Stuttgart is the gateway to one of Germany’s most storied regions, the Black Forest of Swabia, and fittingly is itself one of the greenest cities in Germany. The nearby Neckar River has its source in the Swabian Alps of the Black Forest and forms the valley that surrounds Stuttgart. The hills on either side of the valley are forested and/or covered with vineyards all the way from Prague to Heidelberg.
The best way to arrive in Stuttgart is via train and with minimal baggage. Downtown Stuttgart is surrounded by the famous Green U, almost 8 sq.km of parks, waterways and lakes that include must-visit locations like the Stuttgart Planetarium, the Old and New Palaces (located a block away from the train station at Schlossplatz) and the Wilhelma Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Right in front of the train station is Koenigsstrasse, the longest pedestrian shopping street in Germany (according to locals) and just to the right is the tourism bureau — leave it to the Germans to have everything ready for the tourist right off the bat.
All German cities have seasonal festivals and Stuttgart is no exception — the Stuttgart Christmas Market is one of the best in the world with hundreds of stalls selling local food, drinks, toys and all manner of Christmas knick-knacks. The Beer Fest coincides with the Wine Village Festival, with both occurring around the end of August and early September. Both Baden-Wuerttemberg’s beers and local wines are nationally and internationally famous, so late summer might be a nice time to visit this area. You may want to start with the alcohol-laden fests of late summer and then head into the Black Forest and the Alps.
Stuttgart has a storied history as the capital of the Baden-Wuerttemberg region and the home of dukes and kings of the old Holy Roman Empire. Their castles and homes are scattered in and around the city, including the above-mentioned Old and New Palaces (Altes-Neuesschloss), King Wilhem’s Palace (Wilhemspalais) and Ludwigsburg — an imperial residence which stole Stuttgart’s thunder for a few years in the late 18th century.
If you are an opera fan, Stuttgart’s Staatstheater is one of the most acclaimed opera houses in Europe; there are regular showings of popular operas and ticketing is easy and relatively inexpensive. Keeping with that theme, Stuttgart’s museums are also worthy of a visit, especially the Mercedes-Benz Museum and the Old and New State Gallery. Both galleries house works of the greats, from the 14th century to present day. If you are interested in royal and imperial history, the Wuerttemberg State Museum has artifacts and exhibitions outlining the history of the state and its capital (Stuttgart) from its birth as a Roman fort to modern times.
Swabians are considered to be slightly provincial by the rest of Germany, mostly due to their distinctive dialect and cuisine. If you have studied the German language, you will find yourself questioning everything you learned when you encounter an old Swabian local. These days, most young people speak High or better said, Common German, so this should not be too great an issue. But be prepared to use sign language in some of the older restaurants and beer houses where the dialect is a prized and cherished characteristic of local identity.
As for good German food, my favorite Swabian dish is Maultaschen, which is like a hearty German ravioli filled with bratwurst, onions, spinach, eggs and spices — served in a broth or with potato salad. And of course the big pretzels that have become famous all over Germany might just have their origin here. If not, it doesn’t matter, but be sure to try one here. The local staple is a noodle called Spaetzle, which is popular in the south of Germany (from here to Bavaria). I prefer Bratkartoffeln (roast potatoes) better, but Spaetzle can be delicious with pig roast or perhaps bratwurst with lentils (another great Swabian dish).