Worms & Speyer Day Trip - Small Cities with a BIG Historical Punch
An hour north of Kaiserslautern you'll find yourself a historical day trip adventure replete with churches, museums, and medieval sites. Visit two of the 12 oldest cities in Germany—Speyer & Worms. In the cities of Worms and Speyer, you'll be able to walk where Martin Luther preached, visit important historical Jewish sites, and roam where Romans and Germanic tribes once lived.
Worms & Speyer are about a 40 minute drive apart from each other. It is possible to tour both cities in one day for a full day trip, or to pick one city to tour as a half-day trip (or a much more leisurely enjoyed day trip).
WORMS: 4 hours, walking tour of main sites
Stop at the tourist information center to grab a map (even if the tourist center is closed they have maps you can grab in little containers on the outside of the building in both German and English.) The map is nice because it easily lays out a walking tour if you just follow the sites in the order they're numbered. Most of the sites are within walking distance. There are 27 sites, but you'll probably just pick and choose to see the sights that sound most intriguing to you based on your interests.
You can also see where the public restrooms are located (which, if you're like me, you're always struggling to find in Europe).
**Due to COVID many of the churches and museums are not open to the public. If you decide to visit worms, you'll mainly be walking the city to appreciate its architecture, building exteriors, parks, flowers, and history.
Tourist Information Worms
Neumarkt 14 - 67547 Worms
+49 (0) 6241 853-7306
Park at the Parkhaus am Dom Kranzbühlerstraße 3, 67547 Worms
This will start you right next to Peter's Cathedral and the Tourist Information center. There are also public restrooms in this parking garage and family parking stalls (helpful if you need a little extra elbow room for wiggling carseats and strollers in and out of your car).
If you want to plan a trip to worms, I highly recommend going during the timeframe of July 3 through December 30, 2021. There will be a 500 anniversary commemoration of the diet of worms, in which Martin Luther stood against the Catholic church, refusing to recant his beliefs, and calling them out on the sale of indulges and other beliefs/practices that he believed to not be in line with the Holy Bible's teachings. There will be a special exhibit and various events during this timeframe.
1. Nibelungen Tower
If you drive to Worms, come from the east via the B 47 so that you can pass through the Nibelungen Tower over the Nibelungen Bridge. There used to be 2 of these towers, but one was destroyed during WWII. This tower is one of only 13 surviving bridge towers in Europe (and nine of them are located in Germany!).
2. House of the Mint, Trinity Church & Siegfried Fountain
Right next to the tourist info center and Peter's Cathedral is a market square containing the town library. You'll see Siegried atop a fountain—the legendary dragon slayer! (In fact, dragon's can be found throughout the city commemorating the German Epic The Nibelungenlied. You'll also see Trinity Church, which is the largest protestant church in Worms. It contains the largest natural stone mosaic in Germany (located above the organ gallery).
3. City Hall, Market Square, and the Fountain of Justice
Right next to Trinity Church is a fun clock tower that is part of city hall. During *non-COVID times..* you'll find markets in the square selling fruit, veggies, and regional delicacies on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Luckily, the yummy ice cream parlor is still open. Hit up Vannini for a delicious treat!
4. St. Peter's Cathedral
Sometimes called the Worms Cathedral, it was built between 1125 and 1181. It's about 900 years old! Inside this cathedral you can walk the massive corridors and gloat that you've been where a pope was elected, an emperor was married, and Martin Luther stood in front of the Reichstag refusing to recount his beliefs. My favorite site from Worms was a pleasant discovery I made in the back corner of this cathedral. Inside you'll find five monumental Gothic reliefs picturing the life of Jesus Christ that date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. They feature 1. The Tree of Jesse 2. Annunciation 3. Birth of Christ 4. Entombment 5. Resurrection. There was also supposedly a sixth relief of his crucifixion but it was probably lost/destroyed in 1689.
5. Magnuskirche (St. Magnus' Church)
This tiny, one room church is the smallest in Worms and is one of the early churches of the reformation.
6. Jewish Cemetery Holy Sand
The oldest jewish cemetery in Europe with around 2,500 gravestones. It is a pilgrimage site for Jewish visitors from all over the world and has tombstones that date back to 1058. Numerous influential Jewish scholars and rabbis are buried here. **Not open during COVID unless previous group tour has been privately booked/arranged.
7. Judengasse, Jewish Quarter & Synagogue
In the medieval era, Worms was known as the "Jerusalem on the Rhine." Some of the homes in this quarter used the medieval city wall from 360 AD as the back wall for building their houses, which gives this area some really unique charm and architecture to appreciate. There is also a romanesque synagogue that you can visit.
8. City Walls
Check out the Torturmplatz to see fortifications from the 9th century. This Roman wall was a ring around the city that protected against attacks. Pieces of the wall can still be seen throughout the city.
9. Heylshof Gardens
Here you'll stumble across the Heylsschlösschen, the gardens, and a museum all right next to Peter's Cathedral. It's believed that the Burgundians used to have a castle here and that Charlemagne had a palace here. In the park you can find the Luther Table and stand in the shoes of Martin Luther! (It's a fun photo-op). After being questioned by the Catholic church and given a day to consider his response, Luther gave his famous "Here I Stand" speech. You'll see it quoted throughout the garden and played over speakers (in German) in the park.
"Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen." - Martin Luther
10. Lutherdenkmal (Luther Memorial)
The memorial was unveiled in 1868 and was created by Ernest Rietschel. It's the largest of its kind in the world, In addition to its sister monument to the Reformation in Geneva. The figures surrounding the monument are central reformers and contemporaries of Martin Luther. You'll also find 27 coats of arms surrounding the perimeter of the statue denoting towns that were important during the reformation. For example: Wittenberg is present; the town where Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church. You can learn more about the monument here.
11. Ludwigs Platz
Cute fountain and city square. The obelisk in the fountain is a memorial toLudwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse.
12. St Martin's Church
This Romanesque basilica dates back to 11/13th centuries.
13. Martinstor (Martin's Gate)
Luther entered Worms through Martin's Gate. If you want some tasty treats and to enjoy some shopping, continue past the gate to the right onto the Kämmererstraße—a pedestrian zone through the center of Worms to the market square.
We did not make it to Speyer (as this was one of our first outing with our new infant, we were pretty tired!). If you're looking to add a little more to your trip, however, here's a few things I looked up and would add for a full day excursion.
1. Speyer Cathedral: Domplatz, Speyer, Rheinland-Pfalz, 67346
World's largest remaining Romanesque cathedral. Construction began in the 11th century.
Technic Museum:Europe's largest space exhibition as well as 150,000 square meters of other transportation devices. Many of the transportation vehicles can be toured from the inside.
Historical Museum of the Palatinate: learn about the life of the first humans who settled there and about the arrival of the Romans in 12 BC, the Germanic looting, ecclesial treasures, Martin Luther and the Protestant revolution, the region’s 2,000-year long history of winemaking.
The Old Gate stands out with its soaring height of 55 metres (180 feet). A closer look will reveal a couple of interesting details: each of the tower’s eastern and western sides show two clocks and the northern side features an iron bar that was once called the ‘Calibration Shoe of Speyer’, which was used as a measuring unit until the early 19th century.
4. Jewish Courtyard: Kleine Pfaffengasse 22, Speyer +49 6232 291971
In the Middle Ages, Speyer was home to one of Germany’s most important Jewish communities. The remains of a men’s and women’s synagogue, along with the Mikveh (a ritual bath), are the oldest and among the most important Jewish sites in Germany and northern Europe. The ruins date back to the early 1100s, but the underground section of the Mikveh has survived the past centuries and is virtually unchanged. Visitors can climb down the vaulted stairwell into the bathrooms that lie 10 metres (33 feet) underground.
Speyer’s Memorial Church boasts the highest tower—100 metres (330 feet)—in the entire Palatinate region and was built to commemorate a landmark event in the history of the Protestant confession. In 1529, six princes and official representatives of the Imperial Free Cities protested the ban of Martin Luther and his revolutionary teachings. Statues of the father of Protestantism and his supporters can be found inside. Another highlight is the colorfully stained glass window of the apse, a gift by the German Emperor Wilhelm II.
Architecture fans are in for another treat—and another church. Speyer’s Trinity Church, built in 1701 in the Baroque and ecclesiastical style, is the city’s oldest Protestant church with an interior that survived all the quarrels and wars since its construction. The church’s interior features dark wood adorned with intricate carvings, a biblical dome fresco and an altar built in 1716.
The region around Worms and Speyer is not only known for its award-winning wines, but also for its regional specialities like Pfälzer Saumagen or Handkäse mit Musik (a handmade cheese made of sour milk).
Pfälzer Saumagen dish is composed of salt-cured and cooked pork, sausage meat, and blanched potatoes, all ground up, mixed and spiced with salt, pepper, bay leaves, marjoram, and other herbs. The dough-like mass is filled into a pig’s stomach and boiled until done.