Last summer, I spent two months as a visiting researcher at Universität Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany. There were about 30 of us students from various Ontario universities that got research placements at partnering universities throughout Baden-Württemberg (BW), a state in Southwest Germany. While many of the others were planning ambitious weekend trips to Barcelona, Paris, Venice, etc. I was hoping to discover more local gems so I could truly live and experience Deutschland, while keeping travel costs to a minimum. Part 1 of my (quasi-economical) student’s guide includes two weekend trips I took to the further stretches of BW. And since I made it that far, I simply had no excuse not to cross the border into France and Switzerland (teehee).
Also known as “Car City”, Stuttgart is the headquarters for both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. It is also the capital of BW and acted as my starting point for weekend & day trips. My impression of Stuttgart is that it’s a city less for tourists and more for the wealthier working class, making it a very comfortable place to live. A quick 20min U-bahn ride from Uni Hohenheim, I spent many of my evenings after work and non-travelling weekends relaxing here.
- Picnic at Schlossplatz: Some things to bring include an obligatory summertime picnic blanket, paprika chips, Haribo gummies, Milka chocolate bars, and speakers
- Marvel at Lichterfest: Once again, picnic blankets are a necessity!!!
- Insta-worthy Stadtbibliothek: The most beautiful modern and minimalistic city library I ever did see! Snap away up on the roof as well.
- Eat local Swabian foods: Maultaschen (giant square meat dumplings) and Käsespätzle (100 times superior to mac n cheese) were definitely my personal faves
- Brunch at Zimt & Zucker: Everyone knows I’m a sucker for brunch…
- Stuttgarter Ballet & Currywurst: When you’re a poor student but still want to be classy… last minute student tickets are only 8 euros and currywurst is ~3 euros!
Baden-Baden & Strasbourg
Getting there: The Deutsche Bahn offers Länder-Tickets which includes unlimited travel on all public transport within a German state all-day for 23 euros, adding an extra 5 euros for each additional person (up to 5 people). From Baden-Baden, it’s just a quick train ride into France to spend the day in Strasbourg.
Staying there: Hostels in Germany all run under one organization, the German Youth Hostel Association (DJH). Smaller cities typically only have one representative jugendherberge. This is definitely the best option for students – around 20 euros per night including a breakfast buffet. However, they are usually quite far from the city centre.
Getting around: As mentioned above, the BW Länder-Ticket includes use of public transport all day for Baden-Baden. While, Strasbourg is very walkable – just wear good shoes!
- Afternoon tea at Café König: When has anyone ever said no to afternoon tea? Look no further for authentic Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (black forest cake), and more cake!
- Stroll through Lichtentaler Allee: Beautiful gardens and classy buskers
- Tram up Merkur Mountain: You might catch para-gliders taking off like we did!
- Tour Baden-Baden Casino: Though I didn’t get a chance to go, this casino is told be an old favourite of Russian aristocrats
- Wander through Petite France: A charming UNESCO world heritage site oui oui
- Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg: “Hauntingly beautiful” is most accurate, best admired while enjoying a crêpe in one of the many surrounding cafes
- Brocante flea market: You won’t miss it once you exit the train station
- Eat Flammkuchen: A pizza-like flatbread typically topped with bacon, onions and crème fraîche that is local to this Alsace region and South Germany
Konstanz & Zürich
Staying there: *PROTIP* instead of staying overnight in Zürich (which is very pricey b/c Switzerland) take a daytrip from Konstanz. Trust me, you do not want to pay 50 euros per night just for a hostel. Airbnb’s aren’t much better either, and most affordable ones are really far from the city.
Getting around: In Zürich, buy the Zürich Card at the tourist centre in the Hauptbahnhof (main station) for just 24 euros! It includes 24 hour use of all public transport, reduced admission to certain museums, a free 90 min cruise of Lake Zürich and “culinary surprises” at most popular restaurants (usually free dessert <3 ).
- Walk through Altstadt (Old City) to the Imperia: During the war, due to its close ties with Switzerland, Konstanz kept their lights on at night so fighter planes would assume Konstanz was a part of Switzerland. As a result, this city has never suffered any damage from the war, with well-preserved buildings still in use since the 11th century!
- Go swimming/biking/kayaking: Suns out guns/buns out
- Meals on a lakeside patio: Order all die schnitzel und bier
- Ferry to Meersburg: Even more quaint and just as well-preserved as Konstanz, this little town across the water is straight out of a storybook. Book a tour of the town’s landmark castle and you may just get the castle owner’s wife as your tour guide like we did!
- Tram up to Uetliberg Mountain: If you’re feeling really ambitious you can rent a bike to ride up instead. But it’s also perfectly acceptable to tram it up to save some time (and breath).
- FIFA World Museum: I am no football fanatic but the museum is sparkling new and very modern with lots of cool interactive things (eg. video record yourself learning goal celebrations lol). Also great for souvenir shopping!
- Lunch at Zeughauskeller: Embrace your inner tourist and dine in a 15th century arsenal storehouse turned restaurant! Delicious food and good portion sizes – plus get free desserts with your Zürich Card 😉
- Churches: Conveniently hit up the holy trinity of churches – Kirche St. Peter, Fraumünster (with the Chagall windows) and Grossmünster – all in one day
- Quench your thirst at all water fountains: All public fountains (unless otherwise stated) provide drinking water!! In a country where bottled water costs an arm and a leg, remember to pack a refillable water bottle my friends. If you’re unsure of which ones to fill from, just watch the locals do it first (as I did in the above pictures lol).
- Free cruise: The Zürich Card aka the gift that keeps giving includes a free 1.5 hour cruise on Lake Zürich. Sit back, relax and rest dem legs. (Zürich Tourism should pay me for all this promotion no???!)
- SWISS FONDUE: No trip to Switzerland would be complete without FUN-DUE. Swiss Chuchi is another “tourist trap” worth the hype when you also factor in location and free pretty postcards.