The Black Forest, Lake Constance, the Swabian Alb - the leisure opportunities in Baden-Württemberg are as varied as its landscape. Numerous rivers and lakes beckon, offering water sports such as swimming, sailing or water-skiing.
Several themed cycle routes - such as the Literary Cycle Way - make it easy to discover the state by bike: this one leads you to famous places in literature, taking in literature museums or monuments along the way. Or the Salt & Brine Cycle Way. Brine spas and a salt mine that's open to the public are among its attractions.
In addition, the highlands of the Swabian Alb and the Black Forest are crisscrossed by fantastic hiking paths, allowing you to discover the great outdoors on foot. Thrill seekers will find a range of rock climbing opportunities on offer in the summer months. In winter, keen skiers and other winter sports fanatics in southwest Germany head for the Black Forest and Baden-Württemberg's highest peak the Feldberg (1,493 meters).
Art and culture enjoy considerable status in Baden-Württemberg. The state boasts a broad spectrum of diverse, high quality cultural offerings: theaters, museums, alternative culture, castles, concerts and festivals, film and media - the state offers an exciting and creative cultural mix.
Baden-Württemberg's many castles and fortresses are impressive relics of the past. Whether we're talking the Rococo Solitude Palace just outside Stuttgart, the world-famous and view-dominating Heidelberg Castle, the Baroque palaces of Mannheim and Ludwigsburg or Fortress Teck - each enjoys fame that extends beyond the region's borders, and all are well worth a visit.
Indeed four edifices in Baden-Württemberg feature on the UNESCO World Heritage list: the Cistercian monastery in Maulbronn, the monastery island of Reichenau on Lake Constance, the Upper German-Raetian Limes near Aalen, and the Stone Age settlement showcased at the Unteruhldingen Stilt Dwellings Open-Air Museum.
Countless historical and contemporary museums ensure there's never a dull moment in Baden-Württemberg, even on one of its rare rainy days: take, for instance, the ZKM - Center for Art and Media Technology in Karlsruhe, the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, with its impressive collections of prints, drawings and paintings from the late medieval period onwards, or the Art Museum Stuttgart, which holds some valuable collections of German Impressionist art. Mannheim's REM (Reiss Engelhorn Museums) is a unique museum complex.
Theaters and opera houses of international standing, such as those in Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Mannheim are complemented by a huge range of smaller, often privately funded and highly specialized theaters. Moreover Germany's largest theater is also located in Baden-Württemberg: Baden-Baden's Festspielhaus with an auditorium capacity of 2,500.
Swabian noodles (Spätzle), out-sized ravioli (Maultaschen), or shoulder of roast pork with cracklings (Schäufele) - the southwest with its excellent regional cuisine is a mecca for bon vivants. And the restaurants are excellent too: no other region in Germany boasts as many Michelin starred establishments as the republic's southwest. Rustic inns and simple seasonal wine taverns (Besenwirtschaften) complete the culinary profile.
Fairs and Festivals
In addition to those famous traditional fairs and festivals, such as the Cannstatter Wasen or the typical Swabian-Alemannic fasnet, there are many local celebrations and holidays, which enjoy fame and popularity beyond their home towns.
For the inhabitants of Ulm, the third Monday in July is always Schwörmontag. Every year on this day, the city's mayor answers questions posed by the residents on aspects of his policy, promising over the coming year to do his best for the town and its people. The festivities are accompanied by the so-called nabada, a flotilla of home-built vessels, which sails a section of the Danube, watched by tens of thousands of spectators.
Entertainment of quite a different kind is offered by the Southside Festival in Neuhausen ob Eck in the borough of Tuttlingen, which in recent years has established an international reputation. Once again, tens of thousands of festival goers converge on a former military site for three days of partying, presided over by famous names from the rock, alternative, independent and electro music scenes.
People who earn well tend to shop well too. And Baden-Württemberg naturally offers a wealth of such opportunities. Königstraße in Stuttgart is not only one of the busiest shopping boulevards in Germany, it's also the heart of Stuttgart's city center. Moreover, it also takes in interesting architectural features such as Schlossplatz, the Königsbau and Baden-Württemberg's State Museum.
Not far from Stuttgart is the town of Metzingen - an outlet store oasis for window shoppers and bargain hunters alike. There you can get clothing by leading fashion labels for a fraction of the original price. Those searching for longer lasting value could do worse than head to the jewelry heaven that is the gold town of Pforzheim. If it can be made from or set in gold, you can bet the town's jewelers and retailers will already have done so.
By contrast, the Waldenbuch-based company Ritter Sport is famed for its delicious chocolate. A visit to the chocolate exhibition there is more than tempting, since you have the chance to buy chocolate confections straight from the factory. Quality. Chocolate. Squared. Just as the slogan says.