In the vine-decked Neckar Valley, Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg. For hundreds of years until the 19th century the city was the seat of the Counts and then the Kings of Württemberg, and they left behind royal palaces for that have become government buildings and museums.
Stuttgart was also the city of car-making royalty, as the place where the first car and motorcycle were invented by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler respectively. The headquarters for both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are in Stuttgart and the stylish new museums for both brands are not to be missed. These are a couple of examples of Stuttgart’s head-turning architecture, joined by an Art Nouveau market hall, a house by Le Corbusier and a state-of-the-art new library.
This excellent art museum started out in 1843 and is still partly set within its original Neoclassical building.
In the 1980s the architect James Stirling helped raise the museum’s profile with an ambitious Post-Modern extension.
The newer annexe holds 20th-century art by Matisse, Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Franz Marc, Piet Mondrian and Joan Miró.
The original building is filled with painting and sculpture up to the 1800s, with a particular interest in the Renaissance and Baroque masters like Rubens, Rembrandt and Hans Memling.
A couple of masterpieces to keep in mind are the Corpse of Christ by Annibale Carracci and Jerg Ratgeb’s 16th-century Herrenberger Altar.
2. Mercedes-Benz Museum
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Visiting the Mercedes-Benz Museum, in a curved metallic building with a double helix, is partly a journey back to the birth of the automobile.
Karl Benz invented what is considered the first true car in 1886. The double helix design allows for two parallel audio-guided tours; one dipping into the distinguished history of the brand, and the other showing the great diversity of vehicles manufactured by Mercedes-Benz.
And because of that double helix design you can swap from one tour to the other at any moment.
The two routes converge when you arrive in the present day and size up the brand’s 21st-century innovations.
In all there are 160 vehicles and 1,500 or more exhibits.
3. Porsche Museum
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At Zuffenhausen, a little way up the road from Stuttgart, are the headquarters of another automobile brand of international fame.
The Porsche Museum has been around since the 70s but got a stylish redesign ten years ago and reopened in 2009. The museum uncovers the early days of the brand, and recounts the many innovations of engineer and founder, Professor Ferdinand Porsche, the man who invented the VW Beetle and the first gasoline-electric hybrid.
There are multi-sensual, interactive displays, like a new sound installation you can control and a “touch wall”. Timeless classics like 356, 911 and 917 are just some of an 80-strong fleet of vehicles at the museum.
What’s great is that nearly all are in driving condition and are transported around the world for heritage races; you can even look inside the workshop where they’re maintained.
This much-loved zoo and botanical garden is in the north of Stuttgart on the grounds of a royal palace.
The Wilhelma was first landscaped as a pleasure park during the reign of William I, and he picked a Moorish Revival theme for the royal bathhouse, which is a miniature version of the Alhambra in Granada.
The park opened to the public in 1880 and was rebuilt as a zoo following damage in the war.
There are more than 1,000 species at the zoo, exceeded only by the Berlin Zoo.
Drawing the most attention are the many great apes like chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans.
The steamy Amazon House is also special, growing 2,000 plant species among habitats for mammals, reptiles and fish.
And then there’s the botanical garden, which has Europe’s largest magnolia grove, thousands of orchid species and dozens of varieties of camellia and azalea.
Landscaped for a horticultural show in 1939, the Killesbergark is 50 hectares of gardens, fountains and sculptures in a former quarry on high ground in a northern borough of Stuttgart.
Eighty years later the park continues to host gardening events, and its Tal der Rosen “Valley of Roses” is a wonder in summer, as are the 200 dahlia varieties.
There’s a catalogue of public art in the park bringing both whimsy and sophistication.
Most eye-catching being the Killesbergturm, which we’ll come to next.
Children are also very well catered for: They can feed donkeys, ponies and goats at the farm, and in summer ride both a narrow-gauge steam railway and a diesel-powered tram.
The most memorable thing in the Killesbergturm is a 40-metre cable-stayed tower by the structural engineer Jörg Schlaich.
The award-winning, cone-shaped structure opened in 2000. Two sets of stairs in a double helix format lead to four platforms at 8, 16, 24 and 31 metres.
Combined with the high ground, it leaves you with a supreme, far-reaching view of the city and Neckar Valley.
The tower is safe, but when the wind blows you’ll feel it swaying in the breeze, which can be a bit unnerving if you’re wobbly when it comes to heights.
n the heart of Stuttgart, this square effuses power and gravitas.
A lot of that comes from the facade of the Neues Schloss, the Classical seat of the kings of Württemberg and HQ for ministries of the Baden-Württemberg state government.
The space in front has been a private pleasure garden and parade ground in its time, but today is a place for the people of Stuttgart to gather for open-air concerts or when there’s something big to celebrate.
A few steps back is a formal garden embellished with fountains and a monumental column for William I. On the south side is the Gothic Old Palace for the Counts of Württemberg, now the state museum, and to the north is the unmissable cupola of the Kunstgebäude, built for the Württemberg Art Association in the 1910s.
8. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
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On the southwest corner of Schlossplatz is a modern landmark.
The facade of the Kunstmuseum changes depending on when you pass by.
By day it’s a large, reflective glass cube.
But when the interior is illuminated at night you can see the limestone walls behind the glass.
The design of the galleries inside is also exciting as they make use of a 5,000 square-metre system of disused tunnels in a subtle and imaginative way.
The museum was born in 1924 on the back of a donation by Count Silvio della Valle di Casanova and covers Swabian, German and Swiss art from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Look for the works by the Realist and early Modernist Adolf Hölzel, and the Concrete Artist Dieter Roth.
Otto Dix takes centre stage though, for his Portrait of the Dancer Anita Berber from 1925.
9. Solitude Palace
Posted on a ridge to the west of Stuttgart is a residence and hunting retreat commissioned by the 18th-centruty Duke of Württemberg, Charles Eugene.
Solitude Palace is the Stuttgart equivalent to Berlin’s Sanssouci, a peaceful escape from court life, and the duke oversaw almost every aspect of the design.
You can see for miles from the top of this ridge, and at the northern gate watch the arrow-straight Solitudeallee extend all the way to the royal palace at Ludwigsburg 13 kilometres in the distance.
The palace has Rococo and Neoclassical architecture, and is enriched with glorious ceiling frescoes by the Frenchman Nicolas Guibal.
The best bit is the Weisse Saal (White Hall), under the palace’s striking central dome.
To get some real shopping done, go to the 1.2-kilometre boulevard leading diagonally through Stuttgart-Mitte.
Königstraße has been pedestrianised since 1977, and in 2014 received 12,795 visitors per hour, making it the third most frequented shopping street in Germany.
Nine out of ten shops on the street belong to chains, and all the usual names are on hand (Uniqlo, Zara, H&M). Königstraße has long been held in high regard by Stuttgart’s citizens, and once had residences for members of the Württemberg court.
Its current route was plotted by King Friedrich at the start of the 19th century when he relocated his stables and the Eberhardskirche to this street from Solitude Palace.
11. Württemberg Mausoleum
You can catch the bus or S-Bahn to Untertürkheim in the east of Stuttgart, where there’s a solemn royal memorial standing over rows of vines above the Neckar Valley.
The Württemberg Mausoleum was built by William I at the start of the 1820s following the death of his wife Catherine Pavlovna of Russia.
The memorial is in the Palladian style and is the resting place of Catherine, William and their daughter Marie Friederike Charlotte von Württemberg.
The chapel is open in the summer for sightseeing, and has dreamy vistas of Stuttgart.
Above the western entrance reads the inscription “Die Liebe höret nimmer auf“, “Love never ceases”. The family tombs are in the crypt, and the space below the dome produces a haunting echo.
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The collegiate church in the Innenstadt has the same outline as a church constructed much earlier, in the 900s.
The oldest architecture on the current building is Romanesque style and from the 13th century, with later extensions in an Early Gothic (nave) and then High Gothic style (choir). The current church was built by the 13th-century Count Ulrich I, who resided close by at the Old Castle.
In the chapel of the south tower are tombs for him and his wife Agnes von Schlesien-Liegnitz.
After Ulrich I, and until 1677, the chancel became the burial place for every count of Württemberg . On the north wall is a row of memorial statues for all 11 counts, all sculpted during the Renaissance in 1574.