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Towns & cities from A to Z

A baroque treasure in the here and now: Passau

Passau, the 'town on three rivers', is located at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz. There is so much to discover in the way of culture and architecture, and the town offers fantastic festivals, outstanding shopping and great places to eat and drink. Pretty little lanes, beautiful squares and chic pedestrian areas create a refined setting in which to while away the hours.

Framed by Oberhaus fortress to the north and Our Lady of Mercy pilgrimage church to the south, this breathtakingly beautiful town is dominated by the buildings of Italian architects. It was they who rebuilt Passau after the great fires of the 17th century. Then a prince-bishop's seat and thriving centre of trade, the town had long been a hotbed for creative expression. Towering majestically above Passau is St. Stephen's Cathedral, the mother church of the eastern Danube region and of St. Stephen's Church in Vienna. This imposing baroque edifice contains the largest cathedral organ in the world.

Where tradition is part and parcel of modern life

Today, Passau is an exciting fusion of old and new – a place that is modern and welcoming for all its great traditions. Nowhere does this shine through stronger than in the pedestrianised streets leading from the old quarter to Neue Mitte with its exclusive stores. If you take a detour to Höllgasse along the way, you'll find yourself in the artists' quarter where the beautiful historical buildings are occupied by studios, workshops and galleries. The market held there twice weekly is a feast for the senses – as are the wood markets at Christmas and the street festivals held throughout the town. This rich diversity of shopping opportunities is mirrored by the great choice of food, with local establishments offering the best of Bavarian and Austrian cuisine. Passau's many pubs, bistros, cafés, bars, fine restaurants and quaint inns offer a boundless array of delights.

On the blue Danube to Passau and back

There are few compelling reasons to cut short a trip to Passau – except perhaps a cruise on the Danube. For many, this is the most elegant way to travel. There's nothing quiet like gliding along the water, enjoying life to the full on a luxury riverboat, with beautiful scenery on either side that seems close enough to touch. The route takes you through Upper Austria and the Wachau valley to Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. For landscapes of a more dramatic quality, the trip can continue through the Carpathian mountains to the Danube Delta. But no matter how far your journey takes you, it will only properly come to an end when you arrive back in Passau. For there are sure to be many more sights you haven't yet seen – in this quintessentially modern, yet eminently historical town set idyllically on three rivers.