Tübingen has an inviting, almost serene character that belies its status as a traditional university town. But professors and wine growers, rebellious students and locals have not always shared the same space entirely peacefully. The town of the poet Hölderlin, however, has long reconciled the traditional chimes of the town hall carillon with the raucous guitars in the clubs.
Steep steps, narrow lanes and pointed gabled houses dominate the townscape from the old quarter all the way up to the castle. The lovingly restored medieval town centre, the bustling streets and the studenty vibe add plenty of character, and this is complemented by all the shops, pavement cafés, wine taverns, student bars, restaurants and inns. There is always something going on in Tübingen, hardly a surprise considering the 28,500 students that live in the town. The annual punt race around the Neckar river island guarantees plenty of riotous entertainment and is one of the most dramatic spectacles in Tübingen's events calendar. The first team to cross the finishing line wins a keg of beer, while the losing team has to drink half a litre of cod-liver oil – a typical example of student shenanigans!
Postcard scenes: the market square and Hölderlin tower
The most photographed spots in Tübingen are the historical buildings overlooking the Neckar river and the market square with the town hall and Neptune fountain. Tübingen's towering town hall was built as a three-storey building in 1435, extended upwards in 1508 and adorned with an ornate astronomical clock in 1511 that is still operational today. A punting trip on the Neckar affords great views of the picturesque waterfront and Hölderlin tower. The German poet Friedrich Hölderlin lived here from 1807 until his death in 1843 when he was being cared for by the family of the carpenter Ernst Zimmer. At the time he had been declared mentally unfit. Nowadays, the Hölderlin tower serves as a literary memorial and museum.
Exciting exhibitions and common ground in culture
The collection held by the Tübingen Kunsthalle is internationally renowned. It started as a private initiative by sisters Paula Zundel and Margarete Fischer-Bosch in the early 1970s. The gallery itself was established in memory of Paula's husband, the painter Georg Friedrich Zundel. Its appeal lies in the artistic tension created by an alternating programme of contemporary and modernist art. Tübingen Kunsthalle has attracted great international acclaim for its monographic exhibitions of world-famous artists, including such pioneers of Modernism as Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas and Pablo Picasso. The museum at Hohentübingen Castle, the Boxenstop Museum of Cars and Toys, plus other galleries, collections, theatres and festivals all shape Tübingen's vibrant cultural scene. Because if there's one thing that the locals, students, wine growers and professors do agree on, it's that everyone needs entertaining!