Never thought of going to Stuttgart? Think again - fast!
Wonderful wines and awe-inspiring scenery are just the tip of this city’s iceberg. One visit here and you’ll find it’s a melting pot of historically-rich sight-seeing delights. Here’s our top ten things to do and see…
With 19 springs pumping 22 million litres of mineral water into the city every day, Stuttgart is the most prolific mineral water source in Western Europe. Immerse yourself in this curative water - it's thought to relax you and help skin, heart and respiratory problems - in one of three mineral baths in Stuttgart: the LEUZE Mineralbad, the Mineralbad Canstatt or the Mineralbad Berg, which offer whirlpools, a number of swimming pools, massage treatments and saunas. Beware: the Germans don't see a need for wearing any swimwear here...
Germany's only zoo and botanical garden, the Wilhelma, is a stunning sight set in a historical park. It was created as a Moorish garden and based on a fairytale palace from the Arabian Nights for King Wilhelm I of Wuttemberg in 1842. It holds over 9000 species of animal, including a coral fish collection, a crocodile house and bear enclosure, along with picture-pretty landscaping and greenhouses. The Amazon House and famous orchid collection are must-sees.
Palace Square is the beautiful heart of Stuttgart and, as it sits in the middle of the mile-long shopping boulevard (Konigstrasse), is the perfect spot to sit and soak up views of the awesome New Palace (Neues Schloss). The city's top spot for high-class events, visitors and concerts, this building - which took from 1746 to 1807 to create - now also serves as a base for the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Culture. It was originally built for Duke Carl Eugen of Wurttemberg, who believed the Old Palace wasn't spectacular enough for him.
Hugely impressive architecturally, this palace dates back to 1300 when it was built as a moated castle and served as home to the first counts and dukes of Wurttemberg. In the 16th Century it was converted into a grand Renaissance palace boasting a magnificent courtyard, where you can take tea to this day. The palace now holds the collections of the Wurttemberg State Museum. Check out the 'horse stairs' - yes, in the days of old, stairs inside the castle were made especially for horses, so that royalty could, quite literally, be dropped off at their beds.
Built in March 2005, the Museum of Art (Kunstmuseum) sits at the corner of Palace Square. A modern-looking large crystal cube, it holds a 15000-strong municipal collection of modern and contemporary art, shown in 5000 sqm of exhibition space. At night, the cube transforms into a light sculpture, creating a not-to-be-missed spectacle. The must-do: Go for dinner in the cubes restaurant and admire the square from above.
The Germans love their outdoor celebratory festivals. Here's the lowdown on the top four. Stuttgart Spring Festival: Like a small beer festival, you can sample pork knuckles and candied almonds in beer tents, then test your stomach-strength on wild rides. Runs for three weeks every April. Stuttgart Summer Festival: Every August, the city hosts an elegant four-day summer party. Winding from Palace Square to the picturesque Opera House, enjoy white food stalls set against floating baubles on the lake. Stuttgart Wine Village: From the end of August to the beginning of September, the Market Place and Schiller Square are transformed into 120 cosy stalls where you can sample over 250 wines from the local region. Cannstatt Beer Festival: Last but not least. This beer-based knees-up is widely reported to be overtaking Munich's Oktoberfest as the must-visit festival. One of the world's largest folk festivals, millions of visitors flock here each year for the three-week celebration that runs from the end of September. Includes: fairground rides and stalls, local costumes, shooting, bands and, of course, plenty of beer tents. Get your drinking hat on.
Enjoy Stuttgart's fabulous scenery the most romantic way possible: by boat. You can take a cruise through the charming wine-growing communities of Besigheim or Marbachon on the River Neckar (a tributary of the Rhine) with the Neckar Kapt'n (Neckar Captain). The season runs from Easter to October, but, in December, special advent cruises are available.
You can't fully appreciate Stuttgart until you've been up into the hilly suburbs - where houses get grander and more expensive - and see the vast, and fabulous vineyards. Stuttgart has a wine-growing tradition that dates back over 1000 years. This tour takes you to the postcard town of Uhlbach, where you can enjoy the wine museum and indulge in a wine-tasting with the pretty setting of 16th Century timber-framed houses in the background. We stopped in at the picturesque Löwen restaurant, where the friendly owner treated us to a wine-tasting in his centuries-old cellar. Not to be missed. Alternatively, if you're feeling energetic, take the Walking Tour of the Vineyards and let a Stuttgart Marketing guide teach you about the history of wine-growing, while you explore the stunning scenery from marvellous hilltop lookouts. (Photograph by Mike Miners)
Surely the fulfilment of every boy's dream (okay, apart from actually owning one), your boyfriend will thank you forever if you take him to the sleek Meredes-Benz Museum. The building itself is a well-oiled machine, styled in a futuristic sphere, which has nine levels. Check out over 150 vehicles, including the first motorcars, to record-breaking race cars and modern-day luxury limousines. A seriously cool experience - even from a girl's point of view! Entry fee: 8 euros.
Stuttgart Christmas Market is one of the oldest - and largest - in the whole of Europe. With over 200 stalls covering the four main square in Stuttgart (The Palace Square, Schiller Square, The Market Place, and the Karlsplatz) this is truly a magical sight to see. Wafts of hot waffles fill the air, while sparkling festive lights illuminate the city. Each year, a prize is awarded to the prettiest-looking stall. Pick up anything from Christmas biscuit cutters, candles, toys and tree ornaments - or just enjoy the mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. Delightful.