Playing tourist in Stuttgart

My day was brightened last week by an out of the blue email from an old friend; she was in town for six hours and wanted to see both Stuttgart and me. I don’t often play tourist in my own city and never with a time limit, so putting together a plan was necessary.

There is a lot on The German Way about Berlin, living in Berlin, what to do in Berlin, but less about life down here in the south. So I thought I’d share my plan for anyone wanting to start to explore Stuttgart, there is plenty more to see than just the city centre but on this day there wasn’t time for places like the Porsche Museum.

Stop One – Hauptbahnhof (main train station) – Our meeting point anyway since she had just got off a train. I waited with two coffees in hand, working out that we hadn’t seen each other for at least fifteen years and hoping that we still shared the same sense of humour. When she arrived also holding two coffees I knew we’d be fine. The Turm (tower) of the train station is an often overlooked free attraction, it houses a museum which shows the history and future of transport in Stuttgart and a stunning panoramic view of the city.

Opernhaus Stuttgart – Credit – Alie C

We were there purely for the view. The hills that surround the city always take me by surprise, the vineyards, expensive villas and the ever changing cranes of the ever present construction. All our sights for the day were spread out in front of us, the overview of the city is something I’d recommend to any tourist, on a nice day at least, since it is completely open to the elements up there. If you ever get lost in Stuttgart, look out for the huge Mercedes logo which rotates on top of the station.

Stop Two – Die Staatstheater (City Theatre) – Thoroughly caffeinated we and oriented we bypassed the famous shopping street Königstraße and instead walked through the Oberer Schlossgarten (upper palace/castle gardens), where the Staatstheater, Oper (opera) and ballet are located. Only the Opernhaus (opera house) made it through WWII largely unscathed and it sits proudly overlooking the Eckensee (a duck pond) and gardens.

Stop Three – Schillerplatz – For brunch at the Alte Kanzlei (The Old Chancellery), a glass of the local Kessler Sekt (sparkling wine) and the perfect spot for people watching. Writer Friedrich Schiller is one of Baden-Württemberg’s favourite sons and his memorial stands in the middle of the square, unsurprisingly. The whole square is steeped in history and houses a number of Denkmalschutz (protected historical buildings/momuments).

The Altes Schloss (old palace/castle) is part of the square and currently houses the Landesmuseum, the museum requires a good amount of time to do it justice, the archeological exhibits alone are stunning. Our schedule only allowed a look around the castle courtyard, which is free and open to all, before we had to move on.

Schlossplatz and Kunstmuseum (hiding behind the trees) – Credit – Alie C

Stop Four – Flohmarkt (fleamarket) – Under the shadow of the Altes Schloss and the watchful eye of Kaiser Wilhelm I. and his noble steed, Karlsplatz plays host to a fleamarket every Saturday and there are some absolute bargains to be had. Haggling was done, kitschy German souvenirs were bought and the sky didn’t start to darken until we were leaving and moving on to our next, thankfully indoor, sight.

Stop Five – Kunstmuseum Stuttgart (Stuttgart Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) – This glass cube building somehow seems to blend into central Stuttgart, in the daytime, like it was always there, maybe that’s down to the reflective nature of the glass, at night though, you can’t miss it. We skipped the art for drinks and long overdue chats at the bar on the top floor of the museum. An escape from the rain and a perfect view of the previously packed and now empty, Schlossplatz, where the grass is always covered in picnicking sun worshippers and Neues Schloss (New palace/castle), which now houses government offices.

Then we went a little out of the city centre, a request stop from someone who loves books just as much as me.

Stop Six – Stadtbibliothek (City Library) – If you’ve ever seen one of those lists of world’s greatest libraries, you’ve likely seen a picture of the inside of the Stuttgart city library. The interior never gets old, I can’t actually get any reading done in the central library, and it gets me every time. The trick is to go directly to the lift and straight up to the seventh floor, sometimes you have to wait a while but I promise it is worth the wait.

Officially opened in 2011 the design was not without its dissenters, from the outside in the daytime it does look stark and grey and a little like an oversized Rubik’s cube. But, by night blue light shines out from each of the cubes and makes the whole building look playful and inviting. At the core a small fountain pumps constantly as the buildings beating heart and the staircases snake up around an atrium four stories high. The rain even disappeared long enough for us to see some more impressive views from the roof.

And then we were back at the train station. As I waved off one happy visitor I reminded her that there is still plenty more to see, today only scratched the surface and she promised that she’ll be back, one day, to see some more.