Wolfsburg, founded on 1 July 1938 and one of Germany's few new cities established in the 20th century, has had a short but eventful history. Many a trend in the revival of West Germany can be traced back to the city. It is a typical and successful example of a planned urban development, and its history is closely bound with Volkswagen AG.
Because Wolfsburg's cityscape was conceived on the drawing board to a far greater extent than any other German town or city, urban development and architecture have always followed specific parameters here. Both are therefore crucial to Wolfsburg's identity and self-image – you could say that the city lives through them and thrives on them. In 2001 Wolfsburg became one of the first municipalities in Germany to set up its own department for architectural communication and architecture in the public eye – the Architecture Forum – and can thus be seen as a museum of 20th-century urban development ideas. But the city has also made space for a series of extraordinary standalone pieces: since the mid-1950s, it has seen the construction of Alvar Aalto's cultural centre, Hans Scharoun's theatre, the planetarium and art museum, Autostadt and, most recently, the phæno science centre. Situated opposite the heritage-listed train station, the phæno looks more like a spaceship than a building and is often referred to as Germany's biggest walk-in sculpture. It was designed by the award-winning Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, who has created a one-of-a-kind work of breathtaking audacity. The building's construction pushed the boundaries of what was feasible, involving pioneering structural analysis and use of materials. Inside, you will find 350 interactive experimentation hubs on exciting technical and scientific phenomena – the centre's slogan "you'll be amazed" is an understatement to say the least.
Wolfsburg's other major attraction is Autostadt, the automotive exhibition complex and visitor centre opened by Volkswagen AG to coincide with EXPO 2000. But the emphasis here is not just on cars; visitors can also look forward to exciting films, thrilling simulators and awe-inspiring architecture set among 25 hectares of parkland and lakes. Autostadt also offers plenty of opportunity to relax and sample culinary delights in the numerous restaurants. Another place for relaxation that is popular with Wolfsburg's residents is Allerpark, a sprawling park with a lake and white sandy beach. Those preferring an urban rather than a leafy setting should head for Shopping Outlets Wolfsburg, which is located in the city centre and is Germany's top destination for bargain hunters. The culturally-minded will like Wolfsburg Theatre, which opened in 1973 as a touring venue, although it now mounts two inhouse productions every year. Since opening in 1994, Wolfsburg's art museum has held a large number of important exhibitions and events, most notably in the fields of contemporary and modern painting, sculpture, photography, fashion and design. Its collections have always shared a common theme: 'The pursuit of Modernism in the 21st century'. This focus is trained on exploring the aesthetic ideas of Modernism in the world of today and presenting these in a visceral and intellectual form. But to think that Wolfsburg is totally brand new would not be right at all. Indeed the original Wolfsburg was a 13th-century Renaissance castle. This has belonged to the local authority since 1961 and its attractions include the municipal museum and municipal gallery. Then there is Neuhaus Castle, a 14th-century moated castle, and Fallersleben Palace from 1551, which has accommodated the Hoffmann von Fallersleben Museum since 1991. It's also nice to note that the old Fallersleben brewery is still standing, offering tradition and cheer in delightful, rustic surroundings on all but one day of the year. That gives you 364 opportunities to visit Wolfsburg and ponder the city's many facets over a traditional German beer.