Situated among the rolling hills of Germany's premiere wine-growing region, Stuttgart is capital of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg in southwestern Germany. Dotted with beautiful buildings, impressive parks, and fantastic art museums, this modern city is a good touristic stopover due to its undulating wine estates, annual beer festival, mineral spa culture and acclaimed ballet, opera and philharmonic companies.
Charming olde worlde quarters like the Bohnenviertel (Bean District), with its sidewalk cafés and cobbled streets, meet the modern pedestrianised precincts of contemporary Stuttgart, such as Königstrasse, one of the longest shopping streets in Germany. A big city with a small-town atmosphere, visitors will find the bustling art nouveau Market Hall transports them to former, countrified years. Nowadays, this is where organic fruit and vegetables, aromatic cheeses and fresh fish from the North Sea can be found. Another must for any visitor to this city is a trip to one of Stuttgart's reputed mineral baths, be it the modern and luxurious Mineralbad Cannstatt or the Mineral Bath Berg, which exudes a wistful fifties charm.
In beautiful weather, view the city from atop the Fernsehturm (Television Tower), a 712ft (217m) tower with an observation deck and restaurant at the pinnacle, where on a clear day you can see the Black Forest. Head to Schlossplatz, a famous landmark and meeting place for locals and visitors, its green lawns littered with youths soaking up the summer sunshine. Alternatively find your own sanctuary in the dappled shade of the 'Green U' park, a five mile (8km) natural haven in the city centre.
Stuttgart has a reputation as the 'cradle of the automobile'. Both the motorbike and four-wheel car were invented in Stuttgart and one of its most famous attractions is the enormous Mercedes-Benz Museum, with scores of immaculate vehicles on permanent display, including their new luxury models, racing cars and reputed antiques. If that doesn't whet your appetite, head across town to the Porsche Museum, also a delight for petrol heads.
The symbolic heart of Stuttgart, the Schlossplatz or Palace Square, is a popular meeting point for locals and travellers alike, with the beautifully Baroque New Palace providing a majestic backdrop. The former residence of kings, the New Palace was built between 1746 and 1806 and is now a base for the state government of Baden- Wurttemberg. If the New Palace feels a bit French it's because the Duke Carl Eugen of Wurttemberg wanted to create a Versailles in Stuttgart. The König Wilhelm Jubilee Column, rising in the fore, was erected in 1841 in honour of King Wilhelm's silver jubilee (25 years of reign). The statue of Concordia, the Roman goddess of harmony at the pinnacle, was added in 1863. The two fountains were built at the same time, with the eight cherubs each representing one of Wurttemberg's rivers.
There's always something going on in the square. It is a popular hangout for locals and there is usually a musician or two busking. Those lucky enough to visit over the Christmas season should make sure to visit the Christmas market at the Schlossplatz.
It is possible to catch the hop-on hop-off tour bus from the square, which is a popular starting point for explorations of the city.
Built between 1838 and 1843 under King Wilhelm I of Wuerttemberg, the Old State Gallery in Stuttgart features a prestigious range of paintings, drawings, sculptures, watercolours and prints from the 14th to the 19th centuries, with Jerg Ratgeb, Canaletto, Memling and Rembrandt taking centre stage. Connected to the Old State Gallery, on the same level, is the New State Gallery, dedicated to the art of the 20th century. Looking at important schools within various art movements like Fauvism, German Expressionism, Die Brucke and Cubism, the New State Gallery includes works by masters such as Picasso, Beckmann, Schlemmer, Beuys, Kiefer and Klee. A common criticism of this otherwise very popular gallery is that there isn't much seating available in the actual exhibition rooms, but if you need a break the museum has a restaurant and a cafe that serves lovely light meals and refreshments. There is also a gift shop.
Centrally located, Kunstmuseum Stuttgart is a work of art in itself. Its modern cuboid design transforms from a glass hexahedron during the day to reveal a colourful skeletal interior when lit up at night. Opened in 2005, the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart is renowned for its prestigious collection of work by Otto Dix, the famous German artist remembered for his realistic depictions of Weimar society and the brutality of war. The colourful and abstract art of Willi Baumeister and the mixed media work of contemporary artist Dieter Roth are also on display at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, along with ever-changing international exhibitions. Don't miss the museum shop and bookshop, or have a light snack at the onsite restaurant.
Opened shortly before the start of the Football World Cup in Germany, the impressive Mercedes-Benz Museum is housed in a slick, contemporary building, an icon of modern architecture. With an exhibition space of almost 182,986 square feet (17,000m/sq), filling seven levels, the museum takes visitors on a chronological journey through the history of the Mercedes automobile, combining world events occurring at the same time as Benz breakthroughs and displaying more than 160 different vehicles from racing cars and concept cars to the pope mobile and airplane engines. Automobile aficionados will be in heaven but even for non-petrol heads there is a lot to see in this world-class museum which covers a lot of interesting history through the lens of the automobile. Visitors take the elevator to the top of the building and then wind their way down chronologically on a spiral until they reach the ground and the present day. There is a museum shop, a restaurant and a cafe/bar to be enjoyed on the premises. An audio guide is available.
Europe's only combined zoological and botanical garden, the Wilhelma Zoo never fails to leave a lasting impression on the hearts and minds of all who explore it. Initially built as a Moorish garden for King Wilhelm I in the 19th century, the beautiful botanical garden is extraordinary all year round. Countless exotic plants, a range of climatic biospheres in magnificent greenhouses, a petting zoo, insect exhibit, aquarium with crocodile hall, modern ape house, bear facilities, walk-in bird flight facility and wild animal enclosures are some of the exhilarating sights to be enjoyed. The Wilhelma Zoo is home to about 8,000 animals, including polar bears and elephants, and 5,000 different species of plants. The gardens are also interspersed with lovely historic buildings. Ideal for children and adults, there are a host of ice cream stands, cafeterias and playgrounds to keep the whole family entertained for the entire day. The covered walkways make it possible to visit even when the weather is bad.
Sitting on one of the largest mineral water reserves in Europe, the inhabitants of Stuttgart have been enjoying its liquid vitality for more than two millennia and the famous mineral baths of Stuttgart are a major tourist attraction for the city. Nineteen natural springs pump something like 22 million litres of mineral water into Stuttgart on a daily basis so there is no shortage of this resource. Relaxing in a hot, steamy mineral bath is a good way to spend some of your down time and the water is thought to help with skin ailments and respiratory and heart problems; of course, relaxation brings with it a swathe of health benefits as well. Das Leuze, Mineralbad Cannstatt and Mineral Bath Berg all feature hot and cold mineral baths, saunas, hot tubs and swimming pools. Das Leuze is geared toward families with its playground, children's pool and bright colours, while Mineralbad Cannstatt caters more for adults looking for a haven of relaxation. Mineral Bath Berg is a 1950s gem, its iron-rich waters recognised by the state as a 'heilbad' for its medicinal properties.
Be warned that generally the Germans don't see a need for clothing of any kind at these establishments so some nudity should be anticipated.
The Porsche Museum in Stuttgart is a retrospective of more than 75 years of Porsche engineering and memorabilia. Porsche is both the smallest independent German automaker and the world's most profitable automaker. This museum is extremely popular with petrol heads but will also interest those who are not obsessed with cars as there is a lot to entertain and inform visitors. Although there used to be a much smaller Porsche Museum, the company wanted an inspiring place in which to display their corporate history and built and inaugurated an extraordinary building which opened to the public in 2009. The new Porsche Museum, which has become a city landmark, displays all the historical and contemporary knowledge about the Porsche brand as well as housing a collection of about 80 cars as well as a number of smaller exhibits. They also put up regular special exhibitions and you can check for details on these temporary treats on their website. The museum offers free audio guides which are available in numerous languages and there is a special version for children.
Stuttgart has an oceanic climate, with huge temperature swings from summer to winter. Summers are warm, with an average temperature of 68°F (20°C), although it can reach as high as 95°F (35°C) in July and August. Winters are long, lasting from December to March, with the coldest months (December and January) averaging temperatures around 32°F (0°C). Rainfall is spread evenly throughout the year, with an average of 9 to 10 rainy days per month. Summer is considered the best time to visit Stuttgart due to the long, sunny days. However, the heat and crowds at summer's peak mean many choose to visit in the early autumn (September and October).
Most attractions and places of interest in Stuttgart are in the inner city, making getting around on foot easy. The public transport system is good. Trains include the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn (good for getting to the suburbs). Guests can use tickets across transportation modes from buses and trains, to trams. For tourists, all day tickets (Tages Tickets) are more cost effective. If staying longer, the special three-day ticket (3-Tage-Ticket) is a good alternative. Taxis can be expensive but if sharing or looking for transport late at night, they are a more convenient option. Bicycles can also be hired in some areas and as Stuttgart has some lovely open areas and parks, cycling can be a fun and convenient way of getting around.
You can easily hire your own car but the public transport network is more than sufficient and driving around a foreign city can be stressful and confusing. Stuttgart is generally considered to be a safe city but as petty crimes against tourists, like bag snatching and pick pocketing, are on the rise all over Europe, it is recommended that you stay vigilant and keep an eye on your possessions when using public transport or when walking around the city.
With good restaurants, superb local wineries, a hearty dose of culture, beer festivals, art galleries and some beautiful parks, Stuttgart has all the elements of a big city destination. The variety of things to see and do in Stuttgart will impress visitors from all walks of life. Families can be swept up in the open spaces and thoroughly entertained at the planetarium and Wilhelma Zoo. The city's mineral-rich pools, saunas, hot tubs and spas lure those in search of health and relaxation. Car enthusiasts can enjoy the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums never cease to enthral.
Other attractions in Stuttgart include the city's impressive art galleries. The Kunstmuseum Stuttgart is housed in a building which is a work of modern art in itself. The Old and New State Gallery houses some real masterpieces dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries. The Palace Square, or Schlossplatz, is a must for visitors as it is the symbolic heart of the city, a popular meeting and greeting spot, and it adjoins the remarkable New Palace, a Baroque fortress built between 1748 and 1806.
Stuttgart can get swelteringly hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter, so the best time to visit is in the shoulder seasons, in autumn or spring. At the end of August and during the month of September visitors can join the fun at the Wine Village Festival, tasting more than 200 different wines, or enjoy music and merrymaking at the Cannstatt Beer Festival, the second largest beer festival after Munich's Oktoberfest. The city shimmers in springtime, as do the parks and surrounding vineyards, which play host to a plethora of different festivals.