Adi shares her top 24 ultimate day trips from Stuttgart, Germany, filled with picturesque villages, food, castles, nature, and family fun.
When it comes to day trips our family of four is professional. We wake up early, prepare and pack food and snacks, and everybody (even the dog if he is allowed) is ready to get out the door.
We have lived in the Stuttgart area of Germany for a total of six years. During this time, we have taken many day trips, and I want to share 24 of our favourites, both in Germany and beyond with you.
Day trips from Stuttgart in Germany
1. Hohenzollern Castle
Fifty-four minutes from Stuttgart is Hohenzollern Castle, the ancestral seat of the House of Hohenzollern and one of Germany’s most visited castles. The 11th-century castle sits atop Berg Hohenzollern, 234 m (768 ft) above the towns of Hechingen and Bisingen. If you get there early, you beat the crowds and have the place to yourself.
We parked the car at the bottom of the hill and walked to the castle. This may present a challenge to some, but I assure you the effort will be rewarding. Among the artefacts inside the castle, you will be able to see a letter from US President George Washington thanking a Hohenzollern descendant for his service in the American Revolutionary War.
My favourite place to view the castle is at the location Raichberg 1, 72461 Albstadt-Onstmettingen. From here you get the perfect bird’s eye view of this magnificent construction.
2. Lichtenstein Castle
Just 55 minutes from Stuttgart, near Honau, you will find Lichtenstein Castle, a Gothic-style castle built in the 1840s. The castle is still inhabited by royalty, namely the Duke of Urach, but it is open to the public. Here you will be able to see an impressive collection of medieval weapons. There are other activities near the castle such as a tree canopy walk; ideal for older kids and grown-ups.
3. Hohenneuffen Castle
Hohenneuffen Castle is a large ruin in the Swabian Alb foothills, 25km from Stuttgart, above the town of Neuffen, Germany. You park quite close to it followed by a 1 km inclined hike. It is tiring if you are not in shape (like me) but the good news is refreshing beer and food await at the top. You can visit the castle walls, take part in falconry shows, and enjoy the views while dining in the gorgeous setting of the Burg Hohenneuffen restaurant.
In this area, you can also hike and observe the cherry blossoms, in Kohlberg. The region is abundant with cherry trees, near the volcanic mountain, Jusi. It’s one of the 350 volcanoes of the Bad Urach volcanic area, which was active about 17 million years ago. At the top, the view is splendid. There are several ways you can hike the mountain, but I think the woodland trail is best, especially on a hot day. It’s quite an incline, but at least you have shade, and the smell of the forest is gorgeous.
4. Neuschwanstein Castle
Just two months after the death of King Ludwig II in 1886, Neuschwanstein Castle was opened to the public. Ironically, the shy king built the castle to withdraw from public life, and now crowds of people come to visit his private refuge.
Today, Neuschwanstein is one of the most visited castles in Europe. 1.4 million people visit “the castle of the fairy-tale king” each year and in summer 6000 people a day stream through the ornate rooms. We have visited the castle four times, taking family and friends. The best part of visiting this castle, for me, is Marienbrücke or Mary’s Bridge. It’s the only view not obstructed by thousands of tourists.
5. Seewald Leisure Park
Situated in Enzklösterle-Poppeltal, Seewald Leisure Park is the perfect outdoor outing for a family with a love of adventure. The park hosts the longest toboggan ride in Southern Germany, with a total of 1500m up and down. You are pulled up one side and go down the other, and it’s suited for people between 3 and 99. The area alone makes the hour and fifteen minute trip from Stuttgart worth the visit. You pass through lush forest and small, quaint villages. The park itself is in a thick patch of forest. Besides the toboggan ride, the park offers trampolines, water bumper cars, merry-go-rounds and other small rides for the little ones. The entrance is free; you only pay for the fun. The toboggan does not run if it rains or in winter. As far as payment goes, bring cash, as no cards are accepted.
6. The Treetop Walk at Bad Wildbad
The treetop walk is 1250m in length and 20m above the ground. It ends with a cool 360-degree spiral lookout tower. Along the walk, you have different obstacles, which you can choose to go through. Being there with kids, of course, we had to tackle them. The entire area is superb. The thick Black Forest full of pine, fir, and beech trees, is enchanting the senses from all directions.
7. Württemberg Hill
The sepulchral chapel on Württemberg Hill (Grabkapelle auf dem Württemberg ) was erected by King Wilhelm I in memory of his beloved wife Katharina, who died at a young age. Offering spectacular views over Stuttgart, this monument to eternal love is considered Baden-Württemberg’s most romantic spot. In addition to the chapel, take your time and enjoy the vineyards, especially in the fall. The smell of the grapes and the fresh air will make you hungry, and this is the perfect place for a picnic. Lay on the grass and enjoy the solitude as well as the views over Stuttgart.
We have been to Frankfurt many times in the past but somehow only to run errands related to my American citizenship application. We had never visited for leisure until last year. The Altstadt (Frankfurt’s Old Town), on the northern Main riverbank, is surrounded by the Innenstadt district, Frankfurt’s present-day city centre. As the historic centre of Frankfurt, the Altstadt dates back to 794, but only small sections of the Altstadt were rebuilt after World War II. The Old Town contains many of Frankfurt’s highlights, including the Römerberg plaza and city hall and other buildings recreated in a Middle Age-style.
If you feel fit enough (I wasn’t but did it anyway) to climb the 66 m tall tower (364 steps) of the St Bartholomew Cathedral, you will be rewarded with superb views of the city. Frankfurt is one of the few European cities with high-rise buildings in its downtown area and is sometimes referred to as ‘Mainhattan’ (a mix of the local Main River and Manhattan), and ‘Chicago am Main’.
9. Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that brings the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to life, before your eyes. You can experience the unique atmosphere of Rothenburg ob der Tauber when you stroll through town. You’ll discover history around every bend: lovingly restored house fronts, fountains, gables, bay windows and street signs all hint of the past. It’s a bit too touristy but gorgeously Medieval, and if you can stay until early evening, the streets clear and it becomes quiet. Rothenburg odT is one of three walled cities on the famous Romantic Road.
After Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbühl was my favourite of the three walled towns. The colourful architecture and the solitude of the place were enchanting. Dinkelsbühl remained untouched by the Second World War, which means it remains as it was in the Middle Ages when it was founded (sometime before the year 1083).
The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm was filmed on location in Dinkelsbühl, just like it was in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It’s only natural fantasy films would be filmed in fantasy towns.
Triberg is a little town in the Black Forest offering the quintessential German experience; cuckoo clocks, lederhosen and dirndls, traditional German food and breathtaking forest landscapes. Triberg is also home to Germany’s highest waterfall, the Triberger Wasserfälle. The spectacular rapids plunge to a depth of 163m over seven cascades. I recommend visiting in summer so you can hike beside the waterfall, all the way to the top.
13. Lake Konstanz
Visiting Lake Konstanz every June has become a family tradition. We go there to pick strawberries from our favourite farm in Dingelsdorf, Fuchshof. Then we usually cross the lake from nearby Vallhausen to Überlingen for yummy ice-cream and a walk on the town’s beautiful strand. It feels like the south of France in Überlingen due to the gorgeous flower arrangements along the strand arranged beautifully by swaying palm trees. The trip to Dingelsdorf is 1.5 hours one way.
The first record of Schorndorf was in 1235. In the 16th-century, Schorndorf was the second richest town in Württemberg after Stuttgart. Its viniculture, its wine and salt trade, as well as numerous other businesses, brought considerable prosperity. Schorndorf’s most prominent citizen is Gottlieb Daimler, whose groundbreaking invention, the high-speed light petrol engine, made automobile construction possible. I loved discovering this town and observing its beautiful architecture.
Just 15-minutes north of Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg is one of my favourite places to visit in Southern Germany. The reason is the Ludwigsburg Palace. We usually visit in fall when the Palace is hosting an impressive pumpkin festival, where some 400000 pumpkins are used to create different themes. At Christmas, the town hosts one of my favourite Christmas Markets in the area. But the palace, as well as the town, is worth visiting at any time. It will surely impress.
The Library Hall of Kloster Wiblingen is a masterpiece of the Rococo period. The rich sculptural decoration crowning the magnificent ceiling fresco creates an overwhelming impression and is the highlight of any visit to Wiblingen. The ceiling fresco deserves a post of its own. Franz Martin Kuen painted this masterpiece in 1744. His inspiration was both Pagan and Christian sources. The Kloster Wiblingen Church will also impress you, inside and out. The dimensions are monumental at 72m long and 27m wide. There are little to no tourists around, and electronic information is provided in several languages. All you have to do is take a seat and enjoy the beauty unfolding in front of you.
17. Weil der Stadt
Weil der Stadt is a town of only 19000 inhabitants, often called the ‘Gate to the Black Forest.’ First mentioned in 1075, it was destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War, in 1648, and rebuilt. Weil der Stadt escaped destruction in WWII when a French artillery barrage was called off because it was Johannes Kepler’s birthplace. Kepler was a key figure in the 17th-century scientific revolution, best known for his laws of planetary motion. His work also provided one of the foundations of Isaac Newton’s theory of universal gravitation. The house-museum is right next to the city hall and costs 2 euros to visit. Young children visit for free. Weil der Stadt is also home to the best Fasching (carnival) festival in the area.
I discovered Altensteig late last year, just in time for the Christmas Markets. You can see why I fell in love with this tiny town. Why go here? To witness the perfect picturesque Medieval townscape. Altensteig’s Christmas Market is one of the nicest and most diverse.
Tübingen is a traditional university town 30km from Stuttgart that displays impressive architecture. Tübingen is beautiful in all seasons, but it’s best in warm weather. Why? You can picnic in the park, by the Neckar River, and even go on a boat ride on the river. For a beautiful event, visit in September during the Umbria-Provençe Market hosted in the centre of Tübingen since 1995. The motto is ‘4 days worth of eating, drinking, looking and marvelling’. They are right; we ate, drank, looked, and marvelled.
Day trips from Stuttgart outside Germany
20. Highline 179
Highline 179 in Reutte, Austria is the world’s longest Tibet-style pedestrian suspension bridge according to the Guinness World Book of Records. The 406m bridge stretches 114 m above the B179 Fern Pass federal highway. Do not worry; an automatic entry system controls the number of visitors, and a maximum of five hundred people are allowed on the Highline at any one time. The bridge looks scary from down bellow, it looks scary from the top, and it’s scary when you are on it, but if you can face your fears, you will be rewarded with superb views of the area’s mountains as well as the Castle Ehrenberg ruins. It is about two and a half hours drive from Stuttgart.
The annual Bregenzer Festspiele in Bregenz, Austria (a 2h drive from Stuttgart) attracts thousands of viewers. Last year, the play was Turandot, and it’s the same this year. Turandot is one of the most famous arias composed by Giacomo Puccini and it’s presented in its original language with German subtitles on large screens on each side of the stage. You can spend the day in Bregenz, a beautiful town on the Austrian side of Lake Konstanz, and end with an opera in a unique setting as the stage is in the lake! Yes, in the lake! Older kids are allowed too, although we did not take ours. It was a lovely day and date night.
Colmar is a town in the Alsace region of France, near the border with Germany, about 2.5 hours from Stuttgart. It’s on the Alsatian Wine Route and is considered the capital of Alsatian wine. Its Old Town is lined with cobblestone streets and half-timbered Medieval and early Renaissance buildings. The 13th-century, Gothic Eglise Saint-Martin church dominates the town. Colmar is a popular tourist destination, so I recommend leaving early and staying until late afternoon to avoid the crowds.
23. Trift Bridge
Trift Bridge is roughly 3.5 hours from Stuttgart so starting early is essential if you want this to be a day trip. I have to warn you; this is a trip to take on only if you are not new to hiking as getting to the bridge is a 2h inclined hike on uneven terrain. The Trift Bridge is the longest pedestrian-only suspension bridge in the Swiss Alps, spanning 170m (560 ft) at a height of 100m (330 ft). It offers a superb view of the Trift Glacier, melting into the Triftsee (the lake formed by the glacier’s meltwater). From here, you can climb higher up the mountain, but we did not have the strength or the time to continue. We were in pain during and after the hike, but we do not regret the trip. The scenery was superb and the bridge well worth the effort.
24. Aare Gorge
We found Aareschlucht or the Aare Gorge by mistake. We were going to see Trift Bridge and because there were no more tickets available we had to turn back. The trip was not a bust as on the way back we spotted signs for the gorge. Over thousands of years, the Aare River carved a path through the rock, resulting in a gorge that is 1400m long and up to 200m deep. The gorge has been accessible for by a system of safe paths and tunnels for more than 100 years. The walk through the gorge is a special way to experience nature. Without traffic, it’s 3.5 hours from Stuttgart.
The beauty of living in Europe is there are countless day trips you can take at a minimal cost. This article is only a small fraction of all the travel options available while visiting the Stuttgart area, and I hope I managed to make you hungry for adventure. All you have to do is pick a destination and go. You will be rewarded with memories to last you a lifetime.