In the footsteps of the emperors

The Salians had ambitious plans for their city, and you can aim high too, by starting your "imperial tour" with a climb to the top of the Old Gate.


At 55 m, the Old Gate is Germany's tallest city gate and was built in the early 13th century. After exactly 154 steps you will be rewarded with fantastic views as far as Heidelberg and the German Wine Route. You can also see what's in store for you on your sightseeing tour.

If you stroll from the Old Gate down Maximilianstrasse, Speyer's main street, towards the cathedral and the Rhine, you pass by virtually all the main highlights along the way, with a few highlights just one or two small detours away. Our tip: take a walk to the Memorial Church, which was endowed by the Prussian Kaiser Wilhelm II. Can you see the emperor's children? Seven angels' heads in the center windows are dedicated to them. Kaiser Wilhelm II is quoted as saying: “Once they were seven little rascals (Bengelchen), now they are little angels (Engelchen)."

Of all the beautiful baroque and rococo buildings on Maximilianstrasse, two are worthy of special mention: the Old Mint, built in 1748, and the town hall, built in 1726. From here you can already see the acclaimed Speyer imperial cathedral, now a UNESCO World Heritage site,  but we recommend that you try and suppress your curiosity for a moment and take two little detours on either side of the town hall.

To the right, in Kleine Pfaffengasse, are the Jewish Court including SchPIRA Museum and Mikwe  (open for viewing from April to October). The ritual cleansing bath (mikveh in Hebrew) is the oldest of its kind. Its 10-meter-deep bathing shaft was built before 1128, and the eastern walls of the adjoining men's and women's synagogue are also still preserved. In the Middle Ages, Speyer, Mainz and Worms were the centers of Ashkenazi Judaism along the Rhine. To the left of the town hall is Grosse Himmelsgasse and the Trinity Church, consecrated in 1717 and a wonderful, internationally important example of late-baroque wooden architecture (You can take part in a guided tour on Wed. and Sat.: 10.30 a.m.-4 p.m., Fri (from 1 April 2013) and Sun.: 2 p.m.-5 p.m.).

Stop! Don't retrace your footsteps straight away, but go a little bit further along Nonnenbach into the Hasenpfuhl district. This lovingly restored former fishermen's and sailors' quarter, with its fig trees, rose bushes and fountains, is the perfect spot for a romantic interlude.

Impressions

  • Old Gate (Altpoertel)
  • Maximilianstrasse
  • Memorial Church
  • Town Hall
  • Jewish Baths
  • Trinity Church
  • Cathedral
  • Historical Museum of the Palatinate
  • Technik Museum, 125th car anniversary
  • Technik Museum, Russian space shuttle "BURAN"

And now it's time for the cathedral! Stand for a moment and admire the perfect layout, the balanced distribution of the mighty structures to the east and the west, the symmetry of the towers on the corners of the nave and the transept. Rhenish Romanesque in its purest form! The foundation stone for what is now the city's most famous landmark was laid in 1030 by Konrad II. Together with the cathedrals of Worms and Mainz, it forms the triumvirate of "imperial cathedrals on the Rhine“. Speyer cathedral is a place of superlatives: it is the oldest of the three imperial cathedrals, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is the largest, fully intact Romanesque building in Europe. 134 meters long, 33 meters high and with a central nave 14 meters wide, it has the dimensions of a Gothic cathedral. In its crypt, which remains virtually unchanged to this day, eight German emperors and kings have found their final resting place.
Next to the cathedral is another major attraction. Covering an area of around 6,000m², the Historical Museum of the Palatinate houses an impressive collection of exhibits from the Stone Age to the present day. It is among the most-visited cultural history museums in Germany and, with its high-caliber special exhibitions, proves beyond doubt that museums don't have to be boring.

Directly behind the museum and the cathedral flows the Rhine, which is a lovely, romantic place to end your visit to Speyer. Cruise past the cathedral and old quarter on a pleasure boat, discover the unspoiled quality of the idyllic "old Rhine" or marvel at the glorious reflection of the setting sun on the water …

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