Cradle of the Automobile
One more time back in Germany this year onto another city I’ve never been before, said to be one of the most friendly in the country, and for a good reason. While it is true that very near the city there are many great places to visit, with a numerous bunch of UNESCO World Heritage Sites at the brink of a short drive away and within them, for this weekend the plan would be simply. Visiting just the city and also get to see and spend some time with one of our friends who lives there. Now, knowing there are great flight connections from London and having visited the city, we can easily plan another trip to Stuttgart in the near future to reach all these destinations nearby.
The city benefits from a rather unique location, as opposed as any other large German city. It sits in the middle of a lush valley by the Neckar River completely surrounded by vineyards. Quite a different view as to what many people think of Stuttgart, as an industrial city where one of it’s nicknames actually comes from: the cradle of the automobile. This is just in part true, and so was some decades ago. Nowadays, it is a vibrant transforming city very welcoming to the tourist.
With regards to the car industry, Stuttgart is the birthplace of the car and the motorcycle. Invented by Karl Benz and subsequently industrialised from 1887. The headquarters of giants Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are in the city, and are an unmissable sight not only for car lovers but to anyone, for both the building’s architecture and the impressive history and unique collections on display.
The city itself is very straightforward for visiting. Furthermore, there is not any need for planning longer than what you will really need, this is, a day is more than enough. The urban core is very compact, and there is not much in terms of sights for the tourist. The city was so heavily bombed during WWII that it lost majority of its heritage. While many efforts were taken to rebuild the most notable constructions, the unfortunate reality is to have post 60’s ugly buildings even at the most central squares as is the Market Square for example.
In the other hand, when planning your time including both the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz Museums, then yes; for sure you will need the entire weekend to fully enjoy everything. Both museums are big, especially the Mercedes one. It will take you a while to visit, and so to commute between one museum to the other therefore do not rush your visit. There is plenty of time to do all of this in a weekend.
For more information about Stuttgart check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Germany’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Stuttgart
- North of the city Delimited by the newer business district at the northwestern side of the main train station, the station itself and the northern end of Königstraße Street.
-Weissenhof Estate While quite outside of the city core itself, this district got recent mention for recently being listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It was built in 1927 for the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition, and was an international showcase of what later became known as the International style of architecture. Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier were among the architects designing some of the buildings.
-Central Library Since its opening in the year 2011 has become a new landmark of 21st century Stuttgart. Built by South Korean architect Eun Young Yi, is of special beauty at night when all the four facades of the cube are illuminated.
-Hauptbahnhof The central train station was built between 1914 and 1928, its tower with the rotating Mercedes sign and the main building body itself are landmarks in the city.
-Königstraße The longest pedestrian street in Germany, also commercial core of the city. As it links the north with the south of the city is passes through major landmarks on its way.
- Middle section Right at the other side of the train station across the Arnulf-Klett-Platz Avenue. As you will notice, there is not a large amount of historical buildings. This is due the great destruction during the raids through WWII. However, there was a good reconstruction effort and there are enough sights all over.
-Oberer Schlossgarten The centrepiece in this area is this park surrounded at one of its sides by some of the most impressive city’s constructions.
-Königin Katharina Stift High School At the northeastern corner of the park with Arnulf-Klett-Platz.
-National Theatre The next building after the high school mentioned above. Not of special importance architecturally-wise talking as it was rebuilt in the 1960s after the beautiful one that once stood was destroyed in WWII.
-Opera House Next to the National Theatre, was built in beaux-arts between 1909 and 1912 by Max Littmann.
-Staatsgalerie Stuttgart The State Gallery, opposite the National Theatre and Opera House by Konrad-Adenauer-Straße, housed in the former Royal Art School building from 1843, it is one of the most important picture galleries in Germany.
-State University of Music and Performing Arts Next to the State Gallery, it is one of the oldest schools of its kind in Germany, founded in 1857. You should aim to see the iconic main entrance tower by James Stirling.
-State Parliament of Waden-Württemberg At the southeastern corner of the Oberer Schlossgarten. Nothing of special beauty, just a simple black cube.
-Neues Schloss One of the sides of the New Castle lies along the southern edge of the Oberer Schlossgarten. I describe this place later below.
-The Art Building At the southwestern-most corner of the Oberer Schlossgarten, was built between 1910 and 1913 by the architect Theodor Fischer and it’s home to the Contemporary Art collection.
-Schlossplatz The largest square in the city and sight number one for being location of the famed New Palace.
-Jubiläumssäule The monument in the middle of the square was built in 1842-1846 for the 25th anniversary of King Wilhelm I’s accession and his 60th birthday.
-Neues Schloss The New Castle, symbol of the city, was built in the 17th Century in Baroque style as the residence of the Kings of Württemberg from 1746 to 1797 and from 1805 to 1807. It completely burnt down during an air raid in WWII, and was perfectly rebuilt from 1958. Guided tours are available, but booking is needed.
–Königsbau At the opposite side from the New Castle, this building completes the western side of the square. Originally conceived in 1856 by order of King William I as a concert hall and ballroom, it is today a shopping centre.
-Börsenplatz West of Schlossplatz by one street. Here the 1861 original building of the Stock Exchange has been rebuilt within the modern glass structure above
- Southern section – Old Town Immediately south from the Schlossplatz is the older part of the city.
-Königstraße As described above, this pedestrian street crosses the entire city north to south. It passes the old town directly by the Schlossplatz all the way south.
-Schillerplatz To anyone’s opinion, the most beautiful in Stuttgart since all the historical buildings around it are perfectly restored and rebuilt.
-Schiller Memorial In the middle of the square is the statue of German poet, philosopher, historian, and dramatist Friedrich Schiller, from whom the square is named.
-Altes Schloss The Old Castle is home to the main branch of the Historical Museum of the Württemberg. The castle grounds itself were already part of the primitive 10th century castle. Expanded in the 14th century was home of the Counts of Württemberg and their Court Chamber. Of special beauty are the inner courts, equestrian staircase and the church.
-Stiftskirche The Collegiate Church dates back to the 12th century, changed in the 15th century in late Gothic style, is since 1534 the Protestant Church.
-Alte Kanzlei The Old Chancellery was originally built in 1544; nowadays a nice restaurant.
-Fruchtkasten Building By the southwest corner of the square, home to the State Museum of Württemberg with the collection of musical instruments.
-Market Hall Few meters ahead from the Schillerplatz and by the southern side of the Old Castle, this market was built in 1914 in art-nouveau style and it’s a great place for food.
-Kralsplatz Offers great views of the iconic buildings that surround it: The New Palace, the Old Castle, Market Hall and the Old Orphanage on the eastern side.
-Old Orphanage Originally built in 1705 as a cavalry barracks, was turned into an orphanage from 1712 until 1922 into a school. Beautiful old buildings painted yellow.
-Wilhelm Palais Just behind the Old Orphanage. It was the living quarters of the last Württemberg King, Wilhelm II, built between 1834 to 1840 by architect Giovanni Salucci in classic style, although the current look is a more modern version as it had to be reconstructed after WWII.
-Markplatz The next large square within the old town, just few meters south from the Schillerplatz. Although nothing to compare with the former, as this is of not value architecturally speaking. Most of it was destroyed during WWII.
-Rathaus Unfortunately, nothing remains from the former beautiful building that once stood until WWII. The current is an austere construction with the clock tower.
- South of the city There are not many sights when you are outside of the old town core itself. It becomes the residential neighbours of Stuttgart, however there are some here and there scattered in between new constructions and parks.
-Feuersee This remnant of a 17th century former water reservoir was turned in the 19th century into a nice landscaped pond and garden, with the Johannes Kirche in the backdrop as a major attraction. The church was damaged during WWII but repaired afterwards. It is one of the finest neo-Gothic structures in the city.
- Outside of the city While there is a good bunch of places and sights in the nearby outside of the city core, the following 2 are a must. Not only for a car lover of course, but to anyone for its striking architecture and for such importance to the world’s car industry.
-Mercedes Benz Museum At the northeast right across the Neckar River. Here you will find not only the museum itself, but the huge main factory Daimler AG, and the Mercedes-Benz Arena football stadium. The easiest way to reach this place is by metro to Neckar Park Station, directly by the Arena. It’s a nice walk towards the museum. 8 Euros to enter, 4 for students and seniors.
-Porsche Museum Much farther north outside the city, accessible by direct commuter trains to Neuwirtsh Station, a step away from the museum itself. Once again, this is not only the museum, but the main factory for this car maker. 8 Euros to enter, 4 for students and seniors.
Stuttgart Airport is one of the major in Germany and offers a wide selection of routes across Europe and some intercontinental flights. Lufthansa however, gives you also the option to fly to Frankfurt, Munich or Hamburg as example, and complete the remaining leg to Stuttgart via high-speed train instead of flying, in a similar way Iberia Airlines of Spain has an agreement with RENFE the Spanish national rail operator offering the same kind of service thus giving you an enormous choice at actually no extra cost for the extra leg.
From the airport to downtown the easiest and fastest way is by commuter train. Both S-Bahn line S2 and S3 take 27 minutes to reach the centre of the city.
Once in the city, you have a wide choice between commuter trains, metro, trams and buses, and a rack railway and cable car. All of these transports as unified into a same ticketing system that costs depending on how many zones you need to go. With a same ticket you can take any public transportation within the zone you’ve bought to your final destination.
The city centre itself is very compact with the historic old town half pedestrianised and easy to walk from one corner to the other. There is no need to take any public transportation to move along this area, however, there are sights that sit farther from the urban core, so the chances you will be needing to take any transport are highly likely if you do have the time and want to completely visit the city in full, (say for example to visit the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz Museums). Otherwise, sticking with the central urban core is way more than enough for a first time traveller in the city.
The city, 6th largest in Germany and of such importance with regards to the automobile industry, business and large exhibition centre means there is a huge choice of hotels and accommodation overall. Demand tends to be high, however finding a deal is not hard especially during low-season. I will not be surprised at all for the prices to dramatically increase during summer months as is for any city anywhere else.
In this occasion we did not have the need to keep looking for a hotel as we stayed at our friend’s flat, so I cannot farther say anything in here on what is good, what to avoid and what’s a hot deal. In any case, a good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.