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Day trips from Stuttgart

Day trips from Stuttgart

As a budget airline hub, Stuttgart in southern Germany is easy to get to. Don’t just limit yourself to the town itself though – there are some incredible things to see you can manage in some easy day trips from Stuttgart. The best way to do this is with a Baden-Württemberg ticket from Deutsche Bahn:

Baden-Württemberg-Ticket


You get an all-day ticket to travel on all trains and most buses, and your own kids under 15 go free (up to 5 people in one group). Castles, palaces, gardens, half-timbered houses, and monasteries, it’s all super close to Stuttgart.

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The breathtaking Burg Hohenzollern
The breathtaking Burg Hohenzollern

Burg Hohenzollern

You’ve probably seen photos of this castle on Instagram, and for good reason. The Hohenzollern Castle is incredibly beautiful, perched on a hilltop with green fields spreading out below it. This is the ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern family, who still own and operate this castle. For castle enthusiasts, this is a relatively new one, constructed in the 1800s, but it’s gorgeous and not too busy. In spring and summer, you can get lunch from an outdoor cafe right in the castle courtyard. From Stuttgart, it’s about one hour by train, with a short local bus ride to the castle parking lot. If you are traveling on a Baden-Württemberg ticket, you get a discount on your castle entrance fee so be sure to present it.




The impressive palace at Ludwigsburg, an easy day trip from Stuttgart.
The impressive palace at Ludwigsburg, an easy day trip from Stuttgart.

Ludwigsburg Palace

Just north of Stuttgart is the impressive baroque splendour of the Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg and its surrounding gardens. Built during the 1700s, the palace and gardens were built in the French style, and served as the home of the Duke Württemberg. It’s the largest in Germany, and has survived intact through several wars. You can tour the interior rooms, and a highlight is the Baroque theatre the Duke had built in 1758 – in fact the oldest surviving castle theatre in Europe with its original stage machinery. As with most German castles and palaces, you can only see the interior rooms on a guided tour – just check with the staff when you buy your ticket when the next English language tour is leaving. If you don’t feel like a full guided tour, just wandering the gardens is incredibly impressive as well. From Stuttgart main station, Ludwigsburg is a quick 15-minute ride on the S-bahn, and a short walk from the Ludwigsburg station.

The massively picturesque town of Schwäbisch Hall makes a good day trip from Stuttgart.
The massively picturesque town of Schwäbisch Hall makes a good day trip from Stuttgart.
The Kloster Großcomburg satisfies that Rothenburg requirements without the busloads of tourists.
The Kloster Großcomburg satisfies that Rothenburg requirements without the busloads of tourists.

Schwäbisch Hall and Kloster Großcomburg

If you’re not in the mood for castles and palaces, try the half-timbered town of Schwäbisch Hall instead. Tucked into a valley around the river Kocher, this town has a surprisingly good museum, several good quality art galleries and endless picturesque corners to explore. I particularly love the covered bridges across the river. Keep an eye out for local festivals like the spring cheese festival, and the Christmas markets. Hop on a bus or take a short hike up to the monastery complex above the town, surrounded by 17th-century walls. This is a quiet spot to experience local history without busloads of tour groups piling up behind you. To get there from Stuttgart, it’s a one-hour train journey and a 20-minute bus ride.

The incredible Wiblingen Abbey library in Ulm
The incredible Wiblingen Abbey library in Ulm

Ulm 

This beautiful town makes for a great day trip. The Ulm Minster is one of the tallest churches in the world, and you can climb the tower if you’re feeling energetic. We particularly enjoyed the old town with its crooked half-timbered houses and pretty streets, and the Bread Culture Museum which has a terrific audio tour in English for both adults and kids. If you’re as keen on history as we are, you will want to make time to see the Lion-man at the Ulm Museum, a prehistoric mammoth ivory carving of a human figure with a lion head. It’s the oldest animal-shaped carving ever found, carved around 40,000 years old. A little way from the centre of town is the incredible Wiblingen Abbey library, which regularly features on those ‘Most Beautiful Libraries’ lists on the internet. Here’s my full post on a day in Ulm, but it was before I knew the Lion-man was there! I have to go back. You can catch a direct train from Stuttgart to Ulm, and it’s about an hour. 

The beautiful Tübingen
The beautiful Tübingen

Tübingen

This adorable university town combines fairy tale half-timbered houses with picturesque old town, Cambridge-style punts, and a few museums. You can take a punt (small boat you push with a pole) onto the river, but check the availability as boats fill up fast. There are a few beautiful parks, and if you are visiting on a Sunday, you can visit the Gomaringen Castle and see their displays of everyday Tübingen life in the 19th and 18th centuries. Just wandering around and taking in the old town is one of the best activities here, and as it’s only an hour train ride from Stuttgart, it won’t be a taxing day trip. 

The Hohenbaden castle ruins
The Hohenbaden castle ruins

Baden-Baden

This historic spa town on the edge of the Black Forest has been a favourite place to relax and rejuvenate since Roman times. There are many natural springs in the area, piped in to different spa complexes including the fancy Caracalla Spa. Johannes Brahms also liked to spend his summers here, and his house is now a museum. There are some excellent galleries here including Museum Frieder Burda for modern art, the Fabergé Museum, and the Kunstmuseum Gehrke-Remund where you can see many of Frida Kahlo’s works. Baden-Baden is very close to the French border, and has always attracted French people wanting to gamble, and it was quite the party town during the 19th century. Dostoevsky even wrote The Gambler while gambling in the casinos there. Just above the town is the Hohenbaden Castle, which has been in ruins since the 16th century, but there are still towers to climbs, and upper floors to visit, so it’s great fun if you’re a fan of castles. It’s free, and kids will love having free reign to run around (there are railings, but definitely keep them within arms reach on the upper floors). 

Schloss Lichtenstein looking regal on its cliff
Schloss Lichtenstein looking regal on its cliff

Schloss Lichtenstein

A gorgeous little jewel of a castle, Schloss Lichtenstein is one of those 19th-century castle recreations that were so popular with the German aristocracy in that period. The castle standing there now was completed in 1842 by the Duke Wilhelm von Urach, cousin of King Wilhelm. It’s modernity shouldn’t dissuade you from visiting it, however, as it’s dramatic placement on a stone cliff jutting out into the landscape is so impressive. There are many tours in English and the surrounding area is beautifully epic with forests topping sheer cliffs and little villages tucked into tight valleys. Getting there from Stuttgart is a little bit of an adventure, requiring train to Reutlingen, a bus to Honau, and about a half-hour walk, but the castle and grounds are not big so consider it part of the adventure.  

You can organize and buy your train tickets right here, in English.

 

 

PS – Need help with packing for Germany? I’ve got you covered for packing for your Germany trip in spring or summer.

Stuttgart in southern Germany is easy to get to, but don't limit your exploring to the city. Here are some great day trips from Stuttgart that take in castle, palaces, gardens, and half-timbered towns. Stuttgart in southern Germany is easy to get to, but don't limit your exploring to the city. Here are some great day trips from Stuttgart that take in castle, palaces, gardens, and half-timbered towns.

PS – Flying into Frankfurt instead? I have you covered: Great Day Trips from Frankfurt

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Day Trips from Frankfurt

Day Trips from Frankfurt

Frankfurt has a bit of a reputation for being full of banks and boringness, and while I love an afternoon along the Main sampling biergartens or a wander through the museums, there are so many great places a short drive or train journey away too. It’s such an easy place to fly into, it would be a shame not to use your time there to explore some of the amazing things about western Germany. Here are some great options for day trips from Frankfurt.

Visit one of Germany's favourite ruined castles in Heidelberg.
Visit one of Germany’s favourite ruined castles in Heidelberg.

Heidelberg

It’s on every list, and for good reason. As a Heidelberg resident, I’m not going to disagree! Our little city features the gorgeous castle ruins, of course, but don’t stop there. If you take the historic funicular to the top of the Königstuhl (the castle is only halfway up) you can take in a falconry demonstration, and let the kids burn off some steam at Märchenparadies, a little amusement park in the trees. Our Altstadt, or Old Town, is full of beautiful little streets. I think our favourite thing to do is head down to the Neckarweise to hang out in the playgrounds and splash park. Read my full post on what the locals do around Heidelberg for more ideas. Heidelberg is about 1 hour from Frankfurt by train.

Pretend Mozart is around the next corner in the Schwetzingen Palace Gardens.
Pretend Mozart is around the next corner in the Schwetzingen Palace Gardens.

Schwetzingen

Whenever I post photos of Schwetzingen, people ask me if I’m in Italy. Oh no, this is still Germany! This little town is dominated by the incredible salmon-pink summer palace of the Prince Elector. The manicured gardens go on and on, and the photo opportunities are endless. Mozart visited these gardens at least once, so imagine him wandering through, thinking on his music. Be sure to make your way to the Garden Mosque, it’s my favourite spot. The big draw here is the gardens, the buildings are not open except on guided tours – the only English language ones happen on Sundays at 2:15pm, so plan ahead if you want to see inside. On sunny days, it’s easy to find space at the all the pubs and restaurants that put out tables on the square right in front of the palace. Schwetzingen is about 1 hour from Frankfurt by train.




Even the seating outside the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz is type-related.
Even the seating outside the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz is type-related.

Mainz

The Gutenberg Museum is the big reason to visit – you can see one of the original Gutenberg bibles, as well as replicas of the original printing press. A walk around the lovely old town is well worth it. Check out the cathedral dating from the 10th century, and Wood Tower and Iron Tower – medieval structures that used to form part of the old city wall. Mainz is on the Rhine river, so you could catch one of the river cruises from here, or just enjoy a walk along this historic waterway. Mainz is an easy 30-40 minutes by train from Frankfurt. I have a whole post over here on what to do with kids in Mainz for the day.

Rhine Valley

There are several different ways of seeing this stretch of the Rhine, full to bursting with castles. Take a Rhine river cruise (affiliate link), and relax with a coffee or a glass of wine while you watch the valley goes by.  You could rent a car, which allows you to stop off at the littler castles and investigate. Or take the train to Koblenz or Cochem, the bigger towns in the valley, and relax and enjoy the view as the train follows the river. The sides of the valley are nearly all carpeted with vineyards, and it’s a breathtaking sight with castles perched on the hilltops. It’s worth noting that not all the castles are open to visitors.

Hessenpark Open-Air Museum

About an hour on the train from Frankfurt is the glorious Hessenpark. Over 100 historic buildings have been moved to this site over the past 50 years and painstakingly reassembled using appropriate materials. There are shops, restaurants, exhibitions, and interiors set up to show you what life was like in this region 200-400 years ago. There’s even a hotel on-site so you can wake up to the sounds of regional cocks crowing. Open-air museums are terrific with kids, as they can run around and explore at their own speed. There’s a great playground and farm animals all over. Read my full guide to visiting the Hessenpark.

 


PS – Need help with packing for Germany? I’ve got you covered for packing for your Germany trip in spring or summer.

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Mainz: A Great Day Trip with Kids

Mainz: A Great Day Trip with Kids

Where the River Main and the Rhine meet is the city of Mainz on one side, and Wiesbaden on the other. Mainz (pronounced MINE-zz) a short train journey from Frankfurt, and a lovely destination for a day trip with kids. It’s a very walkable city with a stretch of pedestrianized or low-traffic roads in the centre, and a lovely path along the banks of the Rhine.

Outside the Gutenberg Museum
Outside the Gutenberg Museum – love these movable type block seats.

Birthplace of Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg, European inventor of the movable-type printing press, was born in Mainz, and he printed his first books in the city. There is an extensive museum, with a vault containing two of the first Gutenberg bibles, as well as many examples of older hand-written books, and replicas of his original press. The audio guides are worth getting, and although they don’t have one geared for kids, the 20-minute highlight tour was interesting enough to keep our 7 year old engaged. But after 45 minutes he was pretty finished with this museum dedicated to books and printing, so unless your children are older or significantly interested, don’t expect this one to take all day.

Mainz Marktplatz
Mainz Marktplatz
Flower bed near the Mainz Marktplatz
Flower bed near the Mainz Marktplatz
Mainz Marktbrunnen (fountain or well) in the foreground, cathedral in background
Mainz Marktbrunnen (fountain or well) in the foreground, cathedral in background
Mainz Marktplatz - beautiful building decoration
Mainz Marktplatz – beautiful building decoration
Mainz Cathedral
Mainz Cathedral has been heavily restored and renovated beginning in the 13th century. No one seems to be able to leave this place alone!

Marktplatz and Altstadt

Thankfully the museum is centrally located in the Altstadt, near the central market square. Many of the buildings here have been restored as Mainz was heavily bombed in the Second World War. Starting in the Marktplatz, you can wend your way through picturesque little streets, in and around the cathedral. There are lots of cafes, ice cream shops, and restaurants. If you come on a Saturday, there is a huge market that fills the square and the streets above and below it. It’s a lovely festive atmosphere, so it’s worth catching the city on a Saturday if you can.

Roman ruins

Mainz was the site of Roman habitation as well, being well situated at the confluence of two major rivers. There are remains of aqueducts and city gates dotted around the city, as well as the remains of a massive stone monument inside the Mainz Citadel, which we didn’t have a chance to visit this trip.

Pedestrianized streets of Mainz
Heading down towards the Rhine from the Marktplatz in Mainz.
Outdoor cafe serving wine and beer on the banks of the Rhine at the Fisch Tor (Fish Gate).
Outdoor cafe serving wine and beer on the banks of the Rhine at the Fisch Tor (Fish Gate).
My son playing on the banks of the Rhine.
My son playing on the banks of the Rhine.

Banks of the Rhine and Mittel Rhine cruises

Follow the lovely pedestrianized streets down from the Marktplatz, past the cathedral, and head down to the banks of the Rhine by the old Fischtor (Fish Gate, which is no longer standing). There’s a set of steps to sit on, as well as a nice outdoor cafe serving wine and beer. You can watch the Rhine cruises stop here, as there are several jetties right here, or walk along the promenade. There are many Rhine cruises that work like hop-on, hop-off tour boats, running from 8am to 8pm, and taking in the middle (and most interesting!) portion of the Rhine from Cologne to Mainz (affiliate link).

Getting there

Mainz is a super quick 15 minute train journey from Frankfurt, so it’s a perfect day trip location.

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PS – Looking for more great kid-friendly German destinations? Try my posts on Heidelberg and Trier

 

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