A youthful university city on the Danube in the heart of Bavaria, Ingolstadt is the headquarters of the car manufacturer Audi. You can return to the very origins of the brand at the Museum Mobile, and follow all stages of the high-tech production process on a factory tour.
South of the factory is an old town of gabled merchants’ houses, neatly preserved and encircled by a Neoclassical system of fortifications from the 19th century. Now the old redoubt, tower and cavalier are museums, while the city they protected has haunting Gothic and Medieval churches and civic buildings that go all the way back to the 13th and 14th centuries.
Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Ingolstadt:
1. Audi Forum
One of Germany’s leading carmakers has an big visitor complex next to its factory to the north of Ingolstadt.
This is where you can embark on a factory tour or retrace the story of the brand at the Museum Mobile.
But there’s more to the Audi Forum, like “Audi Young and Fun”, a multimedia adventure trail for kids with play areas and driving simulators.
It’s the kind of attraction to keep youngsters occupied while their parents collect their brand new Audi hot off the factory floor at the delivery centre.
There are also two themed restaurants, a bar and lounge and a wine gallery, as well as conference and performance spaces, hosting monthly jazz performances.
2. Museum Mobile
In a stylish steel and glass building completed in 2000 is a museum documenting the history of the brand, and the companies like Wanderer, DKW and Horch that would eventually merge with Audi.
A lift carries you up to the 3rd floor where you start the tour in 1899, slowly coming to the present day across two levels.
The museum has more than 100 cars and motorcycles from all stages of the brand’s story, and lots of hands-on multimedia to keep you occupied.
The museum’s most eye-catching feature though is a paternoster (constantly moving open elevator), which has vehicles and other exhibits on platforms that rotate from the top to the bottom floor.
3. Audi Factory Tour
Register in advance and you’ll be treated to a privileged look at the work that goes into each Audi.
There’s a menu of different visits available.
If you’re pushed for time you take a “Compact Factory Tour” to see the high-tech welding robots in action, and watch the moment the engine floor is attached to the car chassis.
But if you want to leave no stone unturned there’s a full-day experience beginning with the delivery of the steel sheets, through chassis construction, painting and then out to the delivery centre to learn about the factory’s logistics network.
There’s also a tour that goes into depth on the high-tech machinery and state-of-the-art processes at work in the factory’s production system.
The celebrated Late Baroque architects the Asam brothers designed this beautiful church in the 1730s.
While the mouldings, window pediments and scrolls on the facade on Neubaustraße are Baroque, the theatrical interior is Rococo.
Taking up almost all the ceiling is a 490-square-metre painting of the Incarnation of the Lord.
The altar is from 1760 and has a painting of the Annunciation from 1675, older than the church itself.
In keeping with the splendour of the church interior there’s a dazzling treasure in the sacristy: Made in 1708, the Lepanto Monstrance is the work of Augsburg goldsmith Johannes Zeckl and depicts the 1571 Battle of Lepanto in vivid detail.
One of the things that strikes you about the Church of Our Lady is that its two western towers have two different heights.
That’s because neither was ever completed.
The southern tower is at 69 metres while the northern one is 62, and both have been capped with newer Baroque domes.
They testify to the troubled construction of this church, which was repeatedly interrupted by war in the 15th century.
A marvellous thing to see inside is the high altar, dating to 1572 and packed with iconography by the woodcutter Hans Muelich as a statement of the counterreformation.
In the choir are stained glass windows crafted in the 16th century.
Up to the early 90s this space on the right bank of the Danube had been used for industrial storage.
But the area was revitalised and a park was laid out for the Bayerische Landesgartschau (Bavarian State Garden Show) in 1992. The park has large lawns, wooded areas, a little waterway, a small lake and a waterside promenade next to the Danube.
But there are also lots vestiges of Ingolstadt’s 19th-century fortress here and there.
The park is named after Leo von Klenze, who designed the defences, including Reduit Tilly (redoubt) and Turm Triva (tower), which now host a branch of the Bavarian Army Museum and the Police Museum respectively.
7. Bayerisches Armeemuseum (Bavarian Army Museum)
Bavaria’s army museum is almost 140 years old, making it Germany’s oldest military museum, and moved to Ingolstadt from Munich in 1972. The main collection is in the Neues Schloss on the left bank on the Danube, while the First World War exhibition is in Reduit Tilly in the Klenzepark.
In the Neues Schloss you’ll come across the flag hall, which has more than 150 examples from the 1600s to the 1900s.
Among the sets of vintage weapons and armour is the Pappenheimer Harnische, a rare cuirass from the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century.
There are also dioramas and pieces of military art.
In Reduit Tilly on the Danube’s bridgehead is one of Europe’s largest permanent exhibitions of the First World War, with weapons, regalia, uniforms and armour in an evocative historic setting.
Dating to 1385, Kreuztor is one of two of Ingolstadt’s four city gates still standing from the second Medieval ring of fortifications.
With seven towers, this brick and limestone construction defended the western approach to Ingolstadt, and takes its name from the Kirche zum Heiligen Kreuz (Church of the Holy Cross), which once ran a leper house beyond the western walls of the city.
As the most photogenic and best preserved of all the gates, the Kreuztor has become a postcard image for the city.
The sparsely decorated gate has a square base, topped with an octagonal tower that has four bays and a spire.
9. Bayerisches Polizeimuseum (Bavarian Police Museum)
A department of the army museum, the police exhibition is in the Klenzepark’s Triva Tower and assembled objects going back to the Bavarian Revolution of 1918-19. Some of the engaging themes covered by the museum include the stormy days following the First World War, border security during the Cold War and the famed protests that took place in the 1980s against the construction of a nuclear reprocessing plant in Wackersdorf.
You’ll get to know the routine and duties of the Bavarian police and learn about all the equipment that the officers carry.
10. Altes Rathaus
Ingolstadt’s old town hall is a compound of four different houses going back to the 1300s.
In the 1880s these were reworked into the uniform Neo-Renaissance style we see today.
On the north side of the main facade is a handsome curved gable containing the clock, while the south side has the avant-corps with a stone relief and a balustraded balcony.
Still the seat of the lord mayor and the two administrative mayors, the building is a sight to see from the outside.
That is unless you’re invited to a ceremony at the stunning panelled hall on the first floor.
Ingolstadt’s municipal museum is in Kavalier Hepp, a cavalier from the city’s Neoclassical fort, raised at the start of the 1840s.
Within 30 years the structure was tactically obsolete and is intact today thanks to renovation efforts in the 1970s.
With around 50 rooms, the Stadtmuseum certainly merits the detour if you’re keen to know more about the important episodes in the city’s past.
One of these was the siege by the Swedes in 1632. From that event you can see the very horse ridden by Swedish King Gustav II Adolf.
It was killed by a bullet and is believed to be Europe’s oldest taxidermy.
There are also ceramic shells from the Thirty Years’ War, but maybe the most captivating piece here is a Bronze Age amber necklace discovered on Audi’s premises in 1996 and composed of about 2,800 beads.
Behind the Altes Rathaus is the oldest building in Ingolstadt, going back to 1234. The Moritzirche also has traces of an even older building from the 800s when the city was founded.
For centuries this was also the only church in Ingolstadt, and along the with the church’s own tower, a Medieval watchtower, the Pfeifturm, is also attached to the building on the north side, erected to warn of approaching enemies or a fire in the city at night.
You can go to the top for a view to remember, 45 metres and more than 200 steps over the city streets.
The church’s interior meanwhile was redecorated in the Rococo style in the 1700s, and although a lot of this was lost in the 19th century there’s still a splendid image of the immaculate conception on the left side of the choir entrance.
13. Deutsches Medizinhistorisches Museum
The only specialised museum of its kind in the country is in the 18th-century anatomical theatre building established to train medical students at the University of Ingolstadt.
The museum has over 1,000 exhibits tracking the evolution of medicine from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and China to the 21st century.
The ground floor is all about ancient, Medieval and Early Modern medicine, and has an Etruscan anatomical torso, amputation saws, bloodletting knives and tooth pliers.
Things are less primitive upstairs, where you can see how after 1830 the medical sciences were broken down into different fields like diagnostics and surgery.
Outside there’s a symmetrical Baroque garden growing more than 200 medicinal herbs.
The oldest secular building in Ingolstadt is the whitewashed Gothic castle built in 1255 for Louis II, Duke of Bavaria.
In the pedestrian zone not far from the river, the Herzogskasten reinforced the city’s ring of fortifications but also served as a noble residence before the Neues Schloss was completed in the 1400s.
The crow-stepped gables on each end were added in the 1300s, while the circular tower is older and was integrated into the wall.
Since 1981 the Herzogskasten has been housed Ingolstadt’s municipal library, so you can go in for a peek if you want to see more.
15. Wildpark am Baggersee
Under 10 minutes southwest of Ingolstadt, around a former bathing lake next to the Danube is a game reserve and forest trail.
In semi-freedom in massive paddocks are fallow, roe and red, bison, wild boars and mouflons , all in a tapestry of woodland, water and meadow.
An interesting time to drop by is rutting season in autumn, when the stags compete with each other for mates and you can hear their calls across the park and occasionally see them facing off.
The park also has picnic areas and a playground for children.