Stuttgart

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Tel: 0711 / pop 590,000

Hemmed in by vine-covered hills and full of greenery, Stuttgart is a haven for its residents, who enjoy a high quality of life. For tourists, it's another matter: come for the car museums and leave (especially to Tübingen). It's not a major stop for budget travellers.

Königstrasse is the spine of central Stuttgart, with most of the major stores and malls. Coffee Fellows (Hauptbahnhoff; per hr €2; h8am- 11pm) Has computers and free wi-fi across from track 4. Tourist office (Tel 222 80; http://www.stuttgart-tourist.de/index_ENG.htm; Königstrasse 1a; h9am-8pm Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm Sat, 11am-6pm Sun) Sells the three-day Stuttcard discount card for €18.

An arms race has broken out among the two local car companies, with both building new and costly monuments to themselves.

The motor car was first developed by Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz at the end of the 19th century. The impressive newfor- 2006 Mercedes-Benz Museum (Tel 172 2578; Mercedesstrasse 137; admission €8; h9am-6pm Tue-Sun) is in the suburb of Bad-Cannstatt; take SBahn 1 to Neckarstadion. For even faster cars, cruise over to the striking new-for- 2009 Porsche Museum (Tel 911 5685; Porscheplatz 1; admission €8; h9am-6pm Tue-Sun); take S-Bahn 6 to Neuwirtshaus, north of the city.

In town and stretching southwest from the Neckar River to the city centre is the Schlossgarten, complete with ponds, swans, street entertainers and modern sculptures. At the southern end, the gardens encompass the sprawling baroque Neues Schloss and the Renaissance Altes Schloss.

Possibly more beautiful than the works within, the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart (Tel 216 2188; http://www.kunstmuseum-stuttgart.de/; Kleiner Schlossplatz 1; admission €5; h10am-6pm Tue-Sun, to 9pm Wed & Fri) glows like a radioactive sugarcube at night. Highlights include works by Otto Dix, Dieter Roth and Willi Baumeister.

Stuttgart is a great place to sample Swabian specialities such as Spätzle (homemade noodles) and Maultaschen (a hearty ravioli in broth).

Markthalle (market hall; Dorotheenstrasse 4; h7am- 6.30pm Mon-Fri, to 4pm Sat) Sells picnic fixin’s and has Italian and Swabian restaurants.

Café Künstlerbund (Tel 227 0036; Schlossplatz 2; mains €7-10) Shelter under the arches facing the park or out in the sunshine at this funky cafe that’s part of a large gallery. The drinks menu is huge, as are the choices for breakfast. When the weather gets nasty, duck into the groovy upstairs room.

Palast der Republik (Tel 226 4887; Friedrichstrasse 27) A legendary and tiny pillbox of a bar that pulls a huge crowd of laid-back, genial drinkers. Statuary and stickers abound.

There’s a beer garden (Tel 226 1274; Canstatterstr 18) in the Mittlerer Schlossgarten northeast of the main train station, with beautiful views over the city.