The medieval city of Nuremberg is well known for its breweries, beer gardens and Christmas markets, but the rich layers of Nuremberg’s history come alive the most when you consider the gothic churches, medieval city wall, and the towering imperial castle.
The university town of Regensburg’s well-preserved medieval structures include a twelfth century stone bridge with sixteen arches and a thirteenth century twin-spired cathedral, where the famous Domspatzen boys choir sing at mass each Sunday morning.
Passau, often known as ‘The City of Three Rivers’, is a German city on the border with Austria where the Danube, Ilz and Inn rivers meet. The city is filled with historic buildings, such as the famous St Stephen’s Cathedral, which has beautiful domed towers and holds the world’s largest church organ with more than 17,000 pipes.
The historically baroque old town in Linz sits right beneath an even older castle, but Linz itself is renowned for its contemporary art and cultural scene. The Ars Electronica Centre is filled with interactive electronic exhibits with robots and 3D printers, while the Lentos Kunstmuseum has a major modern art collection.
The little riverside town of Melk has a historic centre of sixteenth and seventeenth century buildings, the most famous of which is the Melk Benedictine Abbey founded in 1089. Built to overlook the town and the Danube river, it features an Imperial corridor decorated with images of past Austrian rulers and a domed Abbey Church dotted with gold-covered statues and altars.
Durnstein is a small picturesque town beside the Danube with a rather English claim to historical fame: the ruins of Kuenringer castle on the hillside above Durnstein was where England’s King Richard ‘the Lionheart’ was held prisoner for a year in 1192.
Austria’s capital city is a hub of musical and artistic talent, being home to Mozart, Strauss and Beethoven in the past. There’s plenty of stunning architecture to go around too: the Schoenbrunn Palace used to be the summer residence of Emperor Franz Joseph and 40 of its 1141 intricately decorated rooms are still open to the public. Elsewhere, St Stephen’s Cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece, with underground catacombs dating to the fourteenth century. Once you’ve had your fill of history, enjoy a slice of decadent Sachertorte chocolate cake and an evening of opera at the State Opera House.
Bratislava is the medieval capital of Slovakia. With a beautiful castle and two perfectly preserved squares surrounded by bars and cafes, the city’s pedestrian-only Old Town is a delight to wander through.
The capital city of Hungary is split into two sides: Buda on the west side on the Danube river and Pest on the east. Connected by seven different bridges (including the famous nineteenth century Chain Bridge), they make a city rich in Art Nouveau architecture and filled with living history, seen on buildings pockmarked by WWII bullets. If you’re not eating local delicacies of stuffed cabbage or bowlfuls of Hungarian goulash, go and catch beautiful panoramic vistas from the impressive Buda Castle and the turrets of Fishermen’s Bastion. Alternatively, indulge in a visit to one of the public thermal baths and steam rooms dotted across the city - Kiraly, Rudas and Szechenyi are all worth a visit.