Before you even get close to the city, you'll see the towering Ulm Münster on the skyline. Its 162m (531-ft.) steeple is the tallest of any cathedral in the world, and the Ulm Münster itself is second only to Cologne Cathedral in size. Without the pews, the nave of the church could hold nearly 20,000 people, more than twice the population of Ulm at the time the cathedral was begun in 1377. When Ulm joined the Protestant movement in 1531, work on the building was suspended. It was not to be continued until 1844, and wasn't completed until 1890. Miraculously, the cathedral escaped serious damage during World War II.
The exterior is almost pure German Gothic, even though bricks were often used in the walls along with the more typical stone blocks. The unusual feature of the Münster is that its architects placed as much emphasis on horizontal lines as on the vertical. Before entering, stop to admire the main porch, whose three massive arches lead to two 15th-century doors. This section dates from the 14th and 15th centuries and contains a wealth of statues and reliefs.
The five aisles of the cathedral lead directly from the hall below the tower through the nave to the east chancel. The conspicuous absence of a transept heightens the emphasis on the chancel and also increases the length of the nave. Huge pillars towering into steep arches enclose each of the five aisles. The ceiling is swept into net-vaults so high that any of Germany's church steeples could sit comfortably beneath them. The nave is so large that, even with pews, it can accommodate more than 11,000 people at one service.
The most remarkable treasure of the cathedral is the Chorgestühl or choir stalls, which are some of the finest examples in Germany of woodcarving. Jorg Syrliun the Elder created these between 1469 and 1474. He depicted personages from the Bible facing those from the pagan era.
You can climb the tower as far as the third gallery (768 steps) to look out on the town and surrounding countryside over the Danube plain as far as the Alps.