Can visitors have fun in the city where work is pleasure? The answer is yes -- especially if they like cars.
Porsche is headquartered in Stuttgart
Stuttgart, home to luxury carmakers Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, doesn’t have the gritty feel that one might associate with a motor city. This particular "Motown" may be one of the greenest cities in Europe, with nearly a quarter of its land under government protection.
It is also one of the wealthiest communities in Germany. Settled in a lush valley of the Swabian mountains on the edge of the Black Forest, it is home to vast parklands and famous vineyards. The capital of Swabia, Stuttgart is known for its strong dialect, distinct food, and its history of tinkering and inventing -- something the rest of the country cherishes.
Swabians fit the German image of being punctual, industrious, clean and house-proud. Whether its earned or not, they have the reputation of being thrifty. Stuttgart has been called "the city where work is a pleasure."
More than cars
Don't miss the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart
Two of Stuttgart’s more offbeat tourist attractions stick close to the car theme. The Mercedes-Benz Museum and the Porsche Museum are full of sexy cars and the newest and oldest prototypes, and even people who don’t fall in the "gear head" category will enjoy a visit.
Stuttgart has more to offer than just cars, though. The classical Staatsgalerie (State Gallery) hosts one of Germany’s greatest art collections, with impressive works by Picasso, Giacometti and Klee collected in a remarkably postmodern building designed by British architect James Stirling.
Interested in dance and theatre? The Stuttgart Opera House offers excellent ballet performances and musicals.
If the weather is too nice for a museum visit, the Palace Gardens is an ideal place to soak up the sun. The four kilometer greenway is filled with winding walkways, fountains, sculptures, a planetarium -- and the daring Stuttgarters who opt for leisure over more productive pursuits.
Not into cars? Then head for the theater
At the north end of the park is the Rosenstein Garden, at the head of which lies the Rosenstein Castle, now the Natural History Museum. Further north is the Wilhelma Zoo and Botanical Gardens, created originally as a Moorish garden by King Wilhelm I in the 19th century.
Take a hike
Stuttgart can be a pleasure to see on foot -- especially if you are in good shape. A workout is guaranteed, as Stuttgart streets are steep, with over 500 of them turning into staircases.
A great option for urban trekkers is the City Circuit walk that starts at the Central Train Station. It takes about two hours -- but leave time to take in the many bars, cafes, exclusive shops, boutiques and bookstores (Stuttgart boasts the highest per-capita number of bookstores in Germany.)
For trekkers with a taste for wine, there are over 500 vineyards in the near vicinity, and the green crests of vine-covered hills can be seen from the city center. Walkers can access some 53 kilometers (33 miles) of interconnected hiking trails directly from town by following the trail emblem, a yellow circle around a horse.
Be sure to taste a giant, soft "Bretzel"
Want to check out the surroundings without the cardiovascular workout? Then try a boat ride down the meandering Neckar River.
Those content not to move about at all could settle in at one of Stuttgart’s famed mineral springs. Saunas and bathhouses are common all over Germany and have been steadily growing in popularity over the past two decades. But Stuttgart’s two main spas -- Bad Cannstatt and Bad Leuze -- have lured visitors and royals alike for over 200 years. Both offer relaxation seekers hot and cold mineral baths, saunas, hot tubs and swimming pools.
Re-fuel with local specialties
If all the sightseeing has left you hungry, it may be time for a taste of Stuttgart’s number one snack: the pretzel. Not to be confused with the small, dried packaged pretzels known to outsiders, German pretzels are enormous twists of soft, fresh dough, normally served with butter, and often eaten for breakfast.
Stop for a cappuccino in one of Stuttgart's street cafes
Other typically Swabian foods are Spätzle -- a homely, eggy noodle combined with a cheese or a meat sauce -- and Maultaschen, the German version of ravioli. Gaisburger Marsch, a thick stew of beef, potatoes, Spätzle, and vegetables, is also often found on menus.
With so many great vineyards nearby, Stuttgart is known for its wine, and wine lovers flock to the city during the 10-day Weindorf wine festival (August/September), where hundreds of local vintners display their goods.
Yet the grape doesn’t displace beer in this town. The Cannstatter Volksfest is the second largest beer festival in Germany, after Munich's Oktoberfest. It takes place in late September, and is a mixture of country fair and beer festival.
Stuttgarters are big music fans and the city has become the birthplace for German Hip-Hop. Out of its love for music come the Eclat New Music Festival (January/February) which celebrates avant-garde music. In July, the Jazzopen Festival takes the stage featuring famous artists like Dave Brubeck and George Benson, as well as popular local bands.