Tourist tips for Stuttgart, Germany
An overview, not a comprehensive guide
Rather, it’s insider tourist tips for some of the places not to miss and a few better avoided. There is a lot to see in Stuttgart although it is not nearly as popular a tourist destination as many other German cities. Geologically it is full of hills and valleys and wine grapes are grown on many of its slopes. It was heavily bombed during WWII but many of the more formidable, historical buildings in the center were rebuilt after the war. But it cannot compare in charm to places that avoided getting razed. It is known more for being a business hub with a lot of technical expertise. Its international claim to fame is for being home to both Mercedes and Porsche. A local nickname is “Benz-town” echoing Detroit’s fame as the “motor city.”
Stuttgart is the capital city of the southwestern region of Baden-Württemberg, the most prosperous region of Germany. The regional and local governments were control by the conservative CDU party for over 60 years after the war but more recently became the first region and major city to be run by the environmental Green Party. So while it has a rather conservative base, the progressives in the area have come to the forefront in recent years. There are often demonstrations promoting more democracy, and to protest things like the controversial Stuttgart 21 train project and to return to the scheduled phasing out of nuclear energy.
Stuttgart is Germany’s 5th largest city and has an abundance of cultural and sport events. This includes a world class ballet and opera and many large festivals and events through out the year. It hosts a festive carnival and encourages tolerance as seen by its large Christopher Street Day parade. Photos shown include the Christmas Market, Hamburger Fish Market, Carnival, Mercedes Museum, Schlossgarden, Schlossplatz, Demonstraation against the Stuttgart 21 Train project and the Württemberg Historical Museum. Many of the reviews below are rather brief as they were originally written for Trip Advisory, the popular travel site.
The Schlossplatz or Castle Plaza as it would be translated in English, is a large area in the middle of the main pedestrian street. There is a garden with benches in the middle. The „new“ castle on the east side houses governmental offices. On the opposite side is the majestic Königsbau building. Formerly home to the Stuttgart Stock Exchange, it has shops and an annex shopping center with a great food court. Next to it is the modern art museum known as the Cube. It has an all glass facade and offers spectacular views over the square below. In front of the large stairs between the museum and the Königsbau is the performing area most preferred by street artists like the internationally known local clown Tom Bolton. Tom’s usage of this space helped popularize it to become the „happening“ place in town, just to hang out, watch people go by or hold an event.
To the south side is the „old“ castle which is now the State Historical Museum. The north side is another of Stuttgart’s many art Museums. The Schlossplatz is a central cultural meeting place and hosts many events, demonstrations and is a favorite place for street performers. The setting of the Schlossplatz is a lot of beautiful old buildings that were reconstructed after the war and a central area with statues; grass one can lay on and well maintained flowerbeds. There is probably more to see and do in this one street than any place in all of Germany yet it is clean and safe and less hectic than bigger cities like Berlin, Hamburg or Munich.
Many German cities have a pedestrian street in the center but Stuttgart’s Königstrasse is exceptional. It is about a kilometer long and very wide with many shady trees. It starts from the central train station or Hauptbahnhof and runs to the new Gerber Shopping center. This is not only the main shopping district but the area with the most bars, restaurants, cinemas and theaters all located conveniently within walking distance of each other. Right in the center is the Schlossplatz, the very heart of Stuttgart. This central plaza is bordered by the new castle, a government building and the old caste, the main historical museum of the region.
Wurttemberg State Museum
This is the main historical museum of the region. Housed in the beautiful old castle right by the Schlossplatz, it is one of the city’s prize architectural attractions. There are lots of old armaments and armor of the various royalty and regimes. Also, artifacts from the Romans and Celts who founded settlements here and even some prehistoric figures from the region that are the oldest fertility symbols found in Europe. If one hasn’t time or money to visit; the exterior and inside courtyard are worth seeing and free.
Being the Mercedes Museum, it of course has cars, lots and lots of Mercedes cars – all housed in a star of architectural design. But it also has vehicles of all sorts and includes displays and information about motors and other technical developments that were used in boats, submarines, trains and airplanes – all developed by local manufacturers. Many of the descriptions cover technical, economic and social impacts including their military usages. One can hardly see it all even in half a day. One can get audio guides in German or English included in the entrance price of 8 Euros as of 2016.
This extensive park runs north from the Schlossplatz to the Neckar river. It connects to another large park, Rosenstein that contains the Wilhelma Zoo and the Museum Schloss Rosenstein. The Schlossgarden was built and changed over the centuries as a royal property. Its vast space and many large, shady trees make it as iconic as Central Park is to New York City. It attracts people to run, bike, skate board or roller blade. Many come to lay in the grass, grill out or do fun sports like Frisbee, slack-lining, or juggling.
In the center is a popular beer garden and a nearby place to play chess with large figures or play Bocce, an Italian game where one attempts to throw balls closes to a thrown jack. There is a small pond at the southern end of the Schlossgarden in front of the majestic opera house. This is an attractive setting but attracts an abundance of ducks and swans. Its proximity to the center makes it an idea place to take a break from shopping and to relax in the grass. Just watch out for all of the feces left by the water fowl.
Stuttgart has a lot of parks but Killesberg is the most beautiful. It is extensive with plenty of benches or places to sit or lay in the grass under the shade of massive old trees. There are multiple snack bars and restaurants, an innovating looking tower for great views over the area and a miniature train that the kids can ride through the park. There are also play grounds and a small zoo with ponies, goats and other animals – both free.
In the summer months there is a traditional old fair set up with carousels, popcorn and cotton candy wagons and a tent theater with children’s’ programs. It is a bit north-west of the center but easily reached by public transportation within 10 minutes. Compared to the large Schlossgarten Park in the center, Killesberg is much cleaner and less questionable people hanging around always has a good breeze of fresh air while the center is in a valley and the air is usually sticky and not the best quality. Overall it is very quiet and a great place to take children but maybe a bit boring for young adults looking for action.
This center is located well outside the center of Stuttgart, easily reached by public transportation but it takes about 20 minutes to get there. Basically it houses a musical theater center and a large hotel. There are also a bunch of bars, restaurants, cinemas and a spa here. But the décor is like a tacky parody of Las Vegas 40 years ago. Everything is expensive, kitschy, artificial and poorly laid out.
I guess if going to a musical is your thing, then you might want to stop for a drink or bite to eat before or after but with the lack of atmosphere this is the last place in the region I would go for an afternoon or evening of entertainment. And while the musical is happening the rest of the complex is like a ghost town. The Schwaben Quelle Spa is rather nice with lots of plants and pools and saunas but at least double the price of any of the other great spas in the area. Unless one wants to see the musical, I see no reason to bother with this place despite it being heavily promoted as some kind of tourist attraction..
Restaurant, bars and cafe‘ reviews
Stuttgart food lounge in the Königsbau
Germany is not so big on shopping centers like one finds in the States. Rather there are still vibrant city centers with many shops and eateries. Right on the Schlossplatz, in the heart of Stuttgart is a mall in the historical Königbau building. It’s not a big mall but has added a pretty extensive food court on the third floor. One has a good selection from about a dozen different food stalls including Asian, Italian, and Turkish etc.
The whole mall is a bit upscale but prices for food are quite reasonable and there is seating for a couple hundred people in a nice atmosphere. The big advantage besides being so centrally located is that one can eat together with people and everyone can get a different kind of food. This saves having to decide for one particular restaurant.
This simple Turkish restaurant is just off of the main walking street, Königstr. in Stuttgart center very close to the main train station. They have another location in the Arnulf-Klett-Platz, which is an underground shopping area directly in front (and below) the main train station. They not only have the typical meat dishes like döner kebabs and pide but also great non-meat offerings like falafel, haulomi and salads .
One can also get slices or whole pizzas but like at nearly all Turkish places they are not nearly as good as authentic Italian. This is probably the best Turkish place in central Stuttgart among a good 100 or more. There are easily now more Turkish eateries in Germany than all of the traditional sausage and hamburger places (including McDonalds and Burger King) put together.
The number of Chinese and Asian restaurants has greatly increased over the years. There are a number of places in Stuttgart that are slightly cheaper but the Mulan Garden is the best value with great asian food and sizable portions. One can get a single plate or all you can eat from the buffet or order from the extensive menu. I have to admit that the buffet selection is not so big and the price has gone up a bit in recent years, so I usually order from the menu. Most dishes being around 6 to 7 Euros. The decor is modern with great photos on the wall rather than the typical cliché of red lanterns and a fish tank. They also have a quiet outdoor terrace which is open during good weather. One also notices that Chinese travelers and residents also eat here so it is definitely authentic.
There is also a Mulan Restaurant in the Kronenstr., a couple minutes’ walk from the main train station. Same owner but not as quite as nice and it closes earlier. I don’t eat meat and have to admit that the vegetarian choices are not extensive especially at the buffet but the ones they have are good and they also have fish and seafood. The spicey squid with Thai basil is my favorite dish here and I eat here at least once or twice a month. One can get all food to go, either from the menu or buffet but they do not deliver as far as I know.
The centrally located Rich Man has both a buffet and an extensive menu, good portions and is fairly cheap. It has a lot of outdoor seating and is easily seen from the pedestrian street the Königstr. It is reliably good and recommendable although I find the nearby Mulan Garden to be a bit better. There is actually a cluster of Chinese/Thai places here with an additional 3 or 4 restaurants within a stone’s throw but the Mulan and Rice are the best value. The others tend to charge much more on the pretense of having slightly fancier decor but not better food.
OK, this is not high cuisine but it is really not so bad either. One can get rice or noodles combined with veggies and/or chicken, fish or shrimps with your choice of 4 sauces. It is not self-service but one orders at the counter, cafateria style and you have your food in a matter of seconds. The menu is limited and the food already prepared. They do a brisk business at their 2 central locations; one by the Schlossplatz, the other down in the Stuttgart-Mitte S-Bahn Station, so they are constantly renewing the supplies so that it is always fresh. The meals are given in take away containers.
They do have seating but many people like to take the food and eat in the nearby Schlosspark or sit on the steps by the Schlossplatz and watch the people go by. The portions are not huge but then many German restaurants go overboard and one helping is usually enough to fill me up. The main attraction besides the speed is the price. All meals are around 3 to 4 Euros!
Other than a hotdog or hamburger, this is about the cheapest hot asian meal to be found in the center. Asian food is pretty affordable in Stuttgart and if one wants a sit down meal and bigger portions then the cheapest places will run about 5 to 8 Euros a meal, the fancier places up to double that. Unlike other restaurants this place closes around 8 pm so don’t get there too late if you want dinner.
This restaurant is one of the original Chinese places in Stuttgart. It’s located one floor up, in the Königstrasse just south of the Schlossplatz. It has a tradition decor and is a bit fancy, with a hot plate to keep your food warm. Food is good and the portions very big but one pays dearly as there are now many simple Chinese places in town including at least half a dozen within a couple minutes’ walk which are nearly half the price.
They have an outdoor section directly in the middle of the main pedestrian street but it seems to rarely be open except in the summer, during great weather and even then not very late into the evening. The main restaurant is upstairs and stays open later. This is not the place to get a cheap meal but might be worth the splurge if one is looking for a more formal place. It has a certain nostalgia for me as it was THE place to go for Chinese some decades ago when such food was considered exotic and hard to find.
This is a chain with 3 locations in Stuttgart. The Silberbergstr. location in Stuttgart-West is disappointing. The one on the Wilhelmsplatz on the edge of the center is a nice place to sit outdoors and once the absolute insider’s tip for the best Italian food in Stuttgart. Nice to sit outside by good weather. Service is unfortunately slow and one should avoid peak times or be prepared to wait for a table as it is overly popular.
Since a couple of years, there is a third location; Pizzaria Il Pomodoro, Filderstr. 25, 70180 Stuttgart that is a bit south of the center a few blocks from the Marienplatz. Its rather far to be considered within walking distance from the center but reachable by a quick U-Bahn or bus ride. The family that formerly ran the Wilhelmplatz location is running this one now. And they still hold the crown for the best Italian in town. No outdoor seating here but it is a comfortable place with traditional wooden decor and benches. The service seems to be a bit quicker than at the old location but it’s as popular as ever, so one should reserve a table in advance or arrive extra early.
Königstr. 66, 70173 Stuttgart. Right in the middle of the upper Königsstr. near the Rötebuhlplatz. They are set up like a large glass kiosk with most of the seating outdoors. This is one of the nicest cafes to sit outdoors in the Königstr. They serve crepes, coffee and ice cream. They used to have by far the best slices of pizza in town but seem to have discontinued selling them sometime in 2017. This is a great loss as there is no longer any place recommendable in the center that sells pizza by the slice.
Vegi Voodo King:
Vegi Voodo king has been around a while. It’s located 2 blocks east of the upper Königstrasse. The atmosphere is nice, lots of alternative type of people and for strict Vegans they know they can eat everything there. Unfortunately, I find the food unimpressive. The problem is that they have a very limited menu other than some variations of falafel. They usually have a soup and maybe one other special of the day. But the reality is that their falafels are NOT particularly good, the pita bread is too tough and chewy and the overall taste is sour and unexciting.
There are plenty of Turkish places around that do a falafel in yufka, which is like a wrap rather than pita bread. Most offer additional vegetarian options as well. Many such places also have houlumi, a fried cheese, for those who still eat dairy products. Of course they are all going to have a big hunk of meat visibly roasting for their döners, so if one does not want to even see meat, they are not the place to go. Sorry but even the most basic Turkish place has much better falafel than VVK. I do not say this just to support the Turkish places, since they all also make notoriously tasteless pizzas – for which it is better to pay a bit more and find a real Italian place.
Palast der Republik
This is a virtual cult bar in Stuttgart. Home to the alternative scene for over 2 decades, it is as popular as ever. When one talks about humble beginning it doesn’t get more humble than this. It’s a small circular glass building that was originally a public toilet! Converted into a bar, it spills out on to the surrounding sidewalk and small plaza. It attracts hundreds of people by warm weather although there are only about 8 seats inside at the bar. In recent years benches and tables have been added outdoors.
Formerly people just sat on the ground or the foot high cement curbs surrounding a handful of shady trees. It is just around the block from the Schlossplatz by the large ring road Theodor-Heuss-Strasse. There are many nearby restaurants, cafes, cinemas and ice cream dealers. There is an entrance to the Börseplatz U-Bahn station right next to it which serves as an underground transit point towards the University making it a lively and heavily trafficked spot. The beers are not cheap here and there is often a long wait to get one so many people actually show up with their own.
Named for the extensive stairs between it and the “Cube” art Museum on one side and the Königsbau on the other. They have a long section of outdoor seating that has made it one of the most enjoyable places to relay and people watch on the Schlossplatz. As I sometimes do street shows close by, one can get free entertainment. It’s a modern, kind of hip, place for café, drinks, small meals and good ice-cream. It’s not cheap but more so than the Starbucks across from it or the other cafes on the Schlossplatz.
Specialty pages not in the main navigation menu:
For entertainment customized for car dealerships: clown-event.de/auto-dealer-entertainment-english/
Festival entertainment is one of Tom’s specialties: clown-event.de/festival-entertainment/
Tom’s world travels: https://clown-event.de/world-travel/
Tom’s world travels in German: https://clown-event.de/toms-weltreisen/
Funny story of a „typical“ gig in English: Performance story
Car sharing Stuttgart, Germany; ecological and promotes urban mobility: Car sharing Stuttgart, Germany
Stuttgart bike rental, the convenient way to get around town: Bike rental Stuttgart
Public transportation in Stuttgart; trains, subway and buses: public transportation Stuttgart
Clown juggler Tom Bolton’s original clown website contains addition information and photos, also in English, and includes some more private insights to his experiences on the world stage and is available at: www.clowntombolton.com