In the Palatinate (Pfalz), a region famous for its wine, figs and almonds, you’ll find one of Germany’s oldest cities, founded in pre-Celtic times and expanded by the Romans. Now it’s a pretty market town located on the German wine route. You’ll need to take a combination of local and Intercity-Express trains (changing once) to get to Speyer from Frankfurt, but once you’re there, it’s easily manageable on foot, and is a relaxing place to spend a day. The main, pedestrianised shopping street, Maximilianstrasse, is lined with shops and cafés, and stretches from the city’s western gate, the 13th-century Altpörtel, to the magnificent cathedral. Take a stroll along the Rhine or through the small, characterful quarter known as the ‘Hasenpfuhl’ (rabbit puddle); visit the ruins of the Speyer synagogue, the oldest remaining Jewish place of worship in Europe; or enjoy a drink in a beer garden or meal in one of the town’s many traditional restaurants.
The Wirtschaft Zum Alten Engel is a dedicated supporter of the Slow Food movement, promoting good, clean and fair food. The menu boasts Pfälzer specialities including Leberknödel (liver dumplings) and Saumagen (stuffed pig’s stomach), all made using high-quality local ingredients from trusted producers.
On a sunny day, head towards the river, grab a seat in the beer garden at the Alte Hammer and order a Rheingönheimer Weizen, a classic malty, fruity Pfälzer wheat beer that comes in a flip-top bottle.
Built on the site of the former Palatinate aircraft works, the Technik Museum is home to over 2,000 exhibits, from vintage cars to a Russian BURAN orbiter and a Boeing 747; you’ll also find Germany’s only IMAX DOME movie theatre here. Tickets to the museum include entry to the Wilhelmsbau Museum, which houses 19th and 20th-century rarities such as mechanical musical instruments.
The Hotel Domhof is a three-star hotel that, thanks to its friendly atmosphere and wonderful attention to detail, feels more like a four-star property. It’s located just around the corner from the cathedral, with a lovely restaurant and beer garden next door, and offers an excellent breakfast served in an impressive hall.
If you only do one thing...
Visit the Kaiserdom. This imposing Romanesque cathedral, a Unesco world heritage site built between 1030 and 1061, is worth the trip here alone. Reconstructed to almost its exact original condition in the 1950s, it contains the largest crypt in Germany, and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.