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They Love Colours in Donauwörth



Donauwörth is on the Romantic Road, the probably most visited tourist route in Germany. However, it is one of the many places along the route that most visitors don't take into consideration for a stop because they have never heard of it. It is not as spectacular as Rothenburg or Nördlingen, admittedly, but if you have time it is worth a few hours.


I was not touring the Romantic Road, though. I was on the way back home from Ingolstadt and decided to hop off the train and see another new place on the way. Donauwörth is about halfway along the regional train route between Ingolstadt and Ulm.

The town can well be visited in a couple of hours and walks are short, hence a perfect stopover destination, except for one practical problem: There are no lockers at the train station. Many thanks to the nice lady at the tourist information for storing my suitcase!

Unfortunately Donauwörth shared the fate of most cities and many towns in this country: heavy damage in World War II. However, if you don't know you won't notice. The old town has been rebuilt well and the result is indeed pretty.



What impressed me most? The colours. The houses are each painted in a different colour. All shades of pastels are there but also stronger colours. The general appearance is lively and colourful even on a grey autumn day like this. I can only imagine how spectacular it may look on a sunny day.

Colours are a striking feature in the appearance of Donauwörth. The town's inhabitants seem to like bright colours. The houses of the old town and also on the island are all painted in different shades of any pastel colour you can think of, plus bright yellow and ochre, terracotta and blue.

The blue building is the catholic parish community centre, by the way.
In a side street on Ried Island I found the lilac garage.

Colours in Reichsstraße, freshly painted...

... while this side street looks a bit faded out.

Rieder Tor - The Town Gate



If you arrive at the train station of Donauwörth and walk into town this gatehouse will be your first impression of the old town, and the first „wow“ effect. From the station you walk over a bridge across Wörnitz river and over Ried island, then you reach a second bridge across the smaller branch of the Wörnitz and the impressive gate.

Imperial coat of arms

The gate bears the imperial coat of arms with the double-headed eagle and the imperial crown, informing every visitor about the town's status as a free imperial city, which it led until 1803.

This used to be one of four large gates, but it is the only one which is preserved. It has a long history but received its present shape only in 1811.

It hosts the house of town history (Haus der Stadtgeschichte) a museum with very limited opening hours, only on weekends from 2-5 p.m., otherwise upon appointment.

Town Hall



Donauwörth's town hall originates in the 13th century. The building burnt down a couple of times and was rebuilt, refurbished and extended a couple of times. Its present appearance with the neogothic facades is the result of the renovation in 1853.

The main portal is positioned right in the axis of Reichsstraße, the market street. The stairs in front of the portal provide the best photo option.

Important for visitors: The tourist information is located in the side wing in Rathausgasse. Their leaflet with a self-guided walk proved very helpful.

Reichsstraße: The Main Street

Streetview from the stairs of the town hall


The main street of the town, rather a wide street market that substitutes a central square, extends between the town hall at the lower end and the parish church and Fugger House at the top end. It is lined by the gables of the (rebuilt) houses of the wealthy citizens of past centuries. Reichsstraße is Donauwörth's main shopping street.

The name „Reichsstraße“ refers to the old trade route between the imperial cities of Nürnberg and Augsburg, the two richest and most influential cities in the Holy Roman Empire. It also refers to Donauwörth's own status as a free imperial city who was subject to no one but the King or Emperor.

One big minus disturbs the pleasure: heavy traffic. Donauwörth does not seem to have a bypass road so all traffic runs through the town centre. That means noise, and the need to care when crossing the street.


A tiny but noteworthy detail in Reichsstraße is the figure of a little knight on the former customs house (Stadtzoll). The knight is down on one knee, he seems to carry the tower-like oriel on the corner of the building. He is holding a shield with the crest of the city, the black eagle, and a flag with the city's colours. An inscription dates the figure to 1524. Legends tell that the little man will be heard sighing at night if the city is in danger.

Several buildings in Reichsstraße deserve an extra look and an extra mentioning.

Fuggerhaus belonged to the mighty Fugger clan, bankers and merchants in Augsburg and the richest family in the whole Holy Roman Empire, if not Europe. They acquired the position as representants of the Empire in the imperial city of Donauwörth in 1536 and built their seat at the top end of the market street. Nowadays the building hosts the administration of the district (Landkreis).

The fountain opposite the parish church is a more recent addition. It was created for the millennium of the town in 1977. The eagle has been the town's crest since the 12th century and refers to its status as free imperial city.


Opposite the church's choir we find the big inn named „Goldener Hirsch“ , the Golden Stag, one of several inns in the main street and probably the one with the most beautiful sign.

Tanzhaus served as trade and festival hall. It was built around 1400. Every Sunday there was dancing for the citizens of the town, organized by the magistrate. The original building was destroyed to the foundations in the air raid of April 1945 that did so much damage to the town. It was rebuilt in the 1970s. The facades were reconstructed according to the original but the interior is a modern, functional building. It contains the theatre, a restaurant, some shops, and the archaeological museum.

The yellow building on the right next to Tanzhaus is the Stadtkommandantur , the seat of the military commander of the town. The baroque facade covers a much older building. This is about the only building in the whole Reichststraße that does not turn its gable towards the street but its long side.

Timberframe architecture is rare in Donauwörth but there is a fine example opposite the town hall, the Baudrexlhaus. The weathervane shows the date 1592. The ground floor hosts a little crafts shop with pretty old fronts and shop windows, probably from the late 19th or early 20th century.

The Alte Kanzlei, the old chancellery, i.e. administration of the town, is not located in Reichsstraße but just round the corner in Rathausgasse.
More details to notice in Reichsstraße and also elsewhere in the town: the shop signs. Many shops and inns, cafes and restaurants have those old-fashioned wrought-iron signs.

My favourite is the one of a hairdresser's salon. The hairdresser's big scary scissors are threatening the lady's beautiful locks... (Yes I'm a devoted longhair.)


Catholic Parish Church of Our Lady


The gothic parish church with its one steeple dominates the upper part of Reichsstraße. It is a 15th century building that substituted an older church.


The church is open in the daytime as befits a catholic church. The frescoes in the vaults originate from the time the church was built. They were hidden under plaster and paint until 1938 when they were rediscovered.

The church was built on the gentle slope and the builders of the late middle ages did not bother with levelling the ground: The floor has a visible decline towards the choir. The difference in altitude from back to front is 1,20 metres.

Kloster Heilig Kreuz - Abbey of the Holy Cross



The former Benedictine Abbey on the edge of the old town, on a hill a few metres above the river bank, is the most impressive building in Donauwörth's townscape.

Its history dates back to the 11th century when a precious relic of the Holy Cross - certified to be authentic since the times of Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine - was brought here. This relic is still the most valuable treasure of the church.

The tomb of Duchess Mary

The present appearance of the complex is entirely baroque. The convent buildings were renewed in the 1690s, the church was finished in 1720. For baroque experts: the church is a model example of the „School of Wessobrunn“.

Like most abbeys in Bavaria the one in Donauwörth was closed down in the secularization of 1803. The convent buildings now host a boarding school and cannot be visited. The church, however, is open to visitors in the daytime and worth a look.

The tomb in the western part of the nave is the one of Duchess Mary of Brabant, wife of the Bavarian Duke Ludwig II. She was killed in Donauwörth in 1256; her husband had her beheaded although she was innocent.

Uncle Ludwig And His School


„Uncle Ludwig“, actually Ludwig Auer (1839 - 1914), founded the Cassianeum, the catholic school in the former convent buildings, in 1875. His aim was education in Christian, i.e. catholic piety, way of life and values.

He also founded a publishing house for religious and pedagogic literature. He himself wrote many educational stories for children and published them under the pseudonym of „Onkel (Uncle) Ludwig“.

Onkel Ludwig is still present in white marble. A monument that shows him with a boy and a girl has been put up in the square between the abbey and the modern school buildings.

After his death in 1914 Ludwig Auer was buried in the little chapel by the entrance to the churchyard, originally the grave chapel of an abbot of the monastery. His son and successor and his wife, victims of the air raid of April 1945, were also buried here.

Ried Island and the Rivers



The town is located where the small river Wörnitz meets the Danube. The big river provided work for the citizens - fishing and trade. The river by the town is not the Danube but the Wörnitz, though.

The island of Ried is surrounded by two branches of the river Wörnitz. (Again, this river is not the Danube.) A narrow canal named Kleine Wörnitz separates the island from the old town. The first settlement that later became the town of Donauwörth was located here on the island.

Fishermen were the first inhabitants. A small modern statue with a man and a boy carrying a full net recalls their hard life.

The buildings on the island are a mix of old and new. The biggest historical building is the Haus zum Hohen Meer (House of the High Sea - no idea how it got this name, as the sea is far) with its seven storeys.

What else is remarkable... the red house with the museum of local history and culture (Heimatmuseum), and the number of Italian restaurants.



For a romantic walk with some photo options, don't miss the trail along Kleine Wörnitz. The so-called „Small Wörnitz“ is the narrow branch of the river between Ried island and the old town. The trail leads along the river bank and the outward side of the town wall.

It must be especially beautiful in spring when the old apple trees by the river are in bloom. But autumn colours aren't bad either!

Along the way you'll find a smaller gate tower with a half-timbered top, the Färbertor (Dyer's Gate).


Further along the trail leads around the sports fields of the boarding school; from there you have the best view of the buildings of the former Benedictine Abbey.



The smaller Wörnitz meets the big Danube at the eastern end of the old town. Cross the bridge over the Wörnitz (nice view of Ried island and the skyline of the old town) and you reach the point between the rivers. It bears a little park with some benches, a nice spot to rest, relax and, weather permitting, have a picnic.

The stone monument in the park is a memorial for the German-French war of 1870/71 which lead to the foundation of the German Empire.


The Calvary on Schellenberg



In 1704, during the Spanish Heritage War, the hill above Donauwörth saw the Battle on Schellenberg between Bavarians and French on one side, the Emperor and his allies and the English on the other. Bloody as it was - 16,000 soldiers were killed in this battle -, the adjacent town of Donauwörth was not harmed. Grateful to have been spared, mayor and citizens donated the Calvary as a pilgrimage site.

The site consists of the Way of the Cross with its 14 stations along a steep stairway that leads up to the crucification group, the little yellow baroque chapel, and a 15th station with the resurrection of Christ. The little chapel looks cute and the landscape setting is beautiful, but remember that this is a war memorial.


Enter through the baroque wrought-iron gate under the verse Gal. 6,14. Before you start climbing the stairway, note the stone on the right with the metal insprition: Here post-war times have declared their opinion about this war memorial, which should be understood as a warning and for solemn contemplation.

The little station chapels show the 14 stations on the Way of the Cross. Each has a painting inside showing the resp. scene.

The Way of the Cross leads uphill on a short but steep stairway. At the top you reach a plateau with the Crucification: the three crosses with Mary and John standing underneath.


From the crosses, continue to the little chapel. It was closed when I visited - no idea if it is ever open outside official pilgrimages.

The chapel looks cute and all in all this is a pleasant site... as long as you don't think about its significance as a war memorial and the 16,000 soldiers whose blood was shed on this hill.

The Way of the Cross does not end with the crucification, though. After the chapel you will find a 15th station which depicts the Resurrection of Christ. There is hope!


From the hillside you have a view of the old town and its steeples. It should be even better further up Schellenberg.

Posted by Kathrin_E 22:36 Archived in Germany Tagged bavaria bayern

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The houses do indeed look colourful even in this dull weather and the walk by the river seems very pretty. I like the little knight too :) A shame though about the traffic

by ToonSarah

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