The city tourism’s slogan is “Stuttgart offers more”, and they aren’t kidding. There were oodles of activities to choose from, but we only had 3 nights in this world-class city, so had to be choosy.
Stuttgart is nestled between vineyards and thick woodlands. There are over 400 flights of stairs around the city (20km worth) dating back to the time when vineyards covered the whole of the city. So if climbing and discovering all those stairs is not enough to keep you busy (I think I’ll skip those), then check out these fun activities:
1) Mineral Bath Leuze (Mineralbad LEUZE)
Our hotel was located in the area known as Bad Cannstatt (pronounced “Bahd Carnshtartt”), which is home to Europe’s second largest mineral spas (second only to the ones we visited in Budapest, Hungary).
We chose to visit Das Leuze Mineral Spa because of its family friendly features. We took the tram just a few stops to Mercedesstrasse and it was a short walk across the road to the spa.
The reception staff member did not speak an ounce English, but we were lucky to find a fellow guest walking by understand our frustration and communicated with them to arrange our entry tickets.
The spa is home to a total of 8 swimming and bathing pools covering over 1700 square meters. These are a combination of both indoor and outdoor pools with varying degrees of temperature. (They typically don't allow photos inside the pool area so apologies for the lack of pics)
After a quick visit to the lockers and changing rooms we headed straight to the Kinderland. Spread out over 600 square meters with a shallow paddling pool for babies and a children’s pool with a depth of 40 to 80cm, my kids were in pool heaven. It was complete with a slide that, as the morning went on, the kids grew more and more creative sliding down on tummies to bottoms to pool equipment.
Best of all it didn’t matter what the weather was like outside, it was always toasty warm inside - the pools were 32°C, just like a nice warm bath. There were taps to turn, rain clouds to dodge and plenty of other interactive features to play with. The kids could not be pulled out of there, except to try briefly the hot pools outside. The cold frigid morning air soon had them retreating back into the warmth of the indoor pools.
We found very convenient dryers near the change room entrance, which were perfect for drying off the kids before walking outside into the cool Autumn air. These clever Germans think of everything!
As in most in cities, this is a favourite activity of ours for exploring a new city. It allows our children to sit down and relax, sleep if they are tired, but at the same time provides us with the ability to roam and hear the history behind a city.
The Stuttgart Citytour round trip was 100 minutes since we decided not to jump off anywhere. We passed by the world’s largest pig museum, past the automobile museums, and through beautiful vineyards. Ideally I would have loved the bus to have a 5-minute photography stop at the Burgholzhof. There were unparalleled panoramic views over the state capital from there and it would have been nice to snap a quick photo rather then hoping off and waiting an hour for the next bus.
For kids the Citytour came with a nifty little activity booklet and dedicated audio guide channel. However the audio guide was in German, so our kids lucked out that time.
This is the only zoological botanical garden in Europe and combines over 70 acres of plants, animals and historic buildings. If you can imagine over 40 football fields then you are starting to grasp the size of this park. And what’s even more amazing is this is all located in the heart of Stuttgart!
It was originally built from 1842 - 1853 for King Wilhelm I of Wuerttemberg as a Moorish garden and now receives over 2.1 million visitors each year.
We’ve been to a fair few zoos in our travels, but there were several things that pleasantly surprised us about Wilhelma.
The Amazon House featured a wide array of lush plants, dirt paths and dense humidity creating the illusion of a South American rain forest. All of this was wrapped in a glass cocoon so the exhibit was drenched in natural lighting filtering through the trees.
And then there was The Aquarium. This came a complete surprise. The Aquarium is world famous and was opened in 1967. What was most surprising was how long it went on for, which was easy to underestimate from the exterior.
But the gardens were something else. The amazingly intricate arrangement and design of the garden was breathtaking. The assortment of bright colours and textures was dazzling. And the relaxing ambiance of the quiet lily pond was bliss. I wouldn’t call myself a “green thumb” but these gardens alone were worth the visit – and the zoo was just a bonus on top.
Stuttgart isn’t known as the “cradle of the automobile” for no reason. It is an economic powerhouse and a visit to the city would not be complete without a visit to an automobile museum. Or two. In fact, this is the only city in the world with 2 automotive museums. The modern automobile and motorcycle were invented in Stuttgart in the late 1800’s so there’s nowhere better to delve into automotive history, regardless if you’re a revhead or not.
But don’t just think an hour will cut it, because these museums are chock full of hours and hours of ogling and gawking. Both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche both have their headquarters in Stuttgart.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum, originally opened in 1936, is the most visited in Stuttgart. Over 9 floors we traced the 125-year history of the automobile from the legendary silver arrow to the cutting edge Mercedes models we see driving around today. It’s the only place in the world documenting the unbroken history of the automobile.
We started 34 metres above the ground at the top of the 9-storey building and made our way down the spiralling, yet gentle sloping, cylindrical tower. There was a free audio guide available, which I ended up switching off because there were so many displays to read and videos to watch I didn’t need it. The museum did an excellent job of intertwining global social, political and environmental history with the history of the automotive industry in Stuttgart.
The building covers 16,500 square meters with over 160 vehicles. Be prepared for a lot of walking and a little visual information overload. Our kids were particularly wearied after the first 3 floors and then just raced each other to the next floor to find the interactive exhibits that they could play with. The security staff watching the building were a bit wary of the kids and were very ready to tell off any wandering hands that may have looked poised to touch the untouchables. We resorted to using iPhones as distractions for the kids so we could continue enjoying the rest of the exhibits, but in the end we had to rush through the final few floors, as their patience was running out.
It was an amazing museum jam-packed with well-presented displays and immaculate cars. But perhaps it would have been better visited without the little ones or just to wait until they were a little older.
In contrast to the Mercedes Museum, the Porsche Museum had setup a room in the upper floor designated just for children, called “Porsche 4 Kids”, to get their busy hands onto something interactive which was an immediate relief.
This Museum will have even the most frugal unmaterialistic nomadic travellers (cough cough, us) salivating to own a multi-million dollar car. There were more then 80 cars on display across 5,600 square metres. We found cars from the early 1900’s through to the latest generation. Many of the cars were displayed without any barrier ropes which admittedly made for much better photos and enabled visitors to get close to the beautiful machines, but they were also very temping for little hands (and big hands too). Security staff were on hand to help prevent touchy feely visitors from getting their paws on the valuable exhibits.
On the upper floor a white Porsche was designated as the “photo car” that visitors were allowed to sit inside for customary selfies. This was a nice touch as it made the experience all that more immersive.
We easily caught a train to Porscheplatz station and walked across the road to the museum. We couldn’t miss it because the building itself is a gravity-defying steel structure resting on three concrete cores appearing to hover in space. Impressive!
It was not as in-depth as the Mercedes Museum so we could fly through this one a little faster. There were audio guides available with a special stream just for children.
We really enjoyed heading up to the restaurant in the kids area for a drink and muffin while the kids raced cars, jumped in cars, made playdough cars and watched the Disney’s Cars movie. I believe the kids area is only open during school holidays (which we were fortunate enough to visit during) so you may want to contact Porsche Museum in advance if you’re unsure. But even without the kids area, it is still well worth a visit.
6) Höhenpark Killesberg (Killesberg Hill Park / Weissenhof Museum)
Josh could not stop taking photos of this garden as we wandered through its 123 acres.
We arrived via train at Killesberg station and it was a bit of a walk north before we found a cute little tourist train. We paid about €7 (AUD$10 for 2 adults plus 2 kids) to catch the train so we could gather a better sense of the size and layout of this park. The train has been running since the opening of the park in 1939.
After our train ride around we took a leisurely stroll through the park in search of several things we had heard about – water fountains, a 40 metre-high observation tower with fantastic 360-degree views, vast children’s play areas, a petting zoo, an open-air swimming pool and a children's theatre.
Our first find was a small 1930’s styled fairground with old-fashion rides. The kids got 2 rides each for about €5 (AUD$7.20) – one on the classic carousal and another on a (manual) swinging wooden boat.
Afterwards we passed by the theatre on our way to the Killesberg Tower. It’s a little like the DNA Tower in Kings Park, Perth Australia, but a lot higher. And with the additional sophistication of German design. The 40m climb was a vigorous workout, but what awaited us at the top was well worth the effort.
The tower swayed slightly when we were at the top creating a vaguely unbalancing feeling that I was happy to retreat from after a quick agreement with Josh over the splendid views.
We left a small donation in the box at the base of the tower and then headed to the playground we had spotted from the train. It was a magnificent playground that the kids loved. Flying foxes, slides, climbing frames and swing sets. Josh and I planted ourselves on the grass in the soothing sun while the kids ran wild.
It’s a gorgeous place, perfect for a picnic or just a fun outing that the kids are guaranteed to love.
These 6 attractions are just the start of what was on offer in Stuttgart. After my first taste of German culture in Munich in 2007, I must admit I hadn’t placed Germany high on my list of child-friendly countries. However Stuttgart certainly has revealed itself as an enticing destination for families and I hope we get to return one day to explore it even more… and to visit that famous Pig Museum. Oink!