A Piece of Italy in Germany
Medieval Speyer was already one of the most popular centres of trade and industry on the Upper Rhine during the Middle Ages. Right up to the present day, Speyer's competitive retail industry continues to be attractive to the surrounding communities on the right and left banks of the Rhine. The historical city centre is a charming setting for a colourful, bustling pedestrian zone, which invites you to stroll, take in the sights, shop and enjoy the city at your leisure. Fig trees stand out against the warm yellow tones of the buildings, and rose covered courtyards mesmerise you with the splashing of their fountains. In Speyer, you will discover a piece of Italy and miles and miles of history. At the end of Speyer’s picturesque Maximilianstrasse towers the majestic ‘Kaiserdom’ cathedral. Not far from here, you can experience the age of technology. In Speyer, you do not have to go far to take a leap through the centuries.
The city of Speyer is located in the Pfalz holiday region, approximately 145 km to the southeast of Frankfurt-Hahn Airport (see map on bottom of page).
The Pfalz is one of the nine holiday regions of Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate. The Pfalz, the southernmost part of the Rhineland-Palatinate, is a veritable Garden of Eden. Fruits such as almonds, figs and kiwis thrive here thanks to a climate that is exceptionally mild. This is a land of superlatives: with more than 150 million vines, the Pfalz has the largest uninterrupted wine-growing area in Rhineland-Palatinate. In Bad Dürkheim, you will find not only the biggest wine barrel in the world but also the biggest wine festival, the Bad Dürkheim Wurstmarkt. The Pfalz also has plenty to offer in the way of historical interest. Speyer's cathedral, for instance, is a UNESCO world heritage site. ... read more about the Pfalz holiday region
In the summer, life is played out on the streets of Speyer between the ‘Altpörtel’, one of the highest town gates in Germany, and the cathedral. It’s just like being in Italy, a country with which the people of Speyer have a few things in common. If you ask them what is special about the town, the people of Speyer will proudly tell you: ‘In Speyer, the Pfalz region begins to turn into Italy’. And indeed, Speyer and its surrounds have a certain Mediterranean feel. There are fig trees, blossoming lemon trees and as early as March you can see the pink hues of the almond trees growing on the fertile plains of the Rhine Valley. Even the cuisine has a southern lightness about it, although it is still filling, like all Pfalz food.
Every year in August, food is served at the 800 metre long imperial table. Then the ‘Maximilianstrasse’ is filled with the aroma of crispy pretzels, the Speyer speciality, the famous ‘Pfälzer Saumagen’ (pig’s stomach) is lovingly prepared and the Pfalz wines sparkle in the glasses. Once the table is cleared, the lively hustle and bustle continues with gusto. At the countless tables set out in front of the bars people sit together chatting, here and there people meet at the baker's and wander in and out of the many shops.
The ‘Maximilianstrasse’ has been a lively road for centuries. The mediaeval market at the foot of the cathedral takes you back in time. The sound of the blacksmith’s hammer ringing out through the lanes, boiled meat steaming in copper pots and street entertainers playing their cheeky pranks. Take a step into the world of Speyer — there’s a lot to discover.
A Pfalz jewel with a Mediterranean feel, Speyer has been blessed not only by its temperate climate, but also by history. It boasts the most important Romanesque architecture, the tallest city gate in Germany and the oldest Jewish bath in Europe. At the end of Speyer’s picturesque Maximilianstrasse towers the majestic, almost 1,000 years old ‘Kaiserdom’. At the other end of Speyer’s shopping street is the Old Gate. Street cafes, palm trees and oleander lend Speyer an invitingly Mediterranean atmosphere.
- This is one of the tallest (55 metres) and most significant city gates in Germany. The lower section was built between 1230 and 1250, with the top floor of the tower added in 1512/14. Viewing point and exhibition on the town fortification.
- Speyer Cathedral (Dom)
- Cathedral of the Speyer diocese. Salic basilica built before 1030 by Konrad II, consecrated in 1061, with major rebuilding from 1080 until about 1106. One of the biggest and most important Romanesque buildings in Germany, partly destroyed in 1689. In 1981 the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list, as a leading example of Romanesque architecture in Germany.
- Built between 1701-1717 as a Lutheran church and modelled on Frankfurt’s St. Catherine Church. The interior is adorned by a lavishly painted vaulted wooden ceiling and the wooden carvings on the pulpit, altar and galleries are of particular interest (can only be viewed as part of a guided tour of the town).
- Birthplace of the Speyer artist Anselm Feuerbach (1829-1888), an important 19th century painter. Today, the building houses a large number of works by the artist.
- Neo-Gothic church built between 1893 and 1904 to commemorate the protestantization of 1529 carried out by the ‘Reichstag’ (Council of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation). The organ and the stained-glass window cycle are particularly interesting.
- Halle 101
- A music and arts centre built for young people and musicians by an association of rock musicians, for both rehearsals and performances. Meeting place for many different interests, tastes and musical direction.
- Historisches Museum der Pfalz
- Built between 1907 and 1910, the museum houses a collection of cultural history with exhibits from the Stone Age to the present, cathedral treasure vault, Wine Museum, special exhibitions.
- Jewish Bath
- Built before 1128, this is the oldest ritual cleaning bath of its kind in Germany (Mikwe in Hebrew) with 10 metres deep bath shaft. The east walls of the adjacent men’s/women’s synagogue are also preserved.
- Birthplace and family home of the painter Hans Purrmann (1880-1966), permanent exhibition of more than 70 of the artist’s works. The exhibition provides an overview of the work of Purrmann, a pupil and friend of Henri Matisse.
- Sculpture Garden
- Sculpture Garden, created in 1985 in close cooperation between town planners and the Speyer Artists’ Association. The Artists’ House is closely integrated into this urban planning concept.
- St. Ludwig
- Conceals the remains of the choir of the original Dominican church built in 1266. Contains two important Palatinate late Gothic works of art in the form of the so-called ‘Bossweiler Altar’ (1485) and a woven antependium (circa 1500).
- Technik Museum Speyer
- Spread over a large site between the cathedral and the airport and also in the ‘Liller Halle’, the museum presents exhibits from the areas of aviation, railways, the fire service and shipbuilding. The IMAX films give the viewer the feeling of being at the centre of the action.
The Imperial Cathedral of Speyer was meant as a symbol of the Emperors power and it still has this effect today. When the Palatinate farmers rumbled on to the Speyer market in their wooden carts loaded with grain and vegetables, they looked up at the impressive towers, arches and gables with respect and were overwhelmed by the Speyer Empire.
Mighty columns reach up towards the altar room inside the 105 metres long nave of the church. Beneath these lie the graves of eight German emperors and kings. Their impressive sepulchre was the largest construction to be found anywhere in the whole of the Christian western world in the 11th century. Even today, the cathedral is one of the largest churches in Europe and the pride and joy of the people of Speyer.
The lively little town lies at the foot of the cathedral, still with many a rare treasure to offer. Only a few streets from the cathedral, the Jewish baths still welcome visitors as they did hundreds of years ago. A barrel-vaulted staircase leads down into the depths of the quadratic bathing well, where the once clear, cold water was used for ritual cleansing. The baths are the oldest preserved facility of their kind in Central Europe.
The Romans and ancient Germanic peoples already had their influence early on in the region. It has been more than 5,000 years since the first farmers settled permanently at a Rhine ford near to present-day Speyer. Emperors and Bishops had their seat here and for the first time Speyer is named as a bishop’s seat in the year 346. During the 6th and 7th centuries the first Christian churches and monasteries are built. Important events in Speyer's — and all of Germany's — history are the Imperial Diet and Reformation. In the first half of the 16th century Speyer again becomes the middle point of German history, its proud citizens conscious of the key role they are playing in politics. Destruction and decline follow in the 17th century, Speyer is characterized by membership in the alliance of the Protestant Union and by the influence of the Catholic League personified by the Bishop. In 1816 Speyer becomes a capital district town of the Palatinate which forms part of the Bavarian kingdom and thus becomes an administrative centre of the whole region. The 20th Century marks the Wilhelmian era, that provides Speyer with numerous new buildings: In commemoration of the Protestation of 1529 the Memorial Church, begun in 1890, is consecrated in 1904, with financial support from Kaiser Wilhelm II.
As you can see, Speyer is the town of superlatives. The Technology Museum also makes its contribution. The light and airy design hall dates back to 1913 and, with its artistically arranged struts and darts, is an impressive feat of engineering. Here you will find the gleaming ‘old timers’, locomotives that weigh a tonne, curious looking flying machines from the second century, and a U9 U-Boot. This is a 46 metres long German Navy submarine, which you can climb into to experience the cramped conditions of life under the water for a few moments.
- Historisches Museum der Pfalz
- In addition to the numerous and well-received changing exhibitions, the highlights of the permanent collection are the Cathedral Treasure Chamber with the memorial crowns of the Salic emperors and the Wine Museum. Located directly next to the Romanesque Cathedral, the museum is one of Speyer's main attractions.
- Technik Museum Speyer
- The Speyer Museum of Technology is housed in a former aircraft hangar from the year 1913, now classified as an historical monument. Here one can view airplanes, locomotives, fire engines and old timers.
- Purrmann House
- In 1990 the city of Speyer renovated the birthplace of the famous painter and honorary citizen of Speyer, Hans Marsilius Purrmann (1880-1966), and the Speyer Art Society turned it into a museum and commemorative site.
- Feuerbach House
- The famous painter Anselm Feuerbach, the son of the renowned archaeologist of the same name, was born in 1829 in this small house. The ‘Feuerbach House’ society saved it from being torn down in 1971 and opened it up as a commemorative site with a library and an archive.
- The Artists' House
- This building, situated next to the Sculpture Garden, was renovated by the City of Speyer and handed over to the Artists Association in 1987. This association of artists, founded in 1984, turned it into a cultural forum and meeting place.
- Sea Life
- Sea Life is a network of marine life aquariums stretching across much of Europe. The attractions offers a unique insight into the lives of a myriad creatures living in the Rhine River (from its source in the Alps to its flow into the Atlantic).
Speyer is located at the banks of the Rhine River. Discovering Speyer and its picturesque landscape by river cruise is a special experience. There are several shipping companies, that offer boat excursions. The passenger ship ‘Pfälzerland’ takes you on the Rhine and ‘Altrhein’ (Old Rhine). With the passenger ship ‘MS Sealife’ you experience a Rhine River cruise for the whole family. You will experience Speyer from a completely different perspective. The charter boat ‘Germersheim’ offers a unique excursion on the Rhine exploring the idyllic tributaries from and to Germersheim.
There is always something happening — whether it is art, music, wine festivals or a host of other activities. The Events Finder gives you an overview about what is on, where and when. Here you can search for events and festivals in the region.
Here you have direct access to the online accommodation reservation service of the Tourist Board of Rhineland-Palatinate. No other hotel reservation system on the Internet offers you such a broad and comprehensive list of accommodation in Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate regions. You can list accommodation, search accommodation, contact accommodation establishments and make online reservations.
Frankfurt-Hahn Airport has no direct railway or bus connection to Speyer. However, the buses from the airport will take you to the railway stations in Koblenz, Trier, Mainz, Frankfurt Main Airport, Frankfurt Main City, Kirn, Idar-Oberstein and Saarbrücken where you can connect with Deutsche Bahn trains or local transport links.