Perhaps best known as the headquarters of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, Stuttgart has a discernable air of relaxed prosperity and a keen sense of style. The city is one of the greenest in Europe—not only is it well-endowed with parks, but it surrounded by over 500 vineyards. Art and culture are an integral part of Stuttgart life. With more than 40 theatres, 30 galleries and three major art museums, there is plenty to please the most discerning of art lovers and is well-suited to the American community that surrounds it.
Situated in the heart of one of Germany’s largest wine-growing regions, this vibrant metropolis, which might not have made your top 10 list, fascinates visitors from all over the world. Stuttgart began as a stud farm (Stuotgarten, hence the name) on the Nesenbach Stream around AD 950. The city also takes its name and its coat of arms from this stud farm. By 1160 it was a booming trade center and in the early 14th century it became the royal seat of the Württemberg family.
During the first half of the 19th century, the history of Stuttgart changed. Stuttgart became more of an industrial region, instead of the Monarch lead region it had been. Men like Gottlieb Daimler and Robert Bosch started a new era in the history of technology and changed the history of Stuttgart, and the world, forever.
Modern Stuttgart looks very different from the way it looked during the 18th century. The city was once an impressive collection of beautiful facades, but was heavily damaged during World War II and only a few of its’ architectural treasures have been painstakingly reconstructed to their former classical elegance.
Stuttgart is very multicultural. It is a big city with a small-town atmosphere, home to a little more than 600,000 people from 170 different countries. The locals are sophisticated and well-educated and on a recent visit, I found that they love to practice other languages (especially English) and will try to help you if they can.
I love the sound a Porsche makes rolling down the Autobahn!! It is distinctive even to me and I wouldn’t call myself a car enthusiast. And while luxury cars are nothing new to the streets of most European cities, I noticed more Porsches than normal cruising the streets of Stuttgart. Set aside a few hours to visit the magnificent Porsche-Museum that opened in 1990. About 80 vehicles and many small exhibits are on display. In addition to world-famous, iconic vehicles such as the 356, 550, 911, and 917, the exhibits include some of the outstanding technical achievements of Professor Ferdinand Porsche from the early 20th century. The designers also managed to squeeze in a restaurant, coffee bar and a glass-walled workshop where visitors can observe cars undergoing active restoration.
Another big draw for visiting Stuttgart is the sensational Mercedes-Benz World Museum. The museum is unique in its appearance and tour experience—which leads you on a ride that begins on the 8th floor and weaves its way back to ground level. There are 160 vehicle exhibits, a restaurant and a museum shop. Ticket prices vary, depending on whether you’re an adult, a student, a child, a member of the Mercedes-Benz Club, etc. Guided tours (in English must be reserved) and use of the Simulator ride cost extra. Discover the myth of both world-famous premium cars in Stuttgart’s unique automobile museums!
The Staatsgalerie was once a small private collection of the old masters owned by Wilhelm I. Also known as William the Conqueror, Wilhelm I is credited with the initial unification of Germany. Today the State Gallery’s deconstructionist building is as much a talking point as the masterpieces it houses. Inside you’ll find one of Germany’s foremost art collections. The Old State Gallery features works from the 14th to the 19th centuries as well as an extensive collection of drawings, watercolors, collages, prints, illustrated books, posters and photographs. Paintings by Jerg Ratgeb, Canaletto, Memling and Rembrandt are the highlights.The new gallery extension houses the modern masters; to include one of the most important Picasso collections in the world. On the first Saturday of each month, the State Gallery plays host to KunstNacht, closing at midnight.
Festivals and Events
Stuttgart’s traditional festivals also enjoy world-wide popularity. The great Stuttgart Spring Festival, the elegant Summer Festival whose white pavilions, countless fairy lights and lanterns make it one of Germany’s most delightful city festivals, and the Stuttgart Wine Village with some 120 lovingly decorated wine arbors. At the end of September things really heat up during the Stuttgart Beer Festival. The huge fun fair or (“VOLKSFEST “) on the Cannstatter Wasen is the 2nd largest fun fest in the world and is a great alternative (or addition) to Oktoberfest in Munich. Bruce Springsteen blares out of one of the numerous beer tents as I walk by and everyone, and I mean everyone, inside wants to be a rock star! Ferris wheels, rollercoasters and haunted houses entertain the young and the old in late September-early October. And not unlike Oktoberfest, families should visit during daylight hours. The Canstatter Wasen’s beer tents can hold up to 5.000 visitors each day.
Don’t despair because you missed this year’s festivities. During the weeks of Advent, the Stuttgart Christmas Market opens its doors to thousands of visitors. The market dates back to 1692, making it one of Germany’s oldest. It is also one of the most beautiful and largest Christmas markets in Europe, with over 200 artfully decorated stalls lining the Marktplatz and Schillerplatz. The Stuttgart Christmas Market traditionally opens on the last Thursday in November with a ceremonial concert in the inner courtyard of the Altes Schloss. Local wooden houses are lovingly decorated with angels and fir twigs. The range of goods offered vary from Christmas decorations, toys and woodcarvings to mulled wine, waffles and sausages. The magical ‘Fairy-tale Land’ for children at Schlossplatz has merry-go-rounds and live stage performances. There is an open-air ice rink in front of the New Castle.
Parks, Gardens and Architecture
Most of Stuttgart’s many parks and gardens are usually referred to by locals as “das Grüne U (the green U) because of the U-shaped form in which they are located around the city centre. They form a long and beautiful path around the city larger than Central Park in NYC. It starts at the Schlossgarten at the northern facade of the new palace (Neues Schloss, 1746-1807), continuing through Rosensteinpark with the natural history museum and a rear entrance to Wilhelma (zoo), and ending in Killesberg Park. Walking at a reasonable pace, you can walk the entire circuit in about 2 hours. There are beer gardens (look for Biergarten signs) and restaurants along the way, and the Killesberg Park is a real treat. It was designed for a huge botanical expo several years ago and remains a truly stunning park, especially in spring when in full bloom. On the edge of the park stands the massive Neo-Classical theatre building, the Württembergisches Staatstheaatre.
Wilhelma is Germany’s only combined zoo and botanical gardens. Set in a magnificent historical park, visitors enjoy a fascinating mixture of plants and animals, and architecture new and old. The successful ape-breeding program and the extensive aquarium are famous throughout the world. In springtime, visitors can marvel at a truly breathtaking sight: Europe’s largest magnolia grove in bloom. Greenhouses with all manner of weird and wonderful plants, a dedicated animal breeding centre, apes, big cats, giraffes and other African animals, a tropical parrot terrace, a large bear compound, spacious outdoor bird cages, and a petting zoo with pigs and cows, round off the wonderful world of Wilhelma.
Getting around Stuttgart
The main shopping street in Stuttgart is the Königstraße which starts at the main railway station. Left and right of Königstraße are interesting shops, too, but Königstraße pedestrian zone is a good starting point for navigation in the inner city. It also happens to be the longest (at 1,200 meters) and the oldest (opened in 1953) in Germany.
The most popular street for clubbing is the Theodor-Heuss-Straße. Over the past years several bars, clubs and lounges have opened here. It has become the most popular place for people to go out on the weekend. During the summer, there are also many opportunities to have a drink outside.
Stuttgart is not only a rich industrial city with world famous automobile companies; Stuttgart is also a cultural city that has made a name for itself through its renowned art, diversity and love of everything that grows green as well. The residents have gone to great lengths to preserve the natural beauty that reaches into the innermost parts of the city. Over half of the city is covered with orchards, vineyards, meadows and forests. “You are never more than 15 minutes from the densest forests”, says one brochure. If it’s not on your “must see list”, it should be.