In the South of Germany, Stuttgart has a lot to offer for any length of trip. Even for a day trip to Stuttgart, there are various things to do depending on what you like. Modern or historic museums, quirky collections or scenic viewpoints abound! To get you started on a few ideas, here are the best things to do in Stuttgart.
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When the sun is out, you literally see Stuttgart in the best light. It’s then that the soft rays gently illuminate the honey coloured castle walls and really make the green of the Schlossplatz („Castle square“) pop. Not surprisingly, this is the preferred space to meet and mingle among the residents of Stuttgart, which are locally referred to as Stuttgarter.
Quite practically, it is also the best spot to start your Stuttgart sightseeing tour, whether you DIY it or join a guided tour. I opted for the best of both worlds and got myself a Hop On Hop Off bus ticket (kindly sponsored by Stuttgart Tourism).
You can easily reach the „Schlossplatz“ via public transport, such as the metro system. Get up to the surface and find the bus stop area, which is located East of the square, next to the city museum.
The New Palace, called Neues Schloss, is one of the most iconic Stuttgart attractions. It used to be the residence of the Dukes and Kings of Wuerttemberg. Sadly, the glorious halls and rooms cannot be visited unless on special open days. Mostly, it’s used by the government.
Sadly, the palace was nearly destroyed during WWII bombings and it took years to finally start the restaurations. Only thanks to citizen protests this was made possible.
The Old Palace is right next to the New Palace by the Schiller Square. It originated in a 10th century water castle and nowadays, it’s a museum. Inside, there is a vast collection depicting local history.
Plus, there’s also a children’s museum called Junges Schloss. It’s free of charge and an interactive collection is being planned, which is why it is currently closed (August 2018).
If you are still wondering what to do in Stuttgart or really just want to chill and do nothing, just hang out at the Castle Square, Schlossplatz. It’s THE place to be, to meet and mingle, to soak up the sun, to listen to street musician or dance in the small pavilion and do some people watching.
There are quite a few of the best foodie spots and restaurants in Stuttgart around the area in case you get peckish and need a bite. Other than that, you can just do some shopping or visit the nearby museums.
There are a few beautiful castles to choose from. And one of the prettiest things to do in Stuttgart Germany and surrounding area is Palace Solitude (Schloss Solitude). In the 18th century it was built for Duke Carl Eugen’s move from Stuttgart to Ludwigsburg.
The fancy palace was too expensive, however, and the King moved away again. It temporarily became an elite boys school; among its pupils was famous playwright Friedrich Schiller. Throughout history, the palace also served as a hotel, a base hospital and student housing.
Wilhelma in Bad Cannstatt was the world’s first botanical garden. Originally a private garden for the king. It was built in the 19th century and modelled after the Moorish style from Granada. Hence, the name “Neckar Alhambra”. Its purpose was to be a residence and representation home for King Wilhelm I.
Nowadays, it includes 30 hectares of land with about 11.500 animals from across the world. There are around 300 carnivorous plants and an animal that is said to be extinct in the wild: the scimitar oryx. In 2019, they welcomed babies into the world, which gives hope for preserving this beautiful animal. More happy news: The snow leopards also had babies in April.
If you are into beautiful old cemeteries, you gotta have a look at the Honnepau Cemtery, which is the oldest in Stuttgart Mitte. It dates back to 1626, when it was created for the hospital. In 1880 it was officially close and in 1961, it received an update in time for the Federal Garden Show (which is a big deal in Germany).
Nowadays, it has beautifully carved tombstones underneath old trees and is inviting if you want to relax for a bit. Want to spot famous people’s graves? Look for the tombstones of poet Wilhelm Hauff, Gustav Schwab or sculptor Heinrich Dannecker.
Fans of modern architecture really must go see the Museum Weissenhof. Like Bauhaus, it was a milestone and really shaped a new way of creating and interacting with living space. Each house was designed by a different architect with different purposes on how to shape and maximally utilise the space and moving furniture.
They are of different height and set in a way to allow unobstructed views into the valleys. (Well, back then as now there are trees blocking the views, but the idea was nice.) Inside the double house that was designed by Le Corbusier and P. Jeanneret, you can really learn a lot about the times during its creation and why it wasn’t well received with Germans. (Hint: we are rather conservative.)
Are you a fan of pigs? Yes, no? Doesn’t matter, you gotta see this iconic Stuttgart sight for yourself. It hosts 50.000 exhibits from all corners of the world, all dedicated to the pig. In its 25 rooms you will learn what pigs represent in different cultures. You will see souvenirs and collectibles.
The permanent exhibition of the Pig Museum ranges from zoological insights over to folk legends and stories. After your visit, you can dine or grab a cold drink in the museum restaurant and beer garden.
Not just for car lovers, but the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart is one of the most iconic places to visit in Stuttgart. Not only does it look like it came straight out of the future, but it reveals the fascinating history of automobiles.
This car museum will take you back to the initial, humble beginnings of car history. Back then, it was unthinkable that machines could propel humans forward like that and it was majorly frowned upon.
You can learn all about the rocky start of Benz and Daimler, how they came up with incredible new designs, engines and built an empire at the museum. And yes, see various impressive cars as well.
Fast forward to today, and you get to see 160 different vehicles from various eras displayed in the shiny museum halls.
Cars, cars, even more cars! Another architecturally astounding museum space is the Porsche Museum. Inside the sleek grey building, you can see the greatest racing cars in history in all their glory.
There are permanent exhibitions as well as ever changing special exhibitions to really transport you into a world of shiny, fast cars.
Around the corner of the car museum, you can find the local arenas and practice grounds for football (soccer) clubs. And yes, you can go see a match yourself. Be warned, it gets crazy up here.
For one, there is the Mercedes-Benz Arena with 54,812 seats. It’s great for experiencing open air concerts here as well. That’s not it, though. There’s alos the VfB Stuttgart Arena and the Robert-Schlienz-Stadion. To see a volleyball match, you’ll need to get tickets for the Scharrena.
Train Station Tower
One of the best and most convenient viewing points over Stuttgart is the tower in the train station. It’s free to get up there and there’s a lift. Or stairs, if you need to squeeze in a leg workout. The tower was built in 1916 and it had a restaurant as well as a waiting room for the King himself.
Luckily, the tower survived WWII and Mercedes sponsored money to rebuild the train station in exchange for placing the new iconic star on top. Nowadays, the tower includes a bar, the Stuttgart 21 exhibition as well as a viewing level. The latter is free and open from 10 to 9pm in summer and until 6pm on most winter days.
The first TV tower in the world, there are quite a lot of fascinating facts about the Fernsehturm in Stuttgart to be told. For one, the creation already is straight out of a movie. The local radio/TV station was typing with the idea of creating a tower for better reception, which was abysmal back then.
TV sets were expensive as is and most people couldn’t afford them, so there no incentive to buy any if the reception wouldn’t be worth it. So plans were made but one citizen feared the beautiful forest hill views to be destroyed with a monstrosity. So he took it upon himself to come up with a sleek and not intrusive design, which he pitched and got approved.
It was utterly innovative: use of concrete, slim shape, restaurant on top, etc. Even the Queen of England came to visit to see it for herself. Not surprisingly, the design inspired a myriad of towers worldwide, such as the Skytree in Tokyo. While it’s no longer in use as a TV tower, you can still get up to the viewing platform and café.
The Stuttcard includes your visit but alternatively you can buy your entrance ticket online and then print it to gain access. Get it here.
Vinyards and hikes
No need to leave town for a day trip around Stuttgart’s surrounding. The area of Stuttgart is so large that it includes smaller communities and those offer beautiful vitas and hiking trails. Plus, it’s great if you rely on public transport and don’t have a car to travel far.
You can visit a fairy tale tower, walk past beautiful vinyards (and sample a red) and admire the city from around its hills. Of course you can just get off at a local train stop and start hiking but if you really want a local guide to show you the best places (and yummiest wines), try booking a guided tour.
It’s a great place to unleash your inner child. You can even book group activities and workshops to create an ultimate bonding experience at the active park.
The Bergheide used to be the location of a forest hostel run by the Catholic Church and the action park was created and is run by the local community now. It perfectly blends with the surrounding nature and can easily be reached.
Do you love to climb? How about forests? Try the forest climbing experience in Zuffenhausen. It’s perfect for trying a new thing out of your comfort zone. But of course, it’s perfectly safe and super fun! Not just for kids.
With your entry price of 21 Euro you get the security gear and 3.5 hours of climbing. The eight parcours are one metre above ground and include 80 climbing elements. There are different difficulty levels, ranging from one to four “Squirrels”.
To mix nature and city, take a short walk up the many steps of hill Karlshöhe. At the top are a few trails through a garden landscapes with a few statues and romantic sitting nooks underneath old shady trees.
The Karlshöhe hill close to the Marienplatz Square is perfect for some quiet time. There are various steps that lead up to it and they were built to help the wine growers get up to their vinyards, of which Stuttgart has had quite a few.
It’s perfect on a hot summer day as there also is a small beer garden with scenic views over the area down below. By the way, the hill has been a public park since the late 19th century and was part of the Federal Garden Show in 1961.
At the foot of the Karlshöhe hill, you can find the beautiful historic sculpture garden Lapidarium. It is part of the most important historic sights in Stuttgart and features over 200 elements of sculptiures and ruins of the city’s historic buildings.
The name derives from the Latin word lapis, which means “stone”. It also refers to excavations of stone creations, sculptures, sarcophagi, tombstones etc including a range of historical epochs, not just Old Roman times.
Included in your Stuttcard is a visit to the thermal bath and sauna Das Leuze. It’s easily reached and can be combined with a visit to Wilhelma afterwards as they are next to one another. The public pool sources local natural spring water filled with healthy minerals.
The source for the public bath are two healing springs with a high carbon dioxide concentration as well as a mineral spring. Besides the pools and saunas, you can find a waterfall, a stream channel
Close by the mineral bath Das Leuze, you can find the MineralBad Cannstatt. It’s a short walk away, over a bridge and through a park, so no need to use the public transport.
This bath offers different pools with different temperatures, ranging from refreshingly cool to cosy warm and there are pools inside and outside.
If you want, you can use the sauna as well and there is a small restaurant should you get peckish and need an extra dose of energy.
While drones aren’t generally allowed to be flown in cities, you might miss out on some seriously epic shots. There are great view points, such as the Train station tower, the TV Tower and the various hills.
But to really soak it all in, with all the central Stuttgart tourist attractions in one shot, a helicopter tour is the way to do it. Yes, you can charter your own private flight. Level up your Stuttgart sightseeing by reserving your spot in advance here. You have one hour and can totally personalise your flight route.
You can’t miss the Art Museum –both because it is a striking building opposite the Schlossplatz and because it’s very fascinating. The building itself looks like a giant glass cube and was opened in 2005. It features a range of international art from the 19th century to modern pieces.
What’s fascinating about this museum’s architecture is that it also utilizes a tunnel system as exhibition space. Besides the permanent collections, there are temporary exhibits as well, which are well worth checking out.
A palace, botanical gardens and a park, that’s what you get at Hohenheim Palace, one of the most stunning spots for sightseeing in Stuttgart. You can find it in the South of the city. It’s perfect for a quiet afternoon.
The building is another one of Duke Carl Eugen’s pet projects, albeit his last one. Formerly a country estate, he expanded the building and premises, making it into the impressive estate it is today. Sadly he never saw it completed and his successor didn’t like it enough to bother keeping it up. Luckily, the Hohenheim University is now taking good care of it.
Still wondering what to see in Stuttgart, shopping-wise? Your main focal point should be the area around Schlossplatz. There are shopping alleys and stores abound. And then there’s the Königsbau shopping mall.
From outside, it looks like an impressive neo classical building with big pillars and wide stairs. When you get out of the underground station, you will be right out front.
You will most likely not be able to tell standing outside, but the historic building has received a modern upgrade to allow for even more levels, giving it 45000 square metres of retail and café space.
Foodies will want to repeatedly visit the Market Hall in the heart of Stuttgart. Experience a regional Farmers Market with some nice restaurants around. It’s open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The market dates back to 1304 and has quite the history. It used to be the city centre, then a place for public executions and trials.
Stuttgart has a lot of events for nightly entertainment. You can visit the theatre, attend a concert, watch a movie (also outdoors, such as at the Mercedes-Benz Museum) or see a musical. At the moment, two amazing ones are playing and I’ve seen them both in other cities and can totally recommend them.
As always, you have to book your tickets as soon as you know your available dates to not find they’ve sold out. Snatch your tickets for Anastasia and Aladdin asap. Please be aware that the musical performance is in German but you already know the story and main songs anyway.
Are live shows your thing? Attend a theatre performance at the grand theatre in Stuttgart. You could see classic operas, like La Traviata, or ballet performances, for instance.
It’s best to prebook your tickets in advance (you can do that online) to avoid limited box office opening hours in summer. Or to be able to get your hands on a ticket of particularly popular shows.
For Stuttgart things to do, it might not the most obvious one (if you’re not a foodie) but the local cuisine is worth a try! The typical cuisine is rather heavy and filling but yummy nonetheless. It’s not vegan, but if you’re for a vegetarian option, try Spätzle (pasta-like dish) or vegetable Maultauschen (filled pasta squares in soup).
Wine lovers need to give a guided tour around the vinyards a try. You don’t even need to go far. The district of Bad Cannstatt already has a lot to offer the foodie. Reserve your spot in a culinary excursion to get to try a classic Hefezopf (braided bread similar to a pretzel) and Maultaschen served with a side of local anecdotes.
Stuttgart State Gallery
Another art museum in Stuttgart is the State Gallery. It showcases paintings from the Middle Ages, 19th century sculptures and prints. There are two museum buildings that belong to the museum, the New State Gallery from 1984 and the Old State Gallery from 1843.
Temporary exhibitions often include newer works. For instance, right now you can take a look at that infamous half shredded Bansky print of “Love is in the bin”.
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