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First things first – a typically German breakfast is the perfect way to start your day exploring this beautiful city. The Old Town offers a ton of cafés that dish up a yummy meal of buns topped with sandwich meats, cheeses and spreads, along with boiled eggs and freshly brewed coffee. If you want to start exploring right away, you can always get a pastry and coffee to go from one of the many bakeries around.
The Historical Museum of the Palatinate
Archaeological finds have shown that people lived in the area thousands of years before the Romans founded the city in 12 BC, making it one of Germany’s oldest cities. The Historical Museum of the Palatinate is a great way to start your tour by delving into the fascinating history of Speyer and the region. The exhibition takes you from the time of the prehistoric settlements and the arrival of the Romans to Martin Luther and the Protestant revolution through to modern times.
The Romans have influenced the Palatinate in many ways – one of them being that they started cultivating grapes and laid the foundation for what’s now one of Germany’s best wine regions. Part of the Historical Museum is dedicated to the cultural history of winemaking and wine consumption over the past 2,000 years. The highlights of the exhibition are the world’s oldest, still liquid grape wine that was bottled more than 1,600 years ago and a giant wooden wine press from the early 18th century.
Just around the corner, past the cathedral – we’ll come back to that later – is the Jewish courtyard that is composed of the ruins of a synagogue and a ritual bath dating back to the 1100s. In medieval times, Speyer was home to one of the most important Jewish communities in Germany, and the site is in remarkable condition. You can climb the stairs into the underground bathrooms that have survived centuries virtually unchanged.
To really get your holiday feeling going, head down to the river to catch some sun. The waterfront has a few places where you can enjoy a drink and a light lunch before you continue your jam-packed day of sightseeing. If the weather plays along, the Rheinstrand Speyer beach bar is the perfect escape. Grab a beach chair and tuck your toes into the white sand or laze around in one of their hammocks while sipping a cocktail or a glass of Riesling from a local vineyard.
Explore the Old Town
After having learned so much about the city’s history, take some time to explore Speyer’s Old Town sights. The city centre is littered with impressive landmarks from across all eras – most notably the UNESCO-listed Cathedral, which is the oldest of three remaining Romanesque cathedrals in Germany. But that’s far from all. Along your way, you’ll pass the historic town hall, Trinity Church that boasts the original interior from the early 18th century and the so-called Altpörtel, an impressive city gate that in the Middle Ages was part of the city fortification. Speyer’s Memorial Church opened its doors in 1904 and was built in commemoration of a 1529 protest which paved the way for the overall acceptance of Protestantism.
Stroll and wander
Spend the rest of the afternoon rambling about the city. Maximilian Street is the main shopping promenade and provides a picture-perfect backdrop for an afternoon worth of browsing Speyer’s shops and boutiques. The street is seamed with beautiful pastel-coloured gabled houses, cute cafés, speciality shops and boutiques. Chances are that you will stumble across a market or one of the many cultural events that take over the city throughout the year. Every Tuesday and Saturday, plus Thursdays in the summer months, see huts and stalls popping up on the Königsplatz plaza for the farmer’s market, where locals come together to exchange the latest gossip while sipping their coffees.
The Palatinate region holds some culinary treasures, and the city centre wine taverns and restaurants make it easy to experience the local cuisine. You’ll be spoilt for choice. Weinstuben – wine taverns – and traditional restaurants are found all over the Old Town and offer not only excellent food but also some award-winning wines from the region. Keep your eyes peeled for the must-try specialities.
The nightlife in Speyer is relatively placid, but you can find some nice bars and pubs across the city if you fancy an after-dinner drink to round off your trip. There are a couple of riverside beer gardens further up river from the beach bar, which is great for a warm summer night as well.