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SouthWest Germany's Cities between Tradition and Modernity

Schlossillumination in Karlsruhe
Youthful Charm Paired with Proud Heritage

Ancient meets Modern

Youthful Charm Paired with Proud Heritage

Every city in Southwest Germany, the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg, has a unique tale to tell. Some boast a youthful charm, others are proud of their heritage. With their architecture, culture and inventiveness, the region’s nine so-called independent cities create a rich and diverse tapestry. And here in Germany’s sunniest region, each is determined to preserve the past, while offering a better future for its citizens.


1# Poetry in Motion


Viele historische Rennautos von Mercedes Benz stehen als Ausstellungsstücke in einer Reihe.
Many historic racing cars can be admired in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. | © Daimler AG
Schillerplatz in Stuttgart
Grand palces like the Schillerplatz form the historic heart of Stuttgart. | © Stuttgart Marketing GmbH, Martina Denker

With its world-famous car manufacturers Porsche and Mercedes, Stuttgart is often seen as a modern city. But the capital of SouthWest Germany also has a historic heart, with grand palaces and handsome churches. In the centre is Schillerplatz (Schiller Square), which stands on the spot that gives the city its name: the Stutengarten or stud farm. High on a plinth, a statue of poet Friedrich Schiller has stood since 1839. He admires the displays at the Flower Market on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. He surveys the colourful stalls at the annual wine festival at the end of August. What does he enjoy most? Most likely, the fun and bustle of one of Europe’s oldest, largest and best Christmas markets from late November to Christmas Eve.


2# Romantic past; leading-edge present


Panoramaansicht von Heidelbert mit Alter Brücke und Schloss
With its world-famous castle and old town, Heidelberg is seen as the epitome of romanticism in Germany. | © TMBW, Achim Mende
© Heidelberg Marketing GmbH
The new Heidelberg Congress Center will open in 2023. | © Heidelberg Marketing GmbH

With its ruined castle high above the Neckar River and atmospheric Old Town below, Heidelberg is often pigeonholed as the cradle of the German romantic movement. But it is also a hotspot for science. Germany's first university was founded here in 1386 and research was – and still is – a pillar of academic and city life. Today, the site of a former railway station is the new Bahnstadt district, a base for biotech and other high-tech companies. In 2023, the striking new Heidelberg Congress Center (HCC) will open for conferences. And, reflecting the motto 'Business by day; romantic at night', the century-old civic centre is the perfect place for evening receptions in the heart of the city. Ninety minutes northwest of Stuttgart. 

Schloss_Alte Brücke


View on the Old Town an Old Bridge 

Old town Heidelberg

Old Town Heidelberg

Alte Brücke Schlosshintergrund

Castle Heidelberg

Heidelberg Castle


Bridge / viaduct

Old Bridge


3# Special Then; Special Now


Für Entspannung pur sorgen im Friedrichsbad Baden-Baden 17 aufeinander abgestimmte Wohlfühlstationen.
Built in the 19th century in the Renaissance style, the Friedrichsbad is one of Baden-Baden's famous attractions. | © Baden-Baden Kur& Tourismus GmbH
Pokerface aufgesetzt und hereinspaziert: Das prunkvolle Casino im Kurhaus Baden-Baden lädt dazu ein, sich selbst an den Spieltisch zu wagen.
The casino in the Kurhaus in Baden-Baden is one of the most traditional and best-known casinos in Europe. | © Baden-Baden Kur & Tourismus GmbH
Als Herzstück der Stadt Baden-Baden führt kein Weg an ihm vorbei: Das Kurhaus begeistert Gäste bereits seit dem 18ten Jahrhundert mit seinen umfangreichen Erlebnis-Angeboten.
The Kurhaus has been delighting guests with its extensive range of events since the 18th century. | © Baden-Baden Kur & Tourismus GmbH

Playing on Baden-Baden’s double-barrelled name, this sophisticated city on the edge of the Black Forest has a witty slogan: “The good-good life.” In 2021, it was given UNESCO World Heritage status as one of the 'Important Spa Towns in Europe'. It was known as Aquae to the Romans, who came for the soothing, healing power of the 12 thermal springs. From 1700 onwards, Europe’s aristocracy flocked here to 'take the waters' and Baden-Baden became the 'summer capital of Europe'.  Today, that tradition continues, with unique spa experiences and elegant gardens, plus grand buildings, such as the stylish Kurhaus cultural centre, the casino, Germany’s largest opera house and world-class art museums. No city offers so much glamour and style, all conveniently close together. Ninety minutes west of Stuttgart.

Kurhaus Baden-Baden


“THE BELLE ÉPOQUE MEETS THE AGE OF INSTAGRAM” is the headline the New York Times recently used to describe Baden-Baden – and it’s certainly …
  • Cosmopolitan

Thermal bath Baden-Baden

Friedrichsbad Spa

  • Thermensommer

Event location Baden-Baden

Casino Baden-Baden


Event location Baden-Baden

Kurhaus Baden-Baden


4# Formative History


Blick auf das historische Rathaus in Ulm. Davor ist der Marktplatz mit einer Gaststätte. Die Menschen sitzen unter gelben Sonnenschirmen.
In Ulm, historical structures and modern architecture harmonize perfectly. | © Lorenz Bee
Das Ulmer Münster bildet einen markanten Kontrast zum weißen Stadthaus.
Old and new: The Ulm Minster and the Stadthaus are directly next to each other. | © Jochen Tack
© Sabrina Braunwarth
The 'Nabada' is the highlight of 'Oath Monday', which was named an Intangible UNESCO World Heritage in 2021. | © Sabrina Braunwarth

Before the Second World War, Ulm’s cityscape boasted a centuries-old architectural culture, with distinctive, primarily Gothic and Renaissance landmarks. The medieval Old Town was one of southern Germany’s largest. Air raids destroyed most of Ulm in 1944, yet the city at the Danube, which today has 130,000 inhabitants, has recovered in the best possible way. Now historical structures such as the Minster, the town hall and the federal fortress harmonize with modern structures like the glass library, the Stadthaus and the buildings in the award-winning 'Neue Mitte'. 

In July, the citizens of Ulm celebrate Oath Monday, a unique ceremony that dates back to the 14th century. After the mayor gave is obligatory speech, the ringing of the Oath Bell is followed by the mayor’s vow to 'serve rich and poor alike'. Then the 'Nabada' starts. With themed, decorated boats and live music, it is like a carnival procession floating down the Danube. This ancient tradition was named by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2021. Ninety minutes southeast of Stuttgart.

Danube view Ulm


In Ulm, around Ulm and around Ulm ...... almost everyone knows this tongue twister. But what else do you know about Ulm and Neu-Ulm? What is there to …
Ulm Minster

Church Ulm

Ulmer Münster

2022 NU Donaublick c DietmarDenger 5

Riverside facility / Promenade Ulm

Ulm and the Danube


Famous building Ulm

Ulm New Centre (Neue Mitte Ulm)

Rathaus Ulm

Famous building Ulm

Ulm Town Hall


5# Green City


Blick auf die moderne Unibibliothek in Freiburg. Davor stehen Bäume.
The university library in Freiburg is a modern and energy-efficient building.  | © Jochen Tack
Blick über das Freiburger Münster auf den Münsterplatz und die 'Alte Wache'.
The city of Freiburg is surrounded by vineyards and is located in the idyllic Black Forest.

Green, greener, greenest. That’s Freiburg, the historic city between vineyards and the Black Forest. Back in the 1970s, locals protested against plans to build a nearby nuclear power plant. They kick-started an ecological revolution. And that green revolution is now a way of life in Freiburg, with numerous initiatives. In 2010, Environmental Action Germany named Freiburg the “Federal Capital for Climate Protection”. Germany's southernmost city is still an example of sustainability. Stay in a comfortable climate-neutral hotel or guesthouse; use the GreenCityMap to explore exciting green initiatives. Particularly impressive is the Heliotrop, the world’s first plus-energy house, producing three times more energy than it uses. Stroll through the Vauban district: dating back to the 1990s, this is a model of sustainable urban development, with its green hotel, green spaces and low traffic. Two hours southwest of Stuttgart.

Heliotrop_Freiburg_9_Copyright Rolf Disch

Famous building Freiburg im Breisgau