Germany’s highlight: Ludwigsburg Palace

Germany’s highlight: Ludwigsburg Palace

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

London’s got Buckingham Palace, Paris can claim Versailles and Saint Petersburg has its Winter Palace. The German state of Baden-Württemberg has a no less stunning entrant in the palace sweeps: the Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg, or Ludwigsburg Palace.

This sumptuous palace is the crown jewel of a planned city that the ruling noble of the time, Duke Eberhard Ludwig of Württemberg, ordered to have built to showcase his wealth and power. Germany’s largest palatial estate consists of 18 buildings sprawling across nearly 80 acres of the Duke’s former hunting grounds. The ambitious building project got underway in 1704 and wasn’t completed until nearly three decades later. Even then, many elements remained unfinished, and subsequent rulers continued to expand and update according to trends of the day.

The opulent premises served as the residence of four monarchs before the abdication of King Wilhelm II dissolved the Kingdom of Württemberg in 1918. That same year, Ludwigsburg Palace was opened to the public. It survived the ravages of World War II and has undergone numerous renovation efforts since, most recently on the occasion of its 300th anniversary in 2004. Although visitors can’t peek into each of the property’s 452 rooms, much of the property is accessible. Once the delights of its interior spaces have been thoroughly explored, an outdoor world of beauty and fantasy awaits.

The Buildings

The Residential Palace blends the styles of Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassicism. Tour highlights include the silk-walled, porcelain-bedecked private apartments of Duke Carl Eugen, a successor to the throne, and a circa-1730 theater featuring original wooden stage machinery. The Hall of Ancestors portrait gallery showcases paintings of the dukes and their wives—but only those ladies who produced heirs to the throne.

The palace houses expansive collections classified as museums in their own right. The fashion museum features original clothing spanning the 18th through 20th centuries. A ceramics museum displays exquisite Ludwigsburg porcelain and contemporary designs. The Kinderreich is an interactive museum where children can play dress-up and learn about court life.

Schloss Favorite, the former summer residence and hunting palace, delights with its painstakingly refurbished Neoclassical interiors and wooded grounds roamed by numerous species of deer.

The Gardens

Despite impressive visitor numbers—some 590,000 guests strolled through the palace’s expansive grounds in 2019—there’s still plenty of space to spread out. Main areas include a symmetrical Baroque garden designed to complement the palace’s façade; the brooding, purpose-built Emichsburg Castle ruins rising from a steep cliff and surrounded by English landscape gardens; and the Blooming Baroque, a fairytale garden with scenes straight from a child’s picture book. Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and Hansel and Gretel are just some of the characters brought to life here.

Events Galore

Each year in autumn, the leafy gardens serve as the backdrop to the world’s largest pumpkin exhibition, at which some 450,000 gorgeous gourds are put on display. Each year’s show is conceptualized around a theme, from music to creatures of the forest and rounded out with pumpkin-based culinary treats. Other annual events include a street music festival, musical fireworks, illuminations and sand art, in which artists sculpt tons of sand into works of art.

Each year in autumn, the leafy gardens serve as the backdrop to the world’s largest pumpkin exhibition, at which some 450,000 gorgeous gourds are put on creative display.

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