Vilshofen, the 'Little Three Rivers Town', is where the Vils and Wolfach rivers flow into the Danube. But its charm lies not just in its location. Its rich cultural life, beguiling old quarter on the riverbank, magnificent Benedictine abbey and good old Bavarian gemütlichkeit all contribute to its ...

Country: Germany

With around 16,000 inhabitants, Vilshofen an der Donau is the largest town in the Passau region. It lies on the edge of the Bavarian Forest, some 20km upstream from Passau. The two tributaries flowing into the Danube have given it the name of the Little Three River Town (Passau being the 'Big' Three River Town).4

History and City Highlights

Exerting a magnetic attraction for miles around, the tightly packed old quarter sits on a strip of land between the Danube and the Vils. The town square, the beating heart of Vilshofen, was given its current look around 200 years ago. On 12 May 1794 a huge fire destroyed nearly all of the old quarter. Reconstruction was entrusted to master builder Franz Anton Glonner. His first act was to demolish all the remaining pitched Gothic gables of the town's houses. What at first appeared to be an act of vandalism eventually helped to create a magnificent urban ensemble in classic Inn-Salzach style, whose hallmarks are 'false gables', horizontally flush facades that hide the roof timbering. This style of gable can be seen on the impressive town hall, a former inn, which was built on foundations dating back to the 12th/13th century. Vilshofen's most recognisable landmark, the clock tower, was first mentioned in 1319, although between 1643 and 1647 it was replaced by a new version, which survived the great fire intact. It served as a lookout point for observing ships on the Danube, who had to pay a toll for their goods – a source of the town's prosperity, which is still visible today. The Schweiklberg Benedictine abbey, the Church of St. John the Baptist, and the late-Gothic Hausbach round church (the only church in the Bavarian Danube region to have this architectural form) are further indications of the town's status.

At Danube kilometre 2,249.2, right on the banks of the river, you'll find Vilshofen's boat harbour and cyclist and hiker campsite. There are ten motorhome pitches with water and electricity, toilets, a tent area with designated campfire, a beach volleyball court, showers and a small kitchen in the main building. There are also eight berths, with water and power hook-ups, for visiting boats of up to 13 metres. There are two restaurants close by and the town centre is only about 400m away. Open from April to October.

The Church of St. John the Baptist is particularly interesting architecturally. The tower's basement, which is divided into three floors, dates from the Romanesque period. At the end of the 15th century, a Gothic house of worship was built in Vilshofen, which was all but destroyed by the great fire of May 1794. Two side aisles and the south portal bearing the date of 1513 are all that remain. Master builder Martin Desch of Pfarrkirchen planned and led the church's reconstruction in 1803/04, for which he modified the simple nave with pilasters and Corinthian capitals in the late-baroque style. As the old church's entire interior also fell victim to the fire, the new church was fitted out in the summer of 1804 with furnishings and decorations from recently deconsecrated abbeys in neighbouring Passau, Aldersbach and Niederaltaich. These items included an impressive 'jubilee bell' from 1731 as well as paintings and altar pieces that are among the best of the baroque works to be found in Bavaria from around 1700.

The town's art museum was founded in 1991 and in September 2001 moved to the renovated clock tower. There is also an art gallery in the town hall that focuses on regional artists. Schweiklberg Abbey is the home of the Africa Museum, which since 1990 has housed a comprehensive collection of artefacts, jewellery and art from sub-Saharan Africa. These have been donated to the abbey by missionaries who have been returning from the continent since the 1960s.

In recent years, Vilshofen an der Donau has developed into a commercial hub. The presence of major retail chains has made the town an attractive destination for shoppers, and Lindahof retail park is a good place for those on a budget.

The Planets Trail is a static model of the solar system on a scale of 1:1,000,000,000. This scale is used for the distance of the planets from the sun as well as for the size of the sun, the eight planets and four dwarf planets. The Danube Planets Trail is suitable for blind and visually impaired visitors and those with restricted mobility. It is located on the Danube Cycle Route where it passes the Vilshofen harbour. All the exhibits can be explored on foot, by wheelchair or by bike.

In 2006 the celebration of the town's 800th anniversary with the planting of Europe's largest ginkgo copse (365 trees initially) was seen as a highly appropriate symbol. The park is open 365 days a year and the trees' robustness and longevity will ensure they give pleasure to Vilshofen's inhabitants and visitors for 800 years to come. The park, which was planted by residents for residents, is a prominent feature of Vilshofen's cultural landscape.

Accommodation in Vilshofen

There are around 20 places to stay in Vilshofen, from modern hotels and traditional inns to pretty holiday lets and private lodgings. Of the traditional inns, the Wittelsbacher Zollhaus has the most colourful history. Built in 1531 as a toll house where shipping merchants came to make their payments, it was opened as a hotel in 2001 following a thorough renovation. The hotel's restaurant, the Gaumenfreude (which means 'treat' in German), offers Bavarian and German cuisine and promises to provide exactly what its name suggests.

Excursions and Activities

There are various companies in Vilshofen providing Danube cruises, excursions and sightseeing trips (to Passau and back, for example). A special trip is laid on during the Danube in Flames festival, when a spectacular firework display set to music lights up the sky above the river. Thousands of visitors gather on both sides of the Danube to soak up the wonderful atmosphere. A different view of the spectacle can be had from onboard one of the boats operated by Wurm+Köck. One of these casts off at 6pm from Vilshofen, while the others start their journey in Passau and are timed to arrive in Vilshofen precisely at the high point of the festivities. Tickets are available from Vilshofen Tourist Information and the Wurm+Köck riverboat company.


Vilshofen an der Donau Tourist Information
Stadtplatz 27
94474 Vilshofen an der Donau

Tel.: +49 (0)8541 208 112

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