The city of Stuttgart is not only the capital of the German state of Baden-Württemburg, but it’s also home to the University of Stuttgart and both Mercedes and Porsche have production plants here. It may not be the most beautiful city in Germany – the Schlossplatz isn’t lined with half timbered houses – but it does have a palace, several gothic churches and even a castle!
Unfortunately, most of the city was destroyed during World War II, it being the capital and all. Since then, it’s built itself up into a bustling industrial city still retaining its Schwabian roots. Locals can be found dining outdoors on any day that the sun is shining. Office workers in severe black suits will take ice cream breaks in the plaza. When it starts to get cold get ready for pumpkin fests and Christmas markets.
I called Stuttgart home for a year when I was teaching English, and I feel that it kind of gets a bad wrap because it’s not Rothenburg ob der Tauber. So I’m going to share with you some interesting things to see around the city.
I’ll start with the Mercedes tower because it’s in the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) in the center of town. The tower is accessed on the east end of the center hall either by staircase or elevator. It’s 184 feet high, so I’d opt for the elevator. From the viewing platform on the top you have a 360* view of the city.
Ritter Sport Factory / Museum
Ritter Sport is a brand of chocolate candy bars that are made in Stuttgart. They are distinctive because they are square instead of rectangle. They have tons of different types with all kinds of fillings or add ins. They even make minis which look a lot like the single Ghirardelli pieces. At the factory you can see how the candy is made, and even make your own candy bar! But most people go because you can get all the flavors in the gift shop. Also on display in is art from the personal collection of the Ritter family. Where else can you get art and chocolate in the same place?
Located south-west of Stuttgart in Waldenbuch, you will need a car for this one.
Both Mercedes and Porsche have factories in Stuttgart. Most of my English students worked at the Mercedes plant so I went there often. It’s all very secured, I had to be signed in every time and escorted by my student. It’s kind of funny that in the United States, Mercedes is one of the very top luxury cars (at least the ones that are kind of affordable) but in Germany, they are considered an average, everyday car. Even the taxis are Mercedes sedans.
Anyway, it would have made sense that I visit the Mercedes museum, since it was right at my place of work, but when my friends came to visit they decided on the Porsche museum instead. I love museums, but I am not much of a car person so I only went because they were visiting and I wanted them to have fun. But color me surprised, this was a great museum! They have pretty much every Porsche on display from the start of production to the very newest model. The timeline winds around the building keeping the center open to the ceiling.
The Porsche museum is a little outside the city proper, but can be accessed via S-bahn stop – either Neuwirtzhaus or Zuffenhausen.
Schloss is German for palace and thanks to the wealth of the 18th and 19th century German aristocracy, there are a lot of palaces in Baden-Württemburg. (There’s even a website dedicated to all of them, it’s a great resource if you’re planning a visit.) Schloss Solitude is a incredible display of Rococo design. In addition to the magnificence of the palace, Solitude is located on a hill overlooking the Stuttgart valley. Even if you don’t go inside the building, the view is worth the trip.
Bus route 92 will take you directly to the palace.
Hidden above Heilbronnerstrasse in the Nord (North) section of Stuttgart is the Chinese Garden. It was originally part of the International Horticultural Exhibition that took place in Stuttgart in 1993. It was so well received it was decided that it should be a permanent part of the city. The beautifully cultivated garden is now tucked away in a corner of the city, almost like an oasis. Walking through the intricate gate you are instantly transported to another continent. There are traditional buildings with swooping tiled roofs as well as stone statues and water features – in addition to the foliage. It’s pretty amazing how much has been placed in the garden, as it’s not a very big space. Be warned, the street it’s on is a very steep incline, and the shortcut street is even steeper.
There is a bus stop near the top, Postdörfle, or you can walk from the Stadtbibliothek U-bahn station.
Speaking of the Stadtbibliothek, the Stuttgart city library is one of the newest buildings in the city. It’s architecture is extremely modern, it almost looks like a giant Rubix Cube. It’s big windows glow blue at night. It’s really unique. The library is huge – nine stories tall – with an all white interior, clean shelves of books, and a center atrium spanning the entire height of the building. It reminds me of a giant Apple store. There’s a cafe, and a viewing deck on the roof.
The library is directly behind the Stadtbibliothek Ubahn station.
Another hidden oasis in the civic center of Stuttgart, is the area known as Feurersee. Literally translated to ‘fire lake’ a few blocks from the main plaza of the city is a small lake with a beautiful gothic-revival church. There are fountains, ducks to feed, and usually locals playing with tiny toy speed boats. Restaurants dot the surrounding neighborhood, and a walking path circumnavigates the lake.
Easy walk from Schlossplatz or there is a Feurersee S-bahn station.
When I lived in Stuttgart, my apartment building was directly in front of this memorial, but I didn’t really notice it until a friend told me about it. During World War II Jewish families living in the city were deported to concentration camps from the North train station, just down the street. At these tracks there is a long concrete wall with the names of every person deported, and the dates and locations of the deportations. It’s a moving tribute that is important to see.
Accessed from Nordbahnhoff or U-bahn station Midnachtstrasse.
Natural History Museums
Stuttgart has two Natural History Museums, both of which are in Rosenstein Park in the North portion of the city. The Löwentor (Lion Gate) building houses an extensive paleontology exhibit with both realistic renderings and skeletons of dinosaurs. There is also a nice exhibit of amber. The Rosenstein Castle building focuses on mammals and modern animals, separated by ecosystem. Rosenstein has a lovely garden outside the building and, in fact, the whole park makes for a lovely place to stroll. Entrance fee is €4 for one exhibit or €6 for both and free after 1pm on Wednesdays.
Rosenstein Castle can be accessed by U-bahn station Wilhelma (also the zoo so it’s a bit crowded) Löwentor can be accessed on either side of Rosenstein park at Nordbahnhof or Löwentor U-bahn stations.
Rubble Hill / Birkenkopf
During World War II about half of the city was destroyed by air raids focusing on the city center. When the war ended, Stuttgart’s residents did the only thing they could think of to clean up the destruction – the picked up the pieces and literally moved them out of town. They started piling them up on a hill (Birkenkopf) just outside the city, raising the elevation of that hill about 40 meters. Now the hill stands as a testament to the rebuilding of the capital. There is a bus stop at the base of the hill, and the path to the top is paved. Not only is it an interesting piece of history to see, you’ll also get an incredible view of the city and moment of peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle.
The Birkenkopf station on bus route 92 is at the base of the hill, across the street. There is also a parking lot if you are driving.
Stuttgart may not be the kind of city you imagine when planning a trip to Germany. But what it lacks in charm it makes up for in efficacy and ingenuity. It’s centrally located within the state of Baden-Württemburg with both a train station and airport making it easy for you to jet off to a neighboring country. Or you can partake in the German culture and spend your time in the park grilling and drinking beer that costs less than a dollar or a lovely bottle of wine made from local grapes. Grab yourself a Turkish döner (think gyro) or fresh pizza to share or go full German and gorge on maultashen, kind of like German ravioli. If you don’t feel like hitting up Oktoberfest, don’t worry Stuttgart has it’s own – Volksfest. It’s got a Spring festival too, Fruhlingsfest, then when December hits it’s all Christmas Markets all the time.
Basically, Stuttgart’s a great city and I’m lucky to have called it home! Let me know your favorite thing to do in Stuttgart in the comments!
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