Why have one city break when you can have two? The cities of Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg are so close, you can explore them both easily in one long weekend. Here’s how…
Cram maximum adventure into your mini break by combining these two charming cities – to discover magnificent palaces, incredible food, and some of Germany’s best Christmas markets. And that’s just for starters…
Nurtured by the River Neckar, the countryside around Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg produces some of Germany’s best-loved wines, and many of the vineyards offer tastings and tours. The red varieties of Lemberger and Trollinger are particularly fine. Look to the villages of Poppenweiler, Neckarweihingen and Hoheneck – all within a 15-minute drive of Ludwigsburg city centre.
There are easy hiking trails through the river valley, dotted with vineyards aplenty. While you walk, keep an eye out for besenwirtschaften (‘broom inns’): these temporary taverns are set up in family-owned cellars and barns for just 12 weeks of the year. They get their name from the old-fashioned brooms that hang outside, to signal to passers-by that they’re open.
Stuttgart is synonymous with speed: both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have their headquarters in the city, with excellent museums nearby. Here you can gawp at priceless prototypes, vintage treasures, and state-of-the-art racing cars – and learn more about the brands’ founding fathers. At Porsche Drive, you can take Boxsters, 911s and Caymans for a spin – while Mercedes-Benz offers tours of its manufacturing works.
Motorworld Stuttgart boasts a vast collection of classic cars: Lamborghinis, Mclarens, Bentleys et al – as well as locally-made models by Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. Love what you see? Book a room at Motorworld’s V8 Hotel: it’s stuffed with automotive memorabilia too, with many rooms and suites modelled to look like garages, car washes, workshops and more.
Ludwigsburg is home to three magnificent palaces, the most famous of which is the Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg. It dates back to the 1700s, and is widely considered one of Europe’s greatest Baroque residences – dubbed the ‘The German Versailles’. When you step inside, you’ll soon see why: its four luxurious wings are rich in intricate frescoes, crystal chandeliers, and gilded trimmings at every turn – preserved almost exactly as they were over 300 years ago. It’s one spectacular history lesson.
Though smaller in size, Favourite Palace – a royal summer residence built in the 1700s – is also a treasure. From the ornate murals and intricate inlay furniture to the gold-embellished drawing rooms, every inch is a work of art. And on sunny days, Monrepos Lakeside Palace is a queenly spot for picnics and rowing boat trips.
Take a lofty look at Stuttgart from the mighty Fernsehturm tower. It looms over the city, reaching 216 metres tall – with a viewing platform and café at 150 metres, where you can see all over Stuttgart, the Black Forest and Swabian Alb mountain range. The Schlossplatz Stuttgart is the heart of the city: this elegant square is surrounded by shops, restaurants, and the opulent New Palace – a royal residence turned government bureau. There’s free WiFi, and the Kunstgebäude art gallery, train station and Königstraße (Germany’s longest shopping street) are within walking distance.
In Ludwigsburg, make a beeline for the Old Town. With its beautiful Baroque market square, cafés and two churches, it’s a charming spot to wander around. It is also the birthplace of some of Germany’s most beloved poets, including Friedrich Schiller, Eduard Mörike, Justinus Kerner and more – whose homes you can visit today.
Central Stuttgart is home to a whopping eight Michelin-starred restaurants. You can feast on French-Asian fine dining at Olivo, modern Mediterranean-inspired menus at Délice, and international dishes at Top Air – located rather fittingly in Stuttgart Airport (ask for a table overlooking the runway). For more casual bites, head to the Market Hall for speciality breads, cheeses, charcuterie and wines. You can graze your way around the stalls, or stock up on a picnic to devour on the grassy lawns and palace-view benches of the nearby Schlossgarten.
In Ludwigsburg, the focus is on Baden-Württemberg’s bounty of traditional dishes – such as kässpätzle (macaroni cheese), rostbraten (roast beef in red wine), and ofenschlupfer (a sweet bread pudding with apples or pears). You’ll find fine authentic menus at Ratskeller Restaurant and Weinstube Klingel (both in the city centre), and hearty riverside fare at Biergarten Uferstüble.
They may be urban areas, but both Ludwigsburg and Stuttgart boast glorious gardens. From March to November, the grounds of Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg host ‘Baroque in Bloom’ – with colourful flowers, sweet-scented arbours, and elegant fountains galore. It’s a spectacular celebration of spring and summer, with the palace as its centrepiece.
In Stuttgart, don’t miss the Wilhelma Botanical Gardens, which were established in 1842 as a Moorish garden for King Wilhelm I of Wuerttemberg. Today, the collection has swelled to 8,500 plants and trees – including rare orchids, tropical blossoms, desert cacti, and much more. You can wander between towering mahoganies and vines in the Amazon House, while the Fuschia House is a riot of pink, purple and scarlet blooms.
Every two years, Ludwigsburg celebrates the Venetian Festival: a dazzling gathering of masquerade parades, musicians, fire-eaters and jesters. The tradition started in 1768, when Duke Carl Eugen was so entranced by Venice’s Carnival that he established one in his hometown – and the next festival will take place in September 2020. Other calendar highlights include the beer-lover’s Brew Festival (May-June), the Grand Musical Fireworks (July), and the world’s largest pumpkin festival (Aug-Nov).
Meanwhile, Stuttgart’s annual events include the fabulous Summer Festival held on the Schlossplatz (Aug), and the star-studded Jazz Open (July) – whose big-name acts include Bob Dylan, Jamie Cullum and Sting. Continuing its 200-year tradition, the Cannstatter Volksfest – also known as the Stuttgart Beer Festival – gets autumn off to a merry start with local brews, funfairs, and oompah bands.
Both Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg host excellent Christmas markets – with glühwein, traditional handicrafts, and festive lights galore. Stuttgart’s market is one of the biggest and longest-running in Europe (dating back to 1692), while Ludwigsburg’s Baroque architecture is an opulent backdrop to its stalls. Don’t leave without trying the freshly-baked gingerbread or a tankard of feuerzangenbowle – mulled wine laced with rum.
Ludwigsburg is roughly 15km to the north of Stuttgart. Both cities are located in the beautiful German state of Baden-Württemberg, with the River Neckar running to the east.
Of the two cities, Stuttgart has the better international transport links – and its Subway provides a quick connection between the airport and the city centre.
Trains run directly between Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof and Ludwigsburg Bahnhof, and take just 11 minutes. A hire car can be useful for accessing more remote areas, such as the vineyards and River Neckar, but all of the cities’ sights are easily reached by public transport.
Sign up today for free and be the first to get notified of new articles, new competitions, new events and more!