Stuttgart is not the kind of city that would appear on a Europe-in-20-days itinerary. It’s not exactly the prettiest city and it’s not really famous beyond the borders of Germany.
But still, it might come up on the advanced traveler’s radar for two reasons: It has two airports that might be cheaper to fly into if you want to go to Munich or Frankfurt, because both cities can easily be reached from Stuttgart by train. And speaking of Munich: Everyone and their mother wants to attend Oktoberfest in Munich, but many Bavarian locals actually stopped going in the last years, because the once family-friendly fair was turned into a rather gross giant booze fest by drunk tourists. If you want to experience an authentic Southern German fair though, Stuttgart has the perfect alternative to crowded Oktoberfest: Canstatter Wasen — obviously, including dirndls and those infamous large beers.
But even if you hadn’t heard about Stuttgart’s airports or the Oktoberfest alternative, it’s still a great place to visit in Southern Germany. I know, I might be biased as I was born in Baden-Württemberg, the state that has Stuttgart as its capital. Although I only lived there for the first seven years of my life, I have very nostalgic feelings for the adorable local dialect and the food from the Swabia region of Baden-Württemberg. I only return to Swabia every other few years now, but I every time I visit I leave with happy memories and bags full of pretzels (because they are SO much better there!).
The hearty Swabian comfort food alone is a brilliant reason to visit Stuttgart — Käsespätzle, Maultaschen, Flädlesupp to only mention a few — but as I learned recently, the wine is another highlight: The best (!) glass of white wine I had in 2015 was the Riesling I had on my getaway to Stuttgart three weeks ago! Accompanied by cheesy traditional Swabian pasta, of course.
Coffee is the only thing I meticulously research before visiting a (new) city. And I was thrilled to learn that the third wave is slowly arriving in Stuttgart as well: Eight Days a Week is a tiny whole-in-the-wall coffee shop, but with flat whites on the menu and beans roasted by my favorite coffee shop in Berlin, size really wasn’t an issue — especially since it was sunny enough to sit outside! (Another advantage of Southern Germany: They have so much more sunshine down there!)
Although the German name translates into “fire lake”, this place is only a tiny pond in the western part of Stuttgart. But as there is the most gorgeous neo-Gothic church built on a small peninsula, this little pond is the perfect spot photograph and take a little break, watching the reflections change and the ducks and swans swimming by. I loved visiting in the fall and I can only imagine how gorgeous this spot must be in the spring or on a snowy winter morning.
4. Café Moulu
This cozy café has everything you’d want a neighborhood corner café to have: Window seats, a book swap, newspapers, huge café au laits, and a very local feel. Only a short walk from the Feuersee, it’s a great place for an afternoon treat and a little break from the busy city center in a more residential area of town.
5. A Day Trip to Esslingen
Like many of Germany’s bigger cities, Stuttgart was severely affected by the war and was then quickly rebuilt in the age of concrete. So to be honest, although Stuttgart has a castle and a few neat houses, it’s really not too pretty as a city. But that’s nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a little day trip to the adorable neighborhood city of Esslingen. I feel like I could have written an entire blog post just a about Esslingen alone, and I might not do Stuttgart justice by writing about the beautiful city next door, but I just wanted to include it in this list, because it was such a highlight of my 48 hours in Baden-Württemberg.
Esslingen is just the charming little city you have in mind when dreaming of Southern Germany: Cobbled lanes, crooked half-timbered houses, quaint cafés and all that surrounded by stunning vineyards. It’s the perfect place for a Sunday stroll — and a glass of delicious wine in the sun! Also, I totally have to come back for the (medieval!) Christmas market, it almost looks too magical to be true!