16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Stuttgart
Stuttgart, capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany, lies in a basin enclosed by orchards and forest-covered hills. In the valley bottom, you'll find the River Neckar and the older part of the city with its lovely historic buildings and homes climbing gently up the surrounding slopes. In places where the hills rise a little too steeply, flights of steps or stepped lanes predominate, offering endless opportunities for adventurous travelers to explore. In addition to being an important fruit-growing center, the city districts of Berg and Bad Cannstatt are where you'll find the most productive mineral springs in Europe after those of Budapest. Stuttgart is also famous as the cradle of Germany's automobile industry, and is home to the headquarters of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
See also: Where to Stay in Stuttgart
1 Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
The Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (the State Gallery) is home to one of the finest art collections in Germany and is one of the country's most visited museums. Best known for its superlative collection of 20th-century paintings, the museum also boasts impressive collections of German Renaissance art as well as Dutch and Italian Masters from the 14th to 19th centuries. The three buildings that make up the Staatsgalerie are as interesting as its collections. The original building, the Alte Staatsgalerie (or Old Gallery), was designed in Neoclassical U-Bahn-style and opened in 1843. Adjoining is James Stirling's Neue Staatsgalerie (New Gallery), added in 1984 and a masterpiece of contemporary architecture. The central feature of the building is its rotunda, enclosed by three wings with roofs designed to admit light. The newest structure was added in 2002, a five-story building housing the Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs. Architectural tours of the Staatsgalerie are highly recommended.
Address: Konrad-Adenauer-Strasse 30-32, D-70173 Stuttgart
2 Editor's Pick The Mercedes-Benz Museum
Stuttgart has had a long love affair with the automobile, which can trace its roots as far back as 1887 when Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach set up shop here. One of the highlights of any visit to the city must be the wonderful Mercedes-Benz Museum with its exhibits relating to the development of the automobile. The star attractions, though, are the more than 160 vehicles (free audio tours are available). The nearby Untertürkheim diesel engine factory is also open for tours, and the Porsche Museum, with its exquisite collection of more than 300 restored vehicles, is also worth a visit.
Address: Mercedesstraße 100, 70372 Stuttgart
3 Shopping in Schlossplatz
The expansive Schlossplatz is very much the focal point for visitors and locals alike. Surrounded by buildings dating from Stuttgart's past role as a ducal and royal capital, at the center of this vast open space are its lovely gardens and Jubilee Column, erected in 1841 to commemorate King William I's 25 years of rule. Here, too, you'll find a cast-iron bandstand (1871); a number of pieces of modern sculpture by Calder, Hrdlicka, and Hajek; and a lovely fountain. On the northwest side of the square is the 19th-century Königsbau with its colonnade and shopping arcade, and to the southwest, on higher ground, the Kleiner Schlossplatz with its many boutique shops and restaurants.
4 Neues Schloss and Altes Schloss
Dominating the Schlossplatz is the massive Neues Schloss or New Palace. Built in late Baroque style and completed in 1807, the palace - once home to former kings - is now used by the state government. While tours are available only by special arrangement, merely walking around the building's grand facade is impressive enough.
Not far away, and also in the Schlossplatz, is the massive bulk of Altes Schloss or Old Castle. Although it can trace its roots back to the 10th century, the existing building along with its picturesque arcaded courtyard was built between 1553-78. Today, the impressive structure houses the Württemberg Landesmuseum with its fine collection of medieval art, musical instruments, watches and clocks, as well as the Württemberg crown jewels. In the south wing is the 16th-century palace church where you'll find the tombs of famous former residents and royalty.
Address: Schillerplatz 6, 70173 Stuttgart
5 The Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill
Perched high upon the Württemberg overlooking Stuttgart and the Neckar valley is the burial chapel of Queen Katharina, erected by King Wilhelm I as a monument to his beloved wife after her premature death. Built between 1820 and 1824, this beautiful structure, known locally as Grabkapelle, consists of a domed rotunda in Neoclassical style inspired by the Pantheon in Rome (it's also where Wilhelm himself is buried). It's well worth the walk as you'll be rewarded with the city's most spectacular views.
Address: Württembergstraße 340, 70327 Stuttgart
6 Wilhelma Zoological and Botanic Garden
Named after a little Moorish-style palace built in 1842, the Wilhelma Zoological and Botanic Garden is a one-of-a-kind attraction. Beautifully laid out with numerous hothouses, animal houses, and an aquarium, Wilhelma has grown from a former royal retreat to become Stuttgart's zoological and botanical gardens, attracting more than two million visitors per year. Modeled (albeit loosely) on the famous Moorish architecture of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain - hence its local nickname of the Alhambra on the Neckar - the gardens are wonderful to explore, as are the animal attractions, a highlight being the new Ape House. All told, the facility boasts more than 8,000 animals from about 1,000 species, in addition to its impressive collection of plants.
Address: Wilhelma 13, D-70376 Stuttgart
7 Schloss Solitude
Although located a few miles outside of Stuttgart's city center, Schloss Solitude - also known as Solitude Palace - is a must-see attraction. Built for Duke Karl Eugen in 1763, this spectacular palace contains many fine state apartments and its lovely interior, designed in a late Rococo/early Neoclassical style, will make you want to linger a little as you soak in its splendor. Highlights include the well-preserved pavilion with its decorative rooms, and the White Hall with its lovely domed roof, frescoes, and ceiling murals. Outside, in addition to the well-kept grounds, you'll want to stroll along at least a portion of Solitude Allee, a 13 kilometer route joining the palace to Ludwigsburg Residential Palace and offering splendid views of the Württemberg lowlands. Entry to Schloss Solitude is only possible as part of a guided tour (for English language tours, please be sure to contact the attraction in advance).
Address: Solitude 1, 70197 Stuttgart
8 Killesberg Park and Tower
Originally laid out in 1939 as part of a major horticultural show, Killesberg Park is a lovely 123-acre open space that's fun to explore. Many of the structures seen today date back to its pre-war opening and are still used for flower shows and other events. One of the most popular original features is the Killesberg Railway, a narrow-gauge railway that offers fun excursions around the park in summer (hold out for the steam engine), while the latest attraction is the spectacular Killesberg Tower, a 40-meter-tall observation tower with excellent views of the park and its surrounds. If you are here in July, be sure to visit Lichterfest Stuttgart, a festival during which thousands of lanterns are used to decorate the park.
9 Königstrasse and the Hauptbahnhof
No visit to any major European city should pass without at least a little self-indulgence. In Stuttgart, the Königstrasse is where you'll find the very best shopping, whether in the many boutique shops and galleries or the larger department stores that line the country's longest pedestrian precinct. Other popular activities here are café hopping, fine dining, and live shows. It's also where you'll find the massive Hauptbahnhof, the city's main rail terminus. This spectacular landmark, famous for the large Mercedes logo perching on its 58-meter tower, was built between 1914-28 and is currently being developed as part of the city's subway network.
10 The Weissenhof Estate
Above the northern part of Stuttgart near the Academy of Fine Art, the Weissenhof Estate (Weißenhofsiedlung) is a pioneering and influential housing development built in 1927 for an exhibition by the Werkbund, a group of leading international architects, including Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Gropius. Of the 21 original buildings, 11 survive and should be included in any visit to Stuttgart. Of particular interest is the Weissenhof Museum, located in Le Corbusier's home, which includes fascinating exhibits and facts related to the design movement.
Address: Rathenaustrasse 1- 3, 70191 Stuttgart
11 Stiftskirche - The Collegiate Church
The stunning Stiftskirche with its two very different towers was founded in the 12th century on the exact spot an older 10th-century church once stood. Rebuilt in Late Gothic style in the 15th century, it was reconsecrated in 1958 after the repair of heavy war damage. Highlights include a magnificent series of 16th-century Renaissance figures of the Counts of Württemberg, as well as its 17th-century burial vaults.
Address: Stiftsstraße 12, 70173 Stuttgart
12 Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
The Kunstmuseum Stuttgart is a first-rate contemporary and modern art museum located in the heart of Stuttgart. Only opened in 2005, the building's bold design -basically a large glass cube with limestone interior walls - incorporates 5,000 square meters of exhibition space. Highlights of the museum's extensive collection include some of the most important works by German artists Otto Dix, Dieter Roth, and Willi Baumeister. If possible, try to visit during the late opening on Fridays; as you leave, you'll be blown away by the buildings well-lit beauty. Also of interest to art lovers is the Kunstgebäude, opened in 1913 and home to the Municipal Art Gallery and periodic special exhibitions.
Address: Kleiner Schloßplatz 1, 70173 Stuttgart
13 Schillerplatz and the Old Town
Flanking the Old Palace is Schillerplatz, an old town square with a monument to Friedrich Schiller, one of Germany's most famous sons known for his work as a poet, philosopher, historian, and dramatist. The square itself is home to a weekly street market, while nearby Marktplatz is famous for its annual Christmas Fair, as well as its Rathaus (Town Hall) with a carillon and 61-meter-high tower. Another landmark in this old part of the city is the Prinzenbau (begun in 1605, finished a hundred years later), which during the reign of Duke Eberhard Ludwig was the residence of his heir, Prince Friedrich Ludwig. On the southwest side of the square is the old Fruchtkasten (Granary) dating from 1390, and adjoining it, the choir of the Stiftskirche.
Address: Schillerplatz 5, 70173 Stuttgart
14 The Carl Zeiss Planetarium
Another of Stuttgart's modern architectural masterpieces is home to the Carl Zeiss Planetarium (its 20-meter dome is housed in a large glass pyramid). Named after its unique Zeiss VI-A projector installed in 1977, a creation of the famous lens maker, the planetarium offers two excellent programs in English: a live lecture dealing with basic astronomical concepts with a focus on the current night sky, and the full dome hi-tech digital presentation.
Fans of Carl Zeiss himself, may want to visit the Optical Museum in Jena, which traces his work, among others, and features exhibits of optical instruments spanning more than eight centuries.
Address: Willy-Brandt-Straße 25, 70173 Stuttgart
15 Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History
In the Berg district on the left bank of the Neckar stands Schloss Rosenstein, which together with the Museum am Löwentor - a short 15 minute walk away - houses the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History. Both museums are dedicated to natural sciences: Rosenstein is devoted to biology and the evolution of living species, while Löwentor is devoted to the origins of the earth with exhibits of fossils, dinosaurs, and Ice Age man. Also worth checking out is the Linden Museum, with its exhibits of art and cultural artifacts from around the globe.
Address: Rosenstein 1, D-70191 Stuttgart
16 Stuttgart's Outer Districts and Steamy Spas
There are a number of good reasons for venturing to the outskirts of Stuttgart besides the magnificent Mercedes-Benz Museum, Schloss Solitude, and the Württemberg (for those adventurous enough to do so, the city's excellent public transit network is a joy to use). One of the most interesting tourist attractions on the edge of the city is the Birkenkopf, a 511-meter tall hill built after WWII entirely from the rubble of destroyed buildings. As remarkable as the views may be, it's a humbling experience knowing you're standing on the detritus of a war torn city.
Another great place offering superb views is Fernsehturm Stuttgart, a 217-meter tall television tower atop a wooded hill in the south of the city. Both its restaurant and viewing platforms offer great views. For fans of spas and health-inducing mineral waters, head for Bad Cannstatt in the northeastern suburbs of the city, where you'll be spoiled for choice with superb baths, saunas, and steam rooms. Another favorite spa is Das Leuze with its public mineral and swimming baths.
Where to Stay in Stuttgart for Sightseeing
Stuttgart's main train station (Hauptbahnhof) is a five-minute walk from the Schlossplatz, around which you'll find several of the city's major attractions and its main shopping streets. Surrounded by hills, downtown Stuttgart can be very hot in the summer, and many mid-range and budget hotels have no air conditioning. An excellent U-Bahn and tram system makes getting around easy from any location, so hotels set on the hills can be more comfortable after a summer day's sightseeing. These are all highly-rated hotels in Stuttgart:
- Luxury Hotels: Kronen Hotel Stuttgart is a 10-minute walk from both the station and Schlossplatz and is known for its bountiful breakfast. Guestroom balconies at luxurious Waldhotel Stuttgart overlook a woodland park, a short U-Bahn ride to the center; its own fine-dining restaurant is one of several choices in the hilltop neighborhood. Smart, modern Maritim Hotel Stuttgart has spacious rooms in a quiet neighborhood with restaurants, a 10-minute walk from the center and on tram and U-Bahn lines.
- Mid-Range Hotels: A few blocks from the business district, Wartburg Hotel has small pleasant rooms and an accommodating staff. Rooms are somewhat more spacious at Hotel Unger beim Hauptbahnhof, only a block from the train station. Novum Hotel Boulevard Stuttgart City is in the center, just behind the Rathaus and three blocks from the Old Palace and historic Schillerplatz.
- Budget Hotels: Motel One Stuttgart-Hauptbahnhof, in the pedestrianized business district, a block from the Hauptbahnhof and Schlossplatz, has small and plain but comfortable rooms. A short walk from the center, City Hotel is in a hillside neighborhood with restaurants and on a U-Bahn line. Novum Hotel Rieker Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof offers basic rooms in an excellent location close to the train station.