Augsburg, Germany is a center of industry, is the oldest city in Bavaria and the second oldest in Germany. The original Roman settlement in this location was named for the Roman Emperor Augustus when it was founded during his reign around15 B.C.). Its location on the Via Claudia, a road connecting Germany to Rome, helped the city become an important trading center and economic powerhouse, a role that the city continued to play for centuries.
Augsburg is no stranger to war and destruction. Due to the advantages of its location it was coveted and conquered by many factions. The city was badly damaged during World War II, although its historic buildings have been carefully and completely restored.
Today, Augsburg is a popular travel destination with German vacationers headed to the Alps or southern Bavaria and generally regarded as a pleasant stop by all tourists. To reach Augsburg’s Old Town, where the attractions of interest to most travelers will be found, you will need to navigate to the core of a fairly large city. In addition, during major soccer matches, the main roads into the center will be closed.
The center of the Old Town is the Rathausplatz, which is dominated by the city’s renowned Rathaus (city hall) and its companion Perlach Tower.
The Rathaus is regarded as the most pleasing architectural hall of its type in northern Europe. Although the building was badly damaged during World War II it has been restored to its former glory. Its famed attraction, the Golden Room or Goldener Saal, was reconstructed with painstaking attention to detail and is well worth a quick look (fee).
The Perlach Tower, next door to the Rathaus, offers nice view of the city and its attractions, but climb to the top is steep (fee).
The Rathausplatz is a pleasant place to soak up the ambiance, have a coffee and desert while enjoying the sun and the crowd. The Rathausplatz also features an interesting and ornate fountain capped with a statue of Augustus Caesar (17th century). The fountain is a companion piece to two others (capped with statues of Mercury and Hercules) of similar design, which are in close proximity on Maximillianstrasse. Finally, the Rathausplatz is surrounded by some of Augsburg’s finest shopping.
The religious-buildings of Augsburg are among its leading attractions. Although Saint Ulrich’s Churches (one Catholic, one protestant) the Synagogue, the Heilig-Kreuze church, Saint Jacob’s and other buildings are all worth a visit, we focus here on Saint Anna’s and the Dom.
Saint Anna’s, which is close to the Rathausplatz, dates from the early 14th century and was originally built as a Carmelite Monastery. The church was damaged during World War II and continues to suffer the ravages of time. Although currently being rehabilitated, it is unclear if the Lutheran parish will be able to raise the money in time to save this unique treasure. We highly recommend a quick visit.
The Goldsmith Chapel, with its famed frescos, was built in the early 15th century and dedicated to the Apostle James and Saint Helen (mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine,). Although the chapel was donated by an individual, the goldsmiths were custodians of the chapel and used it for burials.
Martin Luther lived in the monastery at Saint Anna’s during his trial for heresy in 1518. It was also during this period that the Fugger Chapel (Die Fuggerkapelle) was added to the church. Built by Jakob Fugger, the Rich (if was there any doubt) as a burial chamber for his brothers and family, the highly detailed Chapel is a glorious display of Renaissance art.St. Anna’s is of modest size and the current rehabilitation/preservation work limits the areas of the church available for viewing.
North of the Rathausplatz, along Peutingerstrasse and Hoher Weg, is the Dom St. Maria, dating from the 10th century with later additions. The church itself is somewhat plain and the interior equally bland, except for its stained glass, altars and crypt.
The stained glass windows showing the Prophets date from the 12th century and are thought to be among the earliest of this type of work in Europe. The side altars contain altarpieces by Hans Hoblein, a master at the art. The Dom’s smallish crypt is from an earlier basilica and has the aura of very old stonework, warmth and peace.
On northeast of the Dom, attached to the cloister, you will find the Diocesan Museum (Diozesanmuseum St. Afra Augsburg), which contains many original treasures from the Dom and the diocese. The original, ornate brass doors of the Dom, dating from the 11th century can be found here. The collection is small but interesting and a bargain for the low price of admission.
Take some time to explore the cloister as it has an amazing collection of memorial slabs dating from the 13th to the 19th century.
Due to the historical nature of the building housing the museum, it is only partially accessible by wheelchair.) The website for the museum is in German, but includes interesting pictures of some of the items on display by room. (Try using the Google translator on the page, it’s not perfect, but it will help).
On the other side of the Dom is a small outdoor area containing some the remains of a Roman wall and finds from local excavations. Speaking of the Romans, the Roman Museum can be found in the former St. Magdelana Monastery (south of the Rathaus). The exhibitions focus on the Roman period of Augsburg’s history and many of the displays (all excavated locally) are quite interesting. Its holdings include a relatively large number of stone monuments and relics of everyday life from the area’s times as the capital of a Roman province (Augusta Vindelicum).
The Maximillian Museum, housed in a 16th century patrician residence, mixes town history with an interesting collection of works by local gold- and silversmiths (across from Saint Anna’s at 24 Philippine-Welser-Strasse). The museum’s collection is eclectic, including furniture, sculptures, porcelain, clocks and instruments. It is a nice way to wrap up a day in Augsburg. If you are looking for more to explore, consider the other religious buildings mentioned above, or take a look at the Fugger Palace (Jacob, the Rich, again) for its impressive courtyard. In addition, you might be interested in his Fuggerei, billed as the Europe’s oldest social housing project. Click here for the official website of the Fugger.