19 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Stuttgart
We may earn a commission from affiliate links ()
Although Stuttgart, capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany, is widely known as a leading commercial center and home of two major automobile manufacturers, it is also one of Germany's most appealing cities for tourists.
A pair of outstanding art museums, two state-of-the-art automobile museums, one of Europe's top zoos, sumptuous palaces, and one of Germany's largest Christmas markets draw visitors year-round. Architectural landmarks represent Baroque, Art Nouveau, Modernist, and contemporary styles.
Stuttgart sits in a bowl-like terrain, almost completely surrounded by steep hills that are covered in forests and vines. The green that frames the city spills into broad parks and gardens that give its center a spacious feel.
Stuttgart is easy for tourists to reach and to tour, with its Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) right in the center, within a short walk of the main attractions. The excellent S-Bahn system is easy to use and connects the city center to the airport and outlying attractions. Discover the best places to visit with our list of the top tourist attractions and things to do in and around Stuttgart.
See also: Where to Stay in Stuttgart
1. The Mercedes-Benz Museum
Stuttgart can trace its long love affair with the automobile back as far as 1887, when Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach set up shop here. The Mercedes-Benz Museum celebrates that more than 130 years of automotive history in over 1500 exhibits that cover nine floors and put the invention and development of the automobile into the context of each era's technology, daily life, and society.
At the heart of the exhibits are 160 vehicles: some of the first ever built, auto racing legends, and prototype cars of the future. Among the cars is the world's first motorcycle – a Daimler – from 1885, which bears almost no resemblance to today's, except that it has two large wheels (it also has two smaller ones that look a lot like kids' training wheels!) You don't need to be car crazy to have a good time here, but for automobile lovers, this and the Porsche Museum (see below) are the two best museums in Stuttgart.
Address: Mercedesstraße 100, Stuttgart
The expansive Schlossplatz is the focal point of the city. Surrounded by buildings dating from Stuttgart's past as a ducal and royal capital, this vast open space is well-used. Its green lawns and benches are popular places to catch some sun, and its gardens are pleasant places to stroll in good weather. In November, the square becomes a children's Christmas Market, with a miniature village, holiday rides, and a skating rink.
The Jubilee Column, erected at its center in 1841, commemorates King William I's 25 years of rule. Here, too, you'll find a cast-iron bandstand (1871); a fountain; and pieces of modern sculpture by Calder, Hrdlicka, and Hajek.
Dominating one side of 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.
Forming the opposite side is Königstrasse the city's 1200-meter-long pedestrianized shopping street, one of Germany's longest and best shopping districts. It ends at the massive Hauptbahnhof, the city's main rail station and, until current renovations, a landmark of early German Modernism.
3. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
From one look at the colorful exterior of Stuttgart's State Gallery, you know it's not another stodgy museum. The 1984 opening of the new building, designed by James Stirling and itself a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, marked the transformation of the museum into one of the finest art collections in Europe – and one of Germany's most visited museums.
Although it has an excellent representation of German Renaissance art, as well as Dutch and Italian masters from the 14th to 19th centuries, the Staatsgalerie is best known for its outstanding collection of 20th-century paintings.
With a special focus on the Classical Modern period from 1900 to 1980, the collections include significant works by Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, Max Beckmann, Salvador Dalí, Franz Marc, Wassily Kandinsky, and Pablo Picasso among others.
Address: Konrad-Adenauer-Strasse 30-32, Stuttgart
Official site: www.staatsgalerie.de/museum_e/
4. The Porsche Museum
The dynamic architecture of the building Delugan Meissl designed for the Porsche Museum, supported on a trio of V-shaped columns, is intended to portray the nature of the brand itself. Inside, you can follow the development of Porsche vehicles through exhibits and the 80-plus vehicles on display. Audio guides in English highlight themes, such as the "Porsche DNA" that lives on in every model since the first.
The most popular part of the museum, even for those with little interest in automobiles and racing, is the interactive 12-meter Porsche Touchwall, where you can use touch frames to browse through more than 3,000 drawings, photos, posters, and advertisements from the vast historical archive.
In the interactive Porsche in the Mix sound installation, unique in the world, you can play sounds of engines, horns, and brakes of various models throughout the years and mix them into an original music track. After composing your own piece of Porsche music, you can send it to yourself via email.
Porscheplatz 1, Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen
Official site: www.porsche.com/museum
5. Ludwigsburg Palace
North of Stuttgart, in the small city of Ludwigsburg, is the vast and lavishly decorated Ludwigsburg Palace, one of Germany's largest and loveliest Baroque palaces. In decorating his private apartments here, Duke Carl Eugen of Württemberg spared no expense, commissioning the great fresco painter Matthäus Günther to decorate the walls, and papering even dressing rooms with hand-painted wall coverings.
A highlight is the grand Marble Hall, with magnificent chandeliers and its ceiling fresco of clouds against blue giving the impression of open sky. The oldest preserved palace theater in Europe, a galleried confection built for the duke in 1757, still has its original stage machinery, with a collection of rare 18th- and 19th-century stage sets. The Theatre Museum shows some of the ingenious mechanisms for moving these and for creating the illusions of thunder, rain, and wind.
The neo-Classical Schloss Favorite is a smaller palace on the property, which you can tour. Ludwigsburg offers a number of things to see and do: in addition to touring the apartments and theater museum, there are magnificent gardens to explore, and the beautiful Baroque Marktplatz. In December, this is the scene of a Baroque Christmas Market, and in the autumn, the palace grounds host a popular Pumpkin Festival.
Address: Schlossstraße 30, Ludwigsburg
Official site: https://www.schloss-ludwigsburg.de/en
6. Altes Schloss and Landesmuseum
Overlooking one side of Schlossplatz is massive Altes Schloss or Old Castle. There is no trace of its 10th-century origins; the existing building with its beautiful courtyard surrounded with multiple arcades was built between 1553-78. The impressive structure now houses the Württemberg Landesmuseum, with its fascinating collections of medieval art, musical instruments, watches, and clocks, as well as the magnificent Württemberg royal crown and crown jewels.
Especially interesting are the archaeological collections, with rare artifacts tracing prehistoric inhabitants of the caves in the Swabian mountains, including the world's oldest human artworks. Later Celtic, Roman, and medieval pieces include rich grave finds of weapons and jewelry.
The modern glass collection is among the best in Europe, and a superb costume and textile collection focuses on 18th-century European decorative fabrics and textiles from the Art Nouveau period. In the south wing is the 16th-century palace church, with tombs of famous former residents and royalty.
Address: Schillerplatz 6, Stuttgart
7. Wilhelma Zoological and Botanic Garden
Today one of Germany's largest zoos, with more than two million annual visitors, Wilhelma Zoological and Botanic Garden was created as a private royal retreat for the Swabian King Wilhelm I. The buildings were constructed in the Neo-Moorish style, which was popular among European royalty in the mid-19th century, and set among gardens in a large, green park.
Among the many things that make this zoo and botanic garden so outstanding is the way the fanciful historic buildings have been repurposed as the setting for animals and plants – and how these two have been integrated. For example, the Moorish Villa is now home to a combined animal and plant house, and a pavilion that was once the king's vantage-point overlooking the Neckar River is now the Main Entrance.
The Belvedere Pavilion above the Sub Tropics Terraces and the Damascene Hall are still in use, as is the covered walkway lined with decorative terra cotta.
A state-of-the-art complex for African apes was added in 2013, especially to accommodate the needs of gorillas and bonobos, only two of the nearly 1,200 species represented here. Each of these, as well as the 8,500 plant varieties, is shown in a specific house or enclosure representing its native geography or environment.
These include the House for Animals of Prey, the Tropics House, the South America Enclosure, and the House for Tree Ferns. Although it's one of the most popular things to do in Stuttgart with children, this park and zoo is appealing to all ages.
Address: Wilhelma 13, Stuttgart
Official site: www.wilhelma.de/nc/en/home.html
8. Fernsehturm Stuttgart
The world's first television tower would be interesting enough, but the 217-meter-tall Fernsehturm Stuttgart has the added attraction of an observation deck and restaurant, with sweeping views that reach across the city and Neckar Valley into the Swabian countryside, as far as the Black Forest and the Odenwald.
The tower opened in 1956 and soon became a prototype for such structures as far away as Johannesburg and Wuhan, China. Stuttgart engineer Fritz Leonhardt proposed the innovative concrete construction, with the suggestion that it could become a tourist attraction, as well as a transmission tower, and it quickly became one of the city's most visited spots. To get here, take the U-7, U-8, or U-15 subway line or the #70 bus to the Ruhbank stop.
Another interesting tourist attraction on the edge of the city with far-reaching views is the Birkenkopf, a 511-meter-tall hill built after World War II entirely from the rubble of destroyed buildings. As remarkable as the views may be, it's a thought-provoking experience knowing you're standing on the detritus of a war-torn city while looking down on the new one that rose from its ashes.
Address: Jahnstraße 120, Stuttgart
Official site: https://www.fernsehturm-stuttgart.de/en/
Only about 17 kilometers (11 miles) east of Stuttgart, the town of Esslingen feels centuries away. Its position at the point where ancient trade routes crossed the Neckar River was strengthened by the building of two bridges early in the medieval era and grew into a major trading center, protected by a hilltop castle, whose ramparts and towers you can explore for lovely views of the old town and Neckar below.
Down in the Old Town, you'll feel as though you'd stumbled into the Middle Ages, walking along street after street lined with half-timbered buildings. More than 200 of these remain, dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Other highlights are the church of St. Dionys, with the unusual bridge between its tall towers, and the lovely red Town Hall with its glockenspiel, a clock where moving figures perform.
10. The Grabkapelle on Württemberg Hill
Perched high upon the Württemberg overlooking Stuttgart and the Neckar valley is the Grabkapelle, the burial chapel of Queen Katharina, erected by King Wilhelm I as a monument to his beloved wife after her premature death in 1819. Built between 1820 and 1824, this beautiful structure consists of a domed rotunda in Neoclassical style inspired by the Pantheon in Rome (it's also where Wilhelm himself is buried).
It is considered the most romantic spot in Stuttgart, in part because of its beautiful setting, but mainly because of Wilhelm's inscription above the entrance to the chapel, "Love never dies," in memory of his lost queen.
Address: Württembergstraße 340, Stuttgart
Official site: www.grabkapelle-rotenberg.de/en/
11. Schloss Solitude
Located on a scenic vantage point a few miles outside of Stuttgart's city center, Schloss Solitude (Solitude Palace) was built for Duke Karl Eugen in 1763 as a hunting lodge and summer residence. Designed in the late Rococo and early Neoclassical styles, the most sumptuously decorated rooms are in the central pavilion. Its highlight is the radiant Weisse Saal (White Hall) with its lovely domed roof, intricate decorative gold work, and frescoed ceiling.
Outside, you can stroll through the manicured grounds and along the Solitude Allee, a broad tree-lined avenue commissioned by Duke Carl Eugen, which extends for more than 13 kilometers between Solitude Palace and the Palace at Ludwigsburg.
Address: Solitude 1, Stuttgart
Official site: www.schloss-solitude.de/en/home/
12. Schillerplatz and Stiftskirche
Flanking the Old Palace is Schillerplatz, an old town square with a monument to Friedrich Schiller, poet, philosopher, historian, and dramatist – one of Germany's most famous cultural giants. The square is the site of a flower market on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, and in December joins the Schlossplatz and Marktplatz, on either side of Schillerplatz, as home to the Christmas Market.
One side of the square is formed by the Alte Kanzlei (Old Chancellery), and on the southwest side is the old Fruchtkasten (Granary) dating from 1390, and adjoining it, the choir of the Stiftskirche.
The two unmatched spires of the Stiftskirche, the Collegiate Church, tower above the small remnant of Stuttgart's Old Town. Founded in the 12th century on the site an older 10th-century church, Stiftskirche was rebuilt in Late Gothic style in the 15th century and reconstructed in 1958 after heavy damage in World War II. Highlights include a magnificent series of 16th-century Renaissance figures of the Counts of Württemberg, as well as its 17th-century burial vaults.
13. Christmas Market
Germany is known for its Christmas markets, and one of the largest and best is in Stuttgart, with more than 280 vendors set up in rustic log cabins filling Marktplatz and Schillerplatz and lining the streets and squares between them. Each cabin is decorated with evergreen boughs and twinkling lights, and their roofs are topped with elaborate holiday scenes and motifs – there's a lively competition for the prize as each year's best.
Vendors display an eye-boggling assortment of beautiful handmade gifts – wooden toys, pottery, intricate ceramic houses, embroidery, puppets, knitted mittens and socks, felted hats, and holiday decorations of all sorts. Food is everywhere: sizzling sausages, spicy cookies, marzipan, chocolate, and roasting chestnuts.
An entire side of Schlossplatz is devoted to children, with a carousel and a Ferris wheel with cars like giant Christmas tree balls. They can ride a miniature train through a doll-sized town, ice skate, or make their own Christmas presents and cookies at kids-only booths. Special events seem to be happening all the time – a colorfully costumed band marches by, and the old castle courtyard rings with a choral concert. The market opens in late November and continues through December 23.
14. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
The bold design of the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart's large glass cube stands in sharp contrast to the palaces and other buildings overlooking the Schlossplatz. But its glass exterior and white limestone interior walls are an appropriate home for an outstanding collection of contemporary and modern art.
The lean, clean lines; open spaces; and subtle indirect lighting of the exhibition galleries highlight the bold images and striking colors of Modernist works on display in its 5,000 square meters of exhibition space.
Highlights of the museum's extensive collection include some of the most important works by German artists Dieter Roth and Willi Baumeister, as well as the largest collection of important works by Otto Dix. His satirical paintings portray German high society during the post-World War I era, and interpretive signage identifies the actual subjects, who include celebrities of the 1920s. Special exhibits highlight particular movements and artists' groups, such as the Swabian Impressionists.
Address: Kleiner Schloßplatz 1, Stuttgart
Official site: www.kunstmuseum-stuttgart.de/index.php?site=&lang=en
15. Drive the Black Forest High Road
One of the most beautiful drives in Germany is along the 70-kilometer (44-mile) Schwarzwaldhochstrasse, Black Forest High Road. The route is well-named, for it climbs along the ridge of the Baden-Baden mountain range, ascending to more than 3,000 meters (over 9,800 feet) for spectacular views of the Black Forest valleys and over the Rhine valley and the Vosges mountains in France.
The High Road begins in Baden-Baden, a 1.25-hour drive from Stuttgart, and follows Rte. B500 south to Freudenstadt. Several highlights along the route invite stops. At the glacial Lake Mummelsee, you can follow the path around the lake or rent pedalos to explore it from the water.
A wilderness path on the Bühlerhöhe is a popular thing to do for hikers, and the Lothar Path is a fascinating look at how nature recovers from a devastating hurricane. In 1999 Hurricane "Lothar" felled 40,000 hectares (99,000 acres) of forests in Baden-Württemberg. The Lothar Trail takes visitors through the area on boardwalks, ladders, stairs, and bridges through and above the damaged woodlands, showing how the forests are regenerating without intervention.
All along the route are stopping points and restaurants serving traditional Black Forest dishes. You can return on the same road for a different perspective of the views, or you can choose a route through the eastern part of the Black Forest, through a series of charming half-timbered towns.
16. 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 offering visitors several things to do. Many of its structures date back to its opening and are still used for flower shows and events, but the most recent attraction is the unusual Killesberg Tower.
This 40-meter-tall cone-shaped observation tower is made of metal stairs that spiral upwards on steel cables. Its open-air construction can be a bit unnerving, as can the slight swaying feeling on the uppermost of the observation platforms.
For a closer-to-the-ground experience, tour the park on the narrow-gauge Killesberg railway; both diesel and steam locomotives pull cars through the grounds – departures are frequent, so you can wait for a steam run. If you are visiting Stuttgart in July, be sure to visit Lichterfest Stuttgart, a festival during which thousands of lanterns decorate the park.
17. Climb to Eugensplatz
It's a long climb up the Eugenstaffel, the broad flight of steps that begins beside the State Art Museum and leads to the lovely park and scenic overlooks of Eugensplatz. Or you can save the climb by taking bus #42 up Alexanderstrasse from Charlottenplatz. Below are wide walkways leading down through a hillside of greenery and across the center of a stair-stepped waterfall that splashes its way through the park.
At the top stands a statue of Galatea, a figure from Greek mythology, dating from 1890. The park is one of the locals' favorite places to visit in the summer for its cool breezes, its views of the city, and for the ice-cream shop Pinguin just across the street.
18. Schweinemuseum (Pig Museum)
Certainly one of the most unusual things to do in Stuttgart – or in any German city – is a visit to the Pig Museum. If there is any form of art that depicts a pig, you'll find it here, from finely worked sculptures and masterly pastoral paintings to china knick-knacks and a pink papier-mâché pig princess in a tulle tutu.
The more than 50,000 pigs from all over the world are displayed creatively and with a sense of humor, filling 29 themed rooms. An entire room is devoted to piggy banks, another to stuffed toys, and an attic-like room is devoted to larger pieces of fork art. Exhibits with signs in English and German explore everything from pig history and science to mythology.
The Guinness Book of World Records included it as "The Largest Pig Museum of the World" and after seeing it, you won't doubt it. The museum is a bit out of the center, but easy to reach on the U-9 tram or Bus #56.
Address: Schlachthofstraße 2, Stuttgart
19. 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.
This group of leading international architects, which included Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius, threw off the flowing decorative forms of the Art Nouveau movement and became leaders of the Modernists by embracing functional geometric building designs with little or no ornament.
The semi-detached housing units used new construction methods as well, with steel frames and prefabricated elements. Eleven of the project's 21 original buildings survive, and you can see and learn about them in exhibits at the Weissenhof Museum, located in one of Le Corbusier's buildings.
Address: Rathenaustrasse 1- 3, Stuttgart
Official site: www.stuttgart.de/weissenhof/index.php?p=menu&language=en
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 tourist 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:
- Kronen Hotel Stuttgart is a 10-minute walk from both the station and Schlossplatz and is known for its bountiful breakfast.
- Guest room 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.
- A short walk from the center, City Hotel Stuttgart is in a hillside neighborhood with restaurants and on a U-Bahn line.
- 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.
- 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.
- Motel One Stuttgart-Hauptbahnhof, in the pedestrianized business district, a block from the Hauptbahnhof and Schlossplatz, has small and plain but comfortable rooms.
- Novum Hotel Rieker Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof offers basic rooms in an excellent location close to the train station.
- In the city center, Novum Hotel Boulevard Stuttgart City is just behind the Rathaus and three blocks from the Old Palace and historic Schillerplatz.
More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com
Places to Visit near Stuttgart: Stuttgart sits at the northern edge of Baden-Württemberg's beautiful Black Forest region. Also at the edge of the Black Forest, in the Rhine River Valley, is the spa town of Baden-Baden.
Discovering More of Germany: A short train ride to the north of Stuttgart is historic Heidelberg, and the same train line continues north to Frankfurt. Our page on day trips from Frankfurt will give you lots of ideas for the best places to visit from here.