Ulm, on the banks of River Danube, is much more than the tallest church steeple in the world and the birthplace of Albert Einstein, though these are obviously super cool too. As you explore this unassuming city, you’re bound to discover heaps of culture, stunning architecture and wonderful surprises. Let’s take a look at the sights that are sure to win your heart in Ulm.
Ulm is almost synonymous with Ulm Minster, the tallest (161.5 meters / 530 feet) church steeple in the world. It was built over 513 years (1377-1890) and is considered one of the finest pieces of Gothic architecture in Europe. Its walls house a trove of treasure, including late medieval sculptures, carved-oak choir stalls made in the 15th century, a 16th-century triptych, beautiful stained glass windows and more. Climbing 768 steps to the spire at 143 meters (469 feet) might make you groan and sweat, but we promise that uninterrupted views across hundreds of miles (on clear days, even of the Alps) is going to make the pain worth it.
Fischerviertel, Fishermen’s and Tanners’ Quarter, is probably the most picturesque part of town. Here, lovingly preserved half-timbered houses and quaint cafes line the mouth of the River Blau, the region crisscrossed by countless romantic alleys and bridges. The Leaning House, or the Crooked House, is easily the most photographed site in Ulm after the minster. This 14th-century timber-framed Gothic building – supported by beams and appearing to lean precariously into the water – is now a hotel (Hotel Schiefes Haus Ulm).
Walking the town walls in Ulm is a wonderful way of experiencing the city as it was in the 15th century. These walls, built along the river to protect the city from attacks, have mostly been preserved in their original condition. One of the main attractions of this region is the 36-meter-tall leaning Metzgerturm or Butcher’s tower. This is a pristine location to laze around, enjoy great river views or grab a meal at one of the restaurants and cafes.
The Museum of Bread Culture (Museum der Brotkultur) is certainly one of the most offbeat museums you can visit in Germany. It is dedicated to the historical, social, cultural and economic implications of baking bread. It walks visitors through the fascinating journey of bread, from grains to the kitchen table. The information is presented through life-like sculptures, original machines and realistic bread production settings. Visitors also get to see bread-themed artwork by famous painters.
Ulm Rathaus allures visitors with its extraordinary frescoes dating back to the mid-16th century. The building suffered heavy damage during the Second World War and was later reconstructed and restored to a condition as close to the original as possible. A special attraction of the Rathaus is a gorgeous replica of a 16th-century astronomical clock.
An architectural tour of Ulm cannot be complete without a visit to the magnificent Benedictine monastery of Wiblingen. Its earliest existence can be traced back to the 11th century but the monastery, as it exists today, was almost completely rebuilt in 1714-1781. The cloister houses an enchanting church in its premises. Moreover, the cloister library is considered one of the finest examples of Rococo architecture in the country. At the Museum in Konventbau, you can learn all about the history of the cloister and its social, religious and cultural influence over the centuries.
Every year, on the penultimate Monday in July, huge crowds gather in front of the Oath House, to listen to the speech delivered from the balcony of the Schwörhaus by the Lord Mayor of Ulm. However, even other than “Oath Monday” (Schwörmontag), the Oath House is worth a stop because of the interesting architecture of this ancient (854 AD) building and the Gothic statue of St. Christopher and a beautiful fountain in the courtyard.
For a generous dose of culture, head to Ulm Museum, which houses an admirable ensemble of Upper Swabian artwork, historic artifacts and objects of archeological interest. The most popular exhibit of this museum is the 40,000-year-old Lion Man sculpture carved from ivory.
Right in front of the Rathaus stands the ornate fountain called Fischkastenbrunnen (Fish Box Fountain). This was built in the 15th century and was used in bygone days by fishmongers to keep their wares alive during market days. In winter, the fountain is covered with planks to protect it from severe weather.
If you are traveling with kids, or if you like zoos yourself, Tiergarten Ulm promises a fun day out. Animals, fish, birds and reptiles across several exotic species call the Ulm Zoo their home. At the open-air sections, you can view creatures freely roaming in their natural habitat, while the flocks of colorful birds is a favorite with visitors. There is even a petting section where you can get up and close with some animals.