Travelling to Germany during Advent means being able to visit Christmas markets. Stuttgart, in Baden-Württemberg, has stalls at its centre and is a convenient base for exploring those in nearby cities, including Esslingen.
Passing the shops of Königstrasse, the 1.2km pedestrianised street in front of Stuttgart’s railway station, I headed straight to the Weihnachtsmarkt, the Christmas market, on the square by the town hall.
A cup of warm cheer
The air was cold. Consequently my hands were chilly, so I ordered something seasonal to warm them on; a mug of Glühwein—mulled wine made with Schwarzriesling, a grape varietal also known as Pinot Meunier.
Socialising while sipping warm wine is a popular element of a visit to Germany’s Christmas markets. Opportunities to munch on food such as sugar-coated nuts, fruit that’s been dipped in chocolate and sausages that have been roast over charcoal grills ensures the convivial markets draw locals as well as visitors.
A city for car lovers
I headed to the latter, within a striking contemporary building a couple of minutes’ walk from VfB Stuttgart’s home stadium, the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
An audio guide provided information about the exhibits, which provide an overview of how motor vehicles have evolved since the 1880s. Gottleib Daimler fitted an engine to a carriage in 1886, the same year that Karl Benz received his patent for the motorcar.
Racing cars and vehicles made for use by the emergency services count among the many vehicles on display in the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
A trip out to Ludwigsburg
Though tempted to take to the ice on the rink at Schlossplatz, the square between the New Palace and the Königsbau shopping centre, I headed to Ludwigsburg, a 20-minute S-Bahn ride from central Stuttgart.
Ludwigsburg, a Baroque city with 83,000 inhabitants, is constructed on a grid pattern. Eberhard Ludwig, the Duke of Württemberg, ordered the construction of Ludwigsburg Palace in 1704 and lived there with his mistress, Wilhilmine von Grävenitz. His successors expanded the building into the grand attraction it is today. It would be easy to spend half a day viewing the palace and gardens.
On the marketplace, five minutes’ walk from the palace, Ludwigsburg’s Baroque Christmas market has 175 stalls. Arriving after darkness had fallen gave me an opportunity to see the market at its most atmospheric.
Dinner at a Swabian restaurant
Dining at the Weinstube Klingel (Eberhardstrasse 8; tel. +49 7141 926968) in Ludwigsburg, presented an opportunity to tuck into dishes featuring locally shot game. I selected Hirschbraten, roast venison, served with Spätzle, hand-rubbed noodles—a dish that’s typical of Swabia’s hearty cuisine.
Weinstubes are traditional taverns that offer wine by the glass, usually 250ml measures.
Stuttgart is surrounded by vineyards, some of which produce high quality white wines. I ordered a crisp glass of Riesling from Besigheim’s Felsengarten winery.
A place to stay
I slept at the Park Inn by Radisson Stuttgart (Hauptstätter Strasse 147; tel. +49 711 320940), a modern, four-star hotel with 181 guestrooms. The hotel is across the street from Marienplatz, 1.5km from the city centre.
My bedroom was spacious and the free Wi-Fi proved quick and reliable. After a day of fresh air and strolling around the Christmas markets, sleep came easy. Maybe a beer from the Lounge Bar in the lobby, upon returning to the hotel, helped?
A buffet breakfast is available on the ground floor of the hotel, which also has a sauna and fitness area plus a rooftop terrace with city views.
Tram stops and the Marienplatz U-Bahn station are a couple of minutes’ walk from the hotel, offering an alternative to the 20-minute walk.
Getting around in Stuttgart
One of the easiest ways of exploring Stuttgart and the surrounding region is on the public transport network. Towns and cities in Stuttgart’s hinterland can be reached using the S-Bahn network.
The S2 and S3 run between Stuttgart Airport and the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) in the city centre. Journeys take 27 minutes.
Buy tickets from vending machines before boarding U- and S-Bahn trains. Purchasing a one day or three day ticket can save time and money, in comparison to buying single tickets for each journey. KombiTickets are also an option for hotel guests staying in the city.
Travelling to Stuttgart
Stuttgart Airport also has direct connections with Stansted, Gatwick, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester in the United Kingdom, plus Dublin in the Republic of Ireland.
Visiting Stuttgart’s tourist attractions
A StuttCard (nope, that isn’t a typo, that’s the correct name for Stuttgart’s city tourism card) includes admission to all of the city’s museums and a number of leisure facilities. The tickets are valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours, and also bring discounts in a number of shops, restaurants and theatres.
Tickets including the use of public transport are also available, as the StuttCard PLUS.
Find out more about Stuttgart and the surrounding region via the www.stuttgart-tourist.de website.
For more about attractions throughout Baden-Württemberg see www.tourismus-bw.com.
The German National Tourist Board’s website has information about the country’s south-west and, of course, other destinations across Germany.
Photos illustrating this post are by Stuart Forster.
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Disclosure – Stuart travelled to Stuttgart as a guest of Stuttgart Airport and Baden-Württemberg Tourism. The views expressed in this blog post are his own.