Ulm Things to Do

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Most Recent Things to Do in Ulm

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    Schwörhaus-Balkon (The Oath House's Balcony)

    by Kakapo2 Updated Mar 15, 2009

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    The place where Ulm's Mayor swears the Oath.

    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“.

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    Schwörhaus (Oath House) and Weinhof (Wine Square)

    by Kakapo2 Written Mar 15, 2009

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    Schw��rhaus on the site of a former royal residence

    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.

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    Go on a Boat Tour on the Danube

    by Kakapo2 Written Mar 15, 2009

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    Cruising the brown Danube. It is not dirty at all!

    From 15 May to 30 September there are daily tours at 2pm and 3pm, on Sat, Sun and public holidays also at 4pm. From Easter to 15 May they offer tours on weekends (Sat/Sun 2pm and 3pm) only.

    A tour takes about 50 minutes.

    Cost is 7.50 Euro for adults, 4.50 Euro for children up to 14 years.

    An Ulm special are the tours on solar-powered boats.

    They take about 1 hour and departure times are approximate only, as they depend on the river flow and wind. You can also choose to go from one to the next stop only. Those stops are Metzgerturm, Adlerbastei (past Herdbrücke towards Friedrichsau), Barfüßer in Neu-Ulm and Friedrichsau (near the football ground). A roundtrip costs 4.50 Euro.

    Departures (May to Sept) are only on Sat, Sun and public holidays, between 2.30pm and 5.30pm.

    The boat can also be chartered for 70 Euro for the first and 60 Euro for the following hours.

    A solar ferry operates between Edwin-Scharff-Haus in Neu-Ulm and the Ulm side (Wilhelmshöhe). This is near Fischerviertel. Single trip 1 Euro, return 1.50 Euro.

    More info here:

    http://www.solarboot-ulm.de/www/main.php?open=./SolarFlotte

    Flyer in pdf format here:

    http://www.solarboot-ulm.de/www/SolarFlotte/E8.1%20Solarflotte%20Fh10.pdf

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    Stadtmauer (City Wall) is a fantastic Promenade

    by Kakapo2 Written Mar 15, 2009

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    On the City Wall on a not very busy day...

    Ulm’s red brick city wall along the Danube is a fantastic promenade for a walk along the Danube. Whereas on the paths along the riverbank you can run into cyclists your walk some metres above the river is undisturbed.

    You can look into the people’s gardens inside the wall, admire the historic houses along the wall, check out what happens on the lawns between the wall and the river, watch passing ships and boats, or just sit down on one of the bench seats which have been placed along the promenade, or sit on the wall’s wall. A bit closer to a bridge named Herdbrücke you have direct access to the outdoor seating areas of some restaurants and cafés. It surely is the most relaxing way to explore the riverside, and surely offers the best views into the historic quarters and over the river to the sister city of Neu-Ulm.

    There are plenty of access points to the wall. The most popular ones are at Fischerplätzle in Fischerviertel (Fishermen’s Quarter) and at Metzgerturm (Butchers’ Tower), the next one down the river at Herdbrücke. At Fischerplätzle and Metzgerturm there are not only the stairs up to the wall but also archways through the wall to the riverbank and river.

    If you carry on walking down the Stadtmauer, you end up on a walkway along the Danube to a long-stretched park named Friedrichsau and Ulm’s main sports ground named Donaustadion.

    The City Wall was built in 1482 to fend off opposing forces.

    This historic wall later became part of a huge fortress, in fact it was Germany’s biggest fortress (Bundesfestung) with several impressive forts and bastions you can still see today. The Bundesfestung was built from 1842 to 1859.

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    Leaning Metzgerturm reminds of cheating Butchers

    by Kakapo2 Written Mar 13, 2009

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    Metzgerturm is leaning at a 3.3�� angle.

    This leaning tower is not a real memorial to the butchers of Ulm, more a reminder of what also happens today in many trades – and something that is normal in other countries’ butcher trade LOL Or: What I always claim happens with New Zealand’s sausages LOL

    Legend says that the tower is named after the butchers because they were once locked in this tower when they were caught of adding sawmill dust into the sausage mix to make them cheaper to produce but keep the size. Other sources say the people were angry because the sausages always got smaller but the butchers charged them twice the price when everything became dearer after a bad harvest and a shortage of meat.

    I do not know how true this story is – because part two of the legend is definitely just a legend: When the enraged mayor came to see them in the tower the intimidated and big-bellied butchers all congregated in one corner, and this made the tower lean forever. Again in another version it is said that Ulm’s housewives protested against the rip-off, and the mayor ordered the butchers into the tower for discussing the issue – with the same consequence.

    Fact is that Metzgerturm is leaning an impressive 2.05 metres to the north-west. This is 3.3° - the Leaning Tower in Pisa has 5.1°. The reason for the leaning however is the underground, as the tower is sitting on a former swamp. Formerly I had heard a big fire had contributed to the leaning.

    The tower is 36 metres high and was built in 1349 as part of the city’s fortification system.

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    Blau-Insel - Island in the Stream

    by Kakapo2 Written Mar 13, 2009

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    The houses are as narrow as the island.

    In Fischerviertel (Fishermen’s Quarter) you find this tiny island, enclosed by the river Blau. It is sitting in the northern arm of the two Blau arms, which are about 400 metres apart when they flow into the Danube.

    You get this view when you walk down the hill from Weinhof to Schiefes Haus. Turn right before Schiefes Haus (Schwörhausgasse) and walk to the next alley, turn left onto the bridge, and – voilà! If you turn left again after the bridge, the name of this alley is “Auf der Insel” – on the island.

    The Blau is just a little stream with its spring at the Blautopf – an amazingly blue and green shimmering pond in the town of Blaubeuren – only 14.5 kilometres west of Ulm. After passing under the B 10 road, it becomes an built-over underground stream and even flows under Ulm’s railway station. When it sees daylight again, the water is separated into two arms that flow through Fischerviertel (Fishermen’s Quarter) and finally into the Danube, 400 metres apart from each other.

    The name Blau BTW does not describe the colour (blue) of the water. It is a river name from the pre-Germanic era (Blava), as are the names of other rivers that flow into the Danube, as Nau, Drau (Drava, meaning: run) and Save (Sau, Sava). The Nau, BTW, flows through nearby Langenau.

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    Fischerviertel/Fishermen’s Quarter is pure Romance

    by Kakapo2 Written Mar 13, 2009

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    Weeping willows add to the romantic feeling.

    This is just THE quarter in Ulm you have to see and stroll around, hang around, eat and drink. I would not care about the shops down there, antiques, art, jewellery shops, but surely about the lots of nice traditional restaurants and pubs you find there in beautifully restored buildings. The official name is Fischer- und Gerberviertel (Fishermen’s and Tanners’ Quarter) but nobody calls it like this, just Fischerviertel.

    Strictly spoken, the medieval Fischerviertel lies on an island, enclosed by the Danube on one side and the two arms of the Blau river on the other sides. However, you do not get this feeling, as parts of the Blau, especially the southern arm, are built-over and put underground.

    The quarter surely is Ulm’s most romantic area, and several streets are pedestrian only, and the ones where cars are allowed they are only allowed to drive at walking speed. (As nice as it would be to have it completely traffic-free… But the residents have to get their stuff home somehow.)

    I do not recommend to walk through Fischerviertel in high heels as all streets are covered in cobblestones.

    There are some bent bridges made of red bricks, narrow alleyways and even narrower water passages, leaning half-timbered houses and equally leaning towers, weeping willows, the city wall. You still find working water wheels, many names – like Lochmühle – remind of milling businesses. And you discover history at every corner. Somehow the quarter is like an open-air museum full of life.

    Fischerviertel was – as the name tells you – where the fishermen brought in their catch through the gate in the city wall. They came directly to Fischerplätzle (Little Fishermen’s Square). There you also find a restaurant named Zunfthaus, full name: Zunfthaus der Fischerleute – Fishermen’s Guild House. Ah, and they also fished for trout in the Blau river.

    Many other place names and names of buildings tell you that also other guilds and professionals had their homes in this area, as Gerberhaus and Gerbergasse (Tanners’ House and Alley) and Schweinmarkt (Pig Market).

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    Ulmer Stadtbibliothek (City Library) in a Pyramid

    by Kakapo2 Written Mar 11, 2009

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    A masterpiece made of 5,000 sqm of glass.

    This is probably the most revolutionary new buildings in the historic city centre, a pyramid, made of turquoise-blue shining glass, located right beside the Rathaus (Town Hall) from 1370!

    The spectacular building was inaugurated in May 2004, so after I had left Ulm. Of course, I had followed the building process. When I finally saw the final result a year later I was delighted, and it has not stopped to impress me on my following visits. I find it a lot more delightful than the Stadthaus at Münsterplatz, for example. Despite its ancient shape it is a futuristic building, and despite looking like a alien amidst an army of humans, it has no shocking effect when you first see it. Perhaps this is because its colour blends so well into a blue or grey or even milky sky, and because the mature trees of the surroundings soften its edges.

    The floor area of the library is 28x28 metres, and the pyramid is more than 36 metres high. The glass surface covers nearly 5,000 square metres. The design is by the architect Gottfried Böhm from Cologne.

    The planning however had some early mistakes. So when the library moved into its new home, this was already too small for all the books, and there were also problems with the summer heat.

    There is a reading lounge in the top area of the pyramid, offering great views of the city.

    Opening hours:
    Tue – Fri 10am – 7pm
    Sat 10am – 2pm

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    Münsterplatz (Cathedral Square), the City's Centre

    by Kakapo2 Written Mar 11, 2009

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    Saturday market on M��nsterplatz.

    Although the Stadthaus has been added to Münsterplatz, the square in front of the cathedral, and occupies some space, the square still is a large open space, surrounded by a wall-like alignment of four- and five-storey houses with pointed roofs.

    I still think there should be more cafés on the square. On the other hand it would be too difficult to service them, and often the square is needed for big public events and festivals, and surely no café owner would understand why he should not have any business on the best business days of the year. And Ulm has a real lot of festivals!

    The square is surrounded by bench seats where you can enjoy your ice-cream from one of the nearby cafés and Italian ice cafés. Apart from long-established and newish shops, there are quite some cafés with outdoor seating areas at the very edge.

    Every Wednesday and Saturday mornings a Farmers Market takes place on Münsterplatz, selling fabulous fruit, vegetables, vegetable plants, herbs and flowers, smallgoods, eggs, bread, cheese, honey, jams, etc. There are also some stalls selling delicious roast sausages. Even if you do not want to buy anything it is nice to stroll along the stalls.

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    Stadthaus (City Hall) - a Star Architect's Shocker

    by Kakapo2 Written Mar 11, 2009

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    The Stadthaus offers new angles for M��nster views.

    Do not mix up Stadthaus (City Hall) with Rathaus (Town Hall). The colourful medieval Town Hall is Ulm’s administration centre and seat of the Mayor, and it is located at Marktplatz. The ultra modern and bright white Stadthaus (City Hall) is sitting at Münsterplatz, next to the Cathedral; it is used for exhibitions, concerts, forums (for example, talk shows of Südwest Presse newspaper), receptions; it houses Ulm’s tourist information centre and a café/restaurant named Stadthaus-Café. (The upstairs restaurant is quite nice, and I have been to the groundfloor café only once because it has absolutely no atmosphere and uncomfortable chairs.)

    But this Stadthaus… What uproar it was when they dared to place such a coldish modern building next to the medieval cathedral in 1993! I admit, I was also shocked although in general I had always been fascinated by the combination of old and new architecture in big cities, with the reflection of the historic gems in the mirror and glass facades of modern high-rise buildings. But in such a relatively small city I felt it was at the wrong place. The shape – mostly rounded and a lot of open space and somehow free floating frame fragments near the top – did the rest, even when the ugly concrete was painted in this brilliant white. It hugely reminded me of a parking building, but by the time I got used to it, not that it would ever have really delighted me. The comments of visitors confirmed that the American star architect Richard Meier’s design seemed to be out of touch with traditional Ulm. Some people really asked me if I did not find it weird that they had placed a parking building right on Münsterplatz beside our marvellous cathedral!

    As said, Ulmers got used to it, although the cathedral’s dominance was diminshed a little by the presence of another striking building so nearby which at the same time obstructed the outstanding views of the church.

    I do not really see the concept of the Stadthaus being a walkable sculpture. But it has its place, and from many angles it offers surprising frames for views and pictures of the cathedral. It is so much better than the dreadful primitive one-storey building that once occupied the site. But only the ongoing modernisation and revival of the city centre by creating the pedestrian-friendly Neue Mitte (New Centre) at the site of a former Autobahn-like traffic hub of Neue Straße has ultimately made it the ultimate link between the medieval past and a bright future. And really, I do not think anymore that it looks like a parking building ;-))))

    Opening hours:
    Mon – Wed 9am – 6pm
    Thu 9 am – 8pm
    Fri 9am – 6pm
    Sun 11am – 6pm

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    Beautiful Fountains (5): Delfinbrunnen

    by Kakapo2 Updated Mar 11, 2009

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    Are these bronze trouts really dolphins?

    Some fountain experts – are they perhaps called fountainists? – consider this fountain Ulm’s most attractive fountain because its 52 water-jets criss-cross and spit water all over the place.

    I do not challenge this technical feature but I have a little problem with its name Delfinbrunnen – Dolphin Fountain. Not in a lifetime I would have considered those eight bronze trouts spitting water towards the edge of the fountain being dolphins!

    Apart from that the fountain is indeed quite attractive, especially when illuminated at night. At this time of the day and walking back home or to your hotel and some drinks too many you might even perceive the trouts as dolphins… ;-)

    The fountain was built in 1585.

    It is located on the southern side of the Münster, next to Valentinskapelle. You automatically walk past it if you walk down a street named Hafenbad (connecting Neue Straße and Olgastraße, so the street behind the cathedral.

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    Beautiful Fountains (3): Christopherus-Brunnen

    by Kakapo2 Updated Mar 10, 2009

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    The original figure is kept in the museum.
    1 more image

    This beautiful fountain is located at Weinhof, next to Schwörhaus (Oath’s House), or, if you come from the cathedral, just cross Neue Mitte, turn to the right behind the Sparkasse building, after about 50 metres turn left, and you find it to your right.

    The late Gothic figure is 1.80 metres high and was also created by Jörg Syrlin the Elder (in German: d.Ä. = der Ältere) in about 1480.

    Its original location was in a church. Only at the end of the 16th century it was mounted on the pillar of the fountain which itself is Renaissance style, created by Claus Bauhofer.

    Like the knights from the Fischkasten fountain, you also find the original Chistopherus figure in Ulmer Museum at Marktplatz (since 1913).

    On photo 2 you see the attractive base of the fountain.

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    Beautiful Fountains (4): Teichmann-Brunnen

    by Kakapo2 Written Mar 10, 2009

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    Teichmann-Brunnen in front of Neue Mitte/Cathedral

    This fountain, named after a lawyer named Karl Teichmann, is considered Ulm’s most Ulmish fountain.

    It depicts some of Ulm’s famous figures, like the Tailor of Ulm, Albrecht Berblinger (Schneider von Ulm – soon in an extra tip), the Cowherd (Kuhhirt) and the Spatzameez. You also see scenes from an Ulm game named “Schälesspiel”, a game played with little cups.

    The "Spatzameez" was a guy named Kaspar Rau who lived in the 19th century and was the Towncrier. Unfortunately he had a speech impediment and could not pronounce the name of his favourite dish correctly – this was the cooking water of Spätzle, our Swabian pasta, called Spatzag’schmeez; so the people named him after the way he pronounced it.

    The legend about the city’s official Cowherd says that he was going to be sacked for drinking too much. But through a notch he overheard the council meeting where they discussed his dismissal and anticipated them by quitting his job – through the notch...

    Directions:

    You find Teichmann fountain at the corner of Neue Straße and Sattlergasse. If you cross Neue Mitte/Neue Straße, with the Cathedral behind you, it is on the left side of Sattlergasse, on the footpath in front of Hypo Vereinsbank. Sparkasse would be to your right.

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    Beautiful Fountains (2): Fischkasten

    by Kakapo2 Written Mar 10, 2009

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    The fishermen once kept their fish there for sale.

    This beautiful fountain behind Town Hall (Rathaus) on Market Square (Marktplatz) is called Fischkasten (Fish Chest/Box), the official name is Syrlinbrunnen, named after its builder Jörg Syrlin. It is Ulm’s oldest fountain.

    The nickname derives from its original purpose on the Market Square. Fishermen kept their fish there, so it could be sold alive to the customers.

    The chest or box is dodecagonal. In the centre sits a triangular pinnacle. The fountain is a masterpiece of late Gothic ornamentation. In the stonemasonery you can see Ulm’s arms and shield, the imperial eagle and knights’ figures. Above the knights you can see the name of the stonemason Jörg Syrlin (d.Ä. = the Elder) and the year 1482.

    The three original knights are kept in Ulm’s Museum (Ulmer Museum), just a stonethrow away from the fountain, also at Marktplatz.

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    Welcome to the Fairy-Tale Doll Houses on the Wall

    by Kakapo2 Updated Mar 10, 2009

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    Romantic Seelengraben on the old city wall.

    Seelengraben is a hugely romantic street, wall, houses on a wall… How should I even call it?

    Literally translated the name means Souls’ Ditch or Trench.

    Seelengraben is part of several such “Gräben” (ditches) which were once built for additional troops in times of war. In 1610, the city built small houses on the city wall along the western and northern side of the city for those troops and called them Grabenhäuschen (little ditch or trench houses, “Grabenhäusle” would be the more Swabian version of the word). Those were on Seelengraben, Frauengraben and Neuer Graben. Later (1634) more were added at Henkersgraben. And sure, the word “Graben” (ditch, trench) does not refer to the wall but to the ditch in front of the city’s wall. (In the south the Danube was a real ditch next to the wall.)

    In 1810 the houses on the wall were sold to the locals. 35 still exist today and have been lovingly restored and look like taken from a fairy-tale. The doors are so low, you have to bend to walk into the houses. You walk up the few stairs onto the wall and step into another world. You are just 20 or 30 metres from the tramway line and the traffic of busy Olgastraße but you do not hear the noise. If you walk up, coming from Hafenbad, the small houses are to your left, and to your right are small allotments with tiny garden sheds. The residents keep pot plants in front of their houses and little bench seats, and everything looks so romantic that you are inclined to wait a while, so you can surprise Snowwhite or Cinderella stepping out of one of those doors…

    Directions

    Seelengraben is located between Hafenbad and Frauenstraße, along Olgastraße (tramway line from the railway station to Donaustadion). Coming from Olgastraße, just walk some metres into Hafenbad, cross Heimstraße, and there you are. Walk up the stairs to your left, and then stroll along those picturesque houses.

    It continues after crossing Frauenstraße towards Zundeltor. Frauengraben and Neuer Graben would be in the opposite direction, past the huge Courthouse (Justizpalast).

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