I had used the Christmas Market season of 2002 as a chance to scout out places for future visits, and the one that stood out the most for me was Landshut. I was awed by the size and color of the main market street, the great river views, and the prominent Burg Trausnitz on the hill overhead. But it was night-time and quiet so I vowed to give it full day in a future visit -- which would ironically be Christmas Market season 2003.
I referred to Landshut as the "other jewel" in the Isar because it shared the river with Munich. While the latter was an international tourism magnet, we found Landshut to be smaller and quieter -- a real pleasure to walk around.
From the train station, the old city was perhaps a half-mile to mile away. The majority of the distance was covered with new-style residences and businesses, indicative of how the city had grown over time.
Our first landmark was the Isar River itself, and its crossing point over the Luitpoldbruecke, shown in the first photograph. There, the Isar divided temporarily with the Greater Isar going straight ahead and the Lesser Isar going to the left. It surprised me to see how low the city was to the very large Isar River. I would have assumed that any flooding would have been a problem. But, roughly halfway between the train station and the city was a dry canal about as wide as the Isar that was used to drain any potentially dangerous floodwaters.
The second photograph also shows a scene from the Luitpoldbruecke, that of the city's two most most prominent structures, the St. Martinskirche at left and the Burg Trausnitz above. Because my first visit was at nighttime, I missed the view of the Trausnitz, so was very excited when I had the opportunity to see it in daylight.
Although the old city wall was gone, the entrance to the city was wonderfully recreated as the red brick Laendtor, a classic medieval-style gate that welcomed us in from the river (in fact, it looked very similar to the Karlstor in Munich). The pedestrian zone began there, leading into the old city along Theaterstrasse -- lined with renovated old buildings hosting modern shops.
Indeed, the old city got quite a facelift since World War II. Raised from the rubble, and painted to its original form, the city looked vibrant and cheerful even in the darkest of gray days (like we got in November 2003). It was built along two very wide boulevards that parallel the river, the Altstadt and the Neustadt. The third photograph shows the center of the Altstadt facing toward the Rathaus, which was the brownish towered building in the distance near the Christmas Tree).
Some twenty named landmarks line the Altstadt and Neustadt roads. The highlights for us included the St. Martinskirche at the southwest end, whose interior was beautifully restored and filled with wonderful artwork. The Rathaus was neat to look at, as was the city Residenz across the way (a modest Residenz building as they go). The Altstadt bent to the left toward the Postplatz and the Heiligen-Geist (Holy Ghost) Church, providing us the beautiful view in the third photograph as the buildings converged together.
The big highlight on the Neustadt was the Jesuitenkirche that was built directly below the Burg. Probably the coolest view of the Trausnitz. This one and several other sectarian churches were connected to large compounds at both ends of the road -- there was a Dominican compound, an Ursulien compound, and the Holy Cross Church.
The Christmas Market was located in a separate market square towards the foot of the hills. Called the Freyung, it was lined with old residences on both sides and sat before the St. Jodok Church, which looked like a smaller St. Martinskirche. Just beyond the Freyung was the inland side of the old city wall that followed the base of the hill below Trausnitz. The hill itself comprised the Hofgarten, a heavily forested city garden.
We climbed up to the Burg Trausnitz. It wasn't hard to reach, the walkway was not too steep. The Burg was a classic old palace that had been kept up as the city's landmark -- heavily renovated and used as a museum. Unfortunately, when we went in the courtyard was completely dug up for utility work (typically done among palaces in the wintertime). The ground and first floors hosted an arts-and-crafts exhibit where locally-produced modern art was for sale.
But really, the reason to climb the Burg was for the view. The fifth photograph shows the St. Martinskirche from the observation deck along the ridgeline called the Burgschanzl on the castle grounds. From this spot, one could easily make out the two streets of the old city, along with the Freyung market square the hosted the Christmas Market.
We were pleasantly surprised to see that the Burg hosted its own special Christmas Market on the castle grounds. Much like the one at the Fraueninsel, this market featured special crafts sold for local and regional charities. It was very beautifully decorated with lights and had old-style wooden huts. Really nice. Too bad it wasn't well attended while we were there.
Like so much of eastern Bavaria, Landshut didn't get nearly the international tourist crowd as its more notable neighbors Munich, Nuremberg, and Regensburg. But it was a city with a lot of culture on its own. It hosted art, music, and theater, and has many parallel festivals that draw the locals.
True story -- I raved about Landshut to a couple of my German friends after my 2002 visit. I told them that I had never heard of the place until I read about it in a brochure and I took a chance. They replied that most Germans had never heard of Landshut either. A shame. Hopefully this article helped correct that problem. :-)
Trips taken 29 November 2002 and 29 November 2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2004 Tom Galvin