Stuttgart is the 6th largest city in Germany and has a population of over 600,000 people. The name Stuttgart comes from Stutengarden which was the name of a stud farm belonging to Herzog Luidolf dating back to the mid 10th century where he bred his horses.
This once unknown settlement soon grew into the town known as Stutkarten. Thereafter it gained popularity following the building of a castle and moat in the 13th century for the Count of Württemberg and other succeeding counts and dukes throughout the medieval period.
The resultant increased population during this period soon provided Stuttgart with a city status first mentioned in 1229. The castle was then converted into the Renaissance style in the 1500s. Following the industrial revolution in the 19th century Stuttgart became a boom town and a hub for major industry and commerce.
Stuttgart lies in the south west of Germany and is beautifully situated in the flat Neckar Valley between thickly forested hills, surrounded by vineyards and several parklands, making it one of Germany’s greenest cities to enjoy. This lovely location is also famous for the largest mineral water fountains found in Western Europe.
Map of Stuttgart
During World War II, Stuttgart was heavily bombed and devastated by massive air raids, however the city was rebuilt after the war, and in 1952 became the state capital of Baden- Württemberg.
Its most famous industry is motor vehicles. Here you will find the headquarters of Germany’s upmarket vehicles – Mercedes Benz and the exclusive Porsche cars. Both of these companies have their own car museums in the city. Besides being an industrial city Stuttgart is also known as the cultural city best known for its ballet, art and opera.
Another important industry is of course, its local wine. The vast vineyards spread around Stuttgart makes this region a commercially success.
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Best time to go
Due to its geographical position Stuttgart is in one of the warmest regions in Germany and has a relatively mild climate throughout the year thanks to Stuttgart being located in a wide valley and protected from all sides by the Stromberg and Heuchelberg regions to the northwest, the Swabian Alb to the south, the Black Forest to the west and the Schurwald to the east. It’s therefore thanks to all these combined elements that the wine industry is able to thrive so well here.
The best time to visit Stuttgart is undoubtedly from May to October as these are the warmest months, with July being the hottest having an average temperature of approximately 19°C (66°F). The temperatures are pleasant and never get too hot unlike southern Europe where the extreme heat can become unbearably unpleasant. The air is clear and bright and perfect for sightseeing. The evenings can be cool, but generally very calm.
The winter months can get rather cold with large snowfalls, although these do not last for any length of time. The coldest month is January with an average temperature of 1.3°C (34°F).
Getting Around in Stuttgart
Stuttgart Airport is an international airport and is situated 13 km south of the city center. It has four main terminals, all of which are easily accessible to each other. Major airlines such as Lufthansa, Air France, and British Airways serve this airport from major cities throughout Europe. There are also regular local airline flights such as HLX, Air Berlin and LGW Airline connecting Stuttgart with various airports across Germany.
The S-Bahn train is frequently run from Terminal 1 and will take about 30 minutes to reach the city center. Tickets can be bought from machines above the railway platform as well underneath the airport but these tickets must be validated at one of the orange boxes located on the platform before you are able to board the train.
Alternatively, there is a regular bus service linking the airport to various points all over the city. The buses depart from the airport at Terminal 1 Arrivals.
Taxis from Terminal 1 (Level 3) in Departures will get you into the city in about 20 minutes and are in operation throughout the day and night.
If you do not wish to rely on public transport or taxis while staying in Stuttgart then hiring a car will give you the freedom of travel. Car hire companies can be found at Terminal 3 Level 2.
Major Attractions and Sights
As previously mentioned, Stuttgart boasts two car museums. At the entrance of the Mercedes Benz Museum shuttle will convey you inside to where you will be transported through the ages and 1500 exhibits on display – from the world’s first car to the latest in vehicle design technology. Also on display are the cars produced by Daimler-Benz, as well as their other vehicles such as buses, airplanes and motorboats. You will be entranced throughout your journey taken back in time, even those who are not particularly enthusiastic about cars. It is open every day except Mondays and entry is free.
The Porsche Museum is not quite as popular but is still worth a visit. Inside you will find all the Porsche models from its earliest built vehicles to their latest models, including Hitler’s ‘people’s car’ that he famously commissioned the company to build – the Volkswagen. Visitors are able to join the daily guided tours as well as watching the workers as they work on their production lines.
Another point of local interest is the Stiftskirche which is famed for its beautiful Renaissance sculpture works. The walls around the choir have a ‘portrait gallery’ of many of the past counts and dukes of Württemberg. The church can be found in the medieval town square of Shillerplatz.
For those requiring more of a cultural activity then a visit to the architecturally beautiful Landesmuseum is an excellent choice. The highlight is certainly the spectacular treasure trove of the Württemberg royal family‘s crown jewels. And also on display are the many fascinating exhibits and sculptures from various ages of the region especially from the Bronze, Trojan, Roman, Celtic and Frankish periods.
Staying with culture, perhaps a visit to the famous Staatsgalerie where some of Germany’s best artwork is housed. Paintings range from the modern and avant-garde, to many of the old Renaissance masters such as Rembrandt; one of which is his ‘Tobit Healing his Father’s Blindness’. There is also a very large collection of Picasso’s artworks on display. A section of the Staatsgalerie has been set aside for a magnificent collection of the history of German art.
Despite the wartime destruction, a number of significant architectural features survived. A walking tour of the city will show you places of interest such as the Wilhelmpalais (King William’s Palace), Alte Kanzlei (Old Chancellery),Markthalle (Market Hall), Schloss Solitude, Stiftfruckasten (Collegiate Storehouse) and Grabkapelle Württemberg (burial chapel).
The best open spaces include the Schlossplatz and Marktplatz, and there are also the pretty gardens of Akademiegarten (Academy Gardens) and Schlossgarten( Palace Gardens).
For a unique way to view Stuttgart, take a trip to the Birenkopf. It is the highest point in the city and is a memorial to those casualties of the war, built from 15 million cubic meters of rubble.
On the northern outskirts of Stuttgart is the wonderful Zoo Wilhelmina. The building was originally built as a palace for the royals but has now been converted into a home for many of the world’s animals and reptiles, ranging from the exotic to the most common of our creatures. The zoo is well known for its magnificent magnolia trees. As this zoo is extremely popular with locals and tourists it does tend to get very crowded at weekends and holiday time. For easy convenience to zoo take the U12 tram from the city centre.
Shopping in Stuttgart
Stuttgart is one of the busiest shopping cities in Europe. Konigstrasse which is the longest street is over a kilometer long and has been made a pedestrian only zone. This busy street is a shoppers’ paradise with its many department stores and variety of top branded stores as well as everything in fashion from the stylish to the trendy chic and created by top notch designers.
Other great streets for shopping are Schulstrasse connecting to Konigstrasse as well as Klett Passage and Calwerstrasse, again many fashion boutiques, jewelry, leather goods and various art and craft shops
Stuttgart’s old town quarter known as the Bohnenviertel district is well known for its international restaurants, wine bars, stylish boutiques and other unique local shops.
There is a flea market held each Saturday morning located on Karlsplatz where you will find all sorts of arts, crafts and other goods to buy usually at bargain prices.
And, of course, not to forget the delightful Christmas markets which are a festive draw card for visitors from all over Europe.
Eating Out in Stuttgart
As Stuttgart is Germany’s largest wine producing region, it goes without saying that wine bars are plentiful and therefore no visit would be complete without a visit to one of the city’s Weinstuben. You will find many of the wine bars serving food, in particular the local Swabian dishes.
There are many fine restaurants both sophisticated and inexpensive to choose from and the majority offer excellent cuisine. However you will find that most of the dishes served are either traditional, local or Continental such as various sausages, schnitzel, maultaschen and spatzle.
For a more casual eating place with lighter snacks and drinks then cafès are always a very popular choice. They offer specialty sandwiches made with a variety of breads, especially their black and rye breads, and the mouth watering gateaux, cakes, pastries and strudels all temptingly displayed in the café windows.
Asian Restaurants are plently available including some good Thai restaurants.
Nightlife in Stuttgart
The nightlife in Stuttgart is very vibrant and fun and full of life. There are many venues to choose depending on your mood and cater for all manner of tastes. They range from discos, bars, cafès, fine dining, live music, dancing, nightclubs as well as striptease clubs, etc, but wherever you decide to go you will be assured of a great fun evening out.
To join in the revelry with the locals for a night of noisy fun then there is no better venue than one of the many traditional German pubs dotted throughout the city with many of them in the Steinstrasse area. An alternative to the traditional pub scene, you can be assured there will always be the old time favorite found virtually anywhere in Europe – O’Reilly’s Irish pub. Otherwise lounge bars are also hugely popular.
On the cultural and classical side the Staatstheater Stuttgart offers a wide variety of excellent performances with opera, plays and ballets. These are highly popular performances and the theatre has won many awards such as Germany’s Opera House of the Year 2006 and the Theatre of the Year 2006. There are many other venues found throughout the city which hold various live concerts especially the traditional jazz bands.
Of local interest
Throughout the year several large trade fairs, expositions and various festivals are held in Stuttgart. The most well-known festival is the Stuttgart Frülingsfest held over a couple of weeks from end September to first week of October. This huge festival attracts a vast number of visitors who descend on the city in droves to sample the many wines and alcohol produced in this region.
Undoubtedly, one of the liveliest annual festivals is the Stuttgart Beer Festival which takes place at the end of September. Although, this is not as well known as the Munich Oktoberfest it is still a festival to remember. So if you happen to be in Stuttgart at that time of the year then why not join in with the thousands upon thousands of locals and visitors who flock to this festival. The city’s mayor starts the festival with the tapping of barrels and for the next two weeks the city comes electric and alive with music, dancing, fairs and many other cultural activities – and at the end of the day the noisy festival tents are filled to capacity with virtually 5,000 revelers packed into each tent as they join in with the traditional music, singing and the downing of their beer.
For other excellent events there are for example the annual Automobile Exposition, the Stuttgart Book Fair as well as the Folk Festival which is also held later in the year and incorporates food, dancing, music and various craft fairs.