When you have climbed the 768 steps in the main spire you are at a height of 141 metres above Münsterplatz. On a not so beautiful day you can see the layout of the double city, divided by the Danube into Baden-Württemberg (Ulm) and Bavaria (Neu-Ulm) very well. On a beautiful day you can admire the softly rounded hills of Schwäbische Alb and the quaint little towns of the region. On a splendid day you will be able to admire the chain of the Bavarian Alps at the distance. Best days for such views is a Föhn day – you know, the wind which causes headaches in many people…
Surely this is no undertaking for people with breathing or heart problems but everyone without health problems should make the effort. It is so wonderful to stand at the viewing platform and look at the toy houses and cars below you. We once made the climb on a day when temperatures were above 35°C, that was quite a sweaty affair…
You might notice steel fencing at the viewing platform. This is not only for your safety. Mainly it was put in place because from time to time depressed people used the platform as the ultimate place to step out of life and commit suicide…
Jan/Feb/Nov/Dec 9am – 3.45pm
Mar/Oct 9am – 4.45pm
Apr/May/June/Sep 9am – 5.45pm
July/Aug 9am – 6.45pm
Admission is 4 Euro for adults, 2.50 Euro for children and students, children under 7 years are free.
The church is open one hour longer and until 6.45pm during the Christmas Market. You can climb the spire during church services and concerts, as access is from the foyer in front of the entrance door to the church.
This theater was built in the years 1966 to 1969. The large hall seats up to 840 people. There is a also a "Podium" hall for smaller productions, seating up to 200.
Second photo: In the large hall before the premiere of Aida.
Third photo: The large hall as seen from the balcony.
Try your luck at climbing the 768 tiny twisting stairs to the top of the 530 foot Münster! The church took 513 years to build, from 1377 - 1890. It is truly a remarkable cathedral, inside and out. And the view from the top is worth every step!
Marktplatz is less a market square than Münsterplatz nowadays. But this was its original purpose, with famous Fischkasten fountain as the place where there fishmongers kept their live fish.
I love Marktplatz because it is the perfect place to enjoy the views of the magnificent Rathaus (Town Hall) and the ultra-modern glass pyramid next door which houses Ulm’s City Library.
The best places to enjoy the views of it are a pub named “Bit am Rathaus” and the Italian ice-café next door. Many people just buy an ice-cream in a cone and hang out at the Fischkasten fountain to enjoy it. Also the café at the library is a nice place to hang out.
Another outstanding feature of Marktplatz is Ulm’s Museum (Ulmer Museum) where you will find many original stonemasonery figures among a lot of other items which tell about Ulm’s history.
Update September 2010
The restaurant on the ground floor of Rathaus has been redesigned. It is no more "Alexandre" but "Ratskeller". The restaurateurs have changed several times within the years. Sitting outside under the umbrellas in summer is still quite nice.
The stained glass windows in the Munster are extremely beautiful, especially the Israel window (I think it's called - with the seven-branched candlestick) and the modern New Jerusalem window on either side of the corner where you come in.
Whenever I look at this fantastic building I discover new details. And even if you do not look at the details at all, Ulm’s early Renaissance Town Hall is such an impressive appearance that you can’t stop admiring it. Although I like many buildings for various reasons, this surely is my favourite one in Ulm.
Opulence is perhaps the best description for its painted and ornamented façade, with orange as the spectacular and striking base coat.
The south-eastern main part of the today’s building is its oldest part and was built in 1370 as a “new department store”, as they called it. In 1397 it got council chambers, and in 1419 it was first mentioned as Town Hall.
The painting you see today is only from about 1900. Then the façade was restored, as the weather had destroyed the artwork. The paintings were extended to the older parts of the building and show scenes about virtues, commandments and vices. But walk around and you will find a lot of references to what makes Ulm, its boats, the Danube, the trade. You will find a painted plaque reminding of Johannes Kepler, the great astronomer.
On the eastern gable you find a beautiful astromical clock from 1520, with rich ornaments, and also a sun dial. The astronomical clock shows an incredible lot of detail. If you are interested in such things it is well worth to have a look at the .pdf on the internet – or on site with binoculars:
A big part of the interior burnt out in 1944 during World War II. But the groundfloor and the upper floor of the south wing remained intact.
Today one of the exhibits of the interior is a replica of Albrecht Ludwig Berblinger’s flight machine, the historic predecessor of the hang glider.
Town Hall is open during normal office hours, and you are allowed to go inside and have a look around. The most interesting displays are a replica of the Tailor of Ulm's paraglider and a model of the city:
Mon – Wed 7am – 4.30pm
Thu 7am – 6pm
Fri 7am – 12noon
A big part of the groundfloor is home to a restaurant. Formerly the Ratskeller (Council Cellar), later a self service restaurant, it is now called “Alexandre” and has a huge outdoor area at Marktplatz (Market Square). I would classify the food as average and ok, the coffee as below average but drinkable. But the location is first class. This part of Marktplatz is a pedestrian area and surrounded by restaurants, pubs, cafés and some small shops. Just sitting outside at “Alexandre” with this Town Hall façade in front of your nose, watching people, and relax is wonderful.
Einstein is one name that springs to mind when you think of famous Ulmers, although he only spent the first 15 months of his life in the city. We think of the Tailor of Ulm who tried to fly over the Danube. There have been famous designers, the Kässbohrer and Magirus (now: Iveco) vehicles, the Walther rifles, the inventor Robert Bosch, just to name a few. But none of them has done as much for mankind as Hans and Sophie Scholl who founded the “Die Weiße Rose” (The White Rose) movement during the Third Reich and paid with their lives for their resistance to Hitler’s Nazi regime.
You might have seen the movie “Sophie Scholl” – this is their story.
It has taken more than 60 years until the city of Ulm set a monument for the siblings. The square of Neue Mitte is named Hans-und-Sophie-Scholl-Platz (nearly a bit hidden), and two iron steles is sitting at Münsterplatz. It has only been installed when the square in front of the Cathedral was revamped, so is rather a late addition, long overdue. Until then only a school (Geschwister-Scholl-Gymnasium) was named after the siblings.
The Scholl family moved to Ulm in 1932, just a year before Hitler came into power. Their father was imprisoned for a while because he said critical words about the Nazis. He knew how disastrous the reign would end, as he had Jewish clients. Despite his critical view his four of his five children (three daughters named Inge, Elisabeth and Sophie, and one son, Hans) were members of the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth), only one son (Werner) shared the father’s view. Despite being a Hitler follower, Hans was arrested in 1937, because he did not see the point why he should only read certain books or sing certain songs. This is considered the turning point in the Scholl siblings’ political views.
When Hans and Sophie went to study in Munich they got to know students with similar views. They founded the “Die Weiße Rose”, distributed pamphlets, and secretly sent them around Germany without informing the rest of the family back in Ulm. In February 1943 they were caught when laying out pamphlets. Several days later they were convicted of treason and executed by guillotine on 22 February 1943. Back in Ulm, the whole family were arrested and imprisoned in the prison at Frauengraben (behind the Justice Palace in Olgastraße) for several months. Other citizens treated them like dirt after their release. To get away from those animosities the Scholls moved to a farm in the Black Forest. Father Robert stayed imprisoned in a concentration camp nearly until the end of the war.
The Americans instated Robert Scholl as Mayor of Ulm after the war but with his moderate view of de-nazification even the political left denied him support. In the first free elections in 1948 he lost his post and moved to Munich. Elisabeth (later: Hartnagel) and Inge (later: Aicher-Scholl) stayed in Ulm and helped that Hans and Sophie’s legacy was not forgotten. But it is not forgotten that the teachers of the school that was named after them resisted the renaming.
The steles on Münsterplatz are very minimalistic. They contain stylised white roses, cut into the metal. Three sentences from one of Die Weiße Rose pamphlets are printed on the next side of the stele, near rose, reminding the Ulmers that many knew but preferred to keep their eyes closed:
”Wir schweigen nicht. Wir sind Euer schlechtes Gewissen. Die Weiße Rose lässt Euch keine Ruhe.“
“We do not remain silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose does not get off your back”
On the steles you can also read:
“In the house Münsterplatz 33 Hans and Sophie Scholl lived with their parents and siblings from 1939 to 1942. With their friends of ‘Die Weiße Rose’ they resisted the terror of National Socialism and were convicted by the Volksgerichtshof and executed on 22 February 1943.”
Photo 2 shows the steles in the context of Münsterplatz, the rose(s) reflected on the ground.
On photo 3 you see a detail of the steles, with a rose and the sentences from the pamphlets, on photo 4 a closeup of a rose with the Cathedral in the background.
If you are in trouble, go to Neuer Bau. It is the site of Ulm’s main police station (Polizeidirektion), centrally located next to Stadthaus and Münsterplatz (Cathedral Square).
From the air – easiest if you dare the ascent of the Cathedral spire – you can see its interesting floor plan best. It is an irregular polygon – if I did not count wrong, a heptagon. It is irregular in many respects – but from Stadthaus it has a symmetric appearance, with two high gabled buildings, linked by a low element.
Neuer Bau is made of dark red-brown bricks. The tiled gabled roofs are adorned by a multitude of dormer windows, with an impressive four rows of dormers on the inside of the polygon., plus large extensions in the centre of each roof space.
You would not suspect that this massive building originates in late renaissance when you see it from the outside only – and with outside I mean the outside of the polygon. When you stand in the cobblestone courtyard, you see historic adornments that give you an idea how it once might have looked. The most striking features there are a tower topped with an onion dome and rather a spectacular fountain named Hildegard-Brunnen, and also a lot of portals.
Neuer Bau was built from 1585 to 1593. The masterbuilders were the builder Matthäus Gaiser, the carpenter Hans Adam, and the sculptors Claus Bauhofer and Peter Schmid. Its original purpose was a storehouse for grain, salt, and wine. The first floor was used as backup location for council meetings of the so called Swabian Circle. It had to be restored after a massive fire on 19 February 1924 and restored until 1927, and again after partial destruction in 1945.
Located in the triangle between Neue Straße, Lautenberg and Münsterplatz.
Photo 1 is an aerial shot taken from the Cathedral’s Tower.
Photo 2 displays a partial view of the courtyard and some of its decorative elements.
This outstandingly beautiful fountain, named after Empress Hildegard, is somehow hidden in the courtyard of Neuer Bau.
It was created by the sculptor Claus Bauhofer in 1591. It is not completely clear why the fountain was placed there. One theory is that Neuer Bau stands at the site of the former mansion of a patrician family named Ströhlin. Their property had been called Imperial or Royal Court because it was the German King’s accommodation during his stays in Ulm until 1473.
In 1810 the building got into the possession of the state of Württemberg. It housed the Main Customs Office.
Hildegard was a Swabian/Franconian duchess and became Empress after marrying Charles the Great (Karl den Großen) in 771. She was his third wife and brought the region of Ulm into the marriage. Later Hildegard became a saint. She was born about 758 and died in 783. (Can you believe that she married at the age of 13?!?) Her grave is in Metz (France).
Photo 2 shows the complete fountain, photo 3 a detail.
The sculptor Jürgen Goertz created this bronze sculpture of Albert Einstein, Ulm’s internationally most famous son, in 1984. It is located on the grounds of historic Zeughaus. (Zeughaus is Ulm’s historic arsenal; today it is home to parts of Ulm’s municipal court.)
It consists of three elements:
The rocket symbolizes technology, the conquest of the universe and the atomic threat.
On this base you see a big snail shell which symbolises the opposite, namely nature, wisdom and scepticism about mankind’s dominance of technology.
On the side of those two pieces - somehow like a parenthesis - you see Einstein’s head with mischievous look in his eyes and tauntingly sticking out his tongue.
A place you somehow automatically would walk past is the Einstein Monument in Bahnhofstraße. I think an average tourist would not walk to or past Zeughausplatz when just strolling through the city.
On photos 2 and 3 you see the whole fountain.
You cannot say that Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955, Princeton/USA) lived in Ulm for a long time. That is why Ulm is not called Einstein City but City of the Sparrow, different brain size, different story, relatively simple.
But of course, Ulm is proud of the fact that the creator of the Relativty Theory (E = mc²) was born here, and so you find an Einstein monument in Bahnhofstraße (which becomes Hirschstraße, further down towards the Cathedral), close to the Railway Station, at the site of his birth house, a rather spectacular Einstein Fountain (but really a bit off the beaten path in front of Zeughaus although I have posted it in the “normal” tip category, never mind…), an Einstein-Gymnasium (highschool), an Einstein-Realschule (secondary school), an EinsteinHaus (Volkshochschule = centre of tertiary education at Kornhausplatz), an Einstein Street, and since several years the Einstein-Marathon. Since 1971 the City awards the Einstein Prize for science.
A geometrical monument of reddish granite marks the site of Einstein’s birth house which once was Hirschstraße 20 – it fell into rubble during WW2. There Einstein was born on 14 March 1879. When he was just 15 months old his family moved to Munich where his father Hermann registered them on 21 June 1880.
The monument is made of 24 granite cuboids. Twelve of it stand vertically for the hours of the day, twelve lie horizontally for the the night. They symbolise the time that is arranged in the space in a way that reminds of Einstein’s birth house.
On the city’s website is mentioned that Einstein’s father was a member of the Israelite community that donated a stone sculpture the Protestant citizens on the occasion of the Cathedral’s 500 year anniversary. It is the Jeremiah figure in the central nave. This shows how well integrated the Jews were at the time.
Still, the city did not really know for quite a while how to acknowledge Einstein’s achievements. Only when the then Mayor was told that Einstein was a genius, he sent him the city’s congratulations in 1920. Just a reminder: He had finished the Relativity Theory in 1916. Einstein received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1922, but only years later a street was named after him. When the Mayor wrote him about it in his card to Einstein’s 50th birthday, the famous man obviously wrote back: “I have already heard about it. I am grateful that I am not responsible for what is happening in this steet.”
When Hitler came into power, Ulm’s Nazis renamed Einsteinstraße into Fichtestraße (Pine Street, or after a poet named Fichte). One year later Einstein, already residing in the USA, lost his German citizenship. After the war Fichtestraße once again became Einstein-Straße. Einstein was amused and said they should rather name it Vane Street, so there would never be any need to change anything, whatever political system is in place, and it would match the political character of the Germans.
When the City of Ulm suggested to make Einstein an Honorary Citizen on the occasion of his 70th birthday, he declined, citing the atrocities towards the Jews during the Nazi regime. He did not want this to be published, and always answered birthday cards the City sent him in a polite way.
Photo 2 shows a detail of the monument, with the inscription:
Hier stand das Haus, in dem am 14. März 1879 Albert Einstein zur Welt kam".
The highlights of the cathedral are the late Gothic pulpit, the wooden choir stalls which are beautifully carved (by Jörg Syrlin dem Älteren) and the altar in the choir.
The choir stalls show, among others, Claudius Ptolemy, Pythagoras, Vergil, and several Sibyl figures.
A very special treasure is the Foundation Stone Relief (click on the link to read the story behind it).
The cast-iron mosaic windows in the choir are of outstanding beauty, but even surpassed by the windows of the so called Bessererkapelle south of (so: behind) the choir. They are from 1430 and show five eight-piece sequences of scenes from the Old and New Testament.
The organ has 98 registers and 8900 pipes.
I especially like – beside the Foundation Relief – the frescos on the wall to the choir.
The church also has some impressive bells. Gloriosa is the biggest and heaviest one. It was cast in 1956 in Stuttgart, and weighs 4912 kilos. It has the deepest sound when all the bells are ringing.
Every year at 7.15pm on 17 December the Gloriosa is rung for 15 minutes as a reminder of the bombardment of Ulm in 1944.
Until 1953 the bells were rung by hand, since then it has been done mechanically.
Admission to the Münster is free. You only have to pay a fee for climbing the spire.
No visits during mass and concerts.
Jan/Feb/Nov/Dec 9am – 4.45pm (until 6.45 during the Christmas Market)
Mar/Oct 9am – 5.45pm
Apr/May/June/Sep 9am – 6.45pm
July/Aug 9am – 7.45pm
Entry to the spire from 9am until one hour before the church is closed.
Ulm has not only one answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa but two: first, of course, the Metzgerturm (Butchers’ Tower), second Schiefes Haus – the Leaning House – in Fischerviertel. The roof top is leaning at an impressive angle of 9 to 10° over the river Blau. Since 1997 the Guinness Book of Records lists it as the world’s most extremely leaning hotel.
Construction started in the 14th century. After several alterations and extensions it has been looking the way it looks today since 1443. It is a half-timbered Gothic five-storey house. With the upper storeys being wider and therefore heavier than the base, and being built right at and even over the water originally, the building by the time sank more and more to the southern side, and had to be saved from crashing at the start of the 17th century already.
The construction of the house – narrow at the bottom, wider in the upper storeys - can be explained by its purpose as a building for fishing, repair of nets, and fish storage. There was a boat landing at the base of the house, the upper storeys serving as a kind of roof.
In 1950 the city became the owner of the building. In 1995, they sold it to an architect who obviously spent 3,5 million D-Mark (1,7 million Euro) on a major and fantastic restoration. Since then the house is used as a hotel (Hotel Schiefes Haus).
As you can imagine, it is not a “normal” place. The owners have not attempted to straighten the building, as this is such a significant and unique feature, but to keep it leaning. So the main focus was to stabilise the building by inserting steel constructions that act as counterbalance.
As the walls are leaning, you will surely not expect to walk on level floors. In fact, there is an incline of 40 centimetres. Still, the custom-made beds are level. Water-levels which inform you about your “real” leaning are incorporated in the headboards of the beds. All eleven rooms are individually decorated. I must say, not all to my taste, some rooms look too bare naked with the exposed brickwork and the modern furniture. But thanks to underfloor heating the rooms are warm. And the owners correctly claim that the walls do tell stories… The terrace where you have breakfast is fantastic. And in the warm months the windows and dormer windows which dot the roof are beautifully decorated with striking geranium.
There is also a seminar room which can be hired separately. Meals are provided.
Single room 125 Euro, double room 148 Euro (as March 2009).
If you do not stay there, there is an interesting photo display outside the hotel, so you get a better idea.
If you cross the short footbridge and have a coffee or drink at "Ulmer Münz"... They have an outdoor seating area, and you would sit right beside the river Blau and next under the leaning house.
A little footnote:
The impoverished widow of the Tailor of Ulm, Maria Berblinger, spent the last years of her life in this house.
Photo 2 shows the less leaning side of Schiefes Haus - when you approch it from the north (Weinhof).
This beautiful balcony is the place where Ulm’s Lord Mayor – a funny Social Democrat named Ivo Gönner at the moment, and since quite a while – opens the Schwörmontag celebrations every third Monday in July.
He first gives a review of the most important city issues of the past twelve months, then he lays out the plans for the next twelve months, and finally he renews the historic oath from 1397, promising to be a good mayor. The historic formula ends the speech, with the mayor swearing to be a true and honest representative of the rich and the poor, in German: “… Reichen und Armen ein gemeiner Mann zu sein in allen gleichen, gemeinsamen und redlichen Dingen ohne allen Vorbehalt, so wahr mir Gott helfe“.
Without Schwörhaus, Ulm’s big day Schwörmontag would be unimaginable. It is the place where the Mayor gives an account to the people and opens the day-long celebrations. (See more in extra tip about Schwörmontag and Schwörhaus-Balkon)
The square where Schwörhaus is located is Weinhof, referring to its use as the city’s wine market from the 14th to the 19th century.
Before that it was the site of Ulm’s royal palace (from 854), the so-called Königspfalz, Pfalz meaning: palace, so King’s palace. At the time, this did not mean that Ulm had its own king and that the “palace” was a real castle but a big estate. The cities had the duty to accommodate the king appropriately when he visited his subjects, accompanied by his sometimes hundreds of people strong entourage and their horses. Ulm’s sovereign then were the Staufer kings and emperors. From this time you can still see the Staufenmauer (Staufen Wall) when you walk from Schwörhaus down to Fischerviertel.
Schwörhäusle – which means: Small Oath House – was sitting on a tower of the palace. This was replaced by a bigger Schwörhaus (Oath House) after 1612. This burnt down in 1785 and reconstructed, and another reconstruction took place after World War II.
Today Schwörhaus houses the “House of City History” (Haus der Stadtgeschichte) and Ulm's archive (Stadtarchiv).
Weinhof is used as a carpark and only kept car-free on Schwörmontag when seats are put on the square, so people can listen to the Mayor’s speech.
Apart from cars you can admire a beautiful fountain named Christopherus-Brunnen on Weinhof. (See extra tip)
Schwörhaus is open Tue – Sun, 11am – 5pm.