There are cars you drive... and then there are cars you dream of. Stuttgart has both in abundance. Not only does the city produce internationally renowned cars, but it also lives and breathes automotive history in a way that nowhere else does. Drivers' dreams become reality when they visit Stuttgart.
The car has many fathers, but just one home town. Since the day Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach put together the first ever small, high-speed petrol engine in the glasshouse they used as workshop (now a much-visited attraction), that home town has been none other than Stuttgart. That was in 1885, and the three-pointed star has shone brightly over the automotive world ever since. Nowhere does this shine brighter, of course, than above the Mercedes-Benz Museum, the only museum in the world to present the history of the automotive industry from start to finish. Before you even step foot in the building you are struck by the museum's futuristic design – and once inside, you cannot fail to be mesmerised by the 160 automotive gems on display. There are other treasures on show at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Car Centre in Fellbach, including such motoring legends as the 300 SL gullwing. Another brand known for its iconic vehicles is, of course, Porsche – and the classics in the Porsche Museum are guaranteed to turn heads. At the heritage-listed former regional airport, the Meilenwerk is a favourite among fans of vintage vehicles, featuring everything they could ever need for keeping their prized possessions looking as good as new, as well as a place to stay in the form of the V8 Hotel. Every March, fans of classic cars from around the world descend on Stuttgart for the Retro Classics, Germany's best-loved motor show. Retro Classic meets Baroque, meanwhile, offers the exclusive opportunity to see classic cars set against the historical backdrop of stunning Ludwigsburg Palace.
Back in the present day, a tour of the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen offers an in-depth look behind the scenes at a state-of-the-art car factory – something that is sure to reawaken one or two hidden desires for such a prestige purchase. Nevertheless, it doesn't take long to realise that Stuttgart has more to offer than automotive temptation alone. The surrounding wine region, one of the largest in Germany, plays a significant part in the Stuttgart locals' other passions: exquisite food and fine wine. Stuttgart's restaurants and cafés offer up a whole range of gastronomic treats, from spätzle noodles to pinot noir, from corner pubs to award-winning, internationally renowned restaurants. Festivals of every size, the most famous being the Cannstatter Wasen, provide ample opportunity to join in the celebrations, enjoy the local hospitality and live life to the full. The perfect starting point for a sightseeing tour here is Schlossplatz square: in virtually no other city does a palace dominate the centre to such an extent as Stuttgart's Neues Schloss (New Palace). For those who have spent the day admiring the exceptional collection of modernist and contemporary art in the neighbouring Stuttgart Art Museum, or learning about history from the Stone Age to the modern era at the Altes Schloss (Old Palace), an evening of sophistication and relaxation is in order. And when it comes to the performing arts, Stuttgart is once again first class. Its State Theatre is the largest multi-genre theatre in the world and its ballet, theatrical productions and state opera have all enjoyed international acclaim for decades. Music lovers are well catered for by Stuttgart's acclaimed orchestras, its many jazz clubs and the musicals performed in the SI-Centrum entertainment complex. Alternatively, you can browse the world-class shopping streets of Königstrasse and Calwerstrasse at your leisure. And be sure to make time to discover the much-loved Wilhelma Gardens. These remarkable zoological and botanical gardens are home to around 8,000 animals, making this one of the world's most bio-diverse zoos. What's more, there's not a car in sight, so you might just forget where you are.
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