Things to Do in Baden-Württemberg
Although the Black Forest is located in one of the sunniest areas of Germany, its name dates back to a time when thick trees shielded the forest floor from light. While there are more clearings now, the country's largest and most renowned forest remains a real-life Grimm fairy tale dotted with gingerbread villages and serene wood-fringed lakes.
The Karl-Theodor-Bridge (Alte Brucke) in Heidelberg is a sandstone pedestrian bridge that goes across the Neckar River linking the old town on one side with the Neuenheim district on the other. It was built in 1786, and even though there were several other bridges before it in this location, it was the first one made of stone. On the city side of the bridge, there are two towers that once formed part of the city walls. They contain old dungeons which were used to hold criminals. Between the towers, you can see a plaque honoring the Austrian troops who helped defend the bridge against an attack from the French in 1799.
Another feature visitors will notice is a statue of a monkey holding a mirror. The monkey represents the idea that neither those who lived within the city walls nor those who lived outside the city were any better than the other, and that they should look over their shoulder as the cross the bridge to remember this. Other sculptures on the bridge include a monument to Prince Elector Carl Theodor, who had the bridge built, and one devoted to the Roman goddess Minerva.
Spread across nine levels and showcasing over 160 rare vehicles and car-related artifacts, Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Museum is a must-visit destination for automotive enthusiasts. Debuted in 2006 next to the city’s Daimler factory, the museum is also an architectural marvel, thanks to its sleek, double-helix design.
SEA LIFE Konstanz, on the shores of Lake Constance, is an educational, family-friendly aquarium featuring a variety of species, both native to the area and from further afield. Interact with the animals at the rock pool, learn about their behavior, and watch feedings.
Marktplatz, or the Market Square, is in the heart of Heidelberg's old town and is often full of activities. It is located between the Church of the Holy Ghost and the Town Hall building. In the Middle Ages, this square was used for public proceedings which included burning witches and heretics at the stake, and putting people charged with petty crimes into cages so the public could torment them. The square was, and continues to be, used for markets where fruits, vegetables, meats, cheese, flowers, crafts, and other food and goods are sold. Today the markets take place twice a week.
At the center of the square stands a fountain and statue of Hercules that was built in the early 1700s. The statue you see today is only a replica though; the original is kept safe in the Kurpfälzisches Museum. During warm months, the cafes located along the edges of the square have outdoor seating for patrons to enjoy the view and the nice weather.
The Old Heidelberg University, Germany's oldest university, was build in the early 1700s. It now holds the Rector's Office, the Old Assembly Hall, and the University Museum. The museum shows the history of the university beginning with its foundation in 1386 through today. Exhibits, portraits, and documents explain this history in three different sections. There's one about the Palatinate electors, one about the Baden era, and one about the twentieth century. In addition to the permanent exhibits, every few months there is a new special exhibit opens.
In the square in front of the building is a fountain of a lion, called Löwenbrunnen. The lion was the symbol of the Palatinate. At the back of the Old University, visitors can see the student prison, which was in use until 1914 and is now one of the most popular attractions in the city. Students could be put in the prison from two days to four weeks depending on the offense, although life there was quite comfortable.
Spectacular and historic Freiburg im Breisgau, commonly known just as Freiburg, sits on the edge of the mountainous Black Forest in southern Germany, a photogenic old city that was founded in 1120 that lays claim to having the most sunshine in the whole country. Life in this vibrant university city centers on the Altstadt’s cobbled and arcaded Rathausplatz (City Square), lined with Gothic churches and civic buildings interspersed with buzzy cafés and bars. The tangle of surrounding streets are stuffed full of medieval buildings, from half-timbered and gabled townhouses to the massive 11th-century Gothic Münster (Minister) encrusted with sculptured biblical scenes and adorned with dazzling stained-glass windows. One of the Freiburg’s stranger constructions is the bizarre Stühlinger Kirche (Stühlinger church), completed in 1897 and topped with bright-green tiled spires.
Freiburg’s proximity to the Black Forest National Park makes it the number-one base from which to explore its vineyards, pretty villages, crystal-clear lakes and scenic hiking trails; several way-marked walks begin at the Schlossbergbahn cable-car station just outside town. It is also close to Germany’s answer to Disneyland; Europa-Park is located near Freiburg at Rust, and has a vast array of rides, shows and amusements for a day packed with family fun.
SEA LIFE®Speyer, on the banks of the Rhine River, is an aquarium offering an interactive, educational glimpse of life under the sea. Here you'll find thousands of creatures across hundreds of species, including colorful tropical fish, all living in recreated habitats.
Germany’s oldest casino opened for business in 1855 after a visiting Parisian brought up the idea of opening gaming rooms in the Black Forest spa town to add some spice to the evening entertainment options. While gambling became popular in the town during the early decades of the nineteenth century, it wasn’t until 1855 that Casino Baden-Baden came to be, and it still showcases the same glitz and glamour of the Second Empire.
Parisian designers fashioned the casino with crystal chandeliers, ornate frescoes and rich tapestries reminiscent of Fontainebleau or Versailles in France. While gambling remains a popular diversion, visitors can also take guided tours of the historic casino and hear tales of its storied past and famous patrons.
Lake Mummelsee, located along the Black Forest High Road scenic route, is the largest of seven mountain lakes remaining in the Black Forest. Perched 3,400 feet (1,036 meters) above sea level, the lake gets its name from the white water lilies, called ‘mummel’ in German, than float on its surface.
According to local lore, a bevy of water sprites live with their king in a glorious crystal palace far below the surface of the water, coming out only at night to dance in the moonlight. Mermaids aside, Lake Mummelsee is circumnavigated by a boardwalk for lakeside strolls, while paddle boats ply the surface. A short trail leads up to a lookout tower atop Hornisgrinde, the highest peak in the area, where visitors can take in panoramic views of the Black Forest.
More Things to Do in Baden-Württemberg
The third-largest lake in Central Europe, Lake Constance (Bodensee) enjoys a unique setting that borders three countries: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The strikingly beautiful landscapes surrounding the lake take in some of the best of each, including Alpine foothills, meadows, and orchards.
Just an hour outside of Frankfurt, Germany, you can discover a relaxed shopping haven at Wertheim Village. The cozy, village-themed, open-air outlet offers sophisticated boutiques, attentive service, and warm, unhurried atmosphere. All in all, this makes the outlet mall a worthwhile place to visit for those who love to shop. At Wertheim Village, you can find over a hundred international fashion and lifestyle boutiques including: Lacoste, Longchamp, Wolford, Escada, and Calvin Klein. The outlets offer discounts of up to 60% off of the goods’ recommended retail pricing. The outlet space can be covered within a couple of hours, and there are also plenty of cafés and restaurants to take a break at and refresh yourself for another round of shopping. There’s also a pleasant children's play area with a restaurant nearby, so parents can enjoy a coffee or a beer while the kids blow off some steam.
Come to the 11th-century Hohentubingen Castle for the hilltop views, but stay for what's inside the castle: The University of Tübingen houses the largest number of scientific collections of any German university. Explore ancient art, culture, and traditions through the university’s unique treasures on display.
Second only to Disneyland Paris as Europe’s largest theme park, Germany’s Europa-Park is a wonderland of rides, shows, and attractions that will entertain the whole family. The park is inspired by iconic European destinations—visitors can zoom through the Alps on a roller-coaster, ride a London bus, see Iceland's Northern Lights, and meet the fairytale characters of Grimm’s Enchanted Forest.
Situated in the hometown of Hugo Boss, Outletcity Metzingen offers shoppers an array of discounts at more than 70 international designer brand outlet stores, with luxury brands such as Prada, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry, Armani, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, and Nike represented. Original retail prices are discounted as much as 70 percent.
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