Grand cities and fairytale castles, picture postcard villages and traditional festivals, great museums and jolly Christmas markets. Wherever and whenever you choose to go, you are always close to a major attraction.
Cities of SouthWest Germany
Urban pleasures are easy to find in SouthWest Germany. Museum collections range from world-class art to glamorous cars; the food scene caters to traditional and contemporary tastes, in cozy taverns and stylish restaurants; the region’s wines are known to connoisseurs; and the shopping includes specialist boutiques as well as international names. But part of the fun is doing what locals do – strolling in the parks, admiring centuries-old churches, checking out the markets and stopping at a café for coffee and cake. Best of all, most of the ancient streets in city and town centers are pedestrian-friendly.
SouthWest’s capital Stuttgart is home to two leading car companies in the world. Mercedes Benz and the Porsche embody not only German engineering but also run two unique museums. Stuttgart and the industry benefitted from another and that is why popular companies such as Bosch, Siemens, Kodak, or Lenovo settled down here and strenghtened Stuttgart as a lively business location.
Beautifully located at the foothills of the Black Forest, Baden-Baden is the elegant spa and casino town and international metropolis of art and culture charms visitors from around the world. With its Mediterranean flair and exclusive lifestyle, Baden-Baden is a paradise for everyone who enjoys the finer things in life.
In the sun-drenched, green foothills of the Black Forest, Freiburg offers visitors southern flair and a positive vibe. The historical city centre is the vivid heart of modern Freiburg and famous SouthWest’s Gemütlichkeit.
The majestic Heidelberg Castle towering above the Old City is real crown for this touristic city. That it has been a ruin for over 300 years does not detract from its charm. For almost five hundred years, the Heidelberg Castle was the home of the Prince Electors of the Palatinate region. Ottheinrichsbau is one of the outstanding examples of German Renaissance.
Karlsruhe was founded almost 300 years ago by Margrave Karl-Wilhelm von Baden. Legend has it that he saw the vision of a star-shaped city in his sleep and thus the idea of "spokes" was born. On the 17th of June, 1715, the founding stone of what is today the fan-shaped city of Karlsruhe was laid. The centre consists of the Baroque Residential Palace, which is at the centre of 32 streets that lead to it like a star.
Mannheim is a city of contrasts; and the locals are proud of it. They have joie de vivre, a strong economy and great inspiration – anyone who comes to Mannheim has plenty to see, and will certainly never be bored. Goethe wrote that the town was bright and well laid out, referring to the chess board design of the city centre, in square blocks.
Thanks to the founding of the 'Manufaktur für Schmuck und Uhren' (Jewellery and Clock Manufacturer) by Margrave Karl Friedrich of Baden almost 250 years ago, Pforzheim, once the royal seat of the Baden dynasty, became the famous jewellery and clock city that it is today. And Schwarzwald is only a stone’s throw from there.
On the banks of the Danube lies the city of Ulm which is the birthplace of Albert Einstein. It fascinates with its heritage as one of Europe’s most powerful cities in medieval times.
Small town gems
The 16 “Kleinstadtperlen” are charming historic towns, with cobbled streets and market squares, cafés and one-of-a-kind shops. The brightlypainted half-timbered houses make Bretten and Schwäbisch Hall a selfie delight. With five breweries, Ehingen is Germany’s “Beer Culture City”, while Ellwangen is known for its pilgrimage church and Freudenstadt is a gateway to the Black Forest. Set on the German Clock Route are Waldkirch and Schramberg; pretty Weinheim and Schorndorf are readymade film sets for fairy tales. Münsingen makes a fine base for exploring the Swabian Alb; Bad Säckingen offers soothing hot mineral springs.
Culture in SouthWest Germany
SouthWest Germany’s famous castles and palaces, such as Heidelberg, Ludwigsburg and Hohenzollern, have always been – and still are – a magnet for visitors every year. Additionally, there is more to explore: Schwetzingen palace and Meersburg, as well as the fine chateaux and manor houses throughout the area, impress visitors not only with their picturesque architecture but also often stage cultural events and festivals.
Baden-Württemberg presents 17 grand palaces, ranging from Ludwigsburg and Mannheim (two of Europe's largest Baroque buildings) to the Schloss Favorite Rastatt, with its breathtaking interior: scagliola floors made from imitation marble, walls with faience tiles, ceilings adorned with plasterwork, and frescoes, sumptuous embroidered tapestries and priceless furniture.
Choose from eight splendid gardens. Schwetzingen Palace is surrounded by elegant lawns and flower beds, but it is the sculptures – more than 100 of them – that are astonishing. By contrast, the Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens in the heart of the city, not only provide an “oasis of green”, but also historic greenhouses, rich with exotic plants.
SouthWest Germany's 10 castles are all massive fortresses that are spectacular examples of medieval times. Yburg Castle, built in 1200, is a popular day trip from Baden-Baden and is well known for its grand view over the surrounding Black Forest. Even more spectacular is the 1,100 year-old fort Hohentwiel, the largest fortress ruin in Germany. On a large rocky outcrop, the visitor can let his gaze wander from Lake Constance to the majestic snowy peaks of the Alps.
There are 13 monasteries. The most famous is Maulbronn Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval monastery complexes. More of a hidden gem is Heiligkreuztal, 90 minutes south of Stuttgart. Treasures include a stained glass window (1312) and the Johannesminne, a 14th-century woodcarving.
Don't miss little gems, such as the Badenweiler Roman bath ruins and the 19th-century chapel on Württemberg hill (Grabkapelle auf dem Württemberg) amidst the vineyards, which are both no longer are a secret tip.
Save time and money with the Schlosscard. This pass covers all the palaces, castles, ruins, historic gardens, and monasteries and grants admissions for only 24 Euros (discounts for students, handicapped persons and others are available). It is obtainable at all of the properties and is valid for a year from its first use!
Germany has no fewer than 46 UNESCO World Heritage Sites; but the country’s very first, back in 1993, was right here in SouthWest Germany. That was Maulbronn Monastery. Today, SouthWest Germany boasts seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites; added in 2021 were Baden-Baden, as one of the Great Spa Towns of Europe.
The Cistercian monastery of Maulbronn, founded in 1147, is considered to be one of the most complete and best-preserved medieval monastery complexes north of the Alps. The life and work of the Cistercian Order from the 12th to the 16th century can be illustrated in detail.
A cross-continental artistic masterpiece, an architectural answer to the global social questions of modern society - Le Corbusier's architectural work is unique in many ways. It consists of 17 buildings and ensembles in seven countries, including Argentina, Belgium, France, India, Japan and Switzerland. Two houses of the Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart also belong to the World Heritage Site. A representative sample of the work of the Swiss-French architect has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as a transnational series in 2016.
The Roman Empire is one of the greatest empires that ever existed. The Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes is part of the Roman border fortifications with castles, watchtowers, walls and palisades with which the former world power demarcated its empire from free Germania. The World Heritage Site ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire: Upper German-Raetian Limes’ covers an area of about 250 square kilometres and passes through more than 150 municipalities and 20 administrative districts in the four federal states Bavaria, Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg.
The monastery island Reichenau in Lake Constance is an outstanding example of the religious and cultural role of a large Benedictine monastery in the Middle Ages. The three Romanesque churches of the island from the 9th to the 11th century illustrate the early medieval architecture in Central Europe.
When the first modern humans settled in Europe during the last Ice Age 43,000 years ago, they also settled in the numerous caves of the Swabian Alb that offered protection. Here they left behind the oldest mobile works of art in the world, whose significance for the understanding of human history and the development of the arts is unique worldwide.
The prehistoric lake dwellings around the Alps are relics of past settlements from the Late Neolithic, the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. Among the important finds are the oldest wheel finds in Europe as well as the oldest textiles in Europe, which date from around 3000 BC. Dugouts, wheels and carts provide important insights into trade and mobility in early settlement communities.
In 2021, UNESCO named Baden-Baden as a World Heritage Site, one of the Great Spa Towns of Europe. This group designation recognizes the historic and cultural importance of 11 towns in seven countries. Of course, when it comes to history, Baden-Baden has long been a must-visit destination. The Romans came for the 12 natural thermal springs, praising their healing qualities, both physical and spiritual. From 1700 onwards, Europe’s aristocracy flocked here to “take the waters”. The addition of the elegant Kurhaus and its casino in the 1800s made Baden-Baden the “summer capital of Europe”. And improvements continued. The magnificent Neo-renaissance Friedrichsbad spa was Europe’s most modern when it opened in 1877. Today, this riverside town is as elegant as ever, with magnificent gardens and parks, top-class art, music and theatre – and the sophisticated casino. As for the unique spa experience, that continues to thrive, with both traditional and modern treatments, which are open to all
Sustainability is all the rage at the moment – in the field of tourism, too.
When it comes to get-away-from-it-all vacations, SouthWest Germany is one of the most enticing regions in Europe.
Sustainability is all the rage at the moment – in the field of tourism, too.