In many ways, Tübingen in Germany resembles the town of Oxford in England – both are home to a prestigious university, are studded with historical buildings and on a sunny day, people sail down the river in traditional punts. Here are best things to do and see in Tübingen.
Climb up to the castle
Hohentübingen Castle was initially built in 1037, but was heavily extended in the 16th century which resulted in today’s architectural mix of medieval and modern-day elements. Perched on a hill, Tübingen’s main sight overlooks the red-shingled rooftops of the Old Town on one side, and the Neckar River on the other. Today, the former castle houses several faculties of Tübingen University, and is a must-visit if you’re in town. Keep an eye out for the laboratory where Friedrich Miescher discovered DNA in 1869, and the 85,000-litre wine barrel from the mid-16th century.
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See Ice Age art
If you’re headed up to Hohentübingen Castle, you’re sure to be drawn in by the on-site Ancient Culture Museum. The collection here wows with fascinating cultural artefacts dating as far back as 40.000 years. Besides an Old Egyptian sacrificial chamber and the famous ‘Tuebinger Waffenläufer’ bronze figurine, the exhibition displays the world’s oldest artworks of humankind. The small Ice Age figurines which are carved from mammoth bones and tusks were gathered from several caves in Germany and are recognised as UNESCO heritage.
Enjoy panoramic views of Tübingen
St. George’s Collegiate Church with its soaring tower is Tübingen’s most prominent landmark. Built on the foundations of two preceding Romanesque churches, today’s building stems from the late 15th century. Catch a glimpse of the beautiful coloured stained glass windows before you climb the 170 steps of the church bell tower for panoramic views of the city below.
Eat like a local
You couldn’t ask for a better dinner setting than the terrace of the Neckarmüller restaurant. This spot sits alongside the colourful houses along the Neckar riverfront, overlooking the purling stream and the distinctive Hölderlinturm tower. Just be aware that restaurant gets super busy, especially on summer weekends, and making a reservation is recommended. If you manage to bag a table, you’re in for a treat of regional specialities, such as Maultauschen or Schupfnudeln along with local draft beer.
There’s no better way to spend a sunny day in Tübingen than jumping aboard a pedal boat, canoe or one of the old punts, and sailing up and down the Neckar River. If you happen to be in town for Corpus Christi weekend, you can join 15,000 spectators for the annual punt regatta of the local students’ fraternities. The event is a competitive yet joyous get-together with costumes, music food and drink.
Explore the historical Bebenhausen Abbey
In 1183 Count Rudolph I of Tübingen founded the abbey, which after the Reformation was repurposed as a school and a 19th-century hunting retreat for the nobility of Württemberg. Guided tours take you around the historic complex, which encompasses the Gothic-style abbey church and monastery building, a summer refectory with beautiful frescoed ceilings, and the splendid former royal bathrooms and kitchen.
Check out the Am Markt cobbled square
Tübingen’s cobbled market square marks the heart of the Old Town and is surrounded by characterful half-timbered houses. During the day, the plaza mostly welcomes visitors who snap photos of the picturesque setting, marvel at the old astronomical clock of the gabled town hall on sip coffee in one of the many cafés. If you want to mingle with locals, come back during the early hours of Monday, Wednesday or Friday for the farmers’ market, or after dusk in summer when students take over the square for a late-night drink outside.
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