Ulm is a city of contrasts. On one side of the Danube River in Baden-Württemberg is Ulm which has medieval charm but also a mix of new buildings which replaced those destroyed in times of war. Over the river is Neu Ulm, its modern Bavarian counterpart with cultural events and hidden gems for art and architecture lovers.
Ulm City Card
Cities in Europe understand that for the ease of visitors, a city card covers all the bases from public transport, museums, galleries to food discounts and discounts on other activities. Ulm is a small city; the population of Ulm is just over 120,000. The UlmCard helped us to get to the places we had researched and gave us inspiration on what to do in this wee but beautiful city during our 48-hour stay!
What’s included with the Ulm city card?
- Museums and Galleries: Free entry to Museum of Bread Culture, Danube Swabian Museum, Edwin Scharff Gallery, Ulm Museum + Weishaupt Gallery, the Archive of the Ulm School of Design and the Natural History Education Centre
• Monastery: Rococo library and Museum at Wiblingen Monastery
• Free public transport: Ulm and Neu Ulm (they do check the tickets – we were checked twice!)
• Ulm Zoo
• Bad Blau leisure pool: Free admission to the pool landscape for one hour
• Donaubad leisure pool: 1-hour free entry for all three-hour rates: pool and sauna landscape (not including special rates, events, and additional discounts)
• City bike: At Tourist-Information pick up 1 city bike free of charge for one day
• Ulm Minster: Enjoy a free organ concert at noon (May-Sep) and free access to the rooftop
• Free guided tour of the city: Tour in German or rent of the itour city guide (available in English)
• Free food and drink: KCC Restaurant theatre: 1 prosecco, Creperie Kornhäusle: 1 glass ( 0,25 l ) cider for free, Café Tröglen: 1 “Einsteinköpfle” chocolate) for free, fruchtrausch – The Smoothie Bar: free Energy Ball, Restaurant Zur Lochmühle: one Apfelküchle (apple fitter), DonauWelle: a free cup of freshly ground coffee from the Samocca coffee roasters, Restaurant Hacker Pschorr: a small portion of Obazda (bavarian cream cheese) with a pretzel
Ulm City Card – Prices
One Day (24-Hour) Blue UlmCard:
Single ticket 17.00 €
Group ticket 15.50 € pp (from 20 people)
Two Day (48-Hour) Green UlmCard:
Single ticket 22.00 €
Group ticket 20.50 € pp (from 20 people)
Day One in Ulm
We piled off the train, fresh from the mountains into Ulm, an unsuspecting hidden delight on the Danube River. A medieval trading city, its old town is made up of charming cobblestone streets in its Fishermen’s and Tanner’s quarters. After dumping our luggage, we walked to orientate ourselves before a day of sightseeing the next morning. Instantly we are in awe of the little tributaries that run down to the Danube, wooden bridges, and traditional timber-supported buildings.
In the tourist office, the next morning a cheerful lady talks us through points of interest and her favourite spots, This sets a precedent for the level of kindness we experience throughout our stay – maybe it’s something in the water, but we have so many interesting conversations with everyone we meet here!
Market days in Munster Platz
Every self-respecting town and city in mainland Europe have a market day and in Ulm, it’s on twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays in front of its famous Minster. Fresh fruit and vegetable vendors, local honey makers, bakers, florists, and food stalls encompass the square.
We’re drawn to a coffee stand with a queue that snakes around the market. We find out that Kley Kaffeerösterei is a family run local coffee roaster who only roast organically grown beans which are the product of longstanding relationships with various cooperatives of smaller coffee farmers. By far the best coffee we experience in Germany outside of Berlin. We also find freshly made pastries and a gluten-free bakery – all very tempting!
We’re told at Christmas this is an even more delightful market. The smell of roasted almonds and mulled wine permeates the senses, while families enjoy the farm animal pen, the carousel and live arts and crafts demonstrations. All year round, this is a place to fill up on local delights!
This Lutheran cathedral boasts the tallest church tower in the world! However, a quick warning! If you can’t climb the 768 stone steps it takes to reach the top, then just admire it from below. I (Jen) do suffer a fear of heights, I did climb to the top, it was an amazing feeling to push myself and accomplish this feat, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a dizzying experience.
We both needed a long sit down afterwards! The views of the Swabian Jura, the city and out towards the Alps is worth this climb up. Ulm cathedral itself is a startling example of gothic architecture, with hand-carved pews and the organ inside was played on by Mozart and was once the biggest in the world. For those who want the accolade of having climbed the tallest church spire in the world, this comes free with the city card and early morning is the best time to have the view to yourself.
Museum of Bread Culture and Art
We know what you’re thinking! Bread and art? If you think about it though, what makes more sense than a bread museum in Germany? The Museum of Bread Culture has recently been refurbished and is housed in an old storehouse in the middle of the old town. Its origins date back to 1955 and it was founded by Willy Eisselen and his son Herrmann, who were leading suppliers to the bakery trade.
There is a brilliant audio guide for English speakers to follow the 6000-year history of bread with paintings and sculptures by Rembrandt, Dali, Chagall, Picasso and Man Ray and various other prominent artists. You quickly suss the point of the museum is to explain human development, societal advancements, and culture through the creation of bread which led to farming, settling in villages and scientific and technological breakthroughs.
Food is life for humanity, so it also looks at the history of food and the future of food. Their wonderful cinema room on the top floor has thought-provoking documentaries and debates on food sustainability and there are interactive elements throughout the museum. It might sound odd, but with free entry using your city card, this is something not to miss!
Tourists flock to the Fishermen’s Quarter for its village-like feel and romantic streets and alleyways. It has quaint wooden bridges and traditional restaurants serving up seafood and local delicacies. There are also more record-breaking points of interest here, including the world’s ‘wonkiest’ or ‘most-crooked’ hotel. Hotel Schiefes Haus was built in the 15th century and perches delicately on the side of a tributary. Nearby is the narrowest hotel (4.5m wide) or ‘narrow house’ and a kissing street. For German speakers, there is a tour offered on the UlmCard that covers these sights. It also gives you the history of the city and the stories behind the landmarks.
From busy port to tourist hotspot
Luckily the lady at tourist information fills us in on some of the history of Ulm. For example, we know that as well as being a busy port on the Danube River, migration to countries like Hungary started here. People stayed in Ulm to better their finances before moving on. We also came across a wonderful social enterprise, DonauWelle, a gift shop cum café who offer employment to people with disabilities and work with various social institutions. With your city card, you can pop in for a free coffee and buy a little something to help the local community. This is the most charming part of the city, but there was something quite special that made us jump on a bus out of town, which we cover next!
Wiblingen Monastery and Rococo Library
A short bus journey brings us to an outlying village called Wiblingen where a spectacular baroque monastery lives. Founded in 1093, the monastery was populated by Benedictine monks from St Blasien in the Black Forest. Renovations began in 1714 which turned the monastery into the masterpiece it is today. Inside is Wiblingen museum which is free with the city card, although outside of speaking German it’s difficult to read anything. It’s explained to us that they are working on translations for English speakers.
In the meantime, we are armed with an audio guide which is in English and this tells us all about the most fascinating part of the building – the Rococo library. This whimsical and detailed library was built to preserve treasures of wisdom and science and its ornate frescoes and sculptures are stories in themselves. There is also an exquisite Baroque church here which is grandeur at its best. This was certainly worth hopping on the bus to see.
Danube Swabian Museum
European migration is still very much relevant today and the Danube Swabian Museum is somewhere that gives an insight into coexistence in multi-ethnic areas, cultural diversity, losing your home and remembrance. The Danube Swabians are a German minority living in South-Eastern Europe. Their ancestors emigrated to Hungary in the 18th and 19th centuries, but this is also about forced migration in the 20th century and the effects of nationalism. Its collection specifically sourced by the museum is an insightful and essential element of the experience to grasp Ulm’s importance as a centre of migration.
For a small city, our list is growing by the minute so today is all about walks, art and some much-needed relaxation. This is before pigging out on a sizeable burger and the most interesting dessert of our travels! Let’s continue with our journey and what to do and see in Ulm.
Einstein and City Walls
A little hazy after an enjoyable evening, back to that later… we decide to walk and clear our heads and find the man this city is most famous for. It turns out Ulm is the German city where Einstein was born! There’s a gloriously wacky fountain sculpture of Einstein sticking out his tongue in the old town and it would be rude not to visit (unfortunately his house is no longer, so the fountain is a good substitute). Tracing the old fortified city walls is a beautiful row of cottages which locals tell us is a lovely hidden gem towards the old gate into the city.
Ulm Museum and Weishaupt Gallery
This is where we split for the day as Henry catches up on work. I’m sad to say he misses out on a diverse museum and gallery space. This is also included for free with the city card. The buildings are joined by a tunnel that gives lovely views over the city, the Weishaupt Gallery is contemporary art while the Ulm Museum is a mixture of modern art, temporary exhibitions, classical art, architecture and archaeological finds.
The most fascinating part of the collection here is the little Lion Man (Löwenmensch). This prehistoric figure is carved in ivory and was found in a German cave in 1939. The museum is modern in its layout. While I visit, I go to the sculpture garden viewpoint on the roof and partake in an interactive art exhibition. It features paintings of Berlin coffee houses by Paul Kleinschmidt and pieces by Sonja Alhauser. This exhibition will change, but the quality of the collection and the imagination behind the temporary exhibitions is impressive.
I hold a special affinity with the Danube River. After living in Bratislava, I have to stroll along the river for old time’s sake. Starting from the Fisherman’s Quarter, I walk alongside the river, with a view of Neu Ulm across the river. I eventually happen upon Friedrichsau, an expansive park on the banks of the Danube. It has gorgeous lakes and beer gardens and spaces for sports and children to play. In the summer I can imagine this teeming with families enjoying this wonderful green space.
Located here is a small family zoo that comes with the UlmCard. It’s a cute place with a reptile house, monkeys and farm animals. It’s is a lovely addition to my walk around the park. From here I catch a tram and a bus to Neu Ulm. Here I find a hidden gem recommended by a local we met and another art gallery.
Edwin Scharff Gallery
I will admit for five minutes I am lost, but quickly following the Danube River I get my bearings and happened upon the Edwin Scharff Museum, a gallery which hosts a delightful café, exhibitions of work by this prominent local artist, and another collection by Ernst Geitlinger plus other exhibitions. There is also a children’s museum here with interactive and creative elements for all ages. The best thing is that this is also free with the UlmCard. Edwin Scharff’s story is evidenced through his changing approach to his art during the First and Second World War. It is a deeply intriguing and thought-provoking experience. The cake in the café downstairs I can also recommend as excellent!
St Johann Baptist (Neu Ulm)
Next was a short walk to the St Johann Baptist Church. An unassuming building from the outside, step inside and find a modern expressionist style church. The walls are stark, white and the use of light is what makes this such a beautiful building. At the back of the church is a small eerie room. Inside is a sculpture of a bird hanging from the ceiling – the symbol of the city.
Donaubad Swimming Centre
Reunited we both need some R&R so we head to the Donaubad swimming and leisure centre wherewith our city card we get one free hour in the spa or swimming pool which is only applicable if you go for three hours – this is easily done as trust us there’s so much to do here! We choose the swimming landscape. To our delight, this includes outdoor thermal baths, whirlpools, a hot tub, wave machine and FLUMES. This wrist sensor also means you can buy food and drink here. Naturally, we grab beers after a couple of hours of pool action.
Where to eat and drink in Ulm
Small cities don’t exactly build up an expectation of a diverse or exciting foody scene. Ulm though offers the best burger and the best overall meal experience of our travels around Germany.
Recommended by locals we indulge ourselves at Zur Forelle which is situated in a traditional building in the Fisherman’s Quarter and we’re lucky to nab a table for two. This is a haven for seafood and luscious local wine. We have sharing plates of mussels, fish and prawns and try cheese spätzle – which is reminiscent of Slovak Halusky. We wash this down with Riesling and schnapps after our meal. This is all recommended by our amazingly attentive server who takes the time to chat with us at the end of the night.
On the next night, we go to a local microbrewery, QMUH best known for their burgers and American style dining. It’s a busy place but we still receive top-notch burgers. Post-burgers, dessert about kills us but it’s worth the food coma later. Our chocolate banana milkshakes came with lashings of cream and a doughnut on top. The beers complimented the food and we even had a cocktail to finish the evening.
Free food with our UlmCard
With our cards, we also get free food and it leads us to another favourite discovery, Creperie Kornhäusle where we are given a free glass of cider. Our cider has fantastic balance, not too sweet, or too dry. The crepes are also giving us drool emoji-like faces from the end of the bar. They serve both sweet and savoury filled crepes cooked in front of you and made with such finesse. Another lovely little find one lunchtime is the Restaurant Zur Lochmühle where the card gets us an Apfelküchle (apple fritter) with river views in a cosy setting.
Where to stay in Ulm
Treat yourself – Hotel Schiefes Haus Ulm: A listed building from 1406, and the world’s wonkiest hotel! It resides in the picturesque Fishermen’s Quarter on a tributary that runs down to the Danube River.
Budget and backpacker-friendly – Brick Stone Hostel: It’s a young hostel in an old, but newly renovated and completely modernised brick stone building. They can also help you organise bike rental and hiking trails.
Alternative/Eco-friendly – Paddle Club “Ulmer Paddler” Campsite: For those travelling along the Danube by boat or bike you can come to this campsite. For groups of 8 or more you have to pre-book, but you can just turn up.
An honest review of the Ulm City Card
For tourists visiting the city, the city card is a great investment. You receive free entry to all the major museums and galleries and free food and drink. You can also use public transport and there’s access to some wonderful family-friendly activities. In the summer there are more options which we would have loved to do, including a free organ concert. It is also unfortunate the walking tour is only in German. Overall, the city is cosy with an interesting history! It’s also close to nature with the German Alps not far by train. Other things to do near Ulm are a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle or Eibsee Lake in Bavaria. Or you can travel to Ulm for the day from Munich (1h 35mins by train). The city card incorporated everything we wanted to do. It introduced us to local businesses and places we fell in love with.
To finish off our guide to the wonderful city of Ulm, try this wee tongue twister! It delights the locals if you can pull it off!
‘In Ulm, um Ulm, und um Ulm herum’ (‘In Ulm, around Ulm and all-around Ulm’).
All opinions in this article are our own. Our thanks to the Ulm Tourist Board for providing us with the opportunity to review the Ulm City Card and for sharing our stories on Instagram. This was a collaboration, but this is 100% honest!