Augsburg, Germany: the Perfect Day Trip from Munich
You know what I never knew I needed to do in my life? Spend the day in a town where almost every building is covered in lush, green vines. Sounds wonderful right? Seriously a photographer's dream. What isn't so wonderful is having the forecast turn to non-stop, pouring rain for the entire 24 hours you’re visiting. However, even with the wet conditions and cloudy skies, Augsburg, Germany proved to be one of the prettiest cities I've seen in central Europe, making it one of the best options for a day trip from Munich.
Despite being the third largest city in Bavaria, most people don't consider Augsburg for their Germany travel itinerary. However, it's so pedestrian-friendly and draped in history that it's a fantastic stop even for just a day. The town is easily accessible by train from downtown Munich and the Munich airport. Therefore, there's no excuse not to commute 30 minutes to check out a city that's off the beaten path.
Originally founded in 15 BC by the Romans, Augsburg’s history goes WAY BACK. However, walking around Augsburg, you'll quickly learn that the town's history is deeply rooted in the work of Martin Luther. Plaques are installed on the buildings where Luther fought for his ideas in the 1500’s despite being seen as a heretic, eventually paving the way for the beliefs that Lutherans still follow today.
Wander the Gorgeous City
Not only is Augsburg covered in vines, but so many of the buildings are built with intricate patterns and color combinations. Just a simple stroll through town turns into a walk of constant photo ops. In the main pedestrian-friendly square, you'll see the Augsburger Rathaus, the Renaissance-style Augsburg Town Hall built in the 1600s. In that same square is the beautiful Perlachturm, a 230 ft high tower originally built as a watchtower in the 10th century. These days, there's an observation deck at the top that will give you stunning views of the city.
As you make your way further through town, you'll see buildings with facades of every shade of blue, yellow and orange you can imagine. Looking down a street will provide a rainbow of colors in your sights. Much like Italy, small alleyways and paths wind off the main roads, giving you a peek into the lives of the locals as children play and laundry hangs from lines.
Visit the Augsburg Fuggerei
There aren't many places in the world where you can step into homes from the 1500s. The Fuggerei is a social housing project that has been in use in Augsburg since 1523. What makes this place unique is that it has stayed relatively the same and has been consistently occupied since its inception. Originally built to provide housing for the poor people of the city, the price of rent is still equivalent to .88 Euros per month, the same price it was when first opened. Sounds too good to be true right? I would personally give ANYTHING to pay pennies on the dollar for rent (Chicago rent prices are no fun). However, there have been rules in place to live in the Fuggerei since the 1500s as well: you must have lived in Augsburg for at least two years, you can not be classified as a beggar, you must be Catholic and you must be loan free. You must also say three prayers every day for the Fugger family (the owners of the complex) and the gates to the Fuggerei close every night at 10pm. So obviously no crazy late nights or parties.
Although people still live in the Fuggerei, you can still pay to walk around and see some of the smaller museum spaces that have been built on the premises, including the inside of one of the small apartments. Wandering through the Fuggerei felt almost other-worldly. As soon as you cross the boundary of the large archway entrance, the cobblestone streets, pale yellow buildings and vines literally EVERYWHERE make it feel like a fairytale village. Even when our stroll turned into us darting from one archway eave to another to avoid the pouring rain, I still could not stop shooting photos (to the point that all my clothes were soaked through lol).
See Augsburg's UNESCO World Heritage Site
In addition to Augsburg's long history, the city also received an official UNESCO World Heritage Designation in 2019. One of the things that Augsburg succeeded at in the 1400's was water. With the Wasserwerk am Roten Tor (the town's waterworks), Augsburg unprecedentedly had fresh, running water as early as 1423. This water management system continued to supply the town until 1879 when steam-powered technology was introduced. Imagine have fresh, unpolluted water in the 1400's. It's insanely impressive, hence the Unesco distinction. As you walk through Augsburg you'll see many lavish fountains as well, as a way to show off the power and technology Augsburg possessed around fresh water.
Grab a Beer
If you're traveling to Germany, you obviously have to drink beer. What kind of tourist would you be if you didn’t? The Brauhaus Riegele was created in 1884 but it actually dates back to the year the original brewery that was bought out was formed: 1386. This brewery is still popular with locals and tourists alike, serving multiple beers on tap, beer flights and some darn good German spaetzle with local Augsburg cheeses. Thankfully Riegele has started to distribute its beer throughout the U.S. so I’m hoping I can find some in the Midwest to relive my trip.
Despite not knowing what to expect, Augsburg proved to be a fascinating town where I got a serious refresh on all the European history I learned about in high school. I also took so many photos (more than I have in many cities in Europe) even though some of my shots feature downpours of rain. The weather may not always be agreeable but that doesn’t mean you have to let that ruin your trip. If you’re planning to visit Germany, or are heading to Oktoberfest and need a break from the party, just hop on the train north to Augsburg. The quiet nature of the town will provide a relaxing break from your travels, making it the perfect option for a day trip from Munich.