NOW here's an innovative, forward-thinking city, refined by a generous helping of culture, to be enjoyed with lashings of its locally produced wine.
Nestled amongst forests and vineyards Stuttgart is a city on the up. Thrusting a scaffold-clad fist skyward, the manifold construction sites suggest a surging confidence, a concrete declaration of its self-belief. Admittedly, on drawing back my hotel curtains, I was surprised to be met by such a verdant backdrop.
Nestled amongst forests and vineyards Stuttgart is a city on the up.
I'd arrived in the city under guise of darkness via an aesthetically challenged underground (albeit, efficient and great value for money), which is why I recommend you head straight to the tourist office and take a guided tour of the city in order to elicit its countless cultural, gastronomical, and architectural offerings.
Had I not, I could've easily fallen prey to believing this was a destination popular with beer swilling blokes bedecked in lederhosen (men's traditional Bavarian costume). Turns out, however, Stuttgart's Beer Festival was in full swing.
It also explains why 98 per cent of the passengers on my flight from Manchester were male: groups of men of all ages en route to aforesaid festival who, much to my ear-wigging delight, declared it the best in Europe (even better than Munich's in their clearly experienced opinion). Seems many of them had made this an annual pilgrimage of sorts to 'escape the missus' and drink, bond, and dance on tables amidst the wildest scenes I've ever witnessed in a beer tent.
Every year, from late September to early October, approximately four million people descend on the Cannstatter Volkfest (known locally as the 'Wasen'), which is actually Stuttgart's harvest thanksgiving festival and one of the largest in the world. Now 194 years old, it began as a combination of a festival for the general public and an agricultural fair, and was intended to aid the recovery of Württemberg's battered economy in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.
Today, it consists of fairground rides, seven gargantuan beer tents (each holding up to 5,800 people), two wine tents, and the Alpine Village. Apply legions of women trussed to within an inch of their dirndl (women's traditional Bavarian costume) and you can see why this festival is so popular.
Mercedes Benz MuseumA short stroll from the Wasen is the Mercedes-Benz museum which is Stuttgart's most visited exhibition. I enjoyed this place immensely; but, then, I'm a closet car fiend and this museum is the only one in the world to chart the 126-year history of the automobile industry from its inception right up to the present day. The sleek, futuristic Porsche museum (designed by Viennese architects, Delugan Meissl) is a short train ride away from the centre of Stuttgart too, with a classic collection of cars worthy of lingering appreciation.
My personal highlight was the medieval town of Esslingen am Neckar. Fifteen minutes train ride from the centre of Stuttgart, this place is a must see. One of the few old towns in Germany to have survived the Second World War without damage, it offers an almost original medieval town centre with its towers and gate-towers, magnificent half-timbered houses and churches, and a feast of architectural gems in between.
Porsche MuseumEsslingen's undoubted tourist attraction has to be its traditional, medieval Christmas market which, this year, runs from 27 November until 21 December. Throw in the Kessler Champagne Factory (adjacent to the market square), twee cobbled streets, romantic riverside walks, and a lively international jazz scene and I was in seventh heaven.
And just to put the pedigree of Kessler's sparkling wine into context, its founder, Georg Christian Kessler, having learnt the secrets of Champagne-making at Veuve Clicquot (a tragic story of unrequited love if ever I heard one), established his own house in 1826. Kessler’s Rosé Brut is the most glorious, most quaffable sparkling wine I've tasted in recent years. Definitely one to stock up on when you're in town (I wish I'd brought a crate of the stuff back ― it's that good).
Back in Stuttgart, I contemplated the vibrant bustle of Palace Square from our table in Cube ― the top floor restaurant of the Museum of Art ― where we enjoyed spätzle with veal steak and courgettes, while bathed in the glorious warm October sun.
Spätzle with vealPrior to my visit, I wouldn't have considered Stuttgart a tourist destination. Austere and cold would've been my first thought. But its year-round temperate climate, accessible size, integrated transport system, and myriad cultural (world class ballet company) and gastronomic offerings (six Michelin starred restaurants, abundance of gourmet food markets, birthplace of the pretzel ― need I say more?) means there's something here to appeal to all tastes ― literally.
No wonder it’s keen to dust off its limiting reputation as an industrial city ('cradle of the automobile'), rise from its knees, and assert itself as the city that 'offers more' ― because, refreshingly, it does.
Follow Thea on Twitter @urbandeva
Germanwings is one of the most successful low cost airline companies in Europe. Germanwings offers low cost flights to over 90 destinations on the European continent, Israel and North Africa from five airports: Cologne/Bonn, Stuttgart, Berlin-Schönefeld, Hannover and Dortmund. The discount airline has a new fleet of 32 Airbus A319 jets. Flights from Manchester to Stuttgart with a lead-in price from £29.99: www.germanwings.com/en
Park Inn by Radisson Stuttgart boasts an ideal city centre location, just 200 metres from Marienplatz. This Stuttgart hotel features 181 comfortable guest rooms overlooking Marienplatz or the lush lawn below. The hotel also houses a stylish on-site restaurant, modern fitness room and extensive meeting facilities. Prices start from €55. Website: www.parkinn.com/hotel-stuttgart
Stuttgart: information and bookings of package arrangements, hotel accommodation, and city tours: www.stuttgart-tourist.de
Eating and Drinking:
Cube, Kleiner Schlossplatz 1, 70173 Stuttgart: www.cube-restaurant.de
Weinstube Kachelofen, Eberhardstraße 10, 70173 Stuttgart: www.weinstubekachelofen.de
Weinkeller Einhorn, Heugasse 17 , 73728 Esslingen am Neckar: www.weinkellereinhorn.de
Kessler, Georg-Christian-von-Kessler-Platz, 21 73728 Esslingen am Neckar: www.kessler-sekt.de
Places to visit:
Stuttgart Beer Festival, Cannstatter Wasen, Mercedesstraße 40, 70372 Stuttgart: www.cannstatter-volksfest.de
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Mercedesstraße 100, 70372 Stuttgart: www.mercedes-benz-classic.com
Porsche Museum, Porscheplatz 1, 70435 Stuttgart: www.porsche.com/international/aboutporsche/porschemuseum/
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