City Guides: Stuttgart
A bit of history:
Although Stuttgart’s history is a long one, it isn’t a particularly eventful one; at least not compared to other major European cities. Stuttgart’s history dates back as early as the first century AD when a Roman Fort was established in the area; however, it wasn’t until many years later in 950 AD that a Stuoutgarten (i.e., a stud farm) was established by the Duke Luitolf of Swabia and the modern day Stuttgart was named. This stud farm (i.e., horse breeding farm) is what would eventually influence the creation of Stuttgart’s coat of arms with a rearing black stallion.
After the founding of the stud farm, Stuttgart’s growth was quite gradual until the 14th century when the Counts of Wurttemberg established residency and gained control of the city. During the 1300s, under the control of the Counts, the city began to develop. Stuttgart became a major center for wine production and power, and it was granted city status; this contributed significantly to its growth over the next few centuries.
During the 15th century, the printing press began operating in Stuttgart and the city was experiencing a large growth in population; everything was generally fine and dandy. Until the 16th century, that is, when the Thirty Years’ War occurred, followed by the French invasions. Not good for Stuttgart.
In the 1800s, there was this “kind of” famous period of time called the Industrial Revolution. Stuttgart was loving this time because they became one of Germany’s main industrial centers, a major hub for commerce, manufacturing, and trade. Lots of cool things were created and manufactured here (e.g., vehicles, electrical equipment, and chemicals), and they still are today. As a matter of fact, Stuttgart is home to both the Mercedes-Benz and the Porsche museums.
Lots happens during the 19th century. A fancy, new palace was built; the famous Schloss-Garten was plotted and created; there was a library founded and some famous singing society founded (i.e., Stuttgarter Liederkranz). I guess I shouldn’t downplay how important they were. The singing society is highly regarded and well known, and performs regularly across Germany. Although their site is in German, you can check it out here and google translate it if you’re interested. Anyway, there was this great Natural History Museum established and the University of Stuttgart, and Stuttgart became the capital of Wurttemberg in 1918.
So, you know World War II? Yeah. Not so great for Stuttgart. Between 1939 and 1945, both the French and the Americans invaded Stuttgart. The city was completely obliterated during the war. Its entire city center was essentially bombed to pieces, and nearly the whole city has been rebuilt in styles that were indicative of their original states; however, while contractors receive at “A” for effort, the city’s buildings are now noticeably different from one another. They were not built in a cohesive style, and the buildings in Stuttgart generally appear mismatched.
Moving forward, the states of Baden and Wurttemberg joined up in 1952, and Stuttgart was absorbed as the newly founded state’s capital. At this time, the city was completely restored, and things were looking up. In 2006, Stuttgart hosted the FIFA world cup which was wonderful for the city, its tourism, and its economy.
Today Stuttgart is the thriving capital of the Baden-Wurttemberg state in southwest Germany and is home to over 600, 000 residents. With its surrounding metropolitan region, Stuttgart has a whopping 5.3 million residents, making it the fourth largest metropolitan region in Germany. Stuttgart is a part of the Swabian region of Germany (parts of the Alsace region and Switzerland are also in the Swabian region); its inhabitants speak a distinctly different dialect of German called “Swabian” German. That being said, 40% of Stuttgart’s residents are currently from other areas of Germany or Europe, so both Swabian German and Standard German are commonly heard in the streets of Stuttgart.
Many car enthusiasts seek out Stuttgart as a tourist destination as it is known as the “Cradle of the Automobile”, referring to the fact that the motorbike and four wheeled vehicles were created in Stuttgart. It is also home to the State Parliament, and is a part of a well-known wine producing region.
Our trip to Stuttgart began on a cold, rainy, winter night. We drove into town and through a maze of one way streets and construction until we finally arrived near our hotel on Marienstrasse. The Hotel Royal was centrally located in Stuttgart’s pedestrian city center. With access to shopping, tourist sites, and a limitless selection of restaurants and bars, we felt we landed a pretty great deal at 99 USD per night.
The Hotel Royal was once a fancy shmancy four star hotel that had an air of prestige. While Hotel Royal was still considered a four star establishment, it was desperately in need of updating. Have you ever seen the movie, “Hotel Budapest”? It was something like that. Not as fancy, but you get the gist; it was clear it was once something great, but now begged for a makeover.
Aside from its old interior, Hotel Royal placed us in the perfect location for site seeing and shopping. Almost immediately upon arrival, we were back out on the streets, ready to explore. We ditched our overnight bag, grabbed our umbrellas, our gloves, and our coats, and set out for the evening.
Our first stop landed us at a three story mall no longer than one minute walking from us. Located on the corner of Marienstrasse and Sophienstrasse, this mall contained lots of great shops, two grocery stores, and a handful of fast food options. We made sure to specifically stop at the Edeka grocery store; our friend (previously a Stuttgart local) recommended we shop for our beer and wine there, and so we did.
After departing the mall, we continued walking down the pedestrian Marienstrasse which turned into the wide, open, pedestrian street of Königstrasse. The entire length of this portion of the city center was for pedestrians only. It was lined with dining options and shops, ranging from inexpensive to highly expensive, and from local to franchise. We window shopped and explored the restaurant menus until we reached the famous and picturesque Schlossgardens.
As if the gardens weren’t beautiful enough, there was an added charm in the atmosphere made possible by the Christmas festival taking place in the adjacent square.
There were booths set up selling hot, mulled gluhwein, food, and small gifts. Behind the stalls was a skating rink filled with children and adults alike. Oddly enough, I had only been to Stuttgart once before this trip, 8 years prior, and I had stumbled across the same winter festival. It was a neat experience.
To celebrate this neat, little experience, we ordered up two mugs of the piping hot, spiced, red wine. Because it was rainy and cold outside, the gluhwein couldn’t have tasted any better; that delicious beverage sure knows how to warm the soul.
Next of the list? The Kunstmuseum. This art museum, fondly referred to by locals as “The Cube” was situated in the heart of Stuttgart’s city center. The museum was made entirely of glass with 360 degree views of the city. Our particular view was special because it overlooked the Christmas festival. This glass beauty also contained a museum shop, a book shop, and a bar and restaurant on the top floor. This would be a great place to grab a drink while admiring views of the city.
Although we enjoyed admiring the city, Ryan and I were both getting very hungry. As recommended by our local friend, we sought out to find the oldest brew pub in Stuttgart, Calwer-eck. We arrived around 5:30 PM which was seemingly early for dinner. Every table was reserved starting at 6:30, but thankfully we were able to get a booth (which we had to share with another random couple) and enjoy some beer and grub. I sampled their brewer’s choice which was a crisp marzen style ale (think Oktoberfest style). Ryan tried their schwarzbier (a black lager). Both were very well crafted and complemented our meals nicely.
And because I know everyone loves looking at menus as much as I do:
Because we were in the Swabian region of Germany, we were on a mission to try traditional Swabian food. This particular restaurant had many great options for traditional food, and of course, we partook.
I wasn’t feeling very well, so I ordered a bowl of soup. I actually ordered two bowls of soup, but Ryan and I shared them. The first was a Swabian “pancake” soup. This simple soup contained pancake noodles that were placed into a bowl and topped with a flavorful, hot broth. The crepe-like noodles in this comforting soup were known as “Flaedlesuppe” in German. Next up, I ordered a “ravioli” soup (these words are lost in translation). It contained a delicious meat dumpling, cut into pieces, and topped with another flavorful broth and chives. Both hit the spot on a cold night.
Ryan ordered a much richer meal called the “Master Brewer’s Treat”. His plate contained a piece of meatloaf (it was similar to ground ham), Maultasche (i.e., sausage dumpling), and Kasesspatzle (i.e., cheesy and rich noodles). All of this artery-clogging goodness was topped with brown gravy and fried onions. Ryan officially dubbed this the best meal he’s ever had, and he described it as “a fancy, Swabian, grownup version of macaroni and cheese with hotdogs”. How’s that for a selling point?
With full stomachs and happy hearts, we set out to yet another establishment. Stuttgart is known in the Swabia region as having well crafted, quality, German-style beers. Our local friend recommended we visit Sophie’s Brauhaus. Located a half block from our hotel, we happily obliged. The atmosphere at this restaurant and brauhaus was electric. People of all ages were gathered around tables, enjoying pints of their favorite Sophie brew. Ryan and I grabbed two seats at the bar and enjoyed two pints ourselves. I had a hefeweizen and Ryan had a schwarzbier. We also tried their pale ale, which was hoppy, fruity, and crisp.
After our stop at Sophie’s, we were satisfied and decided to go to bed early.
Well rested and energized, we woke up early, checked out of our hotel, and headed straight for the Markthalle, located just off of Königstrasse. On our 10 minute trek to the Markthalle, we stumbled across a fair-sized farmer’s market with vendors were selling fresh produce, jams, honeys, and other handcrafted goods.
What is Markthalle, you ask? Stuttgart’s Markthalle is believed by many to be the most beautiful market in Germany. It’s a covered market that dates back from 1864. The market’s vendors offer a diverse assortment of foods from German cuisine to international produces, wine, chocolate, and coffee items. We enthusiastically looked around the market, admiring the tasty treats and salivating as we went. The place perpetuated deliciousness.
After our morning of admiring food stalls and products, it was time to go. With yet another incredibly enjoyable trip under our belts, we felt fulfilled and thankful. Stuttgart was a surprisingly large and diverse city. With its pedestrian city center, great dining and drinking establishments, beautiful gardens, and charming Christmas festivals, Stuttgart would be a great location for your next German vacation.
My favorite things about Stuttgart were:
- The huge pedestrian street city center
- The Swabian food at Calwer-eck
- The adorable little Christmas festival in Schlossplatz
- “The Cube”
- The beer culture of the city
Our Favorite Local Spots:
Hotel Royal: This hotel is in a prime location for a reasonable price of 99 USD per night.
Edeka: This comprehensive grocery store has a great selection of fresh and premade foods. Looking for local wines or beers? No need to look any further.
Marienstrasse: This pedestrian street is home to many appealing shops and restaurants. Sophie’s Brauhaus is located on Marienstrasse.
Königstrasse: This street is a long and wide pedestrian street in the heart of Stuttgart. “The Cube”, the Schloss Gardens, the Palace, the Markthalle, and an abundance of shops and restaurants are located on (or just off of) this street.
Kunstmuseum: Affectionately known as “The Cube”, this art museum has a shop, a café, and a restaurant and bar with stunning views of the city.
Calwer-eck: Stuttgart’s original brew pub crafts wonderful beers and pumps out tasty, traditional Swabian food. Reservations are recommended and can be made on their website.
Sophie’s Brauhaus: This brew pub is another local favorite. A great location for some dinner, a pint, or a shot of beer schnapps (yes, that’s a thing!).
Markthalle: Germany’s most beautiful covered market is well worth the visit for any foodie.
Mercedes-Benz Museum: Although we didn’t have time to visit this impressive museum, this is a “must see” for car lovers.
Swabian cuisine is simple and down-to-earth. With a focus on noodles, soups, and stews, Swabian cuisine is hearty and comforting for the soul.
- Spatzle: egg noodles served sweet or savory
- Maultaschen: dumpling filled with meat, spinach, onion, and soaked in stale bread
- Kasspatzle: spätzle cooked in salted water then layered into a casserole with different kinds of cheese and onions
- Fladle: crepe-like pancakes
- Gaisburger Marsch: stew with diced ox meat, potatoes, and spätzle
- Fladle soup: crepe-like noodles topped with a flavorful, hot broth
- Saure Nieren (sour kidneys) and Suare Leber (sour liver)
- Wurst salat: sausage salad with onion, pickles, cheese, and herbs. You can view my recipe here.
- Sauerkruat: pickled, fermented cabbage
- Potato salad: broth-based rather than mayonnaise-based
- Ofenschlupfer: bread pudding
- Pfitzauf: soufflé topped with apple or vanilla sauce
- Wines: Riesling, Trollinger, Gewurztaminer, Spatburgender
- Beer: Hefeweizen, Dunkelweizen, Helles, Schwarzbier
- Stay near Marienstrasse or Konigstrasse. There is plenty of great shopping, pedestrian streets, shopping, and tourist sites.
- The train station is centrally located if you are only visiting for the day.
- Tourist website: https://www.stuttgart-tourist.de/en
- Christmas market in Stuttgart: We only experienced their annual winter festival which was quite small; in December, they set up a Christmas market with over 280 stalls. Find more information here.
- It can be difficult to drive in the city. There are lots of one ways and the city center is made up of predominantly pedestrian streets – just be mentally prepared if you’re driving.
- Accessible by:
- Train: The main station is in the middle of the city center and connects to major European cities.
- Car: Easily accessible by car, Stuttgart lies on the crossroads of state roads A8 and A81.
- Plane: Stuttgart has one airport that connects to most other major German and European cities.