Baden-Württemberg’s capital has more than meets the eye.
Compact, neat and proudly Swabian, Baden-Württemberg’s capital Stuttgart is a peculiar mix of the traditional and ultra-modern, both in look and feel. The city provides a high quality of life for its more than 570,000 inhabitants and is a worthwhile weekend break destination for international visitors interested in an eclectic mix of culture, cars and wine.
To explore Stuttgart, it’s best to go on a walk through the city centre. Königstraße, the main shopping mile, is Germany’s longest pedestrianised street, so no cars and leisurely browsing guaranteed. The covered Markthalle is great for international delicatessen, and the up-market Breuninger is as good a department store as they come. Nearby Schlossplatz is the square right in the city centre where everyone meets, with the Neues Schloss (New Palace), where the state’s ministries have their offices, on one side, the Altes Schloss (Old Palace), now home of the State Museum, on the other and lots of al fresco eating and drinking opportunities all around.
Not joining the locals and enjoying a coffee or lunch on the Schlossplatz – weather permitting, obviously – would be missing out on a major city asset: its great outdoor spaces and green lung. The Schlossgarten is a massive area of green right in the heart of the city, which has a huge influence on de-stressing city life. Stuttgarters are rightly proud of this, just as they are of their first-rate museums, such as James Stirling’s Neue Staatsgalerie (New State Art Gallery), with a wide range of masters all the way from Rembrandt to Picasso and into the modern era, and the new Kunstmuseum (Art Museum) Stuttgart, a giant glass cube of a building that is home to the city’s art collection, including a range of important works by Otto Dix, the German expressionist. The Kunstmuseum also has a top floor restaurant with a fabulous view out over the Schlossplatz.
Futuristic structures and a taste for the good life
Two of the city’s most remarkable architectural structures are related to what Stuttgart is most famous for – the car. The Mercedes-Benz Museum and the Porsche Museum are major attractions, and you don’t necessarily have to be a petrolhead to get something out of them. The Merc Museum has a wide appeal, tackling automotive history and philosophical issues of locomotion, problems of engineering and research. It is in a stunning building, a spiral structure reminiscent of the Guggenheim in New York. Its architecture leads visitors effortlessly through the development of the company, via the merging of the firms started by the two pioneers, Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz. The Porsche Museum is more for the hardcore car aficionado but should not be missed either since it is housed in a very futuristic structure which put Stuttgart firmly on the map for anyone interested in architecture. In 2011, Germany celebrated the 125th anniversary of the automobile and since everything started here in the south of the country with Carl Benz’s invention of the motor car, Stuttgart and the surrounding area hosted a number of special events.
Last but not least, we should mention Stuttgart’s taste for the good life. The city is surrounded by vineyards and is the only state capital with its own municipal wine-growing estate. Stuttgart’s people like to socialise in combination with good food and wine and a good opportunity to join in is the Stuttgart Wine Village, one of the biggest wine festivals in Germany, taking place at the end of August and beginning of September. For wine lovers preferring a more individual approach, the Untertürkheim neighbourhood is the right spot, for a walk in the vineyards on the sign-posted ‘wine hiking trails’ or a tasting session of award-winning wines at the cooperative of local vintners.
More Wunderbar links: Read our blog for an insight view on the current and controversial ‘Stuttgart 21’ project, the redevelopment of the train station, and don’t miss our page on Esslingen, Stuttgart’s medieval suburb