Stuttgart: A bustling city off the beaten path
April 23, 2012
STUTTGART, Germany -- Open any travel book for Germany and you'll find great places to explore. While big cities like Berlin, Munich and Hamburg are notoriously on the tourist radar, one city is always left out, undeservedly.
Stuttgart is a booming city with a lot to offer, great public transportation, and four military garrisons, one of which has a PX complex which rivals U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr's.
On the road again
When most people think of Stuttgart they think of Porsche, and a visit to the Porsche Museum is a must. Located on its eponymous street, Porscheplatz, one can tour 50,000 square feet of historic and rare Porsche models.
Stuttgart is also home to another automaker, Mercedes-Benz. The Mercedes-Benz Museum is very innovative as it has 200,000 square feet of exhibits, yet it is built so it only takes up 50,000 square feet of space. This museum is also located on its namesake street, Mercedesstrasse. Entrance to the museum is free and as this year marks 60 years of the Mercedes-Benz SL, special exhibits abound in celebration.
The world's first TV tower booms over the city and is regarded as an aesthetic and architectural masterpiece. It was built 56 years ago, yet it is still one of the main city landmarks. In September 2011, a new Café/Bar called OBEN (up) opened in the tower and serves cakes during the day and cocktails at night all at a height of nearly 500 feet. For those who wish to keep their feet closer to the ground, a restaurant named UNTEN (down) opened as well and serves various regional specialties. The tower stands a whopping 700 feet tall and has the best view of the city around.
For a taste of the past, visit the Wilhelma Zoo, with its combination of historical ambience, tropical plants and animals and Germany's only zoological and botanical gardens, which date back to 1842. Today, the Wilhelma Zoo has more than 9,000 animals from 100 different species, which represents a cross-section from every climactic zone on earth.
For the forward-thinking consumer, Koenigstrasse is the place to be. This shopping precinct is a mile in length and is home to more than 60 stores, including elegant shops and boutiques.
One of Germany's longest and finest shopping thoroughfares, it is large enough to find all the shops one would want, yet small enough to enjoy without being pushed in crowds. It is located directly out of the hauptbahnhof (main train station), so getting around even without a car is a breeze.
If you are looking for an American style shopping experience, Metzingen will not disappoint. Just 30 minutes outside of the city, you will see more than 60 factory outlets, all with designer labels. In addition, it's located in an area surrounded by natural orchards, this is where the modern shopping world meets a historical city center.
The time is right
This summer, Stuttgart will again become a hotspot of the jazz scene as it plays host to the 19th Jazz Open, July 5-13. The concerts are 'open-air' and held on a stage in front of the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
At the end of September, while everyone else is packing the trains to go to Munich for Oktoberfest, locals head to the Canstatter Wasen. The Wasen is the second largest beerfest in Germany next to Oktoberfest, but with a lot less tourists, better prices, and easier access to seven fest tents, two wine tents, and even an alpine village.
There are more than 300 stall owners, all of whom have something special to offer. If you are into rides, there is a double-looping roller coaster, modern attractions and even old favorites to enjoy. In the fest tents, grilled pork knuckle, rotisserie chicken, and Swabian "maultaschen" (filled pasta squares) are all served with liter mugs of beer.
Later in the year, Stuttgart also has a very impressive Christmas market. With close to 300 vendors and a 300-year tradition, it is one of the oldest and largest in Germany. Each night there is a Christmas concert in the courtyard and during Advent, the town hall is turned into a giant Advent calendar.
So while your friends are going to the traditional "hot spots" and fighting the crowds, head to Stuttgart, one of those places you simply must visit during your tour in Germany.
With more than a half-million people living and working in the capital city of Baden-Wuerttemberg, no matter what time of year you decide to visit, there will always be plenty for you to see and do in this "best kept secret" city.