A long and illustrious history and Germany’s shortest river are two of the attractions of this compact but lively cathedral city in the heart of wholesome rural Westphalia. Make the most of 24 hours in Paderborn
with local expert Neville Walker’s tips.
0700-0900. Greet the day in the Paderquellgebiet, a tranquil parkland of water and greenery in the heart of the city. Here, the Pader River bubbles out from around 200 springs at the rate of 5,000 litres per second. Admire the half-timbered houses of Auf den Dielen on the park’s northern fringe and the more richly ornamented facade of the 16th-century Adam und Eva Haus around the corner (Hathumarstrasse 7-9, 05251 882 3501). It houses the local history museum, but it’s not open at this hour.
0900-1100. Breakfast at the smart Café am Dom (Markt 4, 05251 877 3944). On Wednesdays and Saturdays you can watch the bustle of Paderborn’s twice-weekly market from here; otherwise you’ll have to content yourself with the copper-roofed cathedral (Domplatz 1, 05251 125 1227) as a backdrop. An impressive blend of Gothic and Romanesque, it has dominated the city since the 13th century – not just physically but politically, because the city was until 1802 an independent prince-bishopric. On Saturday morning there is a guided tour at 10.45am; otherwise enter the cathedral through the Paradies – a medieval porch built as a shelter for pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela – and discover the elaborate tombs, peaceful cloisters and famous Hasenfenster (hare window) for yourself. If you’re not yet churched out, exit the cathedral on its north side to visit the inconspicuous little Bartholomäuskapelle. It was built in the 11th century by Byzantine craftsmen, and its simple but graceful pillared interior is unique north of the Alps.
1100-1300. Next to the Bartholomäuskapelle are the foundations of Charlemagne’s eight-century palace complex, rediscovered during excavations in the 1960s. Some of the best archaeological finds are on display in the rebuilt 11th-century Kaiserpfalz behind the ruins (Am Ikenberg, 05251 105 110); if this whets your appetite for local history, retrace your steps to the Adam und Eva Haus, where there’s plenty more to see. Alternatively, squeeze in a little retail therapy before lunch. For big-name men’s and women’s fashion, try Sør (Rathausplatz 9, 05251 28555), Klingenthal (Westernstrasse 22-24, 05251 2860) and Peek & Cloppenburg (Westernstrasse 31-33, 05251 8888), where the brands include Armani Jeans, Boss Orange, Geox and Superdry. For high-fashion womenswear, head for MOODS (Neuer Platz 4, 05251 879 1633), which stocks Paul Smith, Just Cavalli and Versace Collection; the menswear equivalent is Kleine (Marienplatz 11, 05251 10920), where you can stock up on Armani, Belstaff and Zegna.
1300-1500. There are two things this part of Germany does particularly well: hearty food and Weser Renaissance architecture. Paderborn’s Rathaus (town hall) has both. Built in 1616, its three elaborate gables dominate the city’s most central square, while tucked into its vaulted cellar is the atmospheric Ratskeller (Rathausplatz 1, 05251 201 133, where you can fuel up for the afternoon on Westphalian tapas with pumpernickel, herring fillets with apple and cinnamon dip, or a Paderborn-style pot roast with red cabbage and potato dumplings. Wash it down with a Paderborner Ratskeller Dunkel beer. Work off the calories with a cycle excursion to Paderborn’s idyllic outskirts. Hop on a PaderSprinter bus from Rathausplatz to the railway station and hire a bike from the Radstation there (Bahnhofstrasse 29, 05251 870 740). If you’re overloaded with shopping bags, you can rent a locker in the station, but the bikes are equipped with a basket.
1500-1700. Paderborn is perfect for cycling; it helps that it’s relatively flat. The most popular route follows the Pader River through meadows for four kilometres or so, starting from the Paderquellgebiet; along the way, you’ll pass the Stümpelsche watermill and a placid lake, the Padersee. The destination is the moated 16th-century Weser Renaissance castle of Schloss Neuhaus (Residenzstrasse 2, 05254 80192). Built as the residence of Paderborn’s powerful prince-bishops, it is surrounded by an impressive baroque park, with parterres that have been restored to their 18th-century appearance. If the weather’s fine, it’s tempting to linger here or push on to the Lippesee, a reservoir that’s popular for windsurfing, sailing and sunbathing.
1700-1900. The return route along the Pader passes the world’s largest computer museum, the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum (Fürstenallee 7, 05251 306 600), where the displays kick off with a look at the origins of writing and arithmetic before charting the development of information technology. The museum’s hall of fame honours English mathematician Alan Turing as well as Heinz Nixdorf, the German entrepreneur after whom it is named. If you prefer to push on into town, there’s still time to do some shopping, since the big stores stay open until 7pm on weekdays. As the shopping crowds thin out, there’s time to admire a few more of Paderborn’s architectural glories, at least from the outside: the Renaissance Theodorianum School and Baroque Marktkirche are among the Rathaus’ more impressive neighbours.
1900-2100. Freshen up before an elegant dinner at Elmar Simon’s Michelin-starred Restaurant Balthasar (Warburger Strasse 28, 05251 24448) – it’s Paderborn’s fanciest – or opt for the less formal but very pretty La Petite Galerie (Bachstrasse 1, 05251 12240) on the fringe of the Paderquellgebiet, where the Mediterranean-influenced evening menu includes dishes like pink-roast lamb on rosemary mash and vegetable pralines en croute.
After 2100. Paderborn’s nightlife scene punches above the city’s relatively modest weight, with a cluster of bars and cafés in the centre of town on Kamp and another in the Ükernviertel north of the Paderquellgebiet, where Blauer Engel (Heierstrasse 33, 05251 878 5533) is an established local favourite for cocktails. Newer and more central is Bambi (Weberberg 4, 05251 298 1446), an intriguing mix of ancient and modern in a half-timbered house, with a long cocktail list that encompasses classics and stronger drinks with occasionally intimidating names. If you’re still not flagging, the smartest clubbing option is Residenz (Marienplatz 1-3, 05251 505 400), where the action cranks up from 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.