Landsberg am Lech: Der Lech ist umgeben von Häusern mit Bunten Fassaden
Lovely Landsberg

Landsberg is located near the border of Upper Bavaria and Swabia. Situated on the banks of the Lech river, it’s lovingly maintained Old Town is the perfect spot for art-lovers to take a stroll. The city is closely linked to two internationally-renowned artists. One of them even went on to became world famous

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Explore Landsberg am Lech

Are you addicted to art? Do you ever worry you’ll go through withdrawal if you don’t get your hands on some sculptures or pictures soon, regardless of how tiny they might be? If the answer is “yes” – or even if it’s “no” for that matter — then Landsberg am Lech is the right town for you.

There’s even a vending machine that sells art. It deals mini-artifacts all day, every day. Five bucks a go. That’s all it takes to get your very own piece of art, hand signed and numbered.

It’s 9 o’clock on a late-July Monday morning and we’re visiting Spitalplatz Square. The sun is shining. The two Landsberg-based artists who curate the metal grab bag, Elke Jordan and Gregor Netzer, are on hand to restock it. They refill each slot with a box the size of a pack of cigarettes, which contains either a small picture or some other object. Each slot is assigned to a particular artist and their creation.

Landsberg am Lech: Kunstautomaten mit Künstler Elke Jordan und Gregor Netzer

“The vending machine is a great way to approach people and get rid of their inhibitions when it comes to art. It’s also a great place to find little gifts," Elke tells us.

Elke appreciates Landsberg’s cheerful character. “I love the laid-back flair. There’s something almost Italian about it,” she reflects, her smile beaming southward. Gregor has been living in the city he affectionately refers to as “Laughing Landsberg” for twelve years.

Pride and Majesty: The Bavarian Gate!

No sooner do you hit the outskirts of Landsberg on the A96 motorway from Munich than the first work of art bids your welcome. And we’re not talking about something that fits in a cigarette pack here. Adorned with coats of arms and reliefs, the Bayertor (“Bavarian Gate”) is considered one of the most beautiful and well-preserved Gothic city gates in Germany. It is the emblem of Landsberg, the “mia san mia” spirit (literally: “we are who we are”) embodied in stone.

“I love the laid-back flair. There’s something almost Italian about it.”

Around 1160, Henry the Lion-Duke of Bavaria and Munich’s founding father—ordered that the “Castrum Landespurch” should be built to protect the salt road that linked Bad Reichenhall and Lake Constance. It was around this fortification that the town sprang up. In 1315, Emperor Louis IV (the Bavarian) granted Landsberg the right to levy taxes and tariffs. It was the dawn of a golden age. The Bavarian Gate was built in 1425 under the patronage of Duke Ernst. The gate forms part of the city wall, which continues to enclose most of Old Town to this very day.

Eye Candy Everywhere: Historic Town Hall

Lined with charming shops and stores, Alte Bergstraße is the thoroughfare that leads from the Bavarian Gate on the high bank of the Lech into Old Town. To reach the triangular main square, visitors first have to pass through the colorfully-tiled Schmalzturm tower (literally: “lard tower”), in whose cool shade market women used to sell their wares.

The square is a spacious plaza lined with enticing ice cream shops and restaurants. It’s a perfect place to take a break and unwind. Here and there green, red, and white flags can be seen fluttering from the surrounding buildings. Although it feels like a nod to Italy, these are in fact the colors of Landsberg itself. The flags are left over from the recent “Ruethenfest.” The “birch whip festival” is one of the largest children’s festivals in Bavaria. Every four years, the Ruethenfest brings together children to celebrate important moments of the city’s history with dances, campouts, and processions.

The square’s real eye-catcher, however, is the historic Town Hall with its rococo façade, exuberantly adorned with stucco. Its architect, Dominikus Zimmermann, also designed the famous Pilgrimage Church of Wies. Zimmermann lived in Landsberg from 1716 to 1757, where he served as the city’s mayor.

Town Hall visitors are able to tour the basement vault and its holding pen, the frescoed ballroom—which is a concert hall these days—and the original council chamber. The latter features two monumental paintings by Sir Hubert von Herkomer from 1891 and 1903.

Mutterturm
Tür zum Herkomer Museum und Mutterturm

The Multi-Talented Mister Herkomer

Herkomer’s murals in Town Hall depict the council in session and are a testament to his talent as a portrait painter. His skillful rendering of the councilors’ faces is spellbindingly vivid. Which councilors are arguing, self-aggrandizing, bored, or already looking forward drinks afterward is plain to see.

The German-British painter, sculptor, and playwright produced hundreds of portraits, including depictions of Kaiser Wilhelm and Richard Wagner. But as the stunning portrait of his daughter Gwenddydd demonstrates, Herkomer could paint more than just old white men. It’s on display for visitors to admire at the Herkomer Museum, located just a few walking minutes from the bank of the Lech on Hauptplatz Square.

Herkomer was born near Landsberg in 1849. He grew up in the United States and England, spending most of his summers back in Bavaria. Sometime during the 1880s, he purchased the Landsberg home where his parents resided, currently the Herkomer Museum, then built a English garden around it and a Neuschwanstein-eque medieval tower next door. To honor his mother, he christened the latter “Mother’s Tower.”

Herkomer was a technophile. He experimented with phonographs and film and loved driving. Between 1905 to 1907, he even organized the world’s first touring-car rally races. The “Herkomer Wettbewerb” is a classic car competition still held in Landsberg every two years. Hubert von Herkomer passed away in England in 1914. This multifaceted but unfortunately forgotten artist, who moved freely between tradition and modernity, is well-worth rediscovering.

Herkomer Museum und Mutterturm: Ein altes Bild aus dem Museum mit einem Herren der ein Fahrrad schiebt

Pressing Problems? Luisa’s Got You Covered!

Landsberg’s Old Town is a wonderfully-preserved historic landmark district. While the historic center of town has a ton of gables and colorful Gothic, Baroque, or Classicist façades, it’s not too big, which makes it very comfortable to explore. The many small, owner-operated shops, galleries, and boutiques mean the streets and alleyways are always bustling with activity.

The center is also home to a wide variety of artisans, including a chocolate and ice cream maker, a coffee roaster, a custom tailor, two luthiers, a saddler, and — last but certainly not least — a shoemaker. If you’re worried about your feet with all this strolling through Old Town, don’t worry. Luisa Bredschneijder knows where the shoe pinches and will take care of you.

“You won't find this many small businesses together in one place anywhere else these days”

Although the young master custom-makes incredible footwear, her primary business is shoe repair. Luisa recommends people wear shoes that are sturdy and comfortable, ideally made of leather. She points to a pair of shoes with rough leather soles. “If you wear these, you won’t slip on the cobblestones,” the shoemaker reveals.

“Sure, new leather shoes take a little while to break in but they are incredibly durable, robust, and breathable. They also adapt to the shape of your feet really well. And you can get them repaired," she adds with a grin. Luisa loves her city. “Landsberg is the perfect place for me! The people that live here really care about the city. And you won't find this many small businesses together in one place anywhere else these days either. I’d have to say that spending Saturday morning at the market is always one of the highlights of my week. Especially if I have a glass of prosecco in my hand!”

Der Marienbrunnen am Hauptplatz in Landsberg am Lech
Luisa Bredschneijder sitz auf ihren Tressen und zeigt ein paar schwarze Schuhe
Zwei fröhliche Frauen schauen von der Karolinenbrücke auf den Lech

Fine Dining at the Old Station

But let’s face it: even the snuggest feet need to rest sometime. The bars and restaurants surrounding the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary are a great place to do that. Whether the occasion calls for indoor seating or outdoor, for modern cuisine or just a fine glass of wine to toast the evening, this is the spot.

Visitors in the mood for something more traditional will love the family-run Fischerwirt with its authentic Bavarian fare. Situated on Rossmarkt Market, it’s a mere 200 meters from the Parish Church. “Lech Line” by Vincent Staudacher, on the other hand, offers a true fine-dining experience. In March 2024, the team headed by chef Christian Sauer was awarded a Michelin star accompanied by the following review: “Christian Sauer serves up a modern take on international cuisine, working with great precision and steering clear of unnecessary frills. High-quality produce is used to create coherent, flavorful dishes that, for all their complexity, retain an air of simplicity. ‘Gourmet Bistro’ is the name of the à la carte menu, which features, for example, ceviche (with fish from Birnbaum fish farm), lime, avocado, chili, cucumber, and coriander. On Fridays and Saturdays, there is also a five-course set menu that changes every month. Tip: Have a cocktail at the bar.”

The Lech Promenade is the place to go in Landsberg on a warm summer evening. The view over the river as it extends in front of Old Town like a lake makes disconnecting a breeze. Just breathe deep and let the mighty roar of the Lech sink in: water rushing across all 200 meters of the Caroline Weir and down all four of its steps.

If you prefer your Lech experience with a tasty side of cappuccino and Portuguese almond tart, Café Markita near the Caroline Bridge is the place to go. Markita is originally from Portugal and has been operating the café since 2007. “Landsberg is like my second home,” she explains before quickly correcting herself. “Wait no, it’s my first!”

In Landsberg am Lech sieht man den Fischerwirt mit seiner rosa-roten Fassade
Blick auf Markita ein portugiesisches Café von einer Brücke über dem Lech aus

Dark Days

There is a building complex situated in the northwestern part of Landsberg that sticks outs like a sore thumb. It is a prison, built around the turn of the 20th century. It was there that Adolf Hitler was confined shortly in 1923/1924 for his failed coup attempt. During Nazi rule, Landsberg became known as the “City of Youth” and served as the Hitler Youth’s main meeting place.

The Kaufering concentration camp complex was a system of eleven camps built in 1944 that were located around the cities of Landsberg and Kaufering. The Jewish prisoners interned there were forced to build giant bunkers to facilitate underground arms production. It is believed that more than 6,000 people died or were outright murdered during construction.

In April 1945, with American forces rapidly advancing, a drove of prisoners being “death-marched” entered the city. Their procession of misery passed through Old Town and up the Neue Bergstraße on their way to Dachau. From there, the prisoners were driven towards the Alps. A memorial was set up to commemorate the victims in 1994.

 Denkmal zur Judenverfolgung in Landsberg steht in der Nähe der Historischen Stadtmauer
Jonny Cash Spezialist: Eddie Edmond Epple schaut sich seine Platten an

Johnny Cash: Powered by Landsberg

U.S. forces captured Landsberg air base, which is situated about five kilometers northeast of the town, in the waning days of WWII. Among the GIs was a young American named John R. Cash, who was stationed at the base between 1951 and 1954. You know him as the world famous Johnny Cash. The youthful radio intercept officer came from a home with a strong musical tradition.

“They would sing a lot of gospel music and traditional folk songs,” Edmund Epple explains. An expert in all things Cash, Epple owns a book and record store called Discy. He also curates musical performances at Landsberg’s municipal theater. One of the main ways American soldiers stationed at Landsberg would entertain themselves was to play music. “That’s when Cash first realized his song had the power to move audiences. He decided it was time to take this music thing seriously and the rest is history,” Epple recounts.

The old Musikhaus Ballach music store on Schulstraße is where Cash bought his very first guitar. “Cash had to march six kilometers through knee-deep snow to get it back to base,” Epple points out. Landsberg is where Cash started his first band. “The Landsberg Barbarians” would make their debut at the Goggl Hotel.

It’s also the place Cash wrote some of his greatest hits, including “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town.”

Landsberg am Lech: Poessinger Lechpark
Geführte Kajaktour auf dem Lech mit Tourguides Andreas Kranzl. Die Blauen Kajaks faren an einem gefallen Ast vorbei

Experience the Lech up Close

Johnny Cash traveled around Bavaria, visited Neuschwanstein Castle, and went to the Oktoberfest. He also went fishing on many a Bavarian river. Probably on the Lech as well. Just outside of the city you’ll find the Lech-Auen, an enchanting riparian recreational area within easy walking distance of southern Old Town. Pössinger Au wildlife park’s beautiful woodland and meadow setting is perfect for walking.

Families with children are guaranteed to have a blast! Kids love splashing around at the water playground and trying to catch a glimpse of the Fallow deer, which usually remain hidden deep in the woods. The family of wild boars living in an enclosure nearby are a different story. Beppo, his sows, and their farrow of piglets are anything but shy. You won’t hear the human moms and dads grunting though. They’re too busy enjoying the Kneipp basin and barefoot trail.

If you really want to experience the Lech “up close” however, then there is no better place than the Inselbad aquatic center. Although paddling from the Wasserwacht rescue station to the Teufelsküche (“Devil’s Kitchen”), a popular waterside restaurant destination south of town, comes pretty close. Just imagine your kayak cutting across the gentle lake into which the Lech has been dammed: sunshine gleams off the water, dense foliage seeming to swallow the riverbanks whole.

Here and there barren snags protrude from the shallows. Two swans glide past before landing elegantly on the water. Everything goes still. Too still, almost. And then—whoosh—over the Lechwehr weir you and your raft go! If it’s laughter you’re after, Landsberg’s got it! Watch video...

Landsberg am Lech

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