Seeing the Christmas Markets of Southwest Germany
…and so much more!
I come from a family of people who love to travel (myself included) and I’m lucky to have been to a fair amount of places. But I’m the only person who had still never been to Germany (save for a layover in an airport, but that doesn’t count). I felt a bit like I was missing out, so when Supal asked if I’d like to join her on a trip to Stuttgart, my answer was of course a firm ‘yes!’.
It was a whirlwind trip to say the least. From the moment we landed until the moment we took off back to London, our days were packed. From medieval towns to the most modern library you’ve ever seen, plus plenty of Christmas market charm, here’s what we got up to in Southwest Germany.
Wake up (not so) bright and early for our flight from London to Stuttgart.
Upon arrival in Germany, we make our way to the train into town—it’s a fairly quick and easy trip and by midday we’ve checked into our hotel.
Our first meal in town comes with an incredible view and it’s a wonderful way to begin our time in Southwest Germany.
On the top floor of the Stuttgart Museum of Art (affectionately known as the glass cube) is a restaurant where we have a light lunch and a glass of locally produced Riesling. It was always my grandma’s favorite wine, so it’s special to try it for the first time in the region where it’s produced. The hills around Stuttgart are lined with grape vines!
To get ourselves acquainted with the town, its landmarks and its history, we’re given a guided tour by local guide Elisabeth Mohr. She’s incredibly kind, funny and informative and happily tells us where to find the best mulled wine!
We visit the New Palace first and with 365 rooms (one for each day of the year, it seems), it’s the grandest building in town. Afterwards, we walk into the Old Palace which is beautifully decorated with star lights and then the Stuttgart Christmas market.
The Christmas markets are the reason for our trip to Germany and we begin with the grandest one (and it also happens to be one of the oldest in Europe). With nearly 300 stalls, each selling locally-made goods and foods it’s a treat for all the senses. The roofs are all intricately decorated (there’s a prize for the best each year) and the smells of glühwein waft through the air. It looks and smells like Christmas all around.
To get an even better vantage point, we make our way up to the very top of the Town Hall where the floor-to-ceiling windows let us see the grand scale of the market (and a bird’s eye view of the decorated roofs!).
We take a revolving elevator down (which is a thrill, for sure) and then check out a couple more sights.
First, the Breuninger Stuttgart store, which I feel is like the Selfridges of Stuttgart. The atrium is beautifully done up for the holidays and if you’re looking for a luxurious Christmas present, this seems to be the place to go.
Next up might be my favorite spot in Stuttgart: the markthalle. A permanent covered market that sells nearly any food you can imagine, like Italian cheeses, Belgian chocolates and the most stunning truffles I’ve ever seen. Up one flight of stairs, you can find home goods. I think I remarked at least a few times “I wish I had more room in my suitcase.” Next time!
At that point, we part with Elizabeth and do a bit of exploring on our own. We revisit the Christmas market to do a bit of shopping. One booth that caught my eye earlier was one selling straw ornaments. They’re meant to show the humble nature of the Swabian people. They’re simple and beautiful so I purchase a few for my tree and some to send to my family.
And of course I must find some lebkuchen, a German soft gingerbread that I absolutely love. Covered in milk chocolate and with hints of spices, it’s a festive treat that I can’t get enough of.
Dinner is at Carls Brauhaus along with the duo behind A Parisian Journey. It’s a brewery turned restaurant and we feast on some traditional dishes of the region—I opt for spaetzle and it’s decadent!
We end our night with a light show in the palace square right outside the restaurant. Called ‘Glanzlichter Stuttgart,’ it’s a series of eight flight sculptures which each represent a main attraction of Stuttgart and each hour, the lights are choreographed to music.
It’s a really nice way to end a very long day!
The next two days are filled with day trips to the charming small villages that surround Stuttgart in the Southwest corner of Germany and first is Tübingen.
After arriving via train from Stuttgart, we’re greeted by our local guide, Inge, who takes us towards town.
Upon crossing the river and first seeing the colorful buildings that make up the town, we’re in awe. It quite literally felt like we had stumbled onto a Wes Anderson film set and we spent quite a while taking it in and taking photos.
Deciding to go into town rather than continue to gawk at it, we make our way up cobbled streets and through charming alleyways towards the castle that sits high upon a hill. It’s an incredible vantage point overlooking the entire city (and its university—one of Europe’s oldest). In fact, our guide tells us that a third of the town’s residents are students.
Unfortunately we’ve arrived in Tübingen on a drizzly day, so we briefly escape the rain at Mauganeschtle restaurant, which is in the base of a local hotel. It’s a cozy, warm and charming spot that serves our favorite meal of the trip.
We have maultaschen (essentially a German take on ravioli) served over greens along with locally made pear cider for lunch and it’s incredible—healthy, but comforting!
Having a healthy lunch was a good idea because one of the main reasons we’ve come to Tübingen is because it’s home to Germany’s biggest chocolate festival, chocolART.
Rows and rows of booths house chocolatiers from Germany and abroad, each selling their specialties. It’s a chocolate lover’s dream (also known as my dream). We have some hot chocolate while we peruse the stands.
I uncharacteristically pass up the chocolate truffles in favor of some more lebkuchen. And yes, it’s chocolate covered!
Chocolate treats in tow, we do a little bit more exploring of the town before catching a train back to Stuttgart for our evening activity!
No rest for us as we head straight to the Christmas Garden at Wilhelma to see their annual winter light displays. I’m sure this botanical garden is stunning in the summer, but it’s also so lovely now. The various light displays (from Moorish buildings to lotus blossoms) are enchanting.
And I was really, really tempted to go for a carousel ride too. But decided to leave that to the kids and have some mulled wine instead.
After a very busy day, we head to the hotel and straight to bed!
Another day and another two Christmas markets!
First we head to Esslingen, another village near Stuttgart, that’s home to a medieval-style Christmas market.
While medieval wares and costumes will never quite be my kind of thing, I did admire the medieval architecture of the town. The half-timbered buildings are like nothing I’ve ever seen and I kept looking up in admiration. And to take photos!
The local schoolkids did seem to enjoy the games, rides and performers, however!
The next market town was much more my style. Ludwigsburg is another train ride away and it’s a town of beautiful baroque architecture and symmetrical streets.
The Christmas market here is the smallest we’ve been to, but it’s nothing short of special. The stands (and the town surrounding it) are beautifully decorated and we’re treated to a surreal sky and sunset too. Drinking a little more mulled wine and having dessert for dinner is a perfect end to our day of Christmas fun.
A train ride home and we’re back at the hotel where we have some tea in the room to warm up before heading to bed.
On our last day in Germany, we left the medieval and baroque towns and buildings for two thoroughly modern ones—and they were without a doubt my favorites!
Our first stop of the day was to a building we’d been wanting to see since well before the beginning of our trip. The Stuttgart City Library is an architectural masterpiece and one of the most breathtaking buildings I’ve ever been in.
It’s like something out of a science fiction film—all-white interiors, staircases that don’t seem real and perfect, bright lighting. I think if my local library were like this growing up, I’d have read a lot more books!
We only intended to stay here a little while, but we find ourselves in the library for much longer and there’s even a roof deck that we find that offers a stunning 360 degree view of Stuttgart.
But time is ticking and we’ve got one more place to go before we jet out of town: the Mercedes-Benz museum.
Before our trip, I had no idea that Stuttgart was the home of both the Mercedes and Porsche and each has a museum in town.
We opt for the Mercedes museum and I’m so glad we did. The building is a stunning work of modern architecture. You begin by taking an elevator to the top floor and slowly walking down, taking in the brand’s history as you go.
I must say, I’m not that into cars, but I actually really, really enjoyed this museum and learned so much. It’s laid out beautifully and you’re able to get up close to some really interesting pieces of history.
And did you know that the prongs of the Mercedes logo stand for land, air and sea? The company created motors for airplanes, automobiles and boats—and you can find examples of each throughout the museum!
I wish we had allocated more time for this spot, but alas, we have a flight to catch, so we hurry back to the hotel to collect our bags and then we’re off!
The purpose of the trip was to explore the Christmas markets, but we encountered so much more than that in Southwest Germany. I found that the year-round sights, like the small villages and incredible architecture, to be the most stunning spots of them all!
Until next time,
Disclosure: The Stuttgart marketing team invited Supal on the trip as a press tour of the city and the surrounding towns. As her plus-one, my flights, accommodation and most meals were covered. Of course, all opinions are my very own!