Stuttgart is underrated, and it knows it. Perhaps that is why it doesn't try too hard and effortlessly puts out some of the best attractions in Germany for car lovers, architecture nerds, and beer buffs.
Stuttgart is the capital of Baden-Wuertemberg in southwest Germany. Almost 600,000 people live in the city, with 2.7 million in the greater Stuttgart area.
The city is about 200 km south of Frankfurt and 200 km northwest of Munich, and is well-connected to the rest of Germany, as well as greater Europe.
Stuttgart has its own airport (STR). It is connected to the city by S-Bahn for 3.40 euros. It's also quite easy to fly into nearby airports.
The city is also well connected by rail, with Deutsche Bahn (DB). If you prefer to drive in the car city of Germany, the state highways A8 (east-west) and A81 (north-south) connect here, called Stuttgarter Kreuz. Follow signs for Stuttgart Zentrum to get into the center.
Once within the city, Stuttgart's city center is easy to travel by foot, but there is also excellent public transportation consisting of U-Bahn (subway), S-Bahn (local rail), and bus.
Stuttgart is a car city. The first petrol-powered automobile was created here in 1886 and the city is still home to two of the greatest car brands in the world, Mercedes and Porsche. Both have a world-class car museum in the city.
The famed Mercedes-Benz brand is celebrated in this temple to the car. It has a unique cloverleaf architecture of three overlapping circles with a triangular atrium in the center in the shape of a Wankel engine.
The museum holds more than 160 cars from the invention of the automobile to the slickest new design. A free audio tour takes reverent fans through the museum and the storied history of Mercedes-Benz.
If you want to see the car under construction, guided tours of Sindelfingen plant are available.
Around 900,000 people visit this museum every year. It contains 80 exhibits of rare Porsche. World-famous autos like the 356, 550, 911 and 917 are on display. Over 90 percent of the historic vehicles are still operating and frequently take to the road as a “mobile museum” at race events and presentations worldwide.
Film footage and mobile audio guides add to the experience with special attractions for children visiting the museum. The museum is also the starting point for factory tours.
Twice a year, Stuttgart's festival grounds fire up the riesenrad (Ferris Wheel) and beer tents.
Cannstatter Volksfest (Stuttgart Beer Festival) and Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest (Stuttgart's Spring Festival) happen in the fall and spring, respectively. The fall festival began in 1818 as a harvest festival and resembles its more famous big brother. The Spring Festival only began about 80 years ago, but is actually the largest of its kind with 1.5 million visitors each year. At both events there are well-respected regional brews, mountains of delicious German food, traditional costumes, and endless merriment.
Schlossplatz is a central square, named for the the massive Neues Schloss (New Palace) that surrounds it. The palace was built in the early 1800s in the Baroque style. Kings have been replaced by bureaucrats as it is now the seat of state government. Tours are only available by special arrangement, but the best part is just luxuriating in this tranquil environment.
Also on Schlossplatz is Altes Schloss, the Old Castle. A castle has been on this site since the 10th century with multiple renovations, periods of destruction and rebuilds. The current structure is from 1553 and is home to Württemberg Landesmuseum. The museum holds fine medieval art, mechanics, and the Württemberg crown jewels. Plus, some of the royals never left. The south wing is the site of the 16th-century palace church with tombs of famous former residents.
This white cathedral to the written word is a destination for library lovers and Stuttgart citizens. Stuttgart's public library has an impressive modern design with features like solar power glass roof, sliding slat windows to prevent glare, wrap-around balcony, and rooftop terrace. All of this is wrapped around an empty central section called the "Heart". The space is also used for events, and it's fit for the hottest fetes in the city.
There is a total of 500,000 media units available for public use. Visitors can use the sound studio, browse the music section (with LPs), use notation software, play on the children's floor, make use of the library in the middle of the night (cubby system open 24 hours), and even check out pieces of art. The charity-run Café LesBar provides refreshments for the body once the mind is sated.
Fernsehturm Stuttgart (TV Tower) is from the 1950s and dominates the Stuttgart skyline at 217 meters high. Once controversial in its design (and cost), it has become the main model for television towers for around the world and the beloved symbol of the city.
Germany has some of the best museums in the world. It also has some of the weirdest. Stuttgart is the proud home of one of these museums.
Stuttgart's Schweinemuseum is the largest pig museum in the world. Housed in a former slaughterhouse, there are over 40,000 pig artifacts here in 25 themed rooms from piggy banks to the golden pig room.
If all that learning makes you hungry, there is a delicious restaurant on the ground floor that serves up the pork.
Ludwigsburg Palace is located just 20 minutes from the city center and is one of the largest Baroque palaces in Germany.
There is an impressive marble hall, baroque gallery, ceramics museum, and even an interactive area for kids. Outside, visitors can walk the grounds for free and admire the grounds and lake.
In the fall, take part in the palace's silly side with the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival. One of the largest pumpkin festivals in the world, thousands of pumpkins are used for decoration, weighed in for a europe-wide competition, and some massive pumpkins are even used to in a boat race. Another special event is the annual Christmas market.
Stuttgart is actually one of the greenest cities in Germany with many parks breaking up the urban areas, and vineyards surrounding the city.
Höhenpark Killesberg (Killesberg Park), opened in 1939 as part of a horticultural show, is a premiere park in the city. Over 100 acres of flowers, meandering gardens and open space offer a break from city living. Sunbathe on the lawn, or admire the impressive Killesbergturm (Killesberg Tower). This 40-meter-tall observation tower makes use of cables to provide for a spectacular view of the park.
To see all that the park holds, Killesberg Railway takes visitors on a 2,294 metre (7,527.4-foot) loop around the park during the summer. Two of the historic engines are powered by diesel and two by steam, making for an epic journey in either instance.
In July, Lichterfest Stuttgart lights up the park with thousands of lanterns for a magical experience. About 38,500 visitors participate each year.
Other Germans can be snarky about Swabia (a cultural region of southwest Germany with its own history and dialect), but everyone loves the Swabian national dish—Spätzle (noodles). It is served throughout the country, but absolutely must be eaten in Stuttgart.
Spätzle are good with practically everything, from cheese and onion to sauerkraut, and bacon, but a particularly Swabian version is Schwäbische Linsen mit Spätzle (Swabian noodles with lentils).
Another typical Swabian dish is Maultaschen, pillow-like dough pockets filled with spinach, meat or cheese. They somewhat resemble Italian ravioli with a different flavor profile and are eaten in a meaty broth or served as the main course.
While everywhere will serve this regional staples, Stuttgarter Stäffele in Stuttgart is highly recommended for its traditional fare and atmosphere.
Seventeen projects by architect Le Corbusier were inducted into the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, and one of those is in Stuttgart.
The Weissenhof Estate is a pioneering and influential housing development built in 1927 for an exhibition by the Werkbund, a group of leading international architects. Eleven of the original buildings remain and are currently occupied. There is also the Weissenhof Museum within Le Corbusier's home.
If your car mania isn't satisfied by the museums, the V8 Hotel within the Motorworld complex centers you sleeping hours on the automobile. It features 34 themed rooms with vintage cars, racing gear and even a drive-through cinema room. The highlight are the rooms where the bed is cleverly fit into the automobile, meaning you can steer your dreams from the driver's seat. For example, check out the luxury Mercedes suite.
(And if you want a more traditional room near the epicenter of cars, they have that too.)