Kelheim is the administrative centre of the Kelheim district in the region of Lower Bavaria. It has a population of nearly 16,000 and is situated on the Danube and the Main-Danube Canal between Ingolstadt and Regensburg. The town is located at the end of the Danube Gorge (shortly after the point where the Danube crosses the Franconian hills), at the foot of Michelsberg hill, where the river Altmühl flows into the Danube.
In Kelheim, almost everything happens on or by the water and no matter where you go, you can sense the town's importance as a river port – and as a tourist destination on the Danube. The Ludwig-Danube-Main Canal, the predecessor of the current Main-Danube Canal, was built in the 19th century and was a highly effective waterway for its time. The Old Canal Harbour, opened in 1846, is still well preserved today. Its lock, harbour basin, crane, warehouse and lock keeper's cottage are fine examples of industrial heritage. The historical old quarter – Ludwigsplatz square with the Old Town Hall and New Town Hall – retains a medieval appearance and is well worth seeing. A sight to behold is the Weisses Bräuhaus, the oldest weissbier brewery in Bavaria, dating back to 1607.
At the entrance of the dramatic Danube Gorge is Weltenburg Abbey, the oldest monastic settlement in Bavaria (founded in around 600 AD). The Benedictine abbey church, built and decorated between 1716 and 1739, is a masterpiece of the European baroque. The abbey was secularised in 1803, but monks returned there in 1842 during the reign of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. It regained its abbey status in 1913. Today, Weltenburg Abbey runs Catholic adult education courses, spiritual exercises and retreats, as well as tours on the art and architecture of the abbey. Tourists can enjoy delicious food and drink at the brewery tavern.
To enjoy beer in true Bavarian style, be sure to visit the Vier Jahreszeiten artisan brewery. There, between the brewhouse and the fermenting room, you can enjoy a fresh, naturally cloudy beer. You are welcome to bring a snack as the brewery doesn't serve food.
Kelheim's old quarter, with its many stores and boutiques, is a great place for shopping. The narrow lanes, historical buildings and cosy cafés give it a real flair – especially when the market is on. Kelheim's food market (Viktualienmarkt) offers everything that is fresh and in season: eggs and poultry, meat, sausage and fish, fruit and vegetables, flowers and plants and regional specialities from the farmhouse kitchen. It takes place every Saturday from 7am to 12.30pm. Every Wednesday, a small market sells fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as asparagus and berries when they are in season.
The Archaeological Museum in the late-Gothic Herzogskasten takes you on a journey from Kelheim's illustrious past as a Celtic settlement right up to the 19th century, and also presents the archaeology of Kelheim from the age of the Neanderthals to early medieval times. It also features a permanent exhibition on the town's history plus various temporary exhibitions.
Other architectural gems include the King Ludwig Memorial, the Otto Chapel from the 13th century, the Herzogskasten (ducal warehouse), today home to the Archaeological Museum, and the Gothic Church of the Assumption of Our Lady. Overlooking the town from Michelsberg hill is Liberation Hall, which was built for King Ludwig I to commemorate the victorious battles against Napoleon during the Wars of Liberation. No visit to Kelheim would be complete without a riverboat cruise through the Weltenburg Narrows conservation area (Danube Gorge) to Weltenburg Abbey, the oldest Benedictine abbey in Bavaria. After visiting the baroque abbey church, built by the Asam brothers, the inviting beer garden is a lovely place to relax and while away the hours.
Accommodation and activities in Kelheim
Whether you're planning an excursion, a family getaway, a short break or an activity holiday, Kelheim has just the right accommodation: from first-class hotels and friendly B&Bs to superior holiday homes. You can also stay at the heart of nature on a farm or a campsite.
There are great facilities for campers and motorhome enthusiasts within close proximity of the town. The campsites beside the river are not only practical for those travelling by boat but also offer a wide range of water sports. There is an excellently equipped motorhome site only 500 metres from Kelheim's old quarter. Ihrlerstein Youth Hostel, which overlooks the town, offers ideal lodgings for younger guests.
Activities in Kelheim
The Danube valley between Vohburg and Bad Abbach is ideal for boating enthusiasts, and also offers the perfect setting for fun-filled family days out and leisurely tours. It first became possible to cross the Danube on the 'rope ferry' between Weltenburg and Stausacker in 1442. Today this is still a special experience for walkers, cyclists, motorcyclists and car drivers. The ferry runs from mid-March to 31 October, from 8am to 11am and from 12 noon to 5pm.
Here, the river follows its natural course for 23 kilometres and flows unhindered between forests and meadows. A highlight of any boat trip is undoubtedly the section through the Weltenburg Narrows (Danube Gorge), where steep crags rise up on either side. The Danube is the perfect setting for family days out and leisurely tours. The Main-Danube Canal is ideal for experienced canoeists, and the rivers Abens, Altmühl and Danube and the Irnsinger See and Mauerner See lakes are extremely popular with anglers because of the abundance of fish.
The scenic landscape of the Weltenburg Narrows conservation area is, of course, ideal for exploring on foot. There are walking trails all around Kelheim. Several provide insights into the region's past and feature some of the area's many relics from pre-history and early history. For longer tours, plenty of variety is offered by long-distance trails such as the Altmühl Valley Panorama Trail, Jurasteig Trail or St. James' Way. There are also numerous local walks, such as from Kelheim to Weltenburg Abbey.
You can also experience the stunning natural beauty of the Danube Gorge or the Altmühl river from the deck of a Weisse Flotte pleasure boat – packages featuring live music and dining are also available. Between March and November, the Weisse Flotte pleasure boats regularly run between Kelheim and Weltenburg Abbey, and from April to November between Beilngries and Kelheim on the Altmühl. Enjoying a relaxed atmosphere and fine dining, you can savour the journey through the picturesque Altmühl valley or the spectacular Danube Gorge. Special themed trips, which run throughout the year, are a fantastic way to see the Altmühl and the Danube. These include trips with dancing and live music, a gourmet brunch or mulled wine tours in winter.
The Danube is perfect for a refreshing dip on hot summer days – either between Kelheim and Weltenburg Abbey (near the Lange Wand rock face), on the 'canoe island' or on the various sunny beaches beside the river. It should be noted, however, that because of the numerous currents, swimming in the Danube is not without risk. Children and inexperienced swimmers are advised not to go in the water without supervision. A child-friendly alternative is the Keldorado leisure pool, where the facilities include indoor and outdoor pools, an 86m waterslide, eco-sauna, steamroom, warm water pool, restaurant, beach volleyball court and sunbathing lawns.
Winter (September to May):
Monday to Friday 9am-9pm
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays 9am-8pm
Closed on 24 and 25 December, 31 December and 1 January.
Summer (May to September): 9am-8.30pm daily
Combined use of the indoor and outdoor pools. The steamroom and sanarium are closed from May to September.
If there is one place that can pride itself on the traditional art of beer brewing, it's Kelheim. Not only is the town home to the oldest weissbier brewery in Bavaria, but nearby Weltenburg Abbey can also boast the world's oldest abbey brewery. Both these places, plus the modern Vier Jahreszeiten brewery, provide a fascinating insight into the art of beer brewing past and present.
Since 1050, for almost a thousand years, beer has been made at the Benedictine Abbey of Weltenburg – a fact that has been confirmed by many historical sources. But that is nothing out of the ordinary: many abbeys started brewing their own beer in the early Middle Ages to supplement the meagre meals that were provided during fasting. 'Liquid doesn't break the fast' was the motto. Because the tradition of beer-making has been practised almost continuously at Weltenburg Abbey (it was interrupted only because of secularisation), the Weltenburg brewery is today considered the oldest abbey brewery in the world. If you would like to find out more about the history of the abbey and the brewery, call in at the visitor centre at Weltenburg Abbey (open daily from March to late October, 10am to 6pm). Its illuminating exhibition presents Weltenburg Abbey from a number of different perspectives. The location of the visitor centre – a cellar carved in the rock where beer was once stored – is especially atmospheric. From April to October, the events agency STADTMAUS (www.stadtmaus.de) runs regular tours of the brewery and the brewhouse. There is, of course, a chance to taste the beers during the tours. If that has given you a taste for the beer or whetted your appetite, the brewery tavern and beer garden at the baroque abbey courtyard are delightful places to relax and unwind.
The origins of the Weisses Bräuhaus in Kelheim are quite different: it was established in 1607 on the orders of Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria. The young duke had inherited the exclusive right to brew weissbier ('wheat bear') – then the beer of the nobility – and set up wheat beer breweries throughout the region, recognising the drink's great potential. Every Tuesday, and also Thursdays from May to October, the Schneider family open the brewery to visitors. On the tour of the facility, you see the brewhouse, bottling line and brewery museum and watch the goings-on in the fermenting room on a screen. Afterwards, you get to sample a beer fresh from the barrel with your fellow tour participants.
There is another beer-themed attraction on Ludwigsplatz: beer sommelier Thomas Brückl has set up his own small artisan brewery in a vaulted cellar, the Brauhandwerk Vier Jahreszeiten. You can watch him as he adds the ingredients to the mash, boils the wort, and carries out many more steps in the brewing process. The tavern next door serves Brückl's handcrafted beer, which is known for its natural purity.
Cuisine in Kelheim
Kelheim's cuisine is just as varied as its beer-brewing traditions. Local menus feature freshly caught fish from the Altmühl and the Danube rivers and wild game specialities from the forests. And every spring, the premium white asparagus grown in Kelheim and Abensberg tempts gourmets into the local restaurants. Kelheim's traditional food festival – the Schmankerlwochen – is perfectly timed to coincide with Germany's national Beer Day on 23 April. For the two weeks, Kelheim's leading restaurants invite people to sample local specialities. A particular speciality comes from the hop-growing region of Hallertau – hop asparagus, known as 'green gold'. While it's in season from mid-March to mid-April, a short but greatly anticipated time, it forms the basis for many delicate dishes.
Information, brochures, events listings and cycling, walking and tourist maps are available from:
Kelheim Tourist Information
Tel.: +49 (0)9441 701 234
Fax: +49 (0)9441 701 207
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