Though I have lived outside of Stuttgart for one year, I have yet to do a proper city tour. I tend to go to the same well-known areas when I do venture into the city from our small town (ex. Königstraße, the popular shopping street, the Schlossplatz, the largest square in central Stuttgart, or occasionally to Bad Cannstatt for a festival like the Cannstatter Wasen).
Not long ago, I learned that there is an English language walking tour of the downtown area with Stuttgart Steps. The 90-minute tour is run by Sarah, a history buff and California native who has been living in Stuttgart for 4 years.
On the first day of school holidays, S and I decided rather on a whim to check out the tour and get to know Stuttgart a little better. Fortunately the tour did not require a reservation. The meeting point for the tour was opposite the Neues Schloss (the New Palace), right next to the Landesmuseum Württemberg (Württemberg State Museum). As luck would have it, S and I were the only 2 people to show up that day, so we had our own private tour of the city.
The tour began with a brief history of the Altes Schloss (the Old Palace) which is now home to the Landesmuseum Württemberg. From there, we carried on to Schillerplatz (the photo above). The square is named after Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (better known as Friedrich Schiller), the famous German poet, historian, philosopher and playwright. The Schiller memorial statue was erected in 1839, though Schiller died in 1805. Some of Schiller’s best known works include “Mary Stuart”, “William Tell” and the poem “Ode to Joy” which inspired Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous piece in his Ninth Symphony. A flower market takes place in the square on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. We caught the tail-end of the market hours and glimpsed some beautiful bouquets for sale in the square.
From Schillerplatz, we carried on to the Stiftskirche, the oldest evangelical church in Stuttgart. One of its most notable features is the stark contrast between the two church towers, the first built in Romanic style and the second built in Gothic style.
We carried on to the Marktplatz, where a weekly fruit and veggie market also takes place on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. I remember stumbling upon this market on my way to German class one day in the early spring and was impressed with the excellent selection of local produce. I’ll have to come back soon to check out the flower and fruit/veggie markets!
Sarah told us that there was a bunker hotel (das Bunkerhotel) located directly under the Marktplatz that was in operation from 1945 to 1985. The hotel was eventually closed due to structural safety reasons but can be visited one night a year during the Lange Nacht der Museen (the long night of the museums). According to Sarah, the lineup for entrance to this hotel is many hours long, so show up early if you want a peek inside!
On one side of the Marktplatz stands the Stuttgart Rathaus (city hall). Inside the Rathaus you can find a paternoster, a passenger elevator made up of a chain of open circulating compartments. Passengers can enter or exit the paternoster on any floor they like. Nowadays, most paternosters have been replaced with modern elevators. However, the people of Stuttgart objected to the removal of the paternoster in the Rathaus claiming it to be a characteristic feature of the city hall and it still exists today. S and I went for a little ride on the paternoster and I think it was the highlight of the tour! It moves at quite a fast clip so you need to be speedy getting off and on. I can definitely understand why so many paternosters were replaced for safety reasons! Check out the video below to see the Rathaus paternoster in action.
We headed back into the city centre and stopped by the Markthalle, a 100-year old covered market. They sell fantastic fresh produce (I even spotted some jalapeños which have proven to be elusive in Germany), as well as imported ingredients. From Asian sauces to Greek olives and Hungarian spices to Spanish wines, the Markthalle is a food lover’s paradise. I made a mental note to come back for the dried ancho chili peppers, the fresh baklava (S’s new favourite after our latest trip to Greece) and the perfect-looking French macarons.
I definitely recommend checking out a Stuttgart Steps city tour if you’re visiting Stuttgart for a short period of time and want a general overview of the city’s highlights. As a new “local”, I found the tour to be a great value and learned new things about the city and its history. I only wish I had done the tour sooner!
Stuttgart Steps also offers a tour in nearby Esslingen, a beautiful medieval city on the Neckar River. This tour requires reservations, so be sure to sign up for a tour in advance.