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History Swept in on Three Rivers

Passau’s unique setting—on a tongue of land extending into the confluence of three rivers and within walking distance of the Austrian border—has brought a constant current of history and wealth. The old town (Altstadt) is a charming mix of Gothic and Baroque buildings set along narrow, cobblestone streets. Wander at will but definitely stop at the Gothic town hall (Altes Rathaus) for vivid 19th-century murals of the town history. St. Stephen's Cathedral, its interior a giddy riot of baroque ornamentation and statuary, merits a visit to hear the truly impressive pipe organ. (During summer and at Christmas, half-hour concerts are held daily at noon and 7:30 p.m.) The fortress above the city, the Veste Oberhaus, offers views all the way to the Black Forest and houses a good regional history museum. In addition to hosting river cruise passengers, Passau is a university city and an important link in a network of bike paths so people-watching, beer-drinking, and riverside strolls are highly recommended.