Splendid palaces, sprawling parks and plenty of sunshine: Aschaffenburg

Aschaffenburg, the gateway to the Spessart hills, combines tradition and modernity, shopping and culture, a lively atmosphere and architectural splendour. It is also known as the Bavarian Nice because of its mild, sunny climate. Aschaffenburg is popular for its festivals and events throughout the year and for its cosy inns, stylish hotels and traditional wine taverns.

No matter where you go in Aschaffenburg, you'll be struck by a charming, friendly ambience. The many fountains add a touch of flamboyance and fun, and form part of a wider treasure trove for culturally minded visitors. Whether you're looking for high-calibre performances at the theatre, modern art at the Jesuit Church Gallery, acclaimed comedy at the Hofgarten, or historical artworks at the Cranach Centre in the Palace Museum, the town offers plenty in the way of first-class entertainment.

Where the sun shines even at night: Aschaffenburg's old quarter

One of Aschaffenburg's highlights is Theaterplatz square at the heart of the old quarter, home to probably the finest neo-classical theatre in southern Germany. The theatre, fountains, arcaded walkway and giant sundial form a striking ensemble. The sundial is particularly fascinating: a computer-generated halogen light simulates the motion of the sun so that even at night it is possible to see the shadow cast by the huge, six-metre-high rod. Johannisburg Palace, which dominates both the old quarter and the town as a whole, was built between 1605 and 1614 by the Strasbourg master architect Georg Ridinger. This Renaissance masterpiece houses the State Collections, which feature the most important Lucas Cranach collection in Europe, and a palace museum whose artworks and historical artefacts span six centuries of history. If you're in need of more light-hearted recreation, look no further than Schönbusch – a palace set amid a sprawling park, wonderfully laid out in the English style. Popular with adults and children alike, the estate has a maze, a restaurant with beer garden, playgrounds, cosy corners, miniature lakes and bridges, plus canals that are perfect for a romantic boat trip.

Culture at its best. And shopping at its finest.

Anyone with an interest in classical architecture will be captivated by the Pompeiianum, an idealised replica of a Roman villa. Commissioned by King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who was an enthusiastic patron of the arts, it is a fine testament to the 19th-century fascination with classical antiquity. Also of great interest are the museum in the former chapter house of the seminary of St. Peter and St. Alexander, and the Gentil house built by Aschaffenburg industrialist Anton Gentil in the 1920s to display his extensive art collection. And if after so much culture you fancy a spot of retail therapy, Aschaffenburg has become a shopping destination for the whole region with over 700 stores. There's simply so much to discover.

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