Germany’s 5-star destination SouthWest Germany (the state of Baden-Württemberg) is one of Europe’s most romantic destinations: think Black Forest and Heidelberg, Lake Constance and fairy tale castles. But we also have variety, from the world’s finest automobile museums to award-winning vineyards, from world-class music and ballet to great hiking and cycling. We enjoy hot summers and crisp winters, lively springs and glorious autumns, legendary wine and beer festivals … and we have the best Christmas markets!
Enchanting Places SouthWest Germany is famous for its vibrant and historic cities, with half-timbered houses and cobbled streets, world-class museums and spas … and terrific shopping.
Five Cities and Towns of Renown
Stuttgart The state capital has it all, from the historic square “Schillerplatz”, with its castle to the State Opera, home of world-class opera and ballet. One of Germany's great art collections is in the “Staatsgalerie”; the contemporary “Kunstmuseum” Stuttgart is as dramatic outside as the modern art inside. The avant-garde Mercedes-Benz Museum and the Porsche Museum tell the stories of two of the world's most glamorous motor companies.
Baden-Baden The hot, soothing waters here have attracted visitors for 2,000 years. Today, the main spa is the historic Friedrichsbad, like a mini-palace with “Roman-Irish” baths. With the elegant 19th-century casino and grand hotels, chic shops, peaceful parks and glorious gardens, this is a spa town like no other. Once a favorite of the nobility – now everyone can enjoy it.
Heidelberg The cradle of the Romantic Movement, Heidelberg is dominated by one of Germany's most impressive castles. Built as a fort, then converted into a residential palace, it has fabulous views over the city and Neckar River. Charming medieval houses and the oldest university in Germany (1386) make Heidelberg a favorite destination.
Freiburg Centered on the cathedral, Germany's warmest and sunniest city has a medieval heart, but is also one of the world's leading “eco-cities.” It makes an excellent base for trips to nearby vineyards and into the Black Forest.
Karlsruhe Nicknamed the “fan-shaped city” because its elegant 300-year-old streets spread out like a fan from the castle, the city is now known for technology. The Center for Art and Media Technology (ZKM) is a leading-edge museum, dedicated to new technology and new media.
Five great undiscovered Gems
Ulm On the Danube, Albert Einstein’s birthplace has the world's tallest cathedral. Its 530-ft (161m) tall steeple soars above the medieval fishermen's and tanners' quarter (Fischerviertel), all half-timbered houses, bridges and canals.
Tübingen With about 28,500 students in this medieval city, the lovingly-restored town center has the buzz of a young, cosmopolitan town.
Schwäbisch Hall Another medieval charmer, whose market place is dominated by a fine church and town hall. Two new museums, the “Kunsthalle Würth” and the “Johanniterhalle”, display world class art.
Gengenbach in Kinzigtal Festivals, wine taverns, a brilliant Christmas market (check out the Advent calendar), all set against some of Germany’s finest half-timbered houses.
Romantic Castles and Palaces
Cathedrals with Stories to tell
SouthWest Germany has some of Germany's – and Europe's – finest castles, monasteries and churches. Nowhere is it easier to take a trip back in time.
Five great Romantic Castles
Heidelberg Castle One of Germany's best-known landmarks, this fortress was built some 700 years ago. The 16th century saw the addition of a grand Renaissance-style residence. Extra special are the annual castle illuminations and open air plays and concerts during the Castle Festival (Schlossfestspiele).
Ludwigsburg Palace An early 18th-century residence of the kings of Württemberg, this is one of the largest baroque palaces in Germany. See the Porcelain Museum, the Fashion Museum, the art, and the sumptuous private apartment of Duke Carl Eugen. The extensive formal gardens are a must!
Hohenzollern Castle Set on a hilltop, this dramatic, neo-Gothic castle looks straight out of a story book. This is the ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern family, that includes German emperors and Prussian kings. Highlight? The Prussian Kings’ Crown.
Lichtenstein Palace Yet another fairy tale castle from the 19th century. Perched on a rock, 817 metres/2,700 feet up with breathtaking views, you half expect to see Rapunzel letting down her hair from a window at the top.
SalemCastle Part palace, part abbey; part baroque, part Gothic: history here covers nearly 900 years. See the palace, the elaborate gardens, and even a Fire Engine Museum!
Five great Cathedrals and Abbeys
Ulm Cathedral Topped by the world's tallest spire, the cathedral boasts The Last Judgment, a magnificent 500-year-old fresco, the largest north of the Alps. Also five centuries old is the wood carving on the choir stalls.
Freiburg Cathedral This Gothic masterpiece dates from 1513. Be on the cathedral square when the 7,250-pound/ 3,290-kg Hosanna Bell is rung. Cast in 1258, it clangs on Thursday & Saturday evenings; on Fridays at 11am.
Maulbronn Monastery A Cistercian monastery from 1147 to 1537, this is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It provides a lesson in architectural styles, from the Romanesque to late Gothic. Author and Nobel Prize winner, Hermann Hesse, attended the monastery school.
Monastic Island of Reichenau On Lake Constance, this
3-mile/ 4,8 km-long island is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take the causeway from the mainland and step back in time – over 1,000 years ago. See the monastery and village churches, the museum and the nature reserve, with its many plants and birds.
Birnau Basilica On Lake Constance, near Unteruhldingen and set in vineyards, this extravagant rococo church was built in about 1750, but is still used regularly. The fresco paintings and sculptures are breathtaking.
Strictly Cultural, Frankly Fun
SouthWest Germany is rich with museums. Some are devoted to art, others are more eclectic. Anyone for cuckoo clocks and teddy bears?
Five great Art Museums
Stuttgart The highlights of the State Gallery (Staatsgalerie) include Italian masters (Tiepolo, Canaletto), Dutch and Flemish Painting (Rubens, Rembrandt), and examples of Gauguin, Cézanne and Monet. The Art Museum (Kunstmuseum) hosts 3 or 4 major avant-garde exhibitions a year.
Karlsruhe One of Germany's best and oldest museums, the State Art Gallery (Staatliche Kunsthalle) is a walk-through art history lesson: from Dürer and Cranach through Rembrandt and Rubens to Delacroix, Monet, Cézanne and Gauguin.
Baden-Baden In a striking building designed by New York architect Richard Meier, the Museum Frieder Burda focuses on Classical Modernism, from Picasso to Jackson Pollock and Rothko.
Weil am Rhein The Vitra Design Museum maintains one of the largest collections of modern furniture in the world, and represents all of the major eras and stylistic periods from the early 19th century to the present.
Schwäbisch Hall The Würth collection has 14,000 works, mainly paintings, graphic art and sculptures from the end of the 19th century to the present day: Max Beckmann, Max Ernst, Edvard Munch, and Pablo Picasso.
Five great Art Museums with a Difference
Pforzheim The stunning Jewelry Museum (Schmuckmuseum) displays some 2,000 beautiful pieces, from ancient times through the Renaissance to Art Nouveau and the present day.
Unteruhldingen, Lake Constance Nowhere does the prehistoric past come alive more vividly than at the Lake Dwelling Museum (Pfahlbaumuseum).
Friedrichshafen Devoted to airship history, the Zeppelin Museum takes you back to the 1930s, when “blimps” were all the rage. Step aboard a reproduction of part of the Hindenburg; you can even go for a flight in one!
Giengen an der Brenz In 1902, the Steiff toy company made the first teddy bear... and, the rest is history. Learn more in this must-see, hands-on Teddy Bear Museum.
Stuttgart Totally refurbished, the Viniculture Museum (Weinbaumuseum) covers the history of the noble grape. In an historic, half-timbered building, taste fine local wines in the museum tavern (Weinstüble).
Body and Soul
In SouthWest Germany, there is always a festival going on. Some are rooted in religious traditions; others are modern celebrations of art and culture; many are held in old castles and abbeys. Soothe your body as well as your soul in a genuine mineral spa: SouthWest Germany has more than any other region of Germany. The best are rated by the rigorous Wellness Stars initiative.
Five Great Music Festivals
Baden-Baden With 2,500 seats, the “Festspielhaus” Baden-Baden is Europe's second-largest opera house and home to the Easter Festival with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
Schwetzingen The Schwetzingen Festival has been held in the 262-year-old Schwetzingen Castle for more than 62 years. Opera and classical music are on the program (from End of April to June 2014).
Maulbronn Monastery Throughout the year there is various cultural events on this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Heidelberg Castle During the summer, the Heidelberg Castle Festival offers open air musicals, concerts, operas, and plays – including the popular Castle Serenades with the Heidelberg City Orchestra. June and August 2014
LudwigsburgCastle FestivalorInternationalFestivalBaden-Württemberg This 82-years-old festival with a program in the fields of music, dance, theater and literature, which is held annually in Ludwigsburg from May to July
Five great Spa Destinations
Baden-Baden One of Europe's most glamorous resort destinations, with 23 mineral-rich, natural hot springs, Baden-Baden offers 2 separate experiences. Perhaps the world's most beautiful public spa is the Friedrichsbad, in a 19th-century building: 16 stages of baths, steam, and dry rooms. Totally modern is the contemporary Caracalla Therme, with its indoor/outdoor pool.
Stuttgart In the city’s suburbs of Bad Cannstatt and Berg, this is the second most extensive mineral water system in Europe. The spas are modern and straightforward.
Badenweiler The warm, 70°F (21°C) mineral springs were appreciated by the Romans. In the “Cassiopeia Therme spa”, today’s visitors can choose Turkish baths, aqua-aerobics, steam baths, saunas, wellness treatments, and massages.
Bad Dürrheim In a lovely part of the Black Forest, this salt-water spa is known for its curative powers. As well as the salt-water pools, there are lovely views, gardens and “Minara”, a luxurious indoor-outdoor swimming pool.
Meersburg and Überlingen, Lake Constance Meersburg’s thermal pool connects to the outdoor swimming area, with fabulous views of Lake Constance and the Swiss Alps. With more than 50 years’ experience in “Kneipp-based” natural healing, the “Bodensee-Therme Überlingen” has a 5-star rating for its hydrotherapy treatments.
SouthWest Germany has outstanding shopping. As well as German and international brands, you can buy world-famous products that are made and designed here.
Five great Shopping Destinations
Stuttgart The car-free “Königstrasse” is lined with a wide range of stores. On “Marktplatz”, you could spend a day at Breuninger; founded in 1881, it is Germany's answer to Harrods of London. For leather goods and fine jewelry, head for “Calwer Strasse”. Other shopping enclaves include the new “Königsbaupassagen”, the Bohnenviertel and the underground Klett-Passage. Built in 1914, the Markthalle is a beautiful Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) market, with fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and more. For antiques, bric-a-brac and collectables, is has to be the “Flohmarkt” (Saturdays flea market) on “Karlsplatz”.
Baden-Baden The poshest shops are in the Colonnade in front of the Kurhaus: fashion, jewelry, and more. The main shopping street is Lange Strasse, but designer names are all along “Lichtentaler Strasse”, and also “Sophienstrasse” and “Gernsbacher Strasse”. Side streets are dotted with antique stores, jewelers, and arts and crafts shops.
Heidelberg The Hauptstrasse in the pedestrian area is one of Europe's most attractive streets, with familiar, internationally-known names. On side streets around the Church of the Holy Ghost (Heiliggeistkirche), unusual shops sell old porcelain, avant-garde fashion, antiques, and Art Nouveau jewelry.
Karlsruhe One of the region's longest shopping streets is “Kaiserstrasse”, lined with department stores and fashion houses. Modern complexes include the “Postgalerie” on the “Europaplatz” and the new “Ettlinger Tor”.
Mannheim The region's second largest city is famous for its versatile shops and boutiques. Fashion lovers visit Mannheim’s shopping miles “Planken” and “Breite Strasse” to hunt for unique outfits and accessories.
Outletcity Metzingen Hugo Boss was founded in Metzingen. Now international flagship outlet stores, representing 60 top designer brands, have also moved offering huge savings: from Adidas and Armani to Wolford and WMF. This unique shopping experience is perfect for the brand-savvy and fashion-conscious.
Five great Souvenirs made in SouthWest Germany
Steiff Teddy Bears Buy them at the company headquarters in Giengen an der Brenz, near Ulm.
Cuckoo Clocks The tradition of making cuckoo clocks goes back five generations at Hubert Herr in Triberg, Black Forest.
Christmas Decorations Beautiful ornaments are available all over the region, but especially in the Black Forest.
Jewelry At Schmuckwelten in Pforzheim, watch beautiful modern jewelry being made by craftsmen and women – and then buy their work.
Model Trains The world's most famous model railway maker is the “Märklin” Trains, based in Göppingen, east of Stuttgart
What could be nicer on a warm sunny day than sitting outside a 200-year-old tavern, with a local beer or a glass of local wine? Or, in winter, sipping a rare Schnapps by a roaring log fire? SouthWest Germany makes some of the world's finest wines, beers, and fruit brandies.
The wines in SouthWest Germany are easy to appreciate, which is why locals drink most of them right here! The unique geological and climatic conditions produce wines that tend to be light, lively and fruity.
The southernmost of Germany's 13 wine regions, Baden is Germany's third-largest. Stretching from Heidelberg to the Swiss border, this is the warmest part of Germany. Here, 40 per cent of the vineyards grow red wine grapes – half of all German Pinot Noirs. Popular varieties include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc.
The Württemberg wine region lies along the Neckar River and its tributaries, mostly to the north of Stuttgart. The majority of vines are red varieties, particularly Trollinger. Most of the vineyards are small, on steep slopes, and owned by 15,000 wine-growing families that are members of co-operatives.
Five great Wine Celebrations
Heilbronn Wine Village (2014, September 12-21) The Weindorf in front of the town hall attracts 300,000 visitors to taste 300 still, sparkling, and ice wines.
Stuttgart Wine Village (2014, August 27-Sept 7) On the Marktplatz, Schillerplatz and Kirchstrasse, taste 250 different Württemberg wines at 120 stands.
Freiburg Wine Festival (2014, July 03-08) On the Münsterplatz, by the cathedral, eat traditional onion tart as you taste 400 of the best Baden wines.
Fellbach Autumn/Fall Festival (2014, October 10-13) This kind of wine tastes is relatively unknown outside the region. Served in a Viertel, a special 8-fl oz (250-ml) glass.
Bodensee Weinfest (2014, September 12-14) Nowhere is prettier than Meersburg for the annual Lake Constance Wine Festival, which also features local dishes.
And – Where’s the Beer?
Stuttgart Beer Festival Wasen (Sept 26-Oct 12) The 169. “Cannstatter Volksfest” on the Cannstatter Wasen is much more authentic than the “Munich Oktoberfest”. Expect oomph bands, crispy pork knuckles – and specially-brewed festival beer (Festbier).
Rothaus Brewery, Grafenhausen Brewery tours are offered by Rothaus, one of Germany's best-known breweries. Their Tannenzäpfle is rated amongst the world’s top 100 beers.
Beer Stein Museum (Bierkrugmuseum), Bad Schussenried See the collection of handsome beer mugs “Bierkrüge”; tour the brewery where Schussenrieder beer is made.
Monastery Brewery Alpirsbach “Alpirsbacher Klosterbräu” is still brewed in the old monastery to 500-year-old rules. Find out more on the tour.
Christmas Specials & Tasty Treats
With 77 Michelin stars, SouthWest Germany is one of Europe's culinary destinations, and boasts the most of Germany’s Michelin awards! SouthWest Germany also has some of Europe's most picturesque Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkt). In the four weeks leading up to Christmas, the frosting of snow looks the landscape like a Christmas card coming into life. There are pine trees, Christmas decorations, and carol singers; Bratwurst (hot sausages), Glühwein (mulled wine), and sugary treats.
Five great Christmas Markets
Stuttgart First recorded back in 1692, the “Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt” is one of the most Germany's famous Advent celebrations. The Old Castle, church and New Castle provide a backdrop for some 200 wooden stalls.
Bad Wimpfen The 400-year-old half-timbered houses and mighty walls give this Christmas Market plenty of atmospheres. Join the locals, who meet each evening for a mug of hot spiced wine. Stroll round the 160 stalls. It's magical!
Esslingen am Neckar Centuries-old houses and narrow streets are a perfect setting for the Medieval Christmas Market. Craftsmen in medieval dress sell leather and silver jewelry; there is music, magic and more.
Gengenbach For 14 years, the Town Hall has been the must-see during Advent, when its 24 windows become the world’s biggest “Advent calendar house.” Some 120,000 visitors come to see the windows opened each year.
Ludwigsburg Stroll round the baroque market square with its elegant arcades and 170 booths, lit by thousands of tiny bulbs. Watching over the scene are gigantic angels with glittering wings.
Five great Taste Treats
Chocolates Café Knösel, Heidelberg's famous 150-year-old café and chocolate shop, makes a special Student Kiss (Studentenkuss): chocolate nougat on a tender wafer, coated with fine plain chocolate.
Schnapps It takes 25 pounds/10kg of fruit to make one liter (US quart) of “Kirschlikör” (cherry brandy), “Obstler” (fruit brandy) and “Pflaumenschnaps” (plum brandy). There are around 14,000 approved distilleries in the Black Forest.
Black Forest Gateau/Cake Taste the authentic version of a “Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte” in the Café König in Baden-Baden; the owners, the century-old Gmeiner Confiserie, even offer Black Forest Cake seminars.
Ritter Sport The square chocolate bar was born in SouthWest Germany 102 years ago! In Waldenbuch, near Stuttgart, visit the Ritter Sport interactive exhibition about chocolate production, join in chocolate-making workshops, buy at the factory store, and visit their modern art museum.
Brezels or Pretzels Legend has it that these were invented in Bad Urach. So drop by the Café BeckaBeck for an authentic treat. Bad Urach is southeast of Stuttgart.
Home of the Car
The automobile and SouthWest Germany go hand in hand. In 2011, the region celebrated the 125th birthday of the automobile. Gottlieb Daimler invented the first real gas/petrol powered engine in 1885, but it was Carl Benz, who received the first patent for a gas-fuelled car in 1886.
Five great Driving Tours
The Romantic Road The 250-mile/400-km of the “Romantische Straße” weaves through quintessential German scenery from the River Main to the Alps. It leads to little-known pretty villages that are well worth a visit, such as Bad Mergentheim and Tauberbischofsheim.
The Castle Road On the SouthWest Germany section of the “Burgenstrasse”, the most famous castles are in Mannheim and Heidelberg. The trail also leads through the Neckar Valley, with castles that could be movie locations: Hirschhorn, Eberbach, Castle Hornberg, Gundelsheim and Castle Horneck.
Bertha Benz Memorial Route Follow the 120-mile/193-km route driven by Bertha Benz back in 1887, as she went from Mannheim to Pforzheim.
The Black Forest High Road The 44-mile/70-km stretch of the “Schwarzwaldhochstrasse” offers great scenic views as it runs along the ridges of the mountains.
The Württemberg Wine Road/The Baden Wine Road For food and wine lovers, the best way to enjoy SouthWest Germany's vineyards is to follow one of the two main wine routes – with a designated driver!
Five great Petrol Head Experiences
Stuttgart Visit the Porsche Museum, a showcase for some 80 Porsche sports cars, including iconic models, such as the 356, 550, 911, and 917. At the Mercedes-Benz Museum, the collection includes over 160 vehicles, from the legendary Silver Arrow to the Millipede, the LP 333 pickup truck.
Ladenburg In the former Benz factory, the Dr Carl Benz Auto Museum’s star attraction is the 1888 Model III “Motorwagen”, the world’s oldest car in its original condition. The collection also features immaculately-maintained working models that regularly take part in classic parades.
Hockenheim Race Track In alternate years (2014, 2016), the 75-year-old “Hockenheimring” hosts Formula 1 Grand Prix races. But, day in, day out, you can visit the racing car museum, ride alongside a professional driver in a high-performance sports car, or get behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car.
Langenburg Castle The Automobile Museum holds a private collection with 65 vehicles, including rarities such as a two-wheeler and a Porsche prototype.
Sinsheim At the “Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim”, climb aboard a Concorde and a Russian Tupolev Tu-144. The huge array of cars includes the Blue Flame, the world land speed record holder from 1970 to 1983; a range of 1950s American Dream Cars, and the largest permanent Formula One collection in Europe.
Only in SWG
With its sunny climate, SouthWest Germany is the perfect place to get out and about, and chalk up new experiences … experiences that are unique to SouthWest Germany.
Five unique Experiences in SouthWest Germany
Hockenheim For about EURO 15 on Weekend, you can drive round the world-famous Formula 1 circuit in your own vehicle! No racing is allowed; cars and motorbikes take it in turns, in separate groups with a maximum of 40 vehicles.
Friedrichshafen See the Alps, medieval towns and more though the panoramic windows as you fly silently over Lake Constance in a Zeppelin airship. Views from every seat.
Europa-Park Rust Enjoy thrills galore at Europa-Park, Germany’s biggest and most popular theme park; visit all of Europe in one day!
Baden-Baden Try your luck in the world's most glamorous casino, with its 250 years of elegance and tradition.
Black Forest Take a trip back in time aboard the “Sauschwänzlebahn”, a handsome old steam train.
Five great Active Experiences
Hike the “Westweg” Over 100 years ago, Philipp Bussemer marked out a hiking trail across the Black Forest – a world first. This is the Westweg, the 180-mile/300-km ‘West Trail’ that runs north-south from Pforzheim to Basel (Switzerland). There are villages, inns and B&BS along the route.
Bike the Neckar Valley Cycle Path A popular section of this 260-mile/419-km trail is between Mannheim and Heilbronn (80 mile/125km). One of Germany's most scenic cycle trails, it leads to sandstone cliffs and vineyards, medieval towns and Heidelberg, with its famous castle.
Have Fun on “Schluchsee” The largest lake in the Black Forest offers all the water sports: sailing, windsurfing, rowing, canoeing and more. Go for a ride in an electric boat; motor boats are banned, so swimming in the clean water is a pleasure in high summer.
On and around Lake Constance With its network of well-signposted cycle paths along the lake and through the countryside, this is the most popular cycle destination in Europe. On the water, summer yacht races are a feature.
Explore caves in the Swabian Mountains Near Bad Urach in the “Schwäbische Alb”, visit the Bärenhöhle (Bears’ Cave), first inhabited over 20,000 years ago. As well as bears, rhinos and lions sheltered here. Above the Bärenhöhle is the “Traumland”, a fun amusement park for children.
Getting to SouthWest Germany
In the heart of Europe, SouthWest Germany is easy to get to by air, road and rail. About 55 airlines fly in to Stuttgart Airport from over 100 destinations.
Intercontinental airports in or near SouthWest Germany
Rail is the convenient alternative to flying and is often the quickest way of getting around Europe and SouthWest Germany. For timetables, tickets etc: www.bahn.de.
SouthWest Germany has an excellent network of motorways (Autobahn). There are no tolls for passenger cars. Rental cars are available from airports, railway stations and hotels.
Photos We have hundreds of free, high-quality, professional photographs available in the Press/Media section on the SouthWest Germany website. These are quick and easy to download. All you have to do is register for instant access.