.
Augsburg can trace its history back over 2000 years, when it was founded by the stepchildren of Emperor Augustus. It was named Augusta Vindelicorum which translated into Augustus of Vindelici. It’s played many roles across history and Bavaria’s oldest town still exudes its eternal charm. It’s a tastefully medieval city that has learnt the art of keeping up with the times. It boasts a robust economy and is far from a touristy tableau - it’s a vibrant, living city. We walked through a farmer’s market that was closing for the day. Every stall had someone cleaning up indicating they were closed for business. And that’s when we met the lovely family Thonos - they were in no hurry to close up. Instead they kept feeding us delicious samples from their stall and obviously it was all so delicious that we obliged them with many, many purchases.
It was too late for anything but flâneur. But since we were well-versed in the art, flaneur is what we did. The birthplace of the first Mozart - Leopold Mozart, father of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was a composer of repute himself - has plenty symphony of its own. We walked past randomly placed pianos on street corners, with musicians providing pretty soundtracks to our evening. Augsburg is a big on festivals and the summer is filled with prestigious events that pay tribute to its illustrious past. We might have not got to know Augsburg well enough. But as night fell, the Herkulesbrunnen the town-square in front of the Rathaus came alive with some really good heavy metal. All the cool kids were hanging out at the square in what felt like a statement of sorts. We looked up at the staterooms that were lit up and beautiful and looked like something important was going on. Turns out that they were hosting Chancellor Angela Merkel that very evening we were sitting below and looking up at the pretty windows and what we could see of the pretty rooms. I quite like Angela Merkel - and I like this coincidence.
1. Augsburg City Hall (Rathaus)
The world’s first six storied building dates back to 1615. The third floor is a work of art with its ornate gold interiors. Should you fancy it and your wallet concurs, the Golden Hall or the Prince’s Room can be rented out for events. Who knew a city hall wedding could be so opulent! The Rathaus ground floor houses a small museum dedicated to the memory of the victims and how Augsburg fared during the WW-II. Tickets are apparently sold somewhere across the street.
Given all that Germany has been through, every heritage building that survived is a nothing less than a living miracle. This 1765 palace in the Rococo style houses an impressive collection of art, a ballroom that has set many a heart and feet whirl (including Marie Antoinette’s) and a hall of mirrors. Built by a prominent banker and silver merchant of the time from the Liebert family, the palace was acquired by the Schaezler family.
Hard to miss this one as you walk around Augsburg. Though the original 1389 building that was used as the weaver’s guild was renovated, remodelled many times across the centuries, the most recent version burnt down in 2004. The frescos on the facade are a lot more interesting than the insides of the building - it appeared to be just shops.
Bavaria’s oldest municipal museum is named after Bavarian King Maximilian II in 1855. To be properly introduced to Augsburg’s very illustrious past, one probably must visit this museum. It holds exhibits that show Augsburg veritable standing as one of Germany’s oldest towns and art capital. The local arts and crafts, mathematical, scientific and astronomical prowess and inventions, bronze art of the late Renaissance, historical clocks, the superior Augsburg variety of goldsmith art and more create a vibrant picture of this more-than-meets-the-eye town.
The world’s oldest housing community hasn’t changed its rent of one Rheinischer Gulden (less than a euro) per year, three prayers a day and no nightlife. Jakob Fugger the Younger from the Fugger family - Augburg’s then patrician family, established this society for the city’s poor. The rules haven’t changed over the last 480 years. This strictly-for-Catholic community gives you serious convent-hostel reminisces with its “gates close at 10 pm” policy. Along with active usage of the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, and the Nicene Creed, you could only hope for a home here if you were a resident of Augsburg for two years and you were poor without debt.
6. Augsburger Puppentheatermuseum
Stories come alive with fairies, witches, dragons, pirates, villagers, kings, queens and sundry taking on a life with strings. The puppet museum keeps alive a tradition that takes almost every visitor back to their childhood. It began in 1943 with Walter Oehmichen put together a handmade puppet theatre ensemble with his wife Rose Oehmichen and daughters Hannelore and Ulla. Today the museum plays homage to the craft of dollmaking and the rich tapestry of German folklore.
7. Botanischer Garten - Japan Garten
I imagine that this garden must be a sight in spring. It’s a bit of oriental zen in the midst of Bavarian Augsburg.
8. Mazda Classic Automobil Museum Frey
It might leave you scratching your head why there’s museum to dedicated to Japanese cars right in the cradle of Bavarian Automotive industry. But this private collection is one of the world’s most prolific. The collection by Walter Frey is set up in an old tram depot. Read more https://mazda-classic-frey.de
9. Mozart Haus
The home of Leopold Mozart before he left to Austria is a cannot miss for music lovers.
10. Textil und Industriemuseum
While researching for this post, it seemed like this one would be a bit of a snore. But some accidental deeper digging proved that I was ridiculously wrong. It traces the history of the textile industry with some beautiful insights into the craft. From the evolution of textile making to the changing styles, it traces over 200 years of Made in Augsburg fashion and design. Given Augsburg’s position in history, you can expect some really fascinating displays.
Bavarian churches have something unique of their own and Augsburg has its share of magnificent churches. The city has had such an interesting past in the Reformation Not to mention the beautiful rococo style that finds beautiful expression in these Bavarian churches. St. Anne's Church hosts a small museum dedicated to the reformation and once hosted Martin Luther King
Cathedral of St. Maria (Dom St. Maria) is a beautiful gothic style church with a very distinct style of architecture. The crypt, two choirs, roman wall remnants, 1000-year-old Romanesque doors
Basilica of St. Ulrich and Afra is in the baroque style and is designed to fill the faithful (and everybody else) with awe. The double church church is unique for housing a catholic side (St. Afra) and a protestant side (St. Ulrich) - the crypt is home to the respective tombs of both the saints.