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Saarbrücken: the art of relaxation.

Saarbrücken: the art of relaxation.

Saarbrücken is a likeable city with a vibrant cultural scene, baroque architecture and a French ambience combined with the joie de vivre of the Saarland. This state capital, university city, economic hub and trade fair venue is situated at the centre of a region that spans three countries. If you are looking for an easygoing, friendly city with a feel-good factor, then Saarbrücken is the place.

Saarbrücken's 1,000-year history has been an eventful one. Wonderful baroque buildings created by Friedrich Joachim Stengel, such as the palace and those around Schlossplatz square, bear witness to Saarbrücken's heyday in the 18th century. The palace affords the most spectacular views of a city where Stengel's architectural influence is still evident today. Ludwigskirche church is widely regarded as the pinnacle of his achievements and one of Germany's purest and most beautiful examples of a Protestant baroque church. Other top attractions include the neo-Gothic town hall, the mining headquarters designed by Walter Gropius and Heino Schmieden, and Stengel's Church of St. John, a basilica minor.

City life in Saarbrücken centres around St. Johanner Markt square with its boutiques, bistros, restaurants and picturesque narrow lanes – the ideal place to stroll around, relax and watch the world go by. The market fountain, also a 'Stengel', is the focal point of the attractive pedestrian area. A 15-minute or so walk from here takes you to St. Arnual, the oldest part of Saarbrücken, and its Gothic collegiate church from the 13th century, which is set amidst late-medieval houses. All the districts, from Mainzer Strasse to Nauwieser Viertel, are as tranquil as they are delightful, and have plenty of pretty beer gardens and culinary finesse, infused with a hint of France and the region's own distinct style. "Hauptsach', gudd gess" (the main thing is to have eaten well) as the people of Saarbrücken would say – and that really says it all.

Offering an authentic flavour of the region's industrial past, the nearby Völklingen Ironworks UNESCO World Heritage site is a major checkpoint on the European Route of Industrial Heritage. Art lovers will also find plenty to see in Saarbrücken, such as the Saarland Museum. In the museum's Modern Gallery you can expect to find one of the most fascinating art collections in Germany, featuring works by Rodin, Matisse, Liebermann, Picasso, Ernst, Kirchner and Feininger to name but a few, not to mention Franz Marc's internationally acclaimed 'Little Blue Horse'. Plays and ballet can be seen at the State Theatre venues and on smaller stages. There is also a thriving music and variety scene, with highlights such as the Small Theatre in the town hall and the Sommerszene festival featuring international street performers. Every June, the Franco-German Perspectives festival presents new forms of contemporary theatre, as well as dance, circus acts and chanson française – all of the highest calibre. On Sundays between June and August, the palace hosts open-air concerts featuring international folk music, rock, chanson, blues and jazz, while 'Kultur für Kids' features theatre, music, clowns and mime. Saarbrücken is not only a heartland of architecture, culture and festivals, but also a leafy city with plenty of relaxing outdoor activities on offer. Its beautiful green spaces include the palace gardens, the Franco-German Garden and the banks of the river Saar, where there are plenty of opportunities for sunbathing, unwinding in a beer garden or taking a leisurely stroll. So if it's a laid-back city you're after, you need look no further than Saarbrücken.

City Highlights

Saarbrücken Palace is a baroque masterpiece in the heart of this regional capital. It was built on the left bank of the river Saar on the ruins of medieval Castellum Sarrabrucca, which was first documented back in 999. Throughout its 1,000-year history, the palace has reputedly been haunted by a ghost. When this spirit is not wailing around the ancient walls, it gives guided tours so that visitors can discover why the palace burned down during the French Revolution, why there are doves flying around the ceiling of the banqueting hall and who Charlotte and Ottilie are.

Dark corridors take you down into the Möller hall with its Ferrodrom science centre and fire-spewing columns, while the viewing platform of the blast furnace requires a lofty ascent.

A visit to the Völklingen Ironworks UNESCO World Heritage site promises an unforgettable adventure. In the sintering plant, a multimedia exhibition covers the period from when the Völklingen Ironworks opened to the present day. The experience is further enriched by regular events and exhibitions on the site. You can easily spend the whole day here at this European Centre for Art and Industrial Heritage. Read more

Kraftwerk Römerbrücke is a gas and steam turbine power station built by the Saarbrücker Stadtwerke public utilities company in 1964 to supply district heating to a nearby residential area and industrial park. The 160-metre high chimney is clearly visible from afar. The facility has received numerous architectural awards and, in 1992, Saarbrücken and its public utilities received the UN environmental award for their exemplary and innovative energy policy. Visitors can explore the inside of the building on a guided tour on the first Wednesday of the month.

The vibrant area around Nauwieser Platz in the south of the city – also referred to as the Chinese quarter by long-time residents – is right next to the market square at the heart of the St. Johann district. The area offers a mix of somewhat high-brow eccentricity and alternative lifestyles. Hip and trendy, it offers a wealth of cultural attractions, cafés, bars, parties and quirky stores. The Nauwieser Viertel festival held every year at the end of July is the largest and most popular street festival in the whole of Saarland.

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