Nothing brings back the medieval German empire as much as the Kaiserdom (Imperial Cathedral) in Speyer (tel. 06232/1020), the greatest building of its time. This cathedral, consecrated in the early 11th century, is the largest Romanesque edifice in Germany. Having weathered damage by fires, wars, and restorations, the cathedral was finally brought back to its original shape during a restoration that ran from 1957 to 1961. When you enter the church through the single west door set in a stepped arch, you're at once caught up in the vastness of its proportions; the whole length of the nave and east chancel opens up, lit by the muted daylight from above. The church contains the royal tombs of four emperors, three empresses, and four German kings, as well as a row of bishops' tombs. It is open April to October Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm, Saturday 9am to 6pm, and Sunday 1:30 to 6pm; off-season hours are daily from 9am to 5pm.
Other attractions include the Historisches Museum der Pfalz (Palatinate Historical Museum; tel. 06232/13250; www.museum.speyer.de), whose main attraction is the Domschatz, or cathedral treasury. Inaugurated in 1910, this museum is housed in a castle with four wings and lies next to the cathedral. In all, there are 300,000 artifacts here related to the history of the Palatinate and the city of Speyer. Relics date from prehistoric times, with a strong emphasis on the Roman and medieval eras.
On-site is the Wein Museum (Wine Museum), with exhibits showing how the Romans produced their vino. The world's oldest bottle of wine (ca. A.D. 300) is also exhibited. Objects found in tombs of former emperors under the Dom are exhibited in the treasury. The most celebrated exhibit is the Bronze Age Golden Hat of Schifferstadt. This is a golden, cone-shaped object used in religious celebrations in ancient times. The entrance to the Historisches Museum is on Domplatz. Hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm. Entrance is 4€ adults, 3€ children 16 and under.
The Technik-Museum (Museum of Technology), Geibstrasse 2 (tel. 06232/67080; www.technik-museum.de), is housed in a former 1913 aircraft hanger. Here you can view a vast array of airplanes, locomotives, vintage automobiles, fire engines, and even automatic musical instruments. For many, the biggest thrill is going inside a 20-ton U-boat once used to terrorize Allied shipping in the Atlantic.
Annexed to the museum is the Marine Museum, displaying a rich collection of historical model ships. Part of the attraction is a monumental 3-D IMAX cinema. Entrance to the two museums costs 15€ for adults, 11€ for children 15 and under. It's open daily 9am to 6pm.
Dreifaltigkeitskirke (Trinity Church), on Grosse Himmelsgasse, dates from 1701 to 1717, when it was constructed in an elaborate baroque style. It's one of the most richly adorned and decorated churches along the Rhine, and the only elaborate, baroque-style church that still exists in the Rhine-Main-Neckar region; the interior contains a two-story gallery with a splendid balustrade of wooden-capped vaulting painted by artisans. Johann Peter Grabner, architect to the court of Palatinate, designed the church. Check with the Speyer tourist office to see if the church is open on the day of your visit.
Speyer was one of the most important centers of Jewish culture along the Rhine, although precious little of that settlement remains today. However, some ruins from the old Jüdisches Viertel (Jewish quarter) can still be seen behind the Palatinate Historical Museum. Enter the ruins from Judengasse and pay the entry fee at the gatehouse (tel. 06232/291971). The east wall of the ancient synagogue is the Judenbad (called Mikwe in Hebrew), a 12th-century ritual bathhouse for women. The masons who constructed the Dom also built this bathhouse, the oldest and best-preserved relic of its kind in the country and a poignant, nostalgic reminder of a vanished culture. The site is open from April to October daily 10am to 6pm, costing 2€ admission.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.