The capital of the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart has lots of places to visit. In this city of car manufacturing and castles, you can go deep on both Mercedes and Porsche at their respective museums, as well as sample some beer and wander around some truly glorious castles and palaces. What else is there to do in Stuttgart? Take photos at an Instagram hotspot, visit the world’s largest pig museum, and climb a hill made of WWII rubble.
1. Porsche Museum
For car enthusiasts, Germany is definitely a favorite destination, and in Stuttgart you get a two-for-one deal when it comes to car museums. The Porsche Museum is an architectural marvel from the outside, and inside you will find 95 cars to get close to and learn more about the history of this famous car company. You can watch the work going on in the restoration workshop through big windows, and take your time choosing a beautiful model Porsche to bring home from the gift shop.
2. Mercedes-Benz Museum
If the history of cars is of more interest to you, the Mercedes-Benz Museum is worth a visit. With more than 160 vehicles to look at including some of the oldest cars ever built, the museum traces the history of car manufacture from Carl Benz’s invention in 1886 to the present.
3. Ludwigsburg Residential Palace
Thirty minutes north of Stuttgart is the impressive Ludwigsburg Residential Palace and its surrounding gardens. Just walking through the grounds is impressive, but it’s worth taking a tour inside to see the riotous Baroque interiors. The buildings also house a ceramics museum, fashion museum, and theater museum. The theater museum also showcases the palace’s own theater with the 18th-century sets and machinery intact. Check their event schedule, as popular events like Blooming Baroque and the Pumpkin Festival can mean a change in entrance fees.
Named after King Friedrich in 1806, this central street in Stuttgart has been pedestrianized since 1977 and offers a lovely place to stroll, shop and people watch. You can follow the Königstraße straight out of the Stuttgart main station, making it a lovely entrance to the city. It runs straight past the Schlossplatz, too.
This beautiful square in front of the Neues Schloss or New Castle, is a popular stop along the Königstraße. The main building of the New Castle was built in 1746-1751, with the additional wings built over the next 15 years. These impressive buildings are now the home of the Baden-Württemberg state government. During the Christmas season, the Schlossplatz becomes a magical children’s Christmas Market.
Follow the river Neckar south and you will find Esslingen, with a beautifully preserved Old Town. If you love half-timbered buildings, this is a Stuttgart must-see. Most of the buildings in the Old Town date from the 13th to 16th century, and the oldest row of half-timbered houses in Germany. One of the best times to visit is during the Christmas season, when the Old Town comes alive for their famous Medieval Christmas Market, complete with flaming torches, period music performances, and even a stall where you can bet on which mouse will find their way home first.
7. Stuttgart City Library
You’ve probably seen this stark white cube full of books on Instagram. This strikingly modern building was built in 2011, and has become a destination for architecture fans ever since. In the daytime, the building looks like a massive white cube, while at night, blue illumination lights up the exterior.
8. Rubble Hill
The Birkenkopf, called Monte Scherbelino by locals, is called Rubble Hill in English. It’s the highest hill in Stuttgart, and the top 40 meters of it is made up of broken buildings and rubble cleared out of the city after WWII. There has been no effort to cover up the wreckage put there in the 1950s, as it serves as a reminder of the terrible impact of this conflict. The views from the top of the Rubble Hill over the city are impressive as well.
9. Pig Museum
The world’s largest Pig Museum is in Stuttgart, and this museum is floor to ceiling with pig art, models, facts, and displays over 27 themed rooms. Learn about wild boar hunts, the development of different pig breeds, and the pig’s place in myth, legend, and religion. There is even a restaurant on site where you can have all sorts of pork products to complete your pig-focused visit.
The Fernsehturm, or Television Tower, is a glorious 1950s spear coming out of the trees, rising to a height of 217 meters. A forward-thinking city architect added an observation deck and restaurant to the top of the tower, which has made it a favorite attraction despite not broadcasting any television signals since 2006.
11. Festivals in Stuttgart
Locals will be quick to tell you their Canstatter Volksfest is much more inviting than Munich’s Oktoberfest, and if you’re looking for a less tourist-centric beer festival, it’s a good choice. If you’re visiting Stuttgart in the spring, the Volksfest’s smaller cousin, Frühlingsfest, is held on the same site and features beer tents, rides, and lots of people in Lederhosen and Dirndl. Stuttgart’s Christmas Market is beautiful, and when you combine it with a trip to the Esslingen Medieval Christmas Market, you have a magical festive weekend plan.
Palaces, fancy cars, half-timbered houses – Stuttgart has got it all
Whether you spend your time marveling over historic race cars at the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz Museums or imagining yourself swanning through the halls of the Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, Stuttgart is a great city for a weekend full of south German flavor. Time your visit for one of the big festivals, and watch the city come alive with events all over the city. After your Stuttgart adventure, why not visit Frankfurt, Leipzig or Cologne?
Erin McGann is a Canadian freelance writer focusing on travel, living abroad, parenting, history, and culture. After nearly a decade living in the UK, Erin settled in Heidelberg, Germany with her husband and son. Dragging her family to every castle and open-air museum is a favorite activity, along with sewing, cooking, and weaving. You can check out her travel blog, and follow her obsession with half-timbered houses on her Instagram account.