Cities & Culture

Karlsruhe: a forward-thinking, cultured city

Karlsruhe: ZKM Centre for Art and Media, by night ©DZT (Andrew Cowin)

Situated on the Rhine Plain between the Black Forest, the Vosges Mountains and the Palatinate Forest, Karlsruhe is a hub of science and technology and the home of Germany's highest court. Karlsruhe has always been just that little bit more liberal than most, allowing art and culture to flourish and creating an atmosphere of vitality.

A grand palace but no Old Town? Karlsruhe is a relatively young city, founded in 1715, and so it lacks the Medieval alleyways seen in many other German destinations. Baden's Margrave Karl-Wilhelm had his dream city designed from scratch, with the resplendent palace at its centre and 32 streets and avenues radiating away from it like a compass rose or a fan made of the sun's rays. From its very beginnings, Karlsruhe was a city without walls: open, tolerant, liberal. Home to the Protestant church and Town Hall, the Marktplatz square is one of the most striking ensembles of Classicist architecture in Europe.

The many cafés and beer gardens around the square are the perfect place to watch the hustle and bustle of the city or plan a shopping trip. After a taste of the local cuisine, it's time to sample the vibrant nightlife. A welcome alternative for the following day could be provided by one of the many museums, such as the State Museum at the palace, or by Karlsruhe's public parks and green spaces. Or by the Center for Art and Media (ZKM9), the world's only cultural institution of its kind. And if you happen to be in town at the end of July, do not miss das FEST, when more than 200,000 music fans descend on the city for one of Germany's biggest outdoor rock and pop festivals.

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