The inside guide to Stuttgart, south Germany's capital of cool

Be floored by contemporary art, futuristic architecture and life in the fast lane in this rapidly evolving German city.

Monday, May 18, 2020,
By Kerry Walker
Photographs By Daimler AG
Mercedes-Benz Museum: Faszination Technik.

Mercedes-Benz Museum: Faszination Technik. The firm is headquartered here in Stuttgart. 

Photograph by Daimler AG

Stuttgart can rival the likes of Berlin and Munich with its distinctly urban beat, progressive art and architecture, phenomenal galleries and rapidly evolving food-and-drink scene. Inner-city adventures aside, it’s also the perfect base for getting out into the countryside, with trails threading into vineyards, and the Black Forest practically on the doorstep. 

Big-name attractions here include the futuristic MERCEDES-BENZ and PORSCHE MUSEUMS (both firms are headquartered in the city). But first, join the locals for a cortado or chai latte at retro-hip MISCH MISCH near Marienplatz. From humble coffee van origins, the cafe has carved out a reputation for freshly roasted coffee and delicious homemade cakes. 

After a caffeine fix, there’s no better place to get acquainted with Stuttgart than at its beating heart: SCHLOSSPLATZ. The square is fringed by gardens and backdropped by the baroque NEUES SCHLOSS, the city’s answer to Versailles. In one corner of the square, you’ll spot a huge glass cube housing the impressive KUNSTMUSEUM STUTTGART, whose prized collection includes work by Otto Dix and Dieter Roth. Head to the slickly minimalist CUBE restaurant on the top floor for expertly mixed highballs, Pacific Rim cooking and wraparound windows affording stellar city views.

Across the square is the STADTPALAIS, housed in a former 19th-century palace. As well as recounting Stuttgart’s history, the museum displays exhibitions on themes like graffiti art and urban photography — and the free entry is a bonus.

Just off Schlossplatz is SCHLOSSGARTEN, former palace gardens are liberally sprinkled with fountains, ponds and sculptures and overlooked by the grand STAATSTHEATER STUTTGART theatre. When the sun’s out, locals make their way to the shade and benches at the 2,000-seat BIERGARTEN IM SCHLOSSGARTEN for a refreshing kristallweizen beer.  

Walk through the gardens and you’ll emerge at the STAATSGALERIE stuttgart, bearing the trademark curvaceous lines of British architect James Stirling. Devote a couple of hours to the collection, which leaps from Picasso’s cubist creations to Lichtenstein’s pop art. Don’t miss recent addition Banksy’s Love is in the Bin (formerly Girl with Balloon, before its infamous shredding at auction in October 2018). For yet another creative fix, don’t miss the street art and graffiti at URBAN ART GALLERY, tucked away on Rotebühlstrasse.

A quick U-Bahn (light rail) trundle north of the centre brings you to the WEISSENHOF ESTATE, designed by the Swiss-French modern architecture pioneer Le Corbusier and built as housing units under the direction of Bauhaus titan Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. One of the houses is now a museum and presents an innovative series of models, plans and prototypes.

While you’re in this neck of the woods, squeeze in a stroll in the charming KILLESBERGPARK, bordered by landscaped gardens and pockets of woodland and topped off with the 137ft-tall KILLESBERG TOWER, which offers views across the city to the hills beyond. 

The Stuttgarter love to while away their free time in the city’s excellent array of bars. The KRAFTPAULE microbrewery has a post-industrial look, chilled atmosphere and interesting beers on tap, while PALAST DER REPUBLIK serves drinks in a former public toilet. And, from April to September, there’s the SKY BEACH STUTTGART pop up: a happening roof bar atop Galeria Kaufhof department store, with sand, deckchairs, cabana beds, cocktails and DJs. 

The Kraftpaule microbrewery has a post-industrial look, chilled atmosphere and interesting beers on tap,

Photograph by Kraftpaule

Local artist Tim Bengel’s guide to arty hangouts

Plattform11

Each year, this collective of local artists organises an exhibition of works including photography, installations and paintings. The events feature music and performance art, and are among the highlights of the cultural calendar.

Studio Berkheim
This is the best place to discover the rising stars of contemporary art. View art from the likes of painter, sculptor and performance artist Jonathan Meese, artist Conny Maier and cartoonist and illustrator Joan Cornellà.

Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart
With its glass skylight, geometric forms and tiered layout, the Eun Young Yi-designed city library is a must-see for architecture-lovers. Entrance is free and it’s a great place to relax.

Tim is an artist whose work takes in everything from intricate gold-leaf sand paintings to floral cemetery art.

Published in the May/June issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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