With its magnificent buildings, mainly in the Renaissance style, the famous former Free Imperial City, which for centuries was one of the most important cities of the Holy Roman Empire, has a unique aura. Already in ancient times, the city was located on one of the most important north-south connections of the Roman Empire, the Via Claudia Augusta. As a result, Augusta Vindelicorum, as the Romans called the city at that time, as the capital of the Roman province of Raetia, already had more than 12,000 inhabitants. Even after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the settlement was able to maintain its status as an important trading center thanks to the still existing Roman road leading across the Alps. A brilliant development began in the late Middle Ages, when two merchant dynasties arose in Augsburg, that of the Welser family and that of the Fugger family. The latter in particular built up the world’s largest early capitalist trading and banking empire of their time. As a result, Augsburg became an important European financial and commercial metropolis.
Augsburg is now the third largest city in Bavaria after Munich and Nuremberg. It is ancient and yet modern and offers plenty of sights. At the same time, the city is also young and modern, after all, more than 25,000 students study here, there are international trade fairs, with the Augsburger Plärrer the largest folk festival in Bavarian Swabia and twice a year a huge varied fair called “Dult”.
Tip 1: Augsburg Cathedral
Beside the Basilica of St. Ulrich and Afra, Augsburg Cathedral is the largest and most conspicuous church in the city. The building also forms the center of the northern part of the old town, which was already built on in ancient times: this was the site of the Roman provincial capital Augusta Vindelicorum, built on the Roman road Via Claudia Augusta.
The origins of the cathedral probably date back to the 8th century, which is why the current appearance of the building is the result of more than 1,000 years of construction activity. Among the most valuable furnishings are five stained glass windows depicting prophets, dating from the 11th or 12th century, and the bronze doors from 1065.
Tip 2: Fuggerei
In 1514, Jakob Fugger, known as the Rich Man, had an idea: in order to provide shelter for innocent citizens in need, he set up a charitable foundation out of “heartfelt gratitude for the goods received from the Lord God out of devotion and generous generosity as an example”. For 15,000 gulden, the merchant and banker bought four plots of land in the Jakobervorstadt, a craftsmen’s quarter of Augsburg. Here he built the first social settlement in the world. Until 1522, numerous houses for two parties each were built on several thousand square meters. The apartments were 60 square meters in size, the ground-floor apartments were supplemented by a small garden with a shed, and the apartments on the upper floor were given a spacious attic.
The quid pro quo? Those who lived in the Fuggerei were expected to say three prayers a day for the benefit of the Fugger family – an Our Father, an Avemaria and a Credo. In addition, residents had to have lived in Augsburg before and pay the annual rent of about a week’s wages of a craftsman. It was important to Jakob Fugger that the residents of the Fuggerei pay a contribution so that they did not feel like alms recipients but as tenants with dignity. In fact, this was one of the biggest differences to other social projects of the time: In the Fuggerei, the residents and their families could live and work independently and did not just eke out a sad existence in a poorhouse.
Tip 3: Augsburger Puppenkiste
Who doesn’t know the stories of “Jim Knopf and the locomotive driver Lukas” and of “Urmel” from their childhood days. They were born here in the small but fine puppet theater founded in 1943 in Augsburg’s old town. And even today, children and adults enjoy the pretty stories that the puppets tell on their strings.
In addition to fairy tales and children’s stories, plays for adults and cabaret programs are also performed here. The museum of the “Puppenkiste” exhibits the most famous “stars on strings”, which are also known to millions of TV viewers.
Tip 4: Augsburg City Hall, the Perlach Tower and the Prince Bishop’s Residence
The City Hall in Augsburg is the most important secular building of the Renaissance north of the Alps. Emperors and chancellors, presidents and potentates were received in the “Golden Hall”, today you can visit it. The 70-meter-high Perlach Tower was once a watch tower of the city and later the bell tower of the church of St. Peter. Today you can climb it and you will be rewarded for this effort with a magnificent panoramic view over Augsburg and, if the visibility is good, all the way to the Alps.
The former residence of the prince-bishops is located directly next to the cathedral. Until 1802, the bishops of the Augsburg diocese resided here and since secularization, the building complex has been the seat of the district government of Swabia. On special occasions, visitors can tour the Rococo hall and the ceremonial staircase. Very beautiful is the former court garden, laid out from 1739 to 1744 by Johan Caspar Bagnato. It contains, among other things, tulip trees, gingko trees, hibiscus and blue-elder bushes, countless flower beds and a water lily pond with ornamental fish and water turtles. A very pretty fountain provides cooling on hot summer days. In the so-called Fronhof, the very popular open-air summer concerts are often held.
Tip 5: Lech Quarter
Augsburg lies on three rivers, the Wertach, the Singold and the Lech. The Lech is the largest flowing body of water and the so-called Lech quarter is a beautiful old urban landscape. On steep paths, the path east of Maximilianstrasse leads down to the countless Lech canals that crisscross the quarter.
They once served to maintain the city’s water supply and to provide energy to the medieval craftsmen’s workshops with the help of water wheels. Today, the many lively rippling streams and canals, the small bridges and footbridges give the quarter a very special charm.