From the bustling southwestern capitol of Stuttgart, Germany are several day trips where you’ll find over 2,000 years of history. The Swabian Alps, the mountain range extending through Germany’s southwest, is bordered to the southeast by the Danube River and to the north by the River Neckar. Explore the area for Medieval and Renaissance era history, outdoor recreation, local arts and crafts, and regional wines and cuisine.
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Altensteig is a southern German town dating back to the Middle Ages. Several wood-framed buildings, more than 500 years old, still stand, including Altensteiger Schloss, a Medieval castle dating back to the 1200’s, the only one of its kind still standing in the Black Forest region. The castle is now home to a museum and a living history village where visitors can experience typical Black Forest trades, such as silversmithing and leather tanning. Outside the village, the Black Forest natural park offers 1.5 million acres of natural landscape, fishing, hiking, cycling and horseback riding. At the end of the day, try a glass of Riesling, a white wine local to the area.
Bad Urach is a small town located at the foot of the Swabian Alps in southwest Germany. Classic timber trimmed buildings and cobblestone streets contribute to the small town Bavarian charm. The area is known for its spa and natural thermals. Hiking is among the most popular activities in this UNESCO World Heritage site. Hike to the Urach waterfall, which boasts a 120 foot drop. A more challenging hike takes visitors up a steep climb to the ruins of the Hohenurach castle, built in the 600’s. In town, visit the Royal Palace Bad Urach which dates back to the 1400’s, and is home to a large exhibits of sleighs.
Bad Urach, Germany
Located within the hills of the Black Forest, the small spa town of Bad Wilbad has been a destination for healing and relaxing for over 600 years. Enjoy any number of spa facilities, each fed by natural thermal springs. Walk along a treetop path for views of the valley and forest. Adventurous travelers will enjoy the pedestrian bridge, a swaying suspension bridge, close to 200 feet above the forest floor. The Wildline Bridge connects to the treetop path and the fairytale trail. In the winter months, over 24 miles of trails for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing are maintained throughout town.
Bad Wilbad, Germany
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Germany’s Black Forest is a southwestern region spanning over 1 million acres of land. The dense and dark forests offer a dramatic natural landscape of waterfalls, valleys, gorges, rivers and trees. The area is popular for hiking and outdoor activities, and many of the small towns have sprung up around natural thermals surrounded by spa resorts, some dating back to the early 19th century. Two of the larger Black Forest towns include Freiburg, a university town known to locals as the Black Forest capitol and Baden-Baden, a 19th century resort town. Located along the Oos River, Baden-Baden is home to the Gönneranlage rose garden, the Museum Frieder Burda, and the famous Casino Baden-Baden.
Black Forest, Germany
In southern Germany’s Swabian Alps is a small town called Blaubeuren where you’ll find Blautopf, a legendary crystal clear blue spring. Waters come to the surface here from an intricate underground cave system fed by rain and snow. The pool at Blautopf forms the headwaters of the Blau River, which eventually flows into the Danube. The funnel shaped spring is over 60 feet deep at its center point, and there’s no shortage of legends of mermaids and mischievous water sprites. Adjacent to the pool is an historic mill, including a blacksmith shop powered by the spring’s waters.
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Dinkelsbuhl is among several classic Bavarian towns located along Germany’s Romantic Road, a scenic roadway traversing the southern provinces of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. Dinkelsbuhl is among the last remaining walled medieval towns and appears much as it did in the Middle Ages, with timbered buildings and cobblestone streets. Founded in the 8th century, the merchant town was known for cloth making and weaving. Visit St. George’s Minister, the grand 15th century church at the city’s center. Each July, the town celebrates the Festival of Kinderzeche, a children’s festival that dates back to Medieval times.
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The German city of Frankfurt is located along the River Main. This historic city is the hometown of the famous German writer Goethe, whose 28th century home is now a museum. Most of the town was heavily damaged in World War II and has since been rebuilt, including the city’s center square, Altstadt , or Old Town. Located between the Emperors' Cathedral and Romer City Hall, Old Town is host to one of Germany’s most visited Christmas markets. Among the museums, visit the Cathedral Museum to see rare and intricate ecclesiastical artifacts, and the Jewish Museum for a history of Jewish communities in Frankfurt from the 12th to 20th century. Stroll the banks of the river and enjoy a walking and cycling path, parks and green spaces.
Freiburg is a historic town in Germany’s Black Forest region. Cobblestone streets and miniature streams add to the town’s historic charm. The 13th century Gothic Freiburg Cathedral took nearly 300 years to complete and boasts a nearly 400-foot tall spire. A 750 year old three ton bell still rings in the cathedral today. The Cathedral Market in the heart of Freiburg’s old town overflows with fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and baked breads. Walk off your meal with a stroll across the Wiwilí Bridge, a pedestrian fairway built in the late 1800’s, famously painted blue.
Heidelberg is among Germany’s most visited towns. The university city is home to the famous 13th century Heidelberg Castle. Partially in ruins, and partially rebuilt after being demolished in the 1600’s, the castle is among the most important examples of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Tours are available of the castle and the extensive surrounding gardens. Step in to any of the historic churches, whose spires line the Heidelberg skyline. Annual events include the Heidelberg Christmas market, autumn’s Heidelberger Herbst craft market, and the Castle Illuminations which takes place three times yearly, lighting the castle with fireworks and spotlights.
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Germany’s Hohenzollern Castle is located just 30 miles south of Stuttgart. The Medieval castle, which is the ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern family was destroyed and rebuilt several times, most recently with a distinct Gothic-Revival style. To visit, hike twenty minutes or take a shuttle from the parking lot to the castle’s entrance. Stroll the castle complex, or visit the interior rooms with a guide. The privately owned property was restored by the Hohenzollern descendents in the 19th century and houses the family’s art collection, silver, china and the crown of the Prussian King. The castle is host to numerous events, including a summer concert series, exhibitions, running races, and one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany.
Burg Hohenzollern, D-72379 Burg Hohenzollern, Germany, Phone: +49-0-74-71-24-28
Karlsruhe is a lively, welcoming town just north of Stuttgart. The city is full of culture and offers history, museums, shopping, dining and events. Diverse cultural experiences include the unique Centre for Art and Media Karlsruhe, or ZKM. Known as the Mecca of Media Arts, or the Electronic Bauhause, ZKM was founded in the 1980’s with a mission to take classic art to the digital age. Over 50 classic and contemporary art museums complement the ZKM throughout town. Karlsruhe is home to Das Fest, Germany’s biggest open-air concert. Hundreds of thousands attend each summer for two days of acts.
Lake Constance uniquely spans four countries, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. 110 miles of the lake’s shoreline are located within Germany. In the Upper Swabian region take a bike from Lake Constance along the path to the Danube, visit a traditional Moor spa, or relax in thermal hot springs. Along the German shore of the lake you’ll find the Zeppelin hangar and museum, the Unteruhldingen Lake Dwelling Museum with exhibits of Stone Age and Bronze Age artifacts, and the Meersburg Castle, host to outdoor summer concerts. Rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard, or hike through the adjacent vineyards to one of several mountain inns.
Lake Constance, Germany
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The Neo-Gothic Lichtenstein Castle was built in the mid-1800’s and is often referred to as the fairy tale castle for its classic Disney-like appearance. The privately owned castle in Baden-Wurttemberg overlooks the Echaz valley at the northwestern edge of the Swabian Jura, or the Swabian Alps. A guided 30-minute tour of the castle’s interior takes guests through the armory, chapel and knight’s hall. Décor includes 15th and 16th century paintings, medieval furniture, murals and woodwork. Walk the grounds for views of the surrounding countryside from nearly 3,000 feet above sea level. Several hiking routes begin at the castle and there is also a ropes course nearby.
Schloß Lichtenstein 1, 72805 Lichtenstein, Germany, Phone: +49-71-29-41-02
Just north of Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg is home to an intricate 18th century Baroque residential palace surrounded by gardens. Known as the Versailles of Germany, it is among the largest German palaces. Tour the palace theater, residential apartments and the grand marble hall. Ludwigsburg is the city that grew up around the palace, and is characterized by the baroque marketplace at city center, the tree-lined streets and uniform houses. Gardens surrounding the palace are split into five distinctively designed areas, with several restaurants and snack bars located throughout. Nearby is the Monrepos residence, a rural baroque castle surrounded by a park and lake.
The Maulbronn Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and among Europe’s most well preserved monastery campuses. The former Cistercian abbey dates back to the 12th century and its 13th century narthex, known as The Paradise, is the oldest example of Gothic architecture in Germany. The Romanesque pine doors of the church date back to 1178 and are the oldest known doors in Germany. Tours include the 14th century Fountain House and the monk’s refectory with its 16th century red frescoes. Exhibits display artifacts and educate guests on the history of the site and the Cistercian monks.
Klosterhof 5, 75433 Maulbronn, Germany, Phone: +49-70-43-92-66-10
Munich is the capitol of Bavaria and the second largest city in Germany. It is best known for the autumn Oktoberfest celebration and the Hofbräuhaus beer hall, which was founded in the 1500’s. Visit the Marienplatz, Munich’s central square which dates back to the 12th century. Here you’ll find some of Munich’s greatest neo-Gothic architecture, the Munich Toy Museum, and the 1908 Carillon, a two-story Glockenspiel with over 40 chimes and characters. Climb to the top of the New Town Hall tower for panoramic views of the city. Visit the 19th century Alte Pinakothek, Germany’s oldest art gallery, and the Munich Residenz, built in the 14th century.
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Schwangau’s Neuschwanstein Castle was built in the 1800’s as a retreat for the recluse Ludwig II of Bavaria. The castle, which had long been the private refuge of the shy king, was opened to the public six weeks after his death in 1886. Today, with over 1 million visitors per year, it’s among the most popular castles in Europe. The king has dedicated the castle to the composer Richard Wagner, and the interiors reflect the medieval myths the composer’s work was based on. A swan motif is present throughout. While the castle was built to look like a medieval palace, the most advanced 19th century technology is hidden throughout. There was central heating, a complex bell system for summoning servants, and hot and cold running water on each floor.
Alpseestraße 12, D-87645 Hohenschwangau, Phone: +49-83-62-93-08-30
Nuremberg is Bavaria’s second largest city and offers a rich history alongside contemporary architecture and activities. Once the center of Nazi rule during World War II, and the site of the famous Nuremberg Trials for war crimes, the city now faces this history with a variety of museums and memorials including the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds, a permanent exhibit in the unfinished Congress Hall. Visit the Imperial Castle, one of the Roman Empire’s most significant fortified structures, which overlooks the city, the 14th century Beautiful Fountain and the 13th century St. Sebaldus Church, Germany’s oldest city parish.
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19.Rothenburg ob der Tauber
The picturesque medieval town of Rothenburg is Germany’s most well preserved walled town. Located alongside the Tauber River, Rothenburg was among Germany’s most populated cities in the Middle Ages. Attractions include the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum, full of instruments of torture. St. Jakob’s Church is home to a 500-year old altarpiece made by Germany’s most acclaimed woodcarver. Walking tours reveal the town’s history and its place in the Thirty Years War of the 17th century. Climb the tower at the Town Hall for sweeping views of the city and surrounding countryside. Shop for local crafts, beer steins, and Christmas ornaments.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
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Germany’s Sasbachwalden is a small town on the west side of the Black Forest, known as the “floral and wine village.” Once voted Germany’s most beautiful city, Sasbachwalden charms with its half-timbered homes, unique floral décor and its historic preservation district. The well-known Alde Gott wine growers cooperative is located here, and the town is among the stops on the region’s Ortenau Wine Route. In addition to the wine route, walking tours include the Gourmet Trail, Waterfall Hikes and a Wine and Nature Trail. The Schnapps Wells are three self-serve taps located throughout the hiking trails where visitors can fill their own bottles of local liquors. Annual events include the Thanksgiving Wine Festival, now in it’s 71st year, and the weeklong Sounds Music Festival.
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Humans have been living in the Schorndorf region at the foot of the Swabian Alps at least since the Neolithic era, as evidenced by finds of stone tools in the region. Schorndorf is referred to in documents dating back to the early 13th century. By the 16th century the town flourished due to wine production in the region, and the town’s medieval walls were town down in the early 19th century in favor of expansion. Visit the Gottleib Daimlers Museum, which offers a history of automobile. The historic Burgschloss Schorndorf castle is now the town’s district court and is surrounded by a large park with grassy areas and outdoor sculpture.
Strasbourg, France, is the historic capitol of Alsace and les than two hours from Stuttgart. While French, the town’s historic Germanic culture is apparent, as evidenced in the cuisine, the architecture, and the use of the Alsatian German dialect. The Strasbourg Cathedral is France’s second most visited after Notre Dame. The Romanesque and Gothic cathedral was completed in the mid 15th century. Visit Petite-France, the city’s historic quarter where you’ll find charming half-timbered medieval buildings, and several lookout points along the River Ill. The Strasbourg Christmas Market is one of Europe’s oldest and largest.
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Triberg is a small village in Germany’s Black Forest best known for its cuckoo clock craftsmanship. Visit the world’s largest cuckoo clock, also a gift shop where you can purchase locally crafted items. You’ll also find the world’s smallest cuckoo clock here, at just over 5 inches. Hike to the top of Germany’s largest and most accessible waterfall. The path to the popular outdoor attraction is open year-round and moderately challenging. At Triberg’s Black Forest Museum, or Schwarzwald Museum, you’ll learn about the centuries old history of the region, and the Black Forest crafts of cuckoo clocks, mechanical orchestras and chimes.
Triberg im Schwarzwald, Germany
Tubingen is a university town that dates back to the 11th century. Mostly spared from damage during World War II, the town is remarkably preserved and features narrow and winding cobblestone streets with stairs built into sidewalks and an abundance of medieval architecture. The university contributes greatly to the town’s culture and visitors will find several choirs, theaters, art galleries, lecture series and events. The historic city center is located alongside the River Neckar. Visit the Schloss, or castle, and its surrounding gardens and courtyard. Bebenhausen is a 12th century Cistercian monastery with adjacent village. St. George’s Collegiate Church is a 15th century Gothic masterpiece.
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The university city of Ulm dates back to the year 850. The once Imperial City is best known as the birthplace of Albert Einstein. Located alongside the Danube River, Ulm is surrounded by the Swabian Alps, which keep temperatures in the area relatively cool. The city’s motif is the sparrow, or Spatzen, which can be seen throughout its Gothic architecture. The Ulm Cathedral, or Ulmer Minister, is a 15th century Gothic cathedral that was completed in the late 1800’s. Climb nearly 800 stairs to the top of the spire for views of the city and surroundings on clear days. The Medieval Fisherman’s Quarter is home to the world’s most crooked hotel. The 11th century Wiblingen Monastery is home to a small convent museum, Baroque basilica and Rococo library.
25 Best Stuttgart Day & Weekend Trips
- Altensteig, Photo: reinhard sester/stock.adobe.com
- Bad Urach, Photo: Sven/stock.adobe.com
- Bad Wilbad, Photo: RWFOTO/stock.adobe.com
- Black Forest, Photo: Manuel Schönfeld/stock.adobe.com
- Blautopf, Photo: davada/stock.adobe.com
- Dinkelsbuhl, Photo: Andy Ilmberger/stock.adobe.com
- Frankfurt, Photo: Sergii Figurnyi/stock.adobe.com
- Freiburg, Photo: tichr/stock.adobe.com
- Heidelberg, Photo: fottoo/stock.adobe.com
- Hohenzollern Castle, Photo: Manuel Schönfeld/stock.adobe.com
- Karlsruhe, Photo: pure-life-pictures/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Constance, Photo: hellzbellz1/stock.adobe.com
- Lichtenstein Castle, Photo: Manuel Schönfeld/stock.adobe.com
- Ludwigsburg, Photo: Waldteufel/stock.adobe.com
- Maulbronn Kloster, Photo: pure-life-pictures/stock.adobe.com
- Munich, Photo: Noppasinw/stock.adobe.com
- Neuschwanstein Castle, Photo: Sergii Figurnyi/stock.adobe.com
- Nuernberg, Photo: pure-life-pictures/stock.adobe.com
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Photo: Jenifoto/stock.adobe.com
- Sasbachwalden, Photo: Mira Drozdowski/stock.adobe.com
- Schorndorf, Photo: hellzbellz1/stock.adobe.com
- Strasbourg, Photo: pure-life-pictures/stock.adobe.com
- Triberg, Photo: sergiyzinko/stock.adobe.com
- Tubingen, Photo: sergiyzinko/stock.adobe.com
- Ulm, Photo: tichr/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: nes39/stock.adobe.com