The Stuttgart area has been my family’s home for the past few years, and while I haven’t lived there consecutively for long, I’ve spent a number of summer and winter breaks exploring this city and its surrounding cozy towns.
Get in, around, and out
The Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof (main train station) lies right downtown. From there you’ll be able to access most of the city by foot, or catch a train into the countryside.
Things to do that are great in Stuttgart
- You’ll find treasures you didn’t even know you needed at the Karlsplatz Flea Market. This outdoor market pops up every Saturday morning, lasting into mid-afternoon.
- We always end up at Koenigstrasse when in town. Maybe it’s the streams of people or the abundance of shops, I don’t know. Nonetheless, it’s a nice pedestrian street for strolling down and people-watching.
- Take a daytrip to Tubingen (about 45 minutes by train). This is a bustling college town that sits at the base of a castle. Park on the outskirts of town and walk or bike in. For a nice view of the town, hike the short but steep path up to the castle. Head to the town square by the Rathaus, a beautiful 16th century building. And above all else, be sure to get a white chocolate coconut crepe from one of the cart vendors.
- From Tubingen you should definitely pay a quick visit to Bebenhausen, a small walled-in city centering around a 12th century monastery. Either bike from Tubingen along one of the bike paths that connect the two towns, or drive and park right outside of Bebenhausen.
- Take a trip to Heidelberg (1 hr 15 minutes by train). This is another university town with some picturesque sights. The castle is a must with great views. A few times a year they’ll illuminate it in red light to represent the historic burning of the castle. While the light show is pretty anticlimactic, it’s accompanied by a nice fireworks show in the summer months. Aside from the castle, just explore the winding streets and shops of Heidelberg, grabbing yourself a 1 euro ice cream cone (cheapest ice cream in all of Europe!… according to my dad) to tide you over while you stroll.
- Another day trip, this one about 2 hours south, will be a monkey lovers dream. Monkey Mountain is a small park that’s home to hundreds of (thousands of) monkeys! Pay a few euros and you’re given some monkey food and allowed in. As you walk the path through the park, monkeys will just do their monkey thing or come up to you for food or just generally hangout with you and it’s so great.
Fests in Stuttgart
Fests are negotiably the best thing about Germany, and there’s plenty of them. Where beer flows, there’s always something to celebrate! Here’s a quick rundown of some of the yearly fests in Stuttgart. This’ll be an ongoing list, as I seem to discover a new one every time I’m in town.
- Fruehlingsfest (Spring Beer Fest) – mid April to mid May: Beer, carnival rides, music, and food. This fest is in Bad Cannstatt, a short ride northeast of downtown Stuttgart.
- Hamburg Fischer Fest (Fish Fest) – early July to late July: I’m allergic to fish, but I love this fest. Karlsplatz becomes packed with unique food and beer and sights and smells, it’s great.
- Sommerfest (Summer Fest) – early August: Short but sweet, this festival transforms each corner of Palace Square (Schlossplatz) into a different live concert, interspersed with innumerable tents selling beer and food.
- Weindorf (Wine Fest) – late August to early September: Located in the Schillerplatz and the Markplatz, this fest is more mellow. It’s just tons of wine and Swabian food.
- Canstatter Volksfest (Fall Beer Fest) – late September to mid October: This is the second largest beer festival in Germany, after Oktoberfest. Located in Bad Cannstatt, this is a good choice for those wanting to experience Oktoberfest without the huge masses of people. In the words of my father, “The beer tents aren’t as big (they hold 4600 to 5200 people vs. up to 10,000 in Munich), but if you’re up for a rowdy time with a lot of very drunk people, it won’t disappoint. Order the half chicken (halb henchen) and be prepared to drink strong beer 1 liter at a time”. And definitely get in by metro.
- Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) – late November to right before Christmas: This is my personal favorite. Bundle up (or drink copious amounts of gluhwein) and stroll through the maze of Christmas-decorated stalls selling warm food and Christmas gifts. This place is just a Christmas explosion through many of the main squares in Stuttgart.
Things to eat and drink in Germany
- My ALL-TIME FAVORITE food in Germany is undoubtedly flammkuchen, a thin pizza-style flat bread topped with onions, cream, and bacon.
- Salads. I know you don’t think “salad” when German cuisine comes to mind, but simple green German salads are incredible. Something about the yogurt dressing and non-mayo-y potato salad that’s always on the side is just so perfect, every time.
- But of course, you’ve got to have your traditional, heavy German meals as well. I was vegetarian for most of my time spent in Germany, so Kaese Spaetzle was always my go-to. Essentially macaroni and cheese except GERMAN and for GROWN-UPS!
- I tried branching out from beer and wound up with this liquor-shot-suspended-over-a-candle contraption. Stick with beer for the first little while that you’re there. You have a lot of beer ground you need to cover.
- And Hugos, the southern German non-beer of choice. I made some a while back if you want to check those out.