Stuttgart, known as the car capital of Germany and where Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are headquartered, sees annual visits to these two dream machine museums by car lovers from all over the world. However, there is so much more to Stuttgart, located in Southern Germany: during my time there I found a thriving, cosmopolitan metropolis set within a valley with vineyards growing on its hillside, great cultural attractions and fantastic food including over a dozen Michelin-star Restaurants.
I had been in Berlin gallery-hopping, and several friends suggested that I take a side trip to Stuttgart, raving that its national museum was a gem that not nearly enough people took time to visit. They also insisted that Stuttgart was an under-the-radar architecture mecca. Perhaps the most intriguing fact, however, was that Stuttgart was recently named the least stressful city in the world.
Based off my experience I can say that my arrival was certainly stress-free. I took an easy and comfortable first-class train ride from Berlin. My hotel, the five-star Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin was right across from the train station.
My hotel’s front desk team recommended a good restaurant in the old town, a ten-minute walk away. Shortly after I soon found where the city’s hotspot was. The city centre’s main pedestrian street was packed with a diverse crowd strolling about and eating ice cream with their families. Stuttgart’s multi-cultural nature was a nice surprise. The city was, as Baudelaire would say, was a wonderful human anthill.
During my time in the city I also crossed an expansive park with lakes and swans, and went into Carls Brauhaus, one of the recommended eateries, that overlooked the park. I sat down at a table, and scanned the menu for anything marked “typishc shcwabische,” also known as Swabian food, which dominates the cuisine of the German state of Baden Württemberg, of which Stuttgart is the capital. It’s hearty food, with a lot of noodles, and spaetzele, with an emphasis on, as locals say “food being be dunked, crumbled, or covered in a sauce or broth.”
“We call ourselves Wet Eaters,” the waiter told me. “You dunk bread in soup; you cover meats and noodles in sauce, or butter, or both.” I started with a very sauced-up plate of the signature Maultaschen ravioli, and ended with a homemade Ofenschlufper (or Oven Slipper), an apple and raisin-studded bread pudding that was somehow delicate although it was drowning in cream.
Another interesting fact about Stuttgart is that it is smack dab in the middle of Germany’s wine district. The city itself is set low in a valley with the sloping hills above covered in 200 acres of vineyards. It’s a region of Germany where good wine is celebrated maybe more than beer, especially the local trollinger wine.
Over the next three days more of the city’s appeal revealed itself to me: I visited museums, markets, and coffee and cake shops. I traipsed across green parks, and elegant city squares, past the baroque Neues Schloss (New Palace) and the Altes Schloss (Old Palace).
The outdoor market was a particular delight: it’s set up in the medieval Schillerplatz with a statue of the great humanist and writer for whom the square is named looking down over the vendors selling strawberries, sweet purple grapes and the unique and might I say, very ‘Instagrammable’ pointed cabbage, which has been grown here for centuries.
Another stand out establishment was the Stuttgart State Gallery. It’s easily one of Europe’s finest museums, but I had never heard much about it. It represents works of art from over eight centuries in seemingly endless exhibition rooms. I went through the permanent exhibition representing works of Late Medieval German, Italian and Netherlandish art as well as Swabian Classicism and was stunned by the modern collection with its Twomblys, Klees, Schieles, Baselitzes, Rothkos, Picassos, and other endless works by masters of twentieth-century art. There was also a room dedicated to the costumes made for the Stuttgart Ballet. Everything was displayed in an uncrowded manner, thanks to the space designed by British architect James Stirling about 30 years ago.
I could have stayed in the Stattsgalerie all day, but I had a lunch date with an acquaintance at Cube, a restaurant atop the Kunstmuseum, also known as the City Art Museum. The restaurant immediately stood out with its spectacular glass cube shape built by Berlin architects, Hascher and Jehle.
On the top floor restaurant my friend and I enjoyed a delicious meal, as we overlooked the city and its vine-covered slopes.
After lunch I visited the museum’s galleries, which holds, in my opinion, the world’s most important collection of Weimar-era pieces by German artist, Otto Dix.
Other interesting stops along my trip were the Mercedes and Porsche museums.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum goes beyond the history of 130 years of automotive history, and the pioneering inventions of Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz to showcase how the powerful car industry shaped society in both good and bad periods of history. The museum, which is built in a double helix fashion, takes visitors on a journey as they snake through the exhibit.
In total contrast the Porsche Museum is set in an ultra-modern building designed by Viennese architect Delugan Meissl. The building is designed with few right angles, so nothing distracts from its collection of 80 iconic Porsches displayed in the 5,600 m2 space.
As for visitors interested in viewing different types of architecture two mandatory stops include: Stuttgart’s new public library and the Weissenhof Estate, which sits on a slopping hill outside the city center. The library, which was designed by Korean architect Eun Young Yi, is made up of countless glass blocks, which illuminate as the sun hits the structure at different times of the day.
As for the Weissenhof Estate, seventeen famous architects, including Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Hans Scharoun collaborated on the project, which was developed in 1927 as an exhibition of 1920s housing estates and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016.
All in all, whether it’s cars, museums, fine-dining, luxury hotels, or expansive outdoor parks, Stuttgart is a must-see location for those traveling to and visiting Germany, especially those looking to sit back, relax, and enjoy a unique and stress-free trip. ■