Straubing has a very good museum of regional history and culture that I herewith highly recommend. It is named "Gäubodenmuseum" after the surrounding region in the Danube plain, the Gäuboden.
The most treasured permanent exhibition, also the best presentation, is the part about the ancient Romans. Straubing's documented history begins almost 2000 years ago. Sorviodurum, as the ancient Romans named the place, was an important fort on the border of the empire. Within the boundaries of Straubing three army forts and camps and some villae rusticae have been excavated. The unique Roman treasure, the museum's pride, was a large find of Roman armour - helmets, horse armaments, masks and such. These were not used in battle but for festive parades and tournaments. These amazing pieces alone would already justify a trip to Straubing. The further exhibition shows all aspects of daily life of soldiers and settlers in ancient Roman times. See photos in here:
The ancient Roman treasure
The other departments of the museum show hte different eras of prehistory, also with rich archeological finds, the times of the early Bavarians, the development of the town, church art of the baroque era. Further pieces that I enjoyed a lot included a model of the town in the 17th century, and a model of the first big Volksfest in 1912 which unfortunately drowned in a flood and lead to (this is for the German speakers) an abundance of funny persiflages during the following carnival season.
More photos of other exhibits
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 - 16.00. Closed on Mondays.
Entrance fee (2012): adults 4 €, concessions 3 €, children 1 €, family ticket 6 €.
Consult the website for updates.
The mendicant order of the Carmelites settled in Straubing in the 14th century and soon started building their church. The adjacent convent buildings are still inhabited by a congregation of Carmelite monks who use the church as their abbey church.
A small street leads straight towards the facade with its single, rather short steeple. This view makes the church more impressive. Otherwise it is a bit overshadowed by the other larger churches in town.
The gothic church has been refurbished with baroque ornaments, altarpieces etc. around 1700. The strong round pillars still tell of the medieval building.
The left side altar contains a small gilded sculpture of the Madonna which is considered a miraculous image: "Mary of the Nettles" is a pilgrimage destination.
The nativity is on display during festive seasons of the church year in a narrow room off the side chapel on the right. If it is open, don't miss it.
The call it "Krippe", nativity, but it is a lot more than the usual Christmas scene. A series of showcases displays several scenes from the Life of Christ and also from the Old Testament, for example the finding of Moses.
The Christmas scene in the big showcase at the end has the Holy Family and the arrival of the Holy Three Kings together with lots and lots of other figures in front of the panorama of old Straubing.
It is hard to tell how old the figures and settings really are - they are surely not new. Could be 19th, or even 18th century. People are all dressed in precious fabrics. Only the best was good enough, despite the fact that they lived in poverty. There are lots and lots of details to look at.
When the Jesuit order settled in Straubing in 1631, they were given a gothic chapel by the Western town gate at the end of the market street. Over several decades this old church was refurbished and altered. The result is a little baroque jewel. The division in three naves was removed to create a wide hall. Walls and vaults are painted white. Large windows let a lot of light in. Altarpieces and other furniture are made from dark wood with lots of gilded ornaments.
During festive seasons of the church year, the nativity is on display in a side room off the chapel on the right - don't miss that. (See separate tip.)
Straubing's old town is located very close to the river but a bit uphill to be protected from floods. Dykes add more protection. The low banks of the river have foot and bike trails that invite for a relaxing walk.
This is rather a "Things NOT to do" tip because the main church of the town is closed for a thorough renovation until at least 2014. It's a pity because according to photos the church must be full of amazing art treasures.
Anyway, St Jakob is a striking landmark due to its tall steeple and impossible to overlook. The late gothic basilica is entirely built from bricks. In this part of Bavaria we have brick gothic, which I so far knew only in the North of Germany. There are no rocks in the wide river plains, the stones present are not suitable for construction, so people had to use bricks instead. Here they have a masterpiece of brickwork and engineering in the late middle ages.
The palace on the bank of the Danube was built in the 14th century as residence of a side line of the House of Bavaria which reigned an independent territory for a short while. Later on it became the seat of various government offices, and stayed such to this very day.
The large festival hall inside, named Rittersaal ("knights' hall"), is said to be one of the largest of its kind. It is usued for special events but otherwise not accessible. To be honest, there isn't much to see unless you are interested in visiting the tax administration, but the building complex is quite impressive. Have a look into the courtyard (which is unfortunately used as parking lot for the employees, hence full of parked cars). The courtyard is accessible through the arched gate from the old town side.
From the riverside the palace looks rather uninviting. The best view can be caught from the Danube bridge.
The Trinity Column in Theresienplatz is a baroque addition to the market street. It was erected in 1709 after a vow the citizens of the town made during the Spanish Heritage War. Most Austrian cities have such columns but in Bavaria they are not frequent.
The top of the column carries statues of the Holy Trinity: Godfather and Christ under the cross and the dove as image of the Holy Spirit above. They are freshly gilded and shiny. The pedestal is surrounded by angels.
Like many cities and towns in Bavaria, Straubing has no central market square but a market street. This one cuts through the entire old town in East-Western direction. The middle part is pedestrianized, the outer parts are parking lots.
The middle of the market is occupied by the city tower (Stadtturm, see separate tip) which divides it in halves. The Western half is named Theresienplatz, the Eastern half Ludwigsplatz.
Along the square, the houses of Straubing's well-to-do citizens line up. Their facades show a wide variety of styles and era. Don't be fooled: Not all of them are as old as they may seem at first sight. The facade of the town hall, the reddish "renaissance" building close to the tower, is a 19th century refurbishment.
The double square is the "living room" of Straubing. The weekly farmers markets and also events like the Christmas market take place here. It is surrounded by shops, restaurants and pubs.
The tower is the centre and the heart and the landmark of Straubing. It was built in the middle of the town and its market street. It is a freestanding tower with no apparent ties to any other building, be it a church, castle, town hall or whatever. Its construction was begun in the 13th century, its present shape with the five spires was created in the 16th century.
Its only purpose was being a watchtower, especially to spot fires quickly, and to show the city's wealth and ambition. A tower guard was living on the top floor.
The tower is also useful to find your way, as it is visible from all four directions.
The tourist office, which is located in Theresienplatz 2 next to the tower, offers guided visits to the tower. The view must be fabuolus. Check the signs for the time of the next tour.