Neuss exists in the shadow of Düsseldorf with only 5 km between them. However you shouldn’t underestimate this city. History of Neuss started over two thousand years ago. From Medieval Ages pilgrims have thronged here for the relics of a Christian martyr Quirinus. And every August over million of spectators come for a marksmen festival. This celebration is famous for bright parades and a tournament for the title of the king of marksmen.
Neuss appeared in the place of an Ancient Roman camp that appeared here in 16 B.C. The settlement of Novaesium that grew around it is among three oldest on the territory of Germany. In 1050 relics of St. Quirinus were transferred here from Rome. They are assigned the miracle of healing many deceases. In 1209 the first stone for the foundation of St. Quirinus basilica was laid. This is probably the oldest Christian church in the region. Its construction turned Neuss into one of the main centers of pilgrimage in Rhine valley. The silhouette of the basilica is acknowledged as the symbol of the city.
In the 12th-13th centuries Neuss was surrounded by a fortress wall. Only its strong gate Obertor has survived until today and hosts an art gallery and the so-called Bloody Tower (Blutturm) – a former prison. In 1474 the city was under siege of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. The siege continued for a year and ended with no results. As an award, emperor Friedrich III allowed the city to mint its own coins and included it into the Hanseatic League. Having survived the war, Neuss was almost destroyed in fire: in 1586 almost the entire city burnt down. After that it lost its importance as a trade centre. At the end of the 18th – beginning of the 19th century Neuss was first taken by France, and then by Prussia. At the end of the 19th century, thanks to expansion of the river port, development of industry and trade boomed here. Today port of Neuss is one of the largest river ports in Germany.
The most beautiful old house in Neuss is the brick tavern “Black Horse” (Em Schwatte Päd) that dates back to Renaissance. Many recipes of traditional Rhine soups had probably been invented here in time immemorial. If you are in the city, find soups on the menu and try them as it is customary for the place. The most popular soup is Schnippelbohnensuppe with ribs, finely sliced string beans, potatoes and Mettwürst sausage from slightly smoked low-fat minced pork with spices. Another local dish is potato soup in different interpretations, for example with kohlrabi, carrots, and leek. For breakfast you can order fried pancakes from grated potatoes with apple sauce (Reibekuchen mit Apfelmus). Another classical Rhine dessert is also made from apples – apple pie (Riemchen kuchen) covered with strings from dough. Those who like meat dishes should not miss out on Rhine sauerbraten. In earlier times this roast was prepared from horse meat, but now it’s almost always made of beef. Meat for the roast is pickled for several days in red wine and vinegar with raisins, juniper berries and spices, and is served with a dark sauce from raisins together with small trickled pastries or red cabbage.
Another place of interest in Neuss is the Vogthaus building that was constructed in 1597 and for over 200 years served as the residence of the governor. In the 20th century it was occupied by a bank, and now there is a restaurant here. The façade is decorated with chiming clock with figures of marksmen, their striking can be heard at 11, 15 and 17 o’clock. The cultural center of the city is the Armoury. From 1637 to 1802 this building was occupied by a Franciscan monastery. And afterwards city authorities turned it into an armoury. Since 1923 it was reconstructed and turned into a cultural center with a theater, a concert hall and a gallery. If you go to the “Fossa sanguinis” hall in Gepaplatz square, you can see an antique stone cellar that was discovered here in 1956. According to one of the versions, a sanctuary of a Phrygian goddess Cybele, popular in Asia Minor and Ancient Rome, was located here. Ministers of this cult could offer bull sacrifices in the temple.
If you are travelling with kids, keep tabs on a farm in the suburb of Neuss, Selikum (Kinderbauernhof in Selikum). It was opened in 1978 in order to give urban children the possibility to get close to the rural life. Here air smells of hay, you can play with goats, sheep and horses, run after chickens and guinea fowls. Premises for adult entertainment are right behind the main city railway station. The former freight yard Gare Du Neuss was turned into a concert stage and a café, on Saturdays there is a big flea market functioning here.
On the last Friday in August the main city celebration starts in Neuss – festival of marksmen, with participation of over 6 thousand marksmen and thousand musicians. The first fraternity of marksmen was organized in Neuss in 1415. Its task was to teach townsfolk to shoot in order to defend the city in case of attack. It was during those times that the tradition of conducting festive competition of marksmen appeared. The first marksmen parade took place in 1823. Since then parades are conducted annually. During five days shows of shooting clubs in historical costumes take place in the city. The most colourful events of the festival are the procession with 70 giant torches on Saturday evening and a parade with participation of the king of marksmen in the center of the city on Sunday. Before the festival is closed the winner of the marksmen tournament is announced the new king.
It’s been 165 years since a spring carnival was first conducted in Neuss. Its climax is a colourful Sunday parade of jesters. Fans of art should note Shakespeare Festival. Since 1990 it is conducted every June in Neuss theatre “The Globe” – an exact replica of the famous English theatre. Since 1983 International Weeks of Modern Dance are organized in Neuss. Grown-ups and children, lovers of antiquity and celebrations, theatergoers and connoisseurs of local culinary traditions – Neuss is waiting for everyone!