Fodor's Germany - Fodor's (2016)
Heidelberg and the Neckar Valley
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Updated by Evelyn Kanter
Heidelberg remains one of the best-known and most visited cities in Germany, identifiable by its graceful baroque towers and the majestic ruins of its red-sandstone castle. From this grand city, the narrow and quiet Neckar Valley makes its way east, then turns to the south, taking you past villages filled with half-timber houses and often guarded by their own castle—sometimes in ruins but often revived as a museum or hotel. This part of Germany is aptly named the Burgenstrasse (Castle Road).
The valley widens into one of the most industrious areas of Germany, with Stuttgart at its center. In this wealthy city, world-class art museums like the Staatsgalerie or the Kunstmuseum in the center of town contrast with the new and striking Mercedes and Porsche museums in the suburbs, adjoining their sprawling manufacturing facilities.
A bit farther south, the rolling Swabian Hills cradle the university town of Tübingen, a center of learning in a beautiful historic setting on the banks of the Neckar River. Overlooking the town is—of course—a mighty castle.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Heidelberg Castle: The architectural highlight of the region’s most beautiful castle is the Renaissance courtyard—harmonious, graceful, and ornate.
Heidelberg’s Alte Brücke: Walk under the twin towers that were part of medieval Heidelberg’s fortifications, and look back for a picture-postcard view of the city and the castle.
Burg Hornberg: With its oldest parts dating from the 12th century, this is one of the best of more than a dozen castles between Heidelberg and Stuttgart.
Stuttgart’s museums: Top art collections in the Staatsgalerie and the Kunstmuseum contrast with the Mercedes and Porsche museums, where the history of the automoble is illustrated by historic classic cars and sleek racing cars.
Tübingen Altstadt: With its half-timber houses, winding alleyways, and hilltop setting overlooking the Neckar, Tübingen is the quintessential small-town German experience.
Although not as well known as the Rhine, the Neckar River has a wonderful charm of its own. After Heidelberg, it winds through a small valley guarded by castles. It then flows on, bordered by vineyards on its northern slopes, passing the interesting and industrious city of Stuttgart, before it climbs toward the Swabian Hills. You follow the Neckar until the old half-timber university town of Tübingen. The river continues toward the eastern slopes of the Black Forest, where it originates less than 80 km (50 miles) from the source of the Danube.
Heidelberg. The natural beauty of Heidelberg is created by the embrace of mountains, forests, vineyards, and the Neckar River, all crowned by the famous ruined castle. The Neckar and the Rhine meet at nearby Mannheim, the biggest train hub for the superfast ICE (InterCity Express) trains of Germany, a major industrial center, and the second-largest river port in Europe.
The Burgenstrasse (Castle Road). If you or your kids like castles, this is the place to go. The crowded Heidelberg Castle is a must-see, but the real fun starts when you venture up the Neckar River. There seems to be a castle on every hilltop in the valley, including Burg Hohenzollern, home to the most powerful family in German history.
Swabian Cities. Stuttgart, the state capital, has elegant streets, shops, hotels, and museums, as well as some of Germany’s top industries, among them Mercedes, Porsche, and Bosch. Ludwigsburg, with its huge baroque castles and baroque flower gardens, is worth a visit. The most charmingly “Swabian” of all these cities is the old half-timber university town of Tübingen.
WHEN TO GO
If you plan to visit Heidelberg in summer, make reservations well in advance and expect to pay top rates. To get away from the crowds, consider staying out of town and driving or taking the bus or train into the city. Hotels and restaurants are much cheaper just a little upriver. A visit in late fall, when the vines turn a faded gold, or early spring, with the first green shoots of the year, can be captivating. In the depths of winter, river mists creep through the narrow streets of Heidelberg’s Old Town and awaken the ghosts of a romantic past.
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
From the Frankfurt and Stuttgart airports, there’s fast and easy access, by car and train, to all major centers along the Neckar.
From Frankfurt Airport to Heidelberg, hop aboard the Lufthansa Airport Bus, which takes about an hour and is not restricted to Lufthansa passengers. Buses depart every 90 minutes from the charter bus lane at Arrivals Hall B of Terminal 1. Airport-bound buses leave the Crowne Plaza Heidelberg between 5:30 am and 8 pm. One-way tickets are €25 per person. With advance reservations you can also get to downtown Heidelberg via the shuttle service TLS. The trip costs €35 per person. Vans leave hourly, 8 am to 6 pm weekdays and 8 am to 1 pm on Saturdays.
Lufthansa Airport Bus. | 06152/976-9099 | www.transcontinental-group.com/en/frankfurt-airport-shuttles.
TLS. | 06221/770-077 | www.tls-heidelberg.de.
Heidelberg is a 15-minute drive (10 km [6 miles]) on A-656 from Mannheim, a major junction of the autobahn system. The Burgenstrasse (Route B-37) follows the north bank of the Neckar River from Heidelberg to Mosbach, from which it continues south to Heilbronn as B-27, the road parallel to and predating the autobahn (A-81). B-27 still leads to Stuttgart and Tübingen.
Heidelberg is 17 minutes from Mannheim, by S-bahn regional train, or 11 minutes on hourly InterCity Express (ICE) trains. These sleek, super-high-speed trains reach 280 kph (174 mph), so travel time between Frankfurt Airport and Mannheim is a half hour. From Heidelberg to Stuttgart, direct InterCity (IC) trains take 40 minutes. Local services link many of the smaller towns.
Mittagessen (lunch) in this region is generally served from noon until 2 or 2:30, Abendessen (dinner) from 6 until 9:30 or 10. Durchgehend warme Küche means that hot meals are also served between lunch and dinner. While credit cards are widely accepted, many small family-owned restaurants, cafés, and pubs will accept only cash or debit cards issued by a German bank. Casual attire is typically acceptable at restaurants here, and reservations are generally not needed.
This area is full of castle-hotels and charming country inns that range in comfort from upscale rustic to luxurious. For a riverside view, ask for a Zimmer (room) or Tisch (table) mit Neckarblick (with a view of the Neckar). The Neckar Valley offers idyllic alternatives to the cost and crowds of Heidelberg. Driving or riding the train from Neckargemünd, for example, takes 20 minutes.
PLANNING YOUR TIME
To fully appreciate Heidelberg, try to be up and about before the tour buses arrive. After the day-trippers have gone and many shops have closed, the good restaurants and the nightspots open up. Visit the castles on the Burgenstrasse at your leisure, perhaps even staying overnight. Leaving the valley toward the south, you’ll drive into wine country. Even if you are not a car enthusiast, the museums of Mercedes and Porsche in Stuttgart are well worth a visit. Try to get to Tübingen during the week to avoid the crowds of Swabians coming in for their Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake). During the week, try to get a room and spend a leisurely evening in this charming half-timber university town.
Die Burgenstrasse. | Allee 28 | Heilbronn | 07131/564-028 | www.burgenstrasse.de.
State Tourist Board Baden-Württemberg. | Esslingerstr. 8 | Stuttgart | 0711/238-580 | www.tourismus-bw.de.
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57 km (35 miles) northeast of Karlsruhe.
If any city in Germany encapsulates the spirit of the country, it is Heidelberg. Scores of poets and composers—virtually the entire 19th-century German Romantic movement—have sung its praises. Goethe and Mark Twain both fell in love here: the German writer with a beautiful young woman, the American author with the city itself. Sigmund Romberg set his operetta The Student Prince in the city; Carl Maria von Weber wrote his lushly Romantic opera Der Freischütz here. Composer Robert Schumann was a student at the university. The campaign these artists waged on behalf of the town has been astoundingly successful. Heidelberg’s fame is out of all proportion to its size (population 140,000); more than 3½ million visitors crowd its streets every year.
Heidelberg was the political center of the Lower Palatinate. At the end of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), the elector Carl Ludwig married his daughter to the brother of Louis XIV in the hope of bringing peace to the Rhineland. But when the elector’s son died without an heir, Louis XIV used the marriage alliance as an excuse to claim Heidelberg, and in 1689 the town was sacked and laid to waste. Four years later he sacked the town again. From its ashes arose what you see today: a baroque town built on Gothic foundations, with narrow, twisting streets and alleyways.
Above all, Heidelberg is a university town, with students making up some 20% of its population. And a youthful spirit is felt in the lively restaurants and pubs of the Altstadt (Old Town). In 1930 the university was expanded, and its buildings now dot the entire landscape of Heidelberg and neighboring suburbs. Modern Heidelberg changed as U.S. Army barracks and industrial development stretched into the suburbs, but the old heart of the city remains intact, exuding the spirit of romantic Germany.
Getting Here and Around
Heidelberg is 15 minutes from Mannheim, where four ICE trains and five autobahn routes meet. Everything in town may be reached on foot, but wear sturdy, comfortable shoes, since much of the Old City is uneven cobblestones. A funicular takes you up to the castle and Heidelberg’s Königstuhl Mountain, and a streetcar runs from the city center to the main train station. From April through October there are daily walking tours of Heidelberg in German (Friday and Saturday also in English) at 10:30 am; from November through March, tours are in German only, Friday at 2:30 and Saturday at 10:30; the cost is €7. They depart from the main entrance to the Rathaus (Town Hall). Bilingual bus tours run April through October on Thursday and Friday at 1:30 and on Saturday at 1:30 and 3. From November through March, bus tours are on Saturday at 1:30. They cost €17 and depart from Universitätsplatz.
Discounts and Deals
The two-day HeidelbergCARD, which costs €14.50 per person or €31.50 for a family of up to five people, includes free or reduced admission to most tourist attractions as well as free use of all public transportation—including the Bergbahn (funicular) to the castle—and other extras such as free entrance to the castle courtyard, free guided walking tours, discounts on bus tours, and a city guidebook. It can be purchased at the tourist-information office at the main train station or the Rathaus, and at many local hotels.
Walking the length of Heidelberg’s Hauptstrasse (main street) will take an hour—longer if you are easily sidetracked by the shopping opportunities. Strolling through the Old Town and across the bridge to look at the castle will add at least another half hour, not counting the time you spend visiting the sites.
Heidelberg Tourist Information. | Tourist-Information im Rathaus, Marktpl. | 06221/58444 | www.heidelberg-marketing.de.
Heidelberg Tourist Information. | Willy-Brandt-Pl. 1 | 06221/19433 | www.heidelberg-marketing.de.
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Alte Brücke (Old Bridge).
Framed by two Spitzhelm towers (so called for their resemblance to old German helmets), this bridge was part of Heidelberg’s medieval fortifications. In the west tower are three dank dungeons that once held common criminals. Above the portcullis you’ll see a memorial plaque that pays warm tribute to the Austrian forces that helped Heidelberg beat back a French attempt to capture the bridge in 1799. The bridge itself is one of many to be built on this spot; ice floes and floods destroyed its predecessors. The elector Carl Theodor, who built it in 1786-88, must have been confident this one would last: he had a statue of himself erected on it, upon a plinth decorated with river gods and goddesses (symbolic of the Neckar, Rhine, Danube, and Mosel rivers). As you enter the bridge from the Old Town, you’ll also notice a statue of an animal that appears somewhat catlike. It’s actually a monkey holding a mirror. Legend has it the statue was erected to symbolize the need for both city-dwellers and those who lived on the other side of the bridge to take a look over their shoulders as they crossed—reminding them that neither group was more elite than the other. The pedestrian-only bridge is at the end of Steingasse, not far from the Marktplatz. | End of Steing.
Alte Universität (Old University).
The three-story baroque structure was built between 1712 and 1735 at the behest of the elector Johann Wilhelm, although Heidelberg’s Ruprecht Karl University was originally founded in 1386. Today it houses the University Museum, with exhibits that chronicle the history of Germany’s oldest university. The present-day Universitätsplatz (University Square) was built over the remains of an Augustinian monastery that was destroyed by the French in 1693. | Grabeng. 1-3 | 06221/542-152 | €3 | Apr.-Sept., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-4, Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sat. 10-4.
Friedrich-Ebert-Gedenkstätte (Friedrich Ebert Memorial).
The humble rooms of a tiny backstreet apartment were the birthplace of Friedrich Ebert, Germany’s first democratically elected president (in 1919) and leader of the ill-fated Weimar Republic. The display tells the story of the tailor’s son who took charge of a nation accustomed to being ruled by a kaiser. | Pfaffeng. 18 | 06221/91070 | www.ebert-gedenkstaette.de | Free | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 (to 8 Thurs.).
Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Ghost).
The foundation stone of this Gothic church was laid in 1398, but it was not actually finished until 1544. The gargoyles looking down on the south side (where Hauptstrasse crosses Marktplatz) are remarkable for their sheer ugliness. The church fell victim to plundering by the Catholic League during the Thirty Years’ War, when the church’s greatest treasure—the Bibliotheca Palatina, at the time the largest library in Germany—was loaded onto 500 carts and trundled off to the Vatican. Few volumes found their way back. At the end of the 17th century, French troops plundered the church again, destroying the tombs; only the 15th-century tomb of Elector Ruprecht III and his wife, Elisabeth von Hohenzollern, remain. Today, the huge church is shared by Heidelberg’s Protestant and Catholic populations. | Marktpl. | 06221/21117 | Late Mar.-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 11-5, Sun. 12:30-5; Nov.-mid-Mar., Fri. and Sat. 11-3, Sun. 12:30-3.
Königstuhl (King’s Throne).
The second-highest hill in the Odenwald range—1,800 feet above Heidelberg—is only a hop, skip, and funicular ride from Heidelberg. On a clear day you can see as far as the Black Forest to the south and west to the Vosges Mountains of France. The hill is at the center of a close-knit network of hiking trails. Well-marked trail signs from the top lead hikers through the woods of the Odenwald. | Heidelberg.
Fodor’s Choice | Königstuhl Bergbahn (funicular).
Hoisting visitors to the summit of the Königstuhl in 17 minutes, the funicular stops on the way at the ruined Heidelberg Schloss and Molkenkur. A modern funicular usually leaves every 10 minutes, and a historical train comes every 20 minutes. | Kornmarkt | www.bergbahn-heidelberg.de | Königstuhl €12 (round-trip), Schloss €6.50 (round-trip; additional charge to visit Schloss) | Mid-Apr.-mid-Oct., daily 9-8:25; mid-Oct.-mid-Apr., daily 9-5:45.
Kurpfälzisches Museum (Palatinate Museum).
This baroque palace was built as a residence for a university professor in 1712, and since turned into an art and archeology museum with two standout exhibits worth the visit. One is a replica of the jaw of Heidelberg Man, a key link in the evolutionary chain thought to date from a half-million years ago (the original was unearthed near the city in 1907). The larger attraction is the Windsheimer Zwölfbotenaltar (Twelve Apostles Altarpiece), one of the largest and finest works of early Renaissance sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider. Its exquisite detailing and technical sophistication are evident in the simple faith that radiates from the faces of the Apostles. The top floor of the museum showcases 19th-century German paintings and drawings, many depicting Heidelberg. The restaurant in the museum’s quiet courtyard is a good place for a break. | Hauptstr. 97 | 06221/583-4020 | www.museum-heidelberg.de | €3 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Marktplatz (Market Square).
Heidelberg’s main square, with the Rathaus (Town Hall) on one side and the Heiliggeistkirche on the other, has been its focal point since the Middle Ages. Public courts of justice were held here in earlier centuries, and people accused of witchcraft and heresy were burned at the stake. The baroque fountain in the middle, the Herkulesbrunnen (Hercules Fountain), is the work of 18th-century artist H. Charrasky. Until 1740 a rotating, hanging cage stood next to it. For minor crimes, people were imprisoned in it and exposed to the abuse of their fellow citizens. Today the Marktplatz hosts outdoor markets every Wednesday and Saturday. | Heidelberg.
The next stop after the castle on the Königstuhl funicular, Molkenkur was the site of Heidelberg’s second castle. Lightning struck it in 1537, and it was never rebuilt. Today it’s occupied by a small restaurant—which bears the creative name Molkenkur Restaurant—with magnificent views of the Odenwald and the Rhine plain. | Off Klingenteichstr., Molkenkurweg.
Philosophenweg (Philosophers’ Path).
You can reach this trail high above the river in one of two ways—either from Neuenheim or by taking the Schlangenweg (Snake Path). Both are steep climbs, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the Old Town and castle. From Neuenheim, turn right after crossing the bridge and follow signs to the walking path. | Heidelberg.
Rathaus (Town Hall).
Work began on the town hall in 1701, a few years after the French destroyed the city. The massive coat of arms above the balcony is the work of Heinrich Charrasky, who also created the statue of Hercules atop the fountain in the middle of the square. | Marktpl.
Schlangenweg (Snake Path).
This walkway starts just above the Alte Brücke opposite the Old Town and cuts steeply through terraced vineyards until it reaches the woods, where it crosses the Philosophenweg (Philosophers’ Path). | Off Ziegelhäuser Landstr.
Fodor’s Choice | Schloss Heidelberg (Castle).
What’s most striking is the architectural variety of this great complex. The oldest parts still standing date from the 15th century, though most of the castle was built during the Renaissance in the baroque styles of the 16th and 17th centuries, when the castle was the seat of the Palatinate electors. There’s an “English wing,” built in 1612 by the elector Friedrich V for his teenage Scottish bride, Elizabeth Stuart; its plain, square-window facade is positively foreign compared to the castle’s more opulent styles. (The enamored Friedrich also had a charming garden laid out for his young bride; its imposing arched entryway, the Elisabethentor, was put up overnight as a surprise for her 19th birthday.) The architectural highlight remains the Renaissance courtyard—harmonious, graceful, and ornate.
Even if you have to wait, make a point of seeing the Grosses Fass (Great Cask) in the cellar, possibly the world’s largest wine barrel, made from 130 oak trees and capable of holding 58,500 gallons. It was used to hold wines paid as taxes by wine growers in the Palatinate. In summer there are fireworks displays, on the first Saturday in June and September and the second Saturday in July, to commemorate when the castle went up in flames in 1689, 1693, and 1764. In July and August the castle hosts a theater festival. Performances of The Student Prince often figure prominently. Take the Königstuhl Bergbahn, or funicular (€6.50 round-trip), faster and less tiring than hiking to the castle on the Burgweg. Audio guides are available in seven languages. | Schlosshof | 06221/538-431 | www.heidelberg-schloss.de | €6 (funicular round-trip an additional €6.50); audio guide €4 | Daily 8-6; tours in English daily 11:15-3:15, when demand is sufficient.
This museum, on the lower floor of the Ottheinrichsbau (Otto Heinrich Building), is filled with ancient flagons and receptacles (each with a carefully painted enamel label), beautifully made scales, little drawers, shelves, dried beetles and toads, and marvelous reconstructions of six apothecary shops from the 17th through the 20th century. The museum also offers young visitors the chance to smell various herbs and mix their own teas. | Heidelberg | 06221/25880 | www.deutsches-apotheken-museum.de | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., daily 10-5:30.
Deutsches Verpackungs-Museum (German Packaging Museum).
A former church was innovatively converted to house this fascinating documentation of packaging and package design of brand-name products. Representing the years 1800 to the present, historic logos and slogans are a trip down memory lane. The entrance is in a courtyard reached via an alley. | Hauptstr. 22 | 06221/21361 | www.verpackungsmuseum.de | €5 | Weekdays 1-6, weekends and public holidays 11-6.
Kornmarkt (Grain Market).
A baroque statue of the Virgin Mary is in the center of this old Heidelberg square, which has a view of the castle ruins. | Heidelberg.
Neue Universität (New University).
The plain building on the south side of Universitätsplatz was erected between 1930 and 1932 through funds raised by the U.S. ambassador to Germany, J. G. Schurman, who had been a student at the university. The only decoration on the building’s three wings is a statue of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, above the entrance. The inner courtyard contains a medieval tower from 1380, the Hexenturm (Witches’ Tower). Suspected witches were locked up there in the Middle Ages. It later became a memorial to former students killed in World War I. | Grabeng.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Neuenheim.
To escape the crowds of central Heidelberg, walk across the Theodor Heuss Bridge to the suburb of Neuenheim. At the turn of the 20th century this old fishing village developed into a residential area full of posh art nouveau villas. North of the Brückenkopf (bridgehead) you’ll find antiques and designer shops and boutiques, and cafés on Brückenstrasse, Bergstrasse (one block east), and on Ladenburger Strasse (parallel to the river). To savor the neighborhood spirit, visit the charming farmers’ market on Wednesday or Saturday morning at the corner of Ladenburger and Luther streets. | Heidelberg.
Peterskirche (St. Peter’s Church).
Many famous Heidelberg citizens’ tombstones, some more than 500 years old, line the outer walls of the city’s oldest parish church, dating from the 1300s. While still used for ecumenical services, it is now primarily an event space for concerts and exhibitions. | Plöck 70 | www.peterskirche-heidelberg.de | Weekdays 11-5, weekends 11-4.
Studentenkarzer (Student Prison).
Between 1778 and 1914, university officials used this as a lock-up for students, mostly incarcerated for minor offenses. They could be held for up to 14 days and were left to subsist on bread and water for the first three days; thereafter, they were allowed to attend lectures, receive guests, and have food brought in from the outside. There’s bravado, even poetic flair, to be deciphered from two centuries of graffiti that cover the walls and ceilings of the narrow cells. | Augustinerg. 2 | 06221/543-554 | €2.50; discounted with HeidelbergCARD | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-6; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sat. 10-4.
The site of the former Heidelberg Synagogue, built in 1877 and burned down in 1938, is now a memorial to the local Jewish population lost in World War II, their names listed on a bronze plaque on an adjoining building. On this residential corner, 12 stone blocks represent the synagogue’s pews and the 12 tribes of Israel. | Corner of Lauerstr. and Grosse Mantelg. | www.tourism-heidelberg.com.
Universitätsbibliothek (University Library).
The 3½ million volumes in this Gothic redbrick building include the 14th-century Manesse Codex, a unique collection of medieval songs and poetry once performed in the courts of Germany by the Minnesänger (troubadors). The original is too fragile to be exhibited, so a copy is on display. | Plöck 107-109 | 06221/542-380 | www.ub.uni-heidelberg.de | Free | Daily 10-6.
What to Eat in the Neckar Valley
Fish and Wild (game) from the streams and woods lining the Neckar Valley, as well as seasonal favorites—Spargel (asparagus), Pilze (mushrooms), Morcheln (morels), Pfifferlinge (chanterelles), and Steinpilze (porcini)—are regulars on menus. Pfälzer specialties are also common, but the penchant for potatoes yields to Knödel (dumplings) and pasta farther south. The latter includes the Swabian and Baden staples Maultaschen (“pockets” of pasta stuffed with meat or spinach) and Spätzle (roundish egg noodles), as well as Schupfnudeln (finger-size noodles of potato dough), also called Buwespitzle. Look for Linsen (lentils) and sauerkraut in soups or as sides. Schwäbischer Rostbraten (beefsteak topped with fried onions) and Schäufele (pickled and slightly smoked pork shoulder) are popular meat dishes, along with a variety of Würste.
Considerable quantities of red wine are produced along the Neckar Valley. Crisp, light Trollinger is often served in the traditional Viertele, a round, quarter-liter (8-ounce) glass with a handle. Deeper-color, more substantial reds include Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) and its mutation Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier), Lemberger, and Dornfelder. Riesling, Kerner, and Müller-Thurgau (synonymous with Rivaner), as well as Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), are the typical white wines. A birch broom or wreath over the doorway of a vintner’s home signifies a Besenwirtschaft (“broomstick inn”), a rustic pub where you can enjoy wines with snacks and simple fare. Many vintners offer economical B&Bs. These places are ideal spots to try out your newly learned German phrases; you’ll be surprised how well you speak German after the third glass of German wine.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | CAFÉ | Heidelberg’s oldest (1863) coffeehouse has always been a popular meeting place for students and professors, and offers traditional Swabian food, pastries, and ambience. A historic change is that the café no longer produces café founder Fridolin Knösel’s Heidelberger Studentenkuss. This iconic “student kiss” is a chocolate wrapped in paper showing two sets of touching lips—an acceptable way for 19th-century students to “exchange kisses” in public. They are now being sold exclusively in Knösel Chocolatier, a small, charming shop, owned by the Knösel family, just down the street. | Average main: €10 | Haspelg. 20 | 06221/727-2754 | www.cafek-hd.de.
$$$$ | GERMAN | Elegant, romantic, and expensive, this baroque dining room inside the famous Heidelberg castle specializes in Ente von Heidelberg (roast duck), but there’s always something new on the seasonal menu. Whatever you order, pair it with a bottle from the extensive selection of international wines. Less pricey is the adjacent Bistro Backhaus, which has rustic furnishings and a nearly 50-foot-high Backkamin (baking oven). Light fare as well as coffee and cake are served indoors and on the shaded terrace. You can sample rare wines (Eiswein, Beerenauslese) by the glass in the shared wine cellar, or pick up a bottle with a designer label depicting Heidelberg. Reservations are essential for terrace seating in summer. | Average main: €75 | Schlosshof, on castle grounds | 06221/872-7010 | www.heidelberger-schloss-gastronomie.de | Closed late Dec.-Jan. and Wed. No lunch | Reservations essential | Jacket required.
Fodor’s Choice | Schnitzelbank.
$ | GERMAN | Little more than a hole in the wall, this former cooper’s (barrel maker’s) workshop has been transformed into a candlelighted pub. No matter when you go, it seems to be filled with people seated around the wooden tables. The menu features specialties from Baden and the Pfalz, such as Schäufele (pickled and slightly smoked pork shoulder); or a hearty platter of bratwurst, Leberknödel (liver dumplings), and slices of Saumagen (a spicy meat-and-potato mixture encased in a sow’s stomach). | Average main: €12 | Bauamtsg. 7 | 06221/21189 | www.schnitzelbank-heidelberg.de | No lunch weekdays.
$ | GERMAN | This lively old tavern dates from 1703 and is inextricably linked with Heidelberg’s history and university. Young and old alike crowd around the wooden tables in the wood-panel room, decorated with historic photos and maps, and piano music adds to the din Wednesday through Saturday nights. From salads and pasta to hearty roasts and steaks, there’s a broad selection of food, and beer is served from 7:30 am until closing. Upstairs are modern, pleasantly furnished guest rooms. | Average main: €14 | Haspelg. 8 | 06221/138-080.
$$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | Saddle of lamb and sautéed liver in honey-pepper sauce are specialties here, as are seasonal preparations with asparagus and mushrooms. The menu changes every six weeks. The Dessertteller, a sweet sampler, is a crowning finish to any meal. The wine list focuses on old-world estates, particularly clarets. The elegant art nouveau interior is done in shades of red with dark-wood accents, and a quiet courtyard offers alfresco dining in summer. | Average main: €25 | Ingrimstr. 16 | 06221/673-2588 | www.restaurant-simplicissimus.de | Closed Sun. No lunch.
$ | ITALIAN | Traditional Italian fare is on offer here, including antipasti platters, pasta dishes, pizzas, and special daily offerings, all served in generous portions. The restaurant is in a central location in the main square, and in warm weather you can opt for a table outside on the cobblestones—perfect for people-watching with your meal. | Average main: €12 | Marktpl. 1 | 06221/28619.
Fodor’s Choice | Zum Roten Ochsen.
$$ | GERMAN | Many of the rough-hewn oak tables here have initials carved into them, a legacy of the thousands who have visited Heidelberg’s most famous old tavern. Mark Twain, Marilyn Monroe, and John Wayne may have left their mark—they all ate here, and Twain’s photo is on one of the memorabilia-covered walls. Wash down simple fare, such as goulash soup and bratwurst, or heartier dishes like Tellerfleisch (boiled beef) or Swabian Maultaschen (meat-filled ravioli) with regional German wines or local Heidelberg beer. The “Red Ox” has been run by the same family for more than 170 years. Come early to get a good seat, and stay late for the piano player and Gemütlichkeit (easygoing friendliness). | Average main: €15 | Hauptstr. 217 | 06221/20977 | www.roterochsen.de | Closed Sun. and mid-Dec.-mid-Jan. No lunch Nov.-Mar.
Zum Weissen Schwanen.
$$ | GERMAN | Founded in 1398 and in this location on Heidelberg’s Hauptstrasse (main street) since 1778—so you know they are doing something right—the White Swan specializes in regional fare. The menu includes several versions of Maultaschen (traditional Swabian ravioli) and local mushrooms and asparagus are featured in season. Unlike most German restaurants and pubs, which serve one local brew, there are a dozen on tap here; the most popular are Klosterhof and Heidelberger. | Average main: €15 | Hauptstr. 143 | 06221/659-692 | zumweissenschwanen.de | No credit cards.
$$$ | EUROPEAN | A 17th-century grain mill has been transformed into this romantic restaurant in the heart of Altstadt (Old Town). The old beams add to the warm atmosphere. In summer, try to arrive early to get a table in the idyllic courtyard. Fish, lamb, and homemade pasta are specialties. Or, opt for the three-course or four-course prix-fixe menu. | Average main: €21 | Near Karlstor, Hauptstr. 239 | 06221/602-909 | www.herrenmuehle-heidelberg.de | Closed Mon. No lunch.
WHERE TO STAY
$$ | HOTEL | This sleek and trendy hotel in the “new” part of Heidelberg is built into one side of the Alten Hallenbad, the covered former city pool that is now a popular upscale international food court. Rooms are decorated in neutral tones, floors are bare hardwood, and the hallways are stark white. Rooms on the top floors have small terraces, and one suite has its own sauna. Pros: roof garden; some rooms have views of the Schloss. Cons: no parking; 15 minutes from Old City; on a busy street (although windows are soundproofed); no restaurant. | Rooms from: €110 | Bergheim 41 | 06221/750-040 | www.bergheim41.de | No credit cards | 32 rooms, 4 suites | Breakfast.
Crowne Plaza Heidelberg.
$$ | HOTEL | This grand hotel has a spacious lobby, stylish furnishings, soaring ceilings, and an enviable location—it’s a five-minute walk from Old Town. The nice accommodations are priced according to demand, so you may be able to snag a great rate at the last minute. The indoor swimming pool and spa on the hotel’s lower level is luxurious—it even includes a poolside bar. On the first weekend of every month a North American-style brunch buffet is offered for €31. Pros: parking garage; pool and fitness center; direct shuttle from Frankfurt airport (80 km [50 miles] away). Cons: chain-hotel feel. | Rooms from: €140 | Kurfürsten-Anlage 1 | 06221/9170 | www.crowneplaza.com | 232 rooms, 4 suites | No meals.
Fodor’s Choice | Der Europäische Hof-Hotel Europa.
$$$ | HOTEL | On secluded grounds next to the Old Town, this most luxurious of Heidelberg hotels has been welcoming guests since 1865. Public areas have stunning turn-of-the-20th-century furnishings while bedrooms are modern, spacious, and tasteful, and all suites have whirlpool tubs. The elegant Continental restaurant, the Kurfürstenstube, contains original inlay woodwork. In summer, meals are served on the fountain-lined terrace overlooking the walled garden. Pros: indoor pool; castle views from the two-story fitness and spa center. Cons: restaurant closed in July and August; limited parking. | Rooms from: €209 | Friedrich-Ebert-Anlage 1 | 06221/515-512 | www.europaeischerhof.com | 100 rooms, 14 suites, 3 apartments, 1 penthouse | Breakfast.
$$ | B&B/INN | This traditional family-owned Gasthaus on a residential street in the heart of Heidelberg has very nice modern rooms at affordable prices. You can even enjoy fresh air, as the windows open onto a small, quiet courtyard. The kitchen offers a surprising range of delicious items for its buffet breakfast, from delicately marinated vegetables to imaginative soups, and cooking classes in the restaurant kitchen. Pros: quiet rooms; nice restaurant, dinner only; cooking classes with chef in restaurant kitchen. Cons: difficult parking; some rooms have shared baths; restaurant closed Sunday. | Rooms from: €135 | Schiffg. 11 | 06221/53660 | www.gasthaus-backmulde.de | 26 rooms | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | Opposite the Alte Brücke, and with views across the busy Neckar River to the forested hillside beyond, this ornate 19th-century building is in a prime Old Town location. Its pink-and-white painted facade stands out in its row, and many of the modern and pleasant rooms overlook the busy waterway. The staff is very friendly. Pros: nice view of river and beyond; comfortable accommodations; some rooms are wheelchair accessible. Cons: noisy at times; no restaurant or bar (although both are in adjoining building). | Rooms from: €112 | Neckarstaden 66 | 06221/60500 | www.hollaender-hof.de | 38 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Die Hirschgasse.
$$$ | HOTEL | A stunning castle view, fine restaurants, a literary connection, and a touch of romance distinguish this historic inn (1472) across the river from the Old Town, opposite Karlstor. Convivial Ernest Kraft and his British wife Allison serve upscale regional specialties (and wines from the vineyard next door) in the Mensurstube, once a tavern where university students indulged in fencing duels, as mentioned in Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad. Beamed ceilings, stone walls, and deep-red fabrics make for romantic dining in elegant Le Gourmet. The hotel’s interior is also romantic, filled with floral prints, artwork, and deep shades of red. The suites are quite large, comfortable, and elegantly appointed, including some with canopy beds. Pros: terrific view; very good food in both restaurants; close to “museum row”. Cons: limited parking; 15-minute walk to Old Town. | Rooms from: €205 | Hirschg. 3 | 06221/4540 | www.hirschgasse.de | Le Gourmet closed Sun. and Mon., 2 wks in early Jan., and 2 wks in early Aug.; Mensurstube closed Sun. No lunch at either restaurant | 20 suites | Breakfast; Some meals.
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel zum Ritter.
$$ | HOTEL | If this is your first visit to Germany, or to Heidelberg, try to stay here. It’s the only surviving Renaissance building in Heidelberg and one of the oldest, built in 1592 as the private home of a wealthy merchant, and has an unbeatable location opposite the market square in the heart of Old Town. The staff is exceptionally helpful and friendly. Some rooms are more modern and spacious than others, but all are comfortable, and the hallways are decorated with antiques. You can enjoy German and international favorites in the restaurants Belier and Ritterstube. Both are wood paneled and have old-world charm, and like the rest of the hotel, offer impeccable service. Pros: charm and elegance; nice views; spacious rooms. Cons: off-site parking; rooms facing the square can be noisy. | Rooms from: €115 | Hauptstr. 178 | 06221/1350 | www.hotel-ritter-heidelberg.com | 36 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | Rooms with warm, sunny colors and modern style are brilliantly incorporated into this old brewery in the heart of Old Town. There are additional newly renovated rooms a block away, in a former student dormitory above the Zum Seppl restaurant, which both date from the mid-1800s. While these rooms also are sunny and modern, access via steep stairs and a walk to the main building for breakfast makes them less appealing. The restaurant (credit cards only accepted for groups) is lively until well past midnight. House-brewed Scheffel’s beer is the beverage of choice, although there are some good wines as well. The cellar houses the brewery (tours and tasting possible) and a weekend jazz club; in the courtyard is a huge beer garden. Pros: stylish rooms; lively restaurant; Wi-Fi in most rooms; beer garden. Cons: noisy in summer; difficult parking; rooms above Zum Seppl restaurant are accessed by steep, narrow stairs and dark hallways, and you have to walk a block to get breakfast. | Rooms from: €110 | Leyerg. 6 | 06221/502-980 | www.heidelberger-kulturbrauerei.de | 41 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | The glass-covered entrance hall of this primarily business hotel is spacious—not surprising, as it was the courtyard of a former brewery. You can dine at one of three on-site restaurants, including the Bräustüberl, which specializes in regional German fare. Rooms are colorful and cozy, some have terraces, and you get good room rates in summer, especially in August. Pros: gym and spa; underground garage; wheelchair-accessible rooms. Cons: lacks charm; 15-minute walk to Old Town; breakfast expensive. | Rooms from: €125 | Bergheimerstr. 91 | 06221/13270 | www.nh-hotels.com | 156 rooms, 18 suites | No meals.
$$ | HOTEL | Exposed beams, stucco ceilings, warm wood furnishings, and individually decorated, comfortable rooms are all part of this hotel’s charm. The restaurant has art deco touches and pretty table settings. Its creative menu changes seasonally, but fresh fish—especially salmon—remains a highlight year-round. The proprietor is a wine fan, and the extensive wine list reflects it. Pros: nicely decorated rooms; exceptional food; this is a smoke-free facility. Cons: parking difficult to find; not all rooms accessible by elevator; breakfast not included in room rate. | Rooms from: €115 | Grosse Mantelg. 24 | 06221/90000 | www.weisserbock.de | 21 rooms, 2 suites | No meals.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
Information on all upcoming events can be found in the monthly Heidelberg aktuell, free and available from the tourist office or on the Internet (www.heidelberg-aktuell.de).
Heidelberg nightlife is concentrated in the area around the Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Ghost), in the Old Town. Don’t miss a visit to one of the old student taverns that have been in business for generations.
Today’s students, however, are more likely to hang out in one of the dozen or more cafés and bars on Untere Strasse, which runs parallel to and between Hauptstrasse and the Neckar River, starting from the market square.
Billy Blues (im Ziegler).
This restaurant, bar, and disco, popular with university students, has live music on Thursday and a salsa party on Wednesday. There also are a few small, efficiently decorated, budget-priced rooms upstairs. | Bergheimer Str. 1b | 06221/25333 | www.billyblues.de | Closed Sun.-Tues.
The club plays rock music until 2 am on weekdays and 3 am on weekends, and the young crowd that packs the place is always having a good time. A tree in the middle of this club is decorated according to season. This is also an art gallery; paintings by local artists decorate the walls and are for sale. | Untere Str. 16 | 06221/22808 | www.destilleonline.de.
In the Landfried complex near the main train station, this is Heidelberg’s biggest disco, pulsing with 15,000 LEDs that change colors and pattern with the music. Nachtschicht (night story) is open until 4 am Thursday through Saturday. | Bergheimer Str. 147 | 06221/438-550 | www.nachtschicht.com.
Print Media Lounge.
Facing the main train station, this is a chic, modern place where you can dine all day, including weekday lunch specials popular with the business crowd, or dance till the wee hours. It’s open Monday-Saturday, with DJs Friday and Saturday and live bands and free admission on Mondays. | Kurfürsten-Anlage 52-60 | 06221/653-949 | www.printmedialounge.de | Closed Sun. and 2 wks mid-August. No lunch Sat.
In the same location since 1703, it was a favorite of the Burschenschaften, or dueling fraternities for two centuries. These days, it’s popular with Heidelberg’s university students, locals, and visitors for its traditional ambience and well-priced food and beer that starts flowing at 7:30 am daily. The wood-paneled walls are filled with historic photos and maps. There also are budget-priced rooms upstairs. | Haspelg. 8 | 06221/138-080.
Near the zoo, this is a fixture of Heidelberg’s club scene. It occupies what was once a swimming pool, hence the name. It’s open Thursday to Saturday with two floors plus an open-air disco when weather permits, and a rotating schedule of live and DJ music. | Tiergartenstr. 13 | 06221/470-201 | www.schwimmbad-club.de.
SKYlounge Der Turm.
For a nice view of the town, a menu of 120 cocktails, and relaxing music, head for the glass-walled SKYlounge. Choose between the dark-red walls on the seventh floor or the deep-blue shades on the eighth floor. | Alte Glockengiesserei 9 | 06221/434-968 | www.skylounge-heidelberg.de | Restaurant closed Mon.-Thurs.
Vetters Alt-Heidelberger Brauhaus.
It’s worth elbowing your way into this bar for the brewed-on-the-premises beer. Try the Dunkles Hefeweizen, or dark wheat beer, which is not produced as widely as the lighter version. As with most German brewpubs, there’s a full menu, too, including a long list of wurst dishes. | Steing. 9 | 06221/165-850 | www.brauhaus-vetter.de.
Fodor’s Choice | Zum Roten Ochsen.
Mark Twain rubbed elbows with students here during his 1878 stay in Heidelberg—look for his photo on one of the memorabilia-covered walls. Zum Roten Oschen is popular with students and local residents for its friendly atmosphere and hearty meals at reasonable prices The Red Ox has been operated by the Spengel family for more than 170 years. A pianist plays German and international favorites, starting at 7:30 pm, likely to turn into a singalong after several refills of regional German wines and local Heidelberg beer. | Hauptstr. 217 | 06221/20977 | www.roterochsen.de.
When this traditional restaurant and bar opened at the end of the 17th century, it had its own brewery on the premises; now the brewery is a block away and called Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg. The Seppl crowd is a mix of Heidelberg students, local residents, and visitors, all attracted by the traditional old-world charm and ample servings of traditional German specialties. Every inch of wall space is covered with historic photos, menus, and other memorabilia. | Hauptstr. 213 | 06221/502-980 | www.heidelberger-kulturbrauerei.de/en/scheffels-wirtshaus-zum-seppl.
Heidelberg has a thriving theater and concert scene.
Theater tickets may be purchased here. | Theaterstr. 4 | 06221/582-0000 | www.theaterheidelberg.de.
This 19th-century train station has been repurposed as a theater and concert venue. | Am Karlstor 1 | 06221/978-911 | www.karlstorbahnhof.de.
Theatrical and musical performances are held at the Heidelberg castle during this annual festival from late June through July. | Heidelberg | 06221/582-0000 (ticket agency) | www.schlossfestspiele-heidelberg.de.
Theater & Orchester Heidelberg.
This is the best-known theater company in town, with a variety of theater, opera, and concert performances. The historic theater reopened in 2013 after a renovation and the addition of a modern second stage in the new adjoining building. | Theaterstr. 10 | 06221/582-0000 | www.theaterheidelberg.de.
Avant-garde theater productions are staged here. | Hauptstr. 118 | 06221/21069 | www.zimmertheaterhd.de.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
The riverside path is an ideal route for walking, jogging, and bicycling, since it’s traffic-free and offers excellent views of the area. If you access the paved pathway in the center of town, you can follow it for many kilometers in either direction.
Heidelberg’s Hauptstrasse, or Main Street, is a pedestrian zone lined with shops, sights, and restaurants that stretches more than 1 km (½ mile) through the heart of town. But don’t spend your money before exploring the shops on such side streets as Plöck, Ingrimstrasse, and Untere Strasse, where there are candy stores, bookstores, and antiques shops on the ground floors of baroque buildings. If your budget allows, the city can be a good place to find reasonably priced German antiques, and the Neckar Valley region produces fine glass and crystal.
Aurum & Argentum.
The finely executed, modern gold and silver pieces here are impeccably crafted, in a sleek store design unusual for this historic city. | Brückenstr. 22 | 06221/473-453 | Tues.-Fri. 2:30-6:30, Sat. 10-2.
Heidelberg has open-air farmers’ markets on Wednesday and Saturday mornings on Marktplatz and Tuesday and Friday mornings, as well as Thursday afternoons, on Friedrich-Ebert-Platz. | Heidelberg.
Fodor’s Choice | Heidelberger Zuckerladen.
The old glass display cases and shelves here are full of lollipops and “penny” candy. If you’re looking for an unusual gift or special sweet treat, the shop fashions colorful, unique items out of sugary ingredients such as marshmallow and sweetened gum. Avoid early afternoon, when the tiny shop is crowded with schoolchildren. | Plöck 52 | 06221/24365 | www.zuckerladen.de | Tues.-Fri. noon-7, Sat. 11-3.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Schloss Schwetzingen.
This formal 18th-century palace was constructed as a summer residence by the Palatinate electors. It is a noble rose-color building, imposing and harmonious; a highlight is the rococo theater in one wing. The extensive park blends formal French and informal English styles, with neatly bordered gravel walks trailing off into the dark woodland. Fun touches include an exotic mosque, complete with minarets and a shimmering pool (although they got a little confused and gave the building a very baroque portal), and the “classical ruin” that was de rigueur in this period. The palace interior can only be visited by tour. At this writing, the castle is closed for renovations, but it is due to reopen in 2016—call before you visit. | Schloss Mittelbau | Schwetzingen | 06202/742-770 | www.schloss-schwetzingen.de | €9 Apr.-Oct., €7 Nov.-Mar. (includes palace tour and gardens); gardens only: €5 Apr.-Oct., €3 Nov.-Mar. | Apr.-Oct., daily 9-8; Nov.-Mar., daily 9-5, last admission 30 mins before closing. Palace tours (in German): Apr.-Oct., weekdays hourly 11-4, weekends and holidays 11-5; Nov.-Mar., Fri. at 2, weekends and holidays 11, 1:30, and 3; tours in English weekends at 2, or by arrangement.
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Neckargemünd | Hirschhorn | Neckarzimmern | Bad Wimpfen
The Neckar Valley narrows upstream from Heidelberg, presenting a landscape of orchards, vineyards, and wooded hills crowned with castles rising above the gently flowing stream. It’s one of the most impressive stretches of the Burgenstrasse. Along the B-37 are small valleys—locals call them Klingen—that cut north into the Odenwald and are off-the-beaten-track territory. One of the most atmospheric is the Wolfsschlucht, which starts below the castle at Zwingenberg. The dank, shadowy little gorge inspired Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Der Freischütz (The Marksman).
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11 km (7 miles) from Heidelberg.
Coming from the hustle and bustle of Heidelberg, you’ll find the hamlet of Neckargemünd is a quiet place where you can relax by the Neckar River and watch the ships go by. The town also makes a good base from which to visit Heidelberg. Leave the car here and enjoy the 10-minute ride by bus or train.
Getting Here and Around
The S1, S2, S5, and S51 commuter trains from Heidelberg run every few minutes and will get you here in less than 10 minutes. By car, it will take 25 minutes via the B-37. Once here, the Altstadt (Old Town) and Neckar River views are walkable, but you’ll need a car or take a taxi to visit the Schloss Zwingennberg, about a half hour distant via the S1 (toward Osterburken) or the B-37 and B-45.
WHERE TO STAY
$ | B&B/INN | In a historic building in the heart of the Altstadt (Old City), this stylish hotel has spacious rooms and suites, including three- and four-bed junior suites that are perfect for families. Each is individually decorated, and modern amenities combine well with antique furnishings. The Stalinger family also runs the Reinbach, a restaurant about a mile from town, and will take you there by shuttle service. Pros: good for families; reasonable rates. Cons: on a busy street; no elevator; no restaurant. | Rooms from: €95 | Hauptstr. 40 | 06223/862-768 | www.art-hotel-neckar.de | 7 rooms, 6 suites | Breakfast.
$ | B&B/INN | If you’re looking for a clean, simple, and inexpensive room, this small inn is an ideal candidate, and it’s conveniently located opposite the railway station for trips to or from Heidelberg. The main drawback: in some of the cheaper rooms, the showers are in the rooms and the toilets are down the hall. In the restaurant or in the beer garden you can order a simple meal for a good price. Pros: unbeatable rates; close to public transportation. Cons: on busy street; not all rooms have an en suite bathroom. | Rooms from: €70 | Bahnhofstr. 52 | 06223/8779 | www.gasthaus-reber.de | No credit cards | Restaurant closed Wed. No lunch weekdays | 10 rooms | Breakfast.
EN ROUTE: Mosbach.
The little town of Mosbach, 78 km (48 miles) southeast of Heidelberg, is one of the most charming towns on the Neckar. Its main street is pure half-timber, and its ancient market square contains one of Germany’s most exquisite half-timber buildings—the early-17th-century Palm’sches Haus (Palm House), its upper stories laced with intricate timbering. The Rathaus, built 50 years earlier, is a modest affair by comparison. | Mosbach.
23 km (14 miles) east of Heidelberg.
Hirsch (stag) and Horn (antlers) make up the name of the knights of Hirschhorn, the medieval ruling family that gave its name to both its 12th-century castle complex and the village over which it presided. The town’s coat of arms depicts a leaping stag. Ensconced on the hillside halfway between the castle and the river is a former Carmelite monastery and its beautiful 15th-century Gothic church with remarkable frescoes (open for visits). Hirschhorn’s position on a hairpin loop of the Neckar can best be savored from the castle terrace, over a glass of wine, coffee and cake, or a fine meal.
Getting Here and Around
Getting here by public transportation from Neckarzimmern isn’t the easiest—local trains take between 35 and 60 minutes and require at least one transfer. By car, it’s a scenic and leisurely 45-minute drive through farmland and forests on the B-27 and B-37. Once there, stroll around the charming little medieval village on foot.
June-September there are free (German) tours of Hirschhorn on Saturday at 10.
The past comes to life the first weekend of September at the annual, two-day Ritterfest, a colorful “Knights’ Festival” complete with a medieval arts-and-crafts market. | Hirschhorn.
Hirschhorn. | Tourist-Information, Alleeweg 2 | 06272/1742 | www.hirschhorn.de.
WHERE TO STAY
Schlosshotel auf der Burg Hirschhorn.
$$ | HOTEL | This very pleasant hotel and restaurant is set in historic Hirschhorn Castle, perched high over the medieval village. The terrace offers splendid views (ask for Table 30 in the corner). The rooms have a combination of antiques and more contemporary furnishings. Eight are in the castle and 17 in the old stables, and the hotel is often fully booked on weekends for weddings. Wildschwein (wild boar), Hirsch (venison), and fresh fish are the house specialties, or choose a 3-, 4- or 5-course prix-fixe dinner. The friendly proprietors, the Oberrauners, bake a delicious, warm Apfelstrudel based on a recipe from their home in Vienna. Pros: terrific view over the valley; good choice of rooms. Cons: difficult to get to, via steep path; no elevator. | Rooms from: €140 | Auf der Burg | 06272/92090 | www.castle-hotel.de | Closed Nov.-Feb. Restaurant closed Mon. and day after a bank holiday | 21 rooms, 4 suites | Breakfast.
83 km (52 miles) from Heidelberg.
The main attraction here is the Burg Hornberg castle high above the town, but visitors will find the village itself to be a charming respite, with a traditional town square surrounded by historic buildings, and pleasant riverfront walks.
Getting Here and Around
By road from Heidelberg, take the E-5 autobahn south (toward Bruschal) then the E-6 east to Sinsheim, where you connect with local road 292 northeast past Mossbach to Neckarzimmern, then follow signs. If you have time en route, stop off at the Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum for displays including Formula 1 racecars and a Concorde supersonic jet.
Fodor’s Choice | Burg Hornberg.
The largest and oldest castle in the Neckar Valley, the circular bulk of Burg Hornberg rises above the town of Neckarzimmern. The road to the castle leads through vineyards that have been providing dry white wines for centuries. These days, the castle is part hotel (23 rooms, 1 suite) and part museum. In the 16th century it was home to the larger-than-life Götz von Berlichingen (1480-1562). When the knight lost his right arm in battle, he had a blacksmith fashion an iron replacement. Original designs for this fearsome artificial limb are on view in the castle, as is his suit of armor. For most Germans, this larger-than-life knight is best remembered for a remark that was faithfully reproduced in Goethe’s play Götz von Berlichingen. Responding to an official reprimand, von Berlichingen told his critic, more or less, to “kiss my ass” (the original German is a bit more earthy: Er kann mich am Arsche lecken). To this day the polite version of this insult is known as a Götz von Berlichingen. Inquire at the hotel reception about visiting the castle, or just enjoy the walking trails and views from the top of the hill. | Hornbergerweg | 06221/5001 | www.burg-hornberg.de | €5 | Daily 9-6.
WHERE TO STAY
Fodor’s Choice | Burg Hornberg Hotel.
$$ | HOTEL | Your host at this antiques-filled hotel with comfortable, modern rooms is the present baron of the Burg Hornberg castle. Try for one of the tower rooms overlooking the valley. There are equally stunning views from the heights of the terrace and glassed-in restaurant ($$)—housed in the former Marstall, or royal stables. Fresh fish and game are specialties, as are the estate-bottled wines. There are good Riesling wines and the rarities Traminer and Muskateller—also sold in the wineshops in the courtyard and at the foot of the hill. Pros: historic setting; nice restaurant; on-site wineshop. Cons: no elevator; restaurant can be crowded in season on weekends; not enough parking. | Rooms from: €110 | Marcus Freiherr von Gemmingen | 06261/92460 | www.castle-hotel-hornberg.com | Closed late Dec.-late Jan. | 23 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.
EN ROUTE: Burg Guttenberg.
One of the best-preserved Neckar castles is the 15th-century Burg Guttenberg. Within its stone walls are a museum and a restaurant (closed January, February, and Monday) with views of the river valley. The castle also is home to Europe’s leading center for the study and protection of birds of prey, the German Raptor Research Center, with 100 falcons and other birds of prey. There are demonstration flights from the castle walls from April through October, daily at 11 and 3. | 6 km (4 miles) west of Gundelsheim, Burgstr. | Neckarmühlbach | 06266/388 | www.burg-guttenberg.de | Castle €5, castle and flight demonstration €11 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Mar., weekends 10-5.
8 km (5 miles) south of Neckarzimmern.
At the confluence of the Neckar and Jagst rivers, Bad Wimpfen is one of the most stunning towns of the Neckar Valley. The Romans built a fortress and a bridge here, on the riverbank site of an ancient Celtic settlement, in the 1st century AD. A millennium later, the Staufen emperor Barbarossa chose this town as the site of his largest Pfalz (residence). The ruins of this palace still overshadow the town and are well worth a stroll.
Getting Here and Around
There’s a direct regional commuter train from Heidelberg that will get you to Bad Wimpfen in 45 minutes, and from Neckarzimmern there’s an hourly service that takes 30 minutes. By road, take the B-27 east from Neckarzimmern to the L-1100. The old city is good for walking, but wear comfortable shoes for the uneven cobblestones.
Medieval Bad Wimpfen offers a town walk year-round, Sunday at 2 (€2), departing from the visitor center inside the old train station. Private group tours may also be arranged for other days by calling the visitor center in advance.
Discounts and Deals
On arrival, ask your hotel for a free Bad Wimpfen à la card for reduced or free admission to historic sights and museums.
On the last weekend in August, the Old Town’s medieval past comes alive during the Zunftmarkt, a historical market dedicated to the Zünfte (guilds). “Artisans” in period costumes demonstrate the old trades and open the festivities with a colorful parade on horseback. | Bad Wimpfen | www.zunftmarkt.de.
Bad Wimpfen-Gundelsheim Tourist-Information. | Carl-Ulrich-Str. 1 | 07063/97200 | www.badwimpfen.de.
Ritterstiftskirche St. Peter.
Wimpfen im Tal (Wimpfen in the Valley), the oldest part of town, is home to the Benedictine monastery of Gruessau and its church, Ritterstiftskirche St. Peter, which dates from the 10th and 13th centuries. The cloisters are an example of German Gothic at its most uncluttered. | Lindenpl. | www.badwimpfen.de.
Stadtkirche (City Church).
The 13th-century stained glass, wall paintings, medieval altars, and the stone pietà in the Gothic Stadtkirche are worth seeing, as are the Crucifixion sculptures (1515) by the Rhenish master Hans Backoffen on Kirchplatz, behind the church. | Kirchsteige 8 | www.kirche-badwimpfen.de.
Germany’s largest Romanesque living quarters and once the imperial women’s apartments, this is now a history museum with relics from the Neolithic and Roman ages along with the history of the Palatinate, including medieval art, armor and weapons, and ceramics. Next to the Steinhaus are the remains of the northern facade of the palace, an arcade of superbly carved Romanesque pillars that flanked the imperial hall in its heyday. The imperial chapel, next to the Red Tower, holds a collection of religious art. | Burgviertel 25 | 07063/97200 | €2.50 | Mid-Apr.-mid.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-noon and 2-4:30.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | GERMAN | There are three adjoning eateries here: the Weinstube for a glass of good Swabian wine with a snack, the Restaurant for a full meal at lunch or dinner, or let yourself be tempted by the good-looking cakes from their own bakery in the Konditerei/Cafe. | Average main: €12 | Hauptstr. 74 | 07063/950-566 | www.friedrich-feyerabend.de | No credit cards | Closed Mon.
$ | HOTEL | You get a good Neckarblick (Neckar view) from the terrace, the dining room, and most guest rooms of this pleasant lodging. The furniture is comfortable and modern, like the hotel building. For medieval atmosphere, the heart of Bad Wimpfen is only a few blocks away. Pros: terrific view; personal touch. Cons: no restaurant or bar; not enough parking. | Rooms from: €59 | Erich-Sailer-Str. 48 | 07063/961-620 | www.neckarblick.de | 14 rooms | Breakfast.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Deutsches Zweirad-Museum (German Motorcycle Museum).
Although its name is the German Motorcycle Museum, there are historic cars here, too. Displays include the 1885 Daimler machine that started us on the road to motorized mobility, the world’s first mass-produced motorcycles (Hildebrand and Wolfmüller), and exhibits on racing. Also here is the NSU Museum, an early motorbike manufacturer acquired by the precedessor of the company now called Audi, which has an auto production facility in Neckarsulm. The collections are arranged over five floors in a handsome 400-year-old castle that belonged to the Teutonic Knights until 1806. The Audi factory offers tours. | Urbanstr. 11 | Neckarsulm | 07132/35271 | www.zweirad-museum.de | €4.50 | Tues.-Sun. 9-5, Thurs. to 7.
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Ludwigsburg | Stuttgart | Bebenhausen | Tübingen
Ludwigsburg, Stuttgart, and Tübingen are all part of the ancient province of Swabia, a region strongly influenced by Protestantism and Calvinism. The inhabitants speak the Swabian dialect of German. Ludwigsburg is known for its two splendid castles. Stuttgart, the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg, is one of Germany’s leading industrial cities, home to both Mercedes and Porsche, and is cradled by hills on three sides, with the fourth side opening up toward its river harbor. The medieval town of Tübingen clings to steep slopes and hilltops above the Neckar.
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15 km (9 miles) north of Stuttgart.
Although its residents would never call it a suburb of Stuttgart, its proximity to the modern industrial and commercial center of Baden-Wurttenberg has made it one. Ludwigsburg’s attraction is its fabulous baroque castle, with more than 450 rooms spread over 18 buildings, surrounded by the beautiful Schlosspark (gardens). A music festival, held each summer since 1932, features performances both outdoors and in the original palace theater.
Getting Here and Around
There is regular commuter rail service from Stuttgart’s Hauptbahnhof (main train station). Take the S4 or S5 for the journey of around 45 minutes. The castle is close enough to the station to walk, or you can take a taxi.
Fodor’s Choice | Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg.
One of Europe’s largest palaces to survive in its original condition, Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg certainly merits a visit for its sumptuous interiors and exquisite gardens. The main palace is also home to the Keramikmuseum, a collection of historical treasures from the porcelain factories in Meissen, Nymphenburg, Berlin, Vienna, and Ludwigsburg, as well as an exhibit of contemporary ceramics. The Barockgalerie is a collection of German and Italian baroque paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Modemuseum showcases three centuries of fashion, particularly royal clothing of the 18th century. In another part of the palace you’ll find the Porzellan-Manufaktur Ludwigsburg (www.ludwigsburger-porzellan.de); you can tour the porcelain factory where each piece is handmade and hand-painted. The castle is surrounded by the fragrant, colorful 74-acre park Blühendes Barock (Blooming Baroque), filled with thousands and thousands of tulips, huge masses of rhododendrons, and fragrant roses. A Märchengarten (fairy-tale garden) delights children of all ages. In the midst of it all, you can take a break in the cafeteria in the Rose Garden. Guided tours in English are at 1:30 on weekdays, and at 11, 1:30, and 3:15 on weekends. There also are performances in the ornate theater, dating from 1758, during the Ludwigsburg Theater Festival each summer. | Schloss Str. 30 | 07141/182-004 | www.schloesser-und-gaerten.de | Palace €7, park €8, museums with audio guide €3.50, museum tour with audio guide €6.50, combination ticket €17 | Park daily 7:30 am-8:30 pm, palace and museums daily 10-5.
50 km (31 miles) south of Heilbronn.
Stuttgart is a city of contradictions. It has been called, among other things, “Germany’s biggest small town” and “the city where work is a pleasure.” For centuries Stuttgart, whose name derives from Stutengarten, or “stud farm,” remained a pastoral backwater along the Neckar. Then the Industrial Revolution propelled the city into the machine age. Leveled in World War II, Stuttgart has regained its position as one of Germany’s top industrial centers.
This is Germany’s can-do city, whose natives have turned out Mercedes-Benz and Porsche cars, Bosch electrical equipment, and a host of other products exported worldwide. Yet Stuttgart is also a city of culture and the arts, with world-class museums, opera, and ballet. Moreover, it’s the domain of fine local wines; the vineyards actually approach the city center in a rim of green hills. Forests, vineyards, meadows, and orchards compose more than half the city, which is enclosed on three sides by woods. Each year in October, Stuttgart is home to Germany’s second-largest Oktoberfest (after Munich), called the Canstatter Volksfest.
An ideal introduction to the contrasts of Stuttgart is a guided city bus tour. Included is a visit to the needle-nose TV tower, high on a mountaintop above the city, affording stupendous views. Built in 1956, it was the first of its kind in the world. The tourist office also offers superb walking tours. On your own, the best place to begin exploring Stuttgart is the Hauptbahnhof (main train station); from there walk down the pedestrian street Königstrasse to Schillerplatz, a small, charming square named after the 18th-century poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller, who was born in nearby Marbach. The square is surrounded by historic buildings, many of which were rebuilt after the war.
Getting Here and Around
Stuttgart is the major hub for the rail system in southwestern Germany, and two autobahns cross here. It’s about 2½ hours away from Munich and a bit more than an hour from Frankfurt. The downtown museums and the main shopping streets are doable on foot. For the outlying attractions and to get to the airport, there is a very efficient S-bahn and subway system.
The tourist office is the meeting point for city walking tours in German (year-round, Saturday at 10) for €8. There are daily bilingual walks April-October at 11 am for €18. Bilingual bus tours costing €8 depart from the bus stop around the corner from the tourist office, in front of Hotel am Schlossgarten (April-October, daily at 1:30; November-March, Friday-Sunday at 1:30). All tours last from 1½ to 2½ hours. Stuttgart Tourist-Information offers 12 different special-interest tours altogether. Call for details.
Discounts and Deals
The three-day StuttCard (€9.70) offers discounts to museums and attractions, with or without a free public-transit pass (€22 includes a transit card valid in the whole city; €18 for the city center only). All the cards are available from the Stuttgart tourist office opposite the main train station.
Stuttgart Touristik-Information i-Punkt. | Königstr. 1A | 0711/222-8246 | www.stuttgart-tourist.de.
Kunstmuseum Stuttgart (Stuttgart Art Museum).
This sleek structure encased in a glass facade is a work of art in its own right. The museum contains artwork of the 19th and 20th centuries and the world’s largest Otto Dix collection, including the Grossstadt (Metropolis) triptych, which captures the essence of 1920s Germany. The bistro-café on the rooftop terrace affords great views; the lobby houses another café and the museum shop. | Kleiner Schlosspl. 1, Mitte | 0711/216-19600 | www.kunstmuseum-stuttgart.de | €6; special exhibitions €10; guided tours €2.50 | Tues.-Th. and weekends 10-6; Fri. 10-9.
Fodor’s Choice | Mercedes-Benz Museum.
The stunning futuristic architecture of this museum is an enticement to enter, but the stunning historic and futuristic vehicles inside are the main attraction. Visitors are whisked to the top floor to start this historical timeline tour of motorized mobility in the 1880s, with the first vehicles by Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz. Other museum levels focus on a particular decade or category of vehicle, such as trucks and buses, race cars, concept cars, and future technology, including fuel cells. Historic photos and other artifacts line the walls of the circular walkway that links the levels. A restaurant on the lower level serves mostly German cuisine with a modern twist, and stays open after the museum has closed, and there’s a huge gift shop with all kinds of Mercedes-Benz-branded items. In the adjoining new-car showroom you can muse over appealing models that are sold in Europe but not in North America. Guided tours of the factory are also available. | Mercedesstr. 100, Untertürkheim | 0711/173-0000 | www.mercedes-benz-classic.com | €8 (€4 after 4:30); guided tour €4; factory tour €4 | Tues.-Sun. 9-6 (last admission 5).
Fodor’s Choice | Porsche Museum.
In the center of the Porsche factory complex in the northern suburb of Zuffenhausen, the architecturally dramatic building expands outward and upward from its base. Inside is a vast collection of around 100 legendary and historic Porsche cars including racing cars, nearly 1,000 racing trophies and design and engineering awards, and several vehicles designed by Ferdinand Porsche that eventually became the VW Beetle. It is astounding how some 1930s models still look contemporary today. The museum includes a coffee shop, snack bar, and the sophisticated Christophorus restaurant, regarded as the best American-style steak house in Stuttgart, open for lunch and dinner beyond museum hours. The gift shop sells some Porsche logo clothing, but mostly miniature collectibles. Stand under the special “cones” on the upper level to hear the different engine sounds of various Porsche models, and try out the interactive “touch wall” timeline to explore nine decades of automotive history. Factory tours also are available with advance arrangement. | Porschepl. 1, Zuffenhausen | 0711/911-20911 | www.porsche.com/museum | €8 | Tues.-Sun. 9-6.
Schlossplatz (Palace Square).
A huge area enclosed by royal palaces and planted gardens, the square has elegant arcades branching off to other stately plazas. The magnificent baroque Neues Schloss (New Palace), now occupied by Baden-Württemberg state government offices, dominates the square. Schlossplatz is the extension of the Koenigstrasse pedestrian shopping street, dotted with outdoor cafés in season. | Corner of Koenigstr. and Planie,Mitte.
Fodor’s Choice | Staatsgalerie (State Gallery).
This not-to-be-missed museum displays one of the finest art collections in Germany. The old part of the complex, dating from 1843, has paintings from the Middle Ages through the 19th century, including works by Cranach, Holbein, Hals, Memling, Rubens, Rembrandt, Cézanne, Courbet, and Manet. Connected to the original building is the Neue Staatsgalerie (New State Gallery), designed by British architect James Stirling in 1984 as a melding of classical and modern, sometimes jarring, elements (such as chartreuse window mullions). Considered one of the most successful postmodern buildings, it houses works by such 20th-century artists as Braque, Chagall, de Chirico, Dalí, Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, and Picasso. | Konrad-Adenauer-Str. 30-32, Mitte | 0711/470-400, 0711/4704-0249 info-line | www.staatsgalerie.de | Permanent collection €7 (free Wed.); special exhibitions €8-€12; guided tours €5 | Tues.-Wed. and Fri.-Sun. 10-6; Thurs. 10-8.
Fodor’s Choice | Altes Schloss (Old Castle).
Across the street from the Neues Schloss stands this former residence of the counts and dukes of Württemberg, which was originally built as a moated castle around 1320. Wings were added in the mid-15th century, creating a Renaissance palace. The palace now houses the Landesmuseum Württemberg (Württemberg State Museum), with imaginative exhibits tracing the area’s development from the Stone Age to modern times. There’s also a separate floor dedicated to a children’s museum. The second floor includes jaw-dropping family jewels of the fabulously rich and powerful Württemberg royals. | Schillerpl. 6,Mitte | 0711/8953-5111 | www.landesmuseum-stuttgart.de | €12 | Mon.-Thurs. 9-4, Fri. 9-2.
Haus der Geschichte Baden-Württemberg (Museum of the History of Baden-Württemberg).
Adjoining the Staatsgalerie (State Gallery), this museum chronicles the history of Baden-Württemberg state during the 19th and 20th centuries. Multimedia presentations enable you to interact with the thousands of objects on display. | Konrad-Adenauer-Str. 16, Mitte | 0711/212-3989 | www.hdgbw.de | €4 | Tues.-Wed. and Fri-Sun. 10-6; Thurs. 10-9.
Billed as the world’s only pig museum, it is housed in a former slaughterhouse, with displays on more than you ever wanted to know about breeding and porcine anatomy. Exhibits of piggy banks and other pig-themed memorabilia are fun to peruse. There’s also a restaurant and an outdoor beer garden, and a play area for the kids where everything is pig themed, from the seesaws to the garbage containers. | Schlachthofstr. 2 | www.schweinemuseum.de | €5.90; playground free | Daily 11-7:30 (last admission 6:45).
Schlossgarten (Palace Garden).
This huge city park borders the Schlossplatz and extends northeast across Schillerstrasse all the way to Bad Cannstatt on the Neckar River. The park is graced by an exhibition hall, planetarium, lakes, sculptures, and the hot-spring mineral baths Leuze and Berg. | Off Cannstatterstr.
Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross).
Just off Schillerplatz, this is Stuttgart’s most familiar sight, with its two oddly matched towers. Built in the 12th century, it was later rebuilt in a late-Gothic style. The choir has a famous series of Renaissance figures of the counts of Württemberg sculpted by Simon Schlör (1576-1608). | Stiftstr. 12, Mitte.
Wilhelma Zoologische-Botanische Garten (Wilhelma Zoological and Botanical Garden).
Adjacent to Rosenstein Park, this wildlife park and zoological garden, with more than 9,000 animals in more than 1,000 species and around 7,000 species of plants and flowers, was originally intended as a garden for King Wilhelm I. The Moorish-style buildings are why it’s referred to as the “Alhambra on the Neckar.” There are two restaurants on-site and a less formal bistro-café with outdoor seating in warm weather. A modern Ape House opened in 2013, with gorillas and bonobos. | Wilhemapl. 13, Wilhelma | 0711/54020 | www.wilhelma.de | €16; €10 Nov.-Feb. and after 4 pm Mar.-Oct. | May-Aug., daily 8:15-6; Sept.-Apr., daily 8:15-4.
WHERE TO EAT
Fodor’s Choice | Alte Kanzlei.
$$ | GERMAN | Steps from the Altes Schloss, the building dates from 1565, but the menu is modern, albeit with traditional Swabian specialties including Maultaschen, or meat-filled ravioli. The Käsespätzle, or noodles with cheese, is served with a salad, and it’s enough for lunch or a light dinner, especially when combined with Opfenschulpfer, an airy bread pudding topped with vanilla sauce. There are daily beer and wine specials featuring local and regional producers. It’s popular with local office workers for its location, service, and good prices. | Average main: €15 | Schillerpl. 5A, Mitte | 0711/294-457 | www.alte-kanzlei-stuttgart.de | Reservations essential.
Paulaner am Alten Postplatz (Paulaner Brewpub).
$$ | GERMAN | The motto here is “wurst and bier are friends,” and there’s plenty of both consumed in this popular brewpub. Paulaner is a Munich beer, so you’ll find traditional Bavarian fare, including Weisswurst, or veal sausages, on the menu along with Swabian favorites such as house-made Maultaschen. There’s even an Austrian dessert, Kaisershmarrn, named for the ruler who loved pancakes cut in small pieces and mixed with fresh fruits and whipped cream. Tables upstairs are quieter, and there’s an outdoor beer garden in season. | Average main: €15 | Calwerstr. 45, Mitte | 711/214450 | www.paulaner-stuttgart.de/.
$ | GERMAN | Take out or eat in at this regional minichain. You won’t find burgers or chicken nuggets, but, rather, schnitzel, currywurst, spaetzle, several types of Maultaschen, and German-style fries. Service is fast and friendly, it’s bright and clean, and there’s a daily happy hour from 4 pm to 7 pm with €1.20 draft beers, and a small sidewalk café in season. | Average main: €5 | Bolzstr. 7, Mitte | 7111/229-3307 | www.todis.de/stuttgart | Reservations not accepted | No credit cards.
$$$$ | EUROPEAN | One of Germany’s top chefs, Vincent Klink, and his wife, Elisabeth, are very down-to-earth, cordial hosts. Her floral arrangements add a baroque touch to the otherwise quiet interior, designed to focus on the artfully presented cuisine. To the extent possible, all ingredients are grown locally and identified on the menu. House specialties, such as saddle of lamb with a potato gratin and green beans or the Breton lobster with basil potato salad, are recommended. The wine list is exemplary. | Average main: €45 | Alte Weinsteige 71, Degerloch | 0711/640-8848 | www.wielandshoehe.de | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Reservations essential | Jacket required.
WHERE TO STAY
$$$ | HOTEL | Stuttgart’s top accommodations are in a modern structure set in spacious gardens, a stone’s throw from many of the top sights and opposite the main station. Stylish, modern rooms and luxurious baths and business amenities add to the overall comfort. In addition to receiving first-class service, you can wine and dine in the Zirbelstube, for modern cuisine, the elegant bistro Vinothek, for more traditional fare, or the café overlooking the garden. Pros: views of the park; welcoming lobby; close to museums, ballet, opera. Cons: not all rooms face the park; rates are on the high end; parking is limited and expensive. | Rooms from: €200 | Schillerstr. 23, Mitte | 0711/20260 | www.hotelschlossgarten.com | Zirbelstube closed 1st 2 wks Jan., 3 wks Aug., Sun., and Mon. | 106 rooms, 10 suites | Breakfast.
$$$ | B&B/INN | The “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is aptly named, as Karen and Axel Heldmann have conjured up an unusual luxury hotel with each room’s style based on a theme. The 1,000 Nights room has a mosaic-tiled bathroom, Seventh Heaven has Philippe Starck-influended decor, and most have fireplaces. The popular restaurant, Z-Bistro, serves three-course prix-fixe menus also based on a theme, including vegetarian, fish, and regional Swabian favorites, enhanced by a very good wine list. Enjoy it all on the terrace in summer. Pros: fabulous rooms with lots of surprises; enjoyable restaurant. Cons: minuscule lobby; no elevator. | Rooms from: €190 | Rosenstr. 38, Bohnenviertel | 0711/237-7770 | www.zauberlehrling.de | 13 rooms, 4 suites | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | This comfortable hotel is on a quiet side street a five-minute walk from the Konigstrasse pedestrian mile and the museums around Schlossplatz. It attracts mostly businesspeople during the week, and theater goers and shoppers on weekends, in part for the free hotel parking so close to the heart of downtown and discounted weekend rates. Rooms are clean and modern. There is a lobby bar and a restaurant open for lunch on weekdays (no dinner), and the hotel offers printed jogging and biking maps for the nearby Schlosspark. Pros: free parking; close to shopping and theaters. Cons: rooms facing street can be noisy. | Rooms from: €125 | Langestr. 49, Mitte | 0711/20450 | www.hotel-wartburg-stuttgart.de | 74 rooms | Breakfast.
Mövenpick Hotel Stuttgart Airport.
$$ | HOTEL | Across the street from Stuttgart Airport, the doors of this hotel open into a completely soundproof glass palace. Look up from the spacious and light-filled lobby to see the glass ceiling; the airy guest rooms have wall-to-wall windows, and the suites beckon with all the amenities. The equally airy restaurant Trollinger serves Continental fare, and there is an inviting lounge and bar. The Stuttgart fairgrounds are within walking distance from the hotel, which tends to fill with business travelers—ask for weekend rates. Pros: discount for booking online; modern yet welcoming; fitness equipment, sauna, steam room. Cons: swells with business travelers; 15 minutes from downtown museums, theater, or shopping. | Rooms from: €150 | Flughafenstr. 50, Flughafen | 0711/553-440 | www.movenpick.com/Stuttgart | 326 rooms, 12 junior suites | No meals.
Fodor’s Choice | Wald Hotel.
$$ | RESORT | On the edge of a forest (wald) with miles of hiking and biking trails, yet just a 10-minute streetcar ride from downtown, this modern resort hotel offers lots of amenities and peaceful nights. It’s in the residential suburb of Degerloch, and occupies a 100-year-old building that had previous lives as an orphanage and a religious retreat, but a 2011 makeover created a chic interior that blends natural elements with fine modern art. There are tennis courts and electric bikes (free for guests), and an outdoor sauna overlooking a lush garden. Rooms are decorated in soothing neutral tones, and there are two restaurants, one of which is a fine-dining destination. Pros: free Wi-Fi; ample free parking; spacious modern bathrooms. Cons: walk from streetcar station after dark is not well lit. | Rooms from: €150 | Guts-Muths-Weg 18, Degerloch | 0711/185-720, 0711/185-72120 | www.waldhotel-stuttgart.de | 94 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
There’s no shortage of rustic beer gardens, wine pubs, or sophisticated cocktail bars in and around Stuttgart. Night owls should head for the Schwabenzentrum on Eberhardstrasse; the Bohnenviertel, or “Bean Quarter” (Charlotten-, Olga-, and Pfarrstrasse); the “party mile” along Theodor-Heuss-Strasse; Calwer Strasse; and Wilhelmsplatz.
If you enjoy live music, visit this trendy restaurant and bar, perfect for an evening of dinner and drinks. The entertainment focus is on singer-songwriters, but includes jazz, comedy, and literary events, with swing dancing to a DJ every Sunday. | Hauptstätterstr. 57, Mitte | 0711/640-2583 | www.cafe-stella.de.
i-Punkt tourist office.
Across the street from the main train station, this is the place to check out a current calendar of events and buy discount tickets. There is also an i-Punkt kiosk at the Stuttgart Airport, Terminal 3, Level 2. | Königstr. 1A, Mitte | 0711/22280 ticket hotline (weekdays 8:30-6) | www.stuttgart-tourist.de | Weekdays 9-8, Sat. 9-6, Sun. and public holidays 10-6.
Built to showcase big-budget musicals, including American imports such as 42nd Street, this entertainment complex contains theaters, hotels, bars, restaurants, a casino, a wellness center, movie theaters, and shops. A calendar of events can be found on its website. | Plieninger Str. 100, Möhringen | 0711/721-1111 | www.si-centrum.de.
Stuttgart’s internationally renowned ballet company performs at this elegant historic theater. The ballet season—including works choreographed by Stuttgart Ballet’s John Cranko—is September through July and alternates with the highly respected State Opera. The box office is open weekdays 10-8, Saturday 10-2. | Oberer Schlossgarten 6, Mitte | 0711/20320 | www.staatstheater.stuttgart.de.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
From the pier opposite the entrance to the zoo, Neckar-Käpt’n offers a wide range of boat trips, as far north as scenic Besigheim. | Off Neckartalstr., Am Leuzebad | 0711/5499-7060 | www.neckar-kaeptn.de | €7-€32, depending on distance.
Stuttgart has a 53-km (33-mile) network of marked hiking trails in the nearby hills; follow the signs with the city’s emblem: a horse set in a yellow ring.
Swimming and Spas
Bad Cannstatt’s mineral springs are more than 2,000 years old and, with a daily output of about 5.8 million gallons, the second most productive in Europe (after Budapest). There are indoor and outdoor mineral pools, hot tubs, a sauna, a steam room, and spa facilities. | Sulzerrainstr. 2, Bad Cannstatt | 0711/2166-6270.
On the banks of the Neckar near the König-Karl Bridge is the Mineralbad Leuze, with eight pools indoors and out and an open-air mineral-water sauna. | Am Leuzebad 2-6, Bad Cannstatt | 0711/2169-9701.
Stuttgart is a shopper’s paradise, from the department stores on the Königstrasse to the boutiques in the Old Town’s elegant passages and the factory outlet stores.
Bohnenviertel (Bean Quarter).
Some of Stuttgart’s more unique shops are found in this older quarter. A stroll through the neighborhood’s smaller streets reveals many tucked-away shops specializing in fashion, jewelry, artwork, and gifts. | Stuttgart.
The flagship store of this upscale regional department-store chain has glass elevators that rise and fall under the dome of the central arcade, whisking you to multiple floors of designer boutiques. There is also a clearance Breuninger Outlet at Rotebühlplatz 25. | Marktstr. 1-3, Mitte | 0711/2110 | www.breuninger.de | Main store and Outlet: weekdays 10-8, Sat. 9:30-8.
You’ll find several blocks of boutiques, cafés, and restaurants between the main shopping streets of Koenigstrasse and Theodore-Heuss-Strasse, but far less busy. The restaurants spill into the pedestrian-only street in warm weather. | Calwerstr., Mitte.
Fodor’s Choice | Markthalle.
The beautiful art nouveau Markthalle on Dorotheenstrasse is one of Germany’s finest market halls, with a curved glass ceiling for natural light to show off a mouthwatering selection of exotic fresh fruits, spices, meats, cheeses, chocolates, honeys, flowers, and hand-made jewelry and crafts, including holiday decorations in season. Check out the huge ceramic fountain, which spouts water from the original well. The restaurant balcony overlooks the action, which starts at 7 am. | Dorotheenstr. 4 | www.markthalle-stuttgart.de | Weekdays 7-6:30, Sat. 7-5.
6 km (4 miles) north of Tübingen.
Between Stuttgart and Tübingen lies this small hamlet consisting of a few houses, a monastery, and the Waldhorn, an excellent and well-known restaurant. The monastery was founded in the 12th century by the count of Tübingen. Today it belongs to the state.
Getting Here and Around
To get here by public transportation, take the train from Stuttgart to Tübingen (45 minutes) then a bus to Bebenhausen (15 minutes). Trains and bus connections are several times an hour on weekdays, less on weekends. If you’re driving, take the B-27 and B-464 south from Stuttgart.
Fodor’s Choice | Zisterzienzerkloster (Cistercian Monastery).
This is a rare example of a well-preserved medieval monastery from the late 12th century. Following the secularization of 1806, the abbot’s abode was rebuilt as a hunting castle for King Frederick of Württemberg. Expansion and restoration continued as long as the palace and monastery continued to be a royal residence. Visits to the palace are with guided tours only. | Im Schloss | 07071/602-802 | Monastery €4, palace €4.50 | Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-noon and 1-5; Apr.-Oct. daily 9-5.
WHERE TO EAT
Fodor’s Choice | Waldhorn.
$$$$ | EUROPEAN | Old favorites such as the Vorspeisenvariation (a medley of appetizers), local fish, and goose keep people coming back to this historic eatery. The wine list features a well-chosen selection of top Baden and Württemberg wines. Garden tables have a castle view. A meal here is a perfect start or finale to the concerts held on the monastery-castle grounds in the summer. | Average main: €30 | Schönbuchstr. 49 | 07071/61270 | www.waldhorn-bebenhausen.de | No credit cards | Closed Mon. and Tues. | Reservations essential.
40 km (25 miles) south of Stuttgart.
With its half-timber houses, winding alleyways, and hilltop setting overlooking the Neckar, Tübingen provides the quintessential German experience. The medieval flavor is quite authentic, as the town was untouched by wartime bombings. Dating to the 11th century, Tübingen flourished as a trade center; its weights and measures and currency were the standard through much of the area. The town declined in importance after the 14th century, when it was taken over by the counts of Württemberg. Between the 14th and the 19th century, its size hardly changed as it became a university and residential town, its castle the only symbol of ruling power.
Yet Tübingen hasn’t been sheltered from the world. It resonates with a youthful air. Even more than Heidelberg, Tübingen is virtually synonymous with its university, a leading center of learning since it was founded in 1477. The best way to see and appreciate Tübingen is simply to stroll around, soaking up its age-old atmosphere of quiet erudition.
Getting Here and Around
By regional train or by car on the autobahn, Tübingen is an hour south of Stuttgart on B-27. Trains run several times an hour on weekdays, less often on weekends. In the Old Town you reach everything on foot.
The Tübingen tourist office runs guided city tours year-round at 2:30. From March through October tours take place daily and cost €9. From November through February, tours are on weekends only. Tours start at the Rathaus on the market square.
Discounts and Deals
Overnight guests receive a free Tourist-Regio-Card from their hotel (ask for it) for reduced admission fees to museums, concerts, theaters, and sports facilities.
A leisurely walk around the old part of town will take you about two hours, if you include the castle on the hill and Platanenallee, where you look at the Old Town from across the river.
Verkehrsverein Tübingen. | Tübingen | 07071/91360 | www.tuebingen-info.de.
Fodor’s Choice | Boxenstop Museum.
A wealth of vintage toys, model trains, and vehicles, including motorcycles, awaits children of all ages. This private collection, open to the public, includes Porsche, Ferrari, and Maserati racecars, an original 1957 VW Beetle, and a rare 1954 Lloyd. Ask a docent to start up the HO trains or one of the antique musical toys. Kids can ride one of the old pedal cars. There’s also a small café. | Brunnenstr. 18 | 7071/929-090 | www.boxenstop-tuebingen.de | €6.50 | Mid-Jan.-Oct., Wed.-Fri. 10-noon and 2-5; Nov.-Dec. 21, weekends 10-5.
Marktplatz (Market Square).
Houses of prominent burghers of centuries gone by surround this square. At the open-air market on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7 to 5 in the summer and 9 to 3 in winter, you can buy flowers, bread, pastries, poultry, sausage, and cheese. | Tübingen.
Rathaus (Town Hall).
Begun in 1433, this building slowly expanded over the next 150 years. Its ornate Renaissance facade is bright with colorful murals and a marvelous astronomical clock dating from 1511. The halls and reception rooms are adorned with half-timber and paintings from the late 19th century. | Marktpl.
Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church).
The late-Gothic church has been well preserved; its original features include the stained-glass windows, the choir stalls, the ornate baptismal font, and the elaborate stone pulpit. The windows are famous for their colors and were much admired by Goethe. The dukes of Württemberg, from the 15th through the 17th century, are interred in the choir. | Holzmarkt | 0707/43151 | www.stiftskirche-tuebingen.de/ | Daily 9-4.
Alte Aula (Old Auditorium).
Erected in 1547, the half-timber university building was significantly altered in 1777, when it acquired an Italian roof, a symmetrical facade, and a balcony decorated with two crossed scepters, symbolizing the town’s center of learning. In earlier times grain was stored under the roof as part of the professors’ salaries. | Münzg.
Bursa (Student Dormitory).
The word bursa meant “purse” in the Middle Ages and later came to refer to student lodgings such as this former student dormitory. Despite its classical facade, which it acquired in the early 19th century, the building actually dates back to 1477. Medieval students had to master a broad curriculum that included the septem artes liberales (seven liberal arts) of grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. The interior of the Bursa is not open for visits, but it’s worth strolling by for a look at the outside. | Bursag. 4.
Hölderlinturm (Hölderlin’s Tower).
Friedrich Hölderlin, a visionary poet who succumbed to madness in his early thirties, lived here until his death in 1843, in the care of the master cabinetmaker Zimmer and his daughter. There’s a small literary museum and art gallery inside, and a schedule of events includes concerts and poetry readings. | Bursag. 6 | 07071/22040 | www.hoelderlin-gesellschaft.de | €2.50 | Tues.-Fri. 10-noon and 3-5.
Kornhaus (Grain House).
During the Middle Ages, townspeople stored and sold grain on the first floor of this structure built in 1453; social events took place on the second floor. It now houses the City Museum with changing exhibitions and a permanent exhibition about the history of Tübingen. | Kornhausstr. 10 | 07071/204-1711 | €2.50 | Tues.-Sun. 11-5.
The original castle of the counts of Tübingen (1078) was significantly enlarged and altered by Duke Ulrich during the 16th century. Particularly noteworthy is the elaborate Renaissance portal patterned after a Roman triumphal arch. The coat of arms of the duchy of Württemberg depicted in the center is framed by the emblems of various orders, including the Order of the Garter. Today the castle’s main attraction is its magnificent view over the river and town. It’s a 90-minute walk from Schlossbergstrasse, over the Spitzberg, or via the Kapitänsweg that ends north of the castle. | Burgsteige 11.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
Fodor’s Choice | Forelle.
$$ | GERMAN | Beautiful ceilings painted with vine motifs, exposed beams, wooden wainscotting and an old tile stove make for a gemütlich (cozy) atmosphere. This small restaurant fills up fast, not least because of the Swabian cooking, including the region’s signature Maultaschen (filled pasta pockets). The chef makes sure the ingredients are from the region, including the inn’s namesake, trout, often served as French-style almondine. Save room for dessert, especially the house-made Schwäbische Apfelküchle (Swabian apple cake) with vanilla sauce. | Average main: €17 | Kronenstr. 8 | 07071/24094 | www.weinstube-forelle.de.
Fodor’s Choice | Wurstküche.
$ | GERMAN | For more than 200 years, all sorts of people have come here: students, because many of the dishes are filling yet inexpensive; locals, because the food is the typical Swabian fare their mothers made; and out-of-town visitors, who love the old-fashioned atmosphere. In summer try to get a seat at one of the sidewalk tables. Try the Alb-Leisa ond Schbatza, or sausages with spaetzle and lentils. | Average main: €13 | Am Lustnauer Tor 8 | 07071/92750 | www.wurstkueche.com.
Hotel Am Schloss.
$$ | HOTEL | There are lovely views of the Old Town from the rooms in this charming small hotel, and it’s close to the castle that towers over the town. In its excellent restaurant you can try a dozen versions of Maultaschen (Swabian-style ravioli) and other regional dishes. In season, local trout with a white wine from Swabia is a popular choice. In summer, reserve or try for a table on the terrace. Pros: lovely views of castle and valley; excellent restaurant. Cons: no elevator; difficult parking. | Rooms from: €118 | Burgsteige 18 | 07071/92940 | www.hotelamschloss.de | 37 rooms | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | This family-run hotel provides friendly service, comfortable rooms, and a convenient Altstadt location near the castle. Some rooms are on the small side, so try to see a few before you decide. As parking is difficult, the hotel will help you park your car. Pros: convenient location. Cons: many stairs in spite of elevator; rooms simply furnished; no bar or restaurant. | Rooms from: €110 | Neckarhalde 2 | 07071/9240 | www.hotel-hospiz.de | 45 rooms | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
You’ll find jazz, light fare, and a wineshop here, and a more sophisticated crowd than at the student pubs. | Schmiedtorstr. 17 | 07071/254-690 | www.diekelter.de | Closed Mon.
Like all the Old Town student pubs, Jazzkeller attracts a lively crowd after 9. | Haagg. 15/2 | 07071/550-906 | www.jazz-keller.eu | Closed Sun.
This café morphs into a bistro and cocktail lounge after dark, so you can find action from breakfast until past midnight, next to the Stiftskirche. | Münzg. 17 | 07071/24572 | www.tangente-marktschenke.de.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
The Tübingen tourist office has maps with hiking routes around the town, including historical and geological Lehrpfade, or educational walks. A classic Tübingen walk goes from the castle down to the little chapel called the Wurmlinger Kapelle, taking about two hours. On the way you can stop off at the restaurant Schwärzlocher Hof (closed Monday and Tuesday) for a glass of Most (apple wine), bread, and sausages—all are homemade.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Burg Hohenzollern.
The majestic silhouette of this massive castle is visible from miles away. The Hohenzollern House of Prussia was the most powerful family in German history. It lost its throne when Kaiser William II abdicated after Germany’s defeat in World War I. The Swabian branch of the family owns one-third of the castle, the Prussian branch two-thirds. Today’s neo-Gothic structure, perched high on a conical wooded hill, is a successor of a castle dating from the 11th century. On the fascinating 45-minute castle tour you’ll see the Prussian royal crown and beautiful period rooms, all opulent from floor to ceiling, with such playful details as door handles carved to resemble peacocks and dogs. The restaurant on the castle grounds, Burgschänke (closed January and Monday in February and March) serves regional food, and there’s an outdoor beer garden in season. From the castle parking lot it’s a 20-minute walk to the entrance, or in summer take the shuttle bus (€3.10 round-trip, €1.90 one way). | 25 km (15 miles) south of Tübingen on B-27 | Hechingen | 07471/2428 | www.burg-hohenzollern.com | €12 including interior rooms; €7 without | Castle and shuttle bus: mid-Mar.-Oct., daily 9-5:30; Nov.-mid-Mar., daily 10-4:30.