Lower Bavaria (German: Niederbayern), a pastoral landscape reaching from the Danube River in the north to the Inn River in its south, is a land pungent with the scents both of Hallertau hops and of the Bavarian Forest pines and firs which spread across six of its districts.
The diverse Lower Bavarian terrain invites exploration with its hiking, cycling, and equestrian trails. Its rivers invite exploration by kayak and canoe, and its cities invite exploration of their medieval churches and castles, and enjoyment of their vibrant festivals.
There may be no better way to explore all that Lower Bavaria has to offer than with an itinerary which takes you to each of its three main cities. Passau in the southeast, Landshut in the southwest, and Straubing in the north central regions of Niederbayern are cities brimming with history, just as the countryside between them is brimming with natural beauty and Bavarian romance.
In the Passau region, you can let your spirits soar on the heights of the southern Bavarian Forest, or take in the sights of the city of Passau. This phoenix of city has risen from the ashes three times, most recently from a 1662 fire which nearly destroyed it. Following that conflagration, it was rebuilt with stunning Baroque architecture.
Passau’s magnificent St. Stephen’s Dom watches over the town, stunning its visitors when music sounds from the nearly eighteen thousand pipes and four carillons of the world’s biggest cathedral organ. At the Glass Museum, you’ll see more than 30,000 (!) examples of Bavarian Forest glass artistry, some of which date back more than two centuries.
Just 87 km or 54 miles northwest of Passau, in the shadow of the forest’s foothills, is the ancient town of Straubing. Immerse yourself in the Lower Bavarian experience by cycling along the Danube Cycle Path (Donauradweg).
Between Passau and Straubing you’ll pass through Osterhofen. The great architect Johan Fischer and the great sculptor Egid Asam collaborated for the only time during the building of the Osterhofen Basilica.
Next will be Deggendorf, the gateway to the Bavarian Forest and site of a Bronze Age settlement. Take time for a stroll along the medieval ramparts, where you’ll get a feel for Deggendorf’s unique pear-shaped layout.
Another twenty miles along the Danube is Straubing, which the Romans occupied into the 5th century. Some of the treasure they left behind is on display at the Gäubodenmuseum. In a darker time of Straubing’s history, Agnes Bernauer, the secret (and non-royal) wife of Albert II, Duke of Bavaria, was tried as a witch and drowned in the Danube on the orders of Albert’s father! Straubing honors her memory every four years with the Agnes Bernauer Festival.
Straubing will keep you busy with its other festivals, especially the 11-day Gauboden Folk Festival held each August, the 2nd largest in Bavaria! The surrounding Straubing-Bogen district has countless hiking trails, over 1,000 km/600 miles of biking paths, and castles to satisfy the most romantic heart! Only 15 km or 9 miles form Straubing is the health resort of Mitterfels, where the 800-year old castle contains a museum of traditional farming tools (and dungeons dating to the 1400s!).
To reach the third city, Landshut, in the Lower Bavarian triangle, leave the Donauradweg at Deggendorf for the Isar Cycle Route. Head south and then west for a total of 42 miles/69km through the Dingolfing-Landau district. The 13th-century district capital of Dingolfing has kept up with the times by becoming the site of BMW’s largest manufacturing plant, yet still retains its medieval character.
From Dingolfing, 34 km / 21 miles of pedaling will get you to Landshut and St. Martin’s 70m/229ft bell tower, alleged to be the tallest brick tower on Earth! Landshut is overflowing with splendid examples of Gothic architecture, the best of which is probably its 13th-century Trausnitz Castle. Visit the Castle’s Hall of Illusions, with its frescoes of doors, wall medallions, and landscapes so cleverly painted that they appear three-dimensional!
As the world’s largest producer of hops, it’s only natural that Lower Bavaria would have its share of beer gardens and breweries. So be sure to interrupt your rambles with plenty of stops to test their offerings! ;-)