Tübingen, Germany: eating, drinking and thinking

by nichole

Tübingen is a retreat away from fast cars, Bier and Bratwurst where many of Germany's poets and thinkers waxed poetic and thought

Racing down the Autobahn at breakneck speeds; throwing back cool and frosty litres of pils and Hefeweizen in a Biergarten while wearing Lederhosen; hungrily devouring Bratwurst like Henry VIII devoured wives; these clichéd images of Germany may be true to a reduced degree but less than three hours outside of one great beer and car capital, Munich, and touching the fringes of Porsche and Mercedes' home, Stuttgart, lies a place to nurture the softer and gentler side of the human beast; the university town of Tübingen.

Over the ages, many of Germany's great poets and thinkers such as philosophers Hegel and Schelling and scientists Alzheimer and Kepler have at one time called Tübingen home. The great German writer Goethe even threw up here. But, if that isn’t enough to sell you on the town’s merits, the renowned German author Hermann Hesse handled books here and even the current Pope Benedict XVI was formerly known as Herr Professor Ratzinger here.

Many of the same sights that inspired and sated these great minds still exist today, allowing even the most unread of visitors to slip back in time to eat, think and live life like the storied greats.

What to see

One of the first sights to behold upon entering Tübingen is also one of its most famous: the fairytale Hölderlinturm, Hölderlin Tower. Festive yellow with a small tower right out of Rapunzel, the home was where the ailing, mentally ill poet lived out the second half of his life. Overlooking the water, visiting Hölderlin’s centuries-old residence transports guests to a more peaceful place in time tucked away from today’s hectic world (http://www.hoelderlin-gesellschaft.de/index.php?id=47&L=0).

Tübingen’s Altstadt (Old City) is one of the best preserved Altstädte in Germany. The Stiftskirche’s bell tower, which is open to visitors, is a beacon peeking out over the half-timbered houses, luring locals and guests to the surrounding cobblestoned streets. The Stiftskirsche’s seminary shaped and moulded the philosopher Georg Hegel, Hölderlin and their friend and philosopher Friedrich Schelling. The welcoming doors to this 500-year-old sanctuary also serve as a marker where across the way, philosopher and writer Johann von Goethe lost his lunch in such a spectacular way, a sign hangs above the spot to commemorate the wondrous event (http://www.stiftskirche-tuebingen.de/cms).

All that thinking, praying and puking can be hard on the mind as well as the body. To alleviate the stresses of everyday and academic life, Tübingen offers its Alter Botanischer Garten as refuge. Located behind the town's historic Altstadt, visitors and future great minds come here to play Frisbee, chat on a bench under the trees or lounge on the grass and unwind so that they can later, once again, think great thoughts (Location: between the streets Stadtgraben and Wilhelmstraße, 72072-Tübingen).

What to do

All thought and no play makes even the most brilliant of minds dull. To combat this brain drain, Tübingen hosts some fun and unique events. During the summer, Stocherkähne (punt boats) move leisurely along the Neckar, transporting riders up and down the sleepy river. On a Thursday at the beginning of the June, though, the Neckar River becomes a battlefield of wacky-dressed punters in the annual Stocherkahnrennen, Punt Boat Regatta. The town lines up along the river front with the best seats along the Neckar Mauer (the Neckar Wall) to watch the joy of victory and the agonies of defeat – in this case drinking cod liver oil in front of a crowd of thousands (http://www.stocherkahnrennen.com).

In September, Tübingen opens its gates and welcomes vendors from its sister cities, Umbria and Aix-en-Provence for the annual Umbrisch-Provenzalischer Markt (the Umbrian-Provencal Market). Here visitors indulge in choice French and Italian food, beverages and wares (www.tuebingen.de).

Where to drink

Let’s be honest; most of our favorite creative geniuses were known to indulge in a liquid lunch or two. One place considered the favourite haunt of Hegel and still beloved by the locals today is Gaststätte Boulanger. Not much to look at - to the point that people might just walk by it - Boulanger has a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere in which to spend time with friends, or thoughts.

For authentic German cuisine accented with frothy suds brewed within city limits, head to the Neckarmüller Gasthausbrauerei. Boasting the largest Biergarten in town, the Neckarmüller serves traditional food favourites such as Spätzle, a noodle dish, or Maultachen, a large meat-filled ravioli-esque food to help wash down what guests really came for – a fresh beer or three. Haus brews cost €3 a half-litre and entrées range from €7 to €12 (http://www.neckarmueller.de).

An experience unique to this corner of the world is the Besenwirtschaft, a place where local producers can seasonally sell the fruits of their labors - wine - and a couple of dishes without needing a liquor license; typically within a homier locale than a bar. The wine may be barely drinkable but the friendly atmosphere and economical prices of €1.50 per glass to €8.50 per litre, makes the Besenwirtschaft a must-do stop for the non-German traveler (http://tuebingerwein.twoday.net).

Where to eat

Food is the mirror into a culture and its people. Schwäbisch cuisine, the food typical to the southwestern corner of Germany, is simple, hearty and heavy. To gorge on authentic local delicacies, like pork roast with Spätzle or sausage salad, step into the Wurstküche, where the menu is listed first in Swabish, the local dialect, then German, then English. Like meat and bring an appetite - salad is almost the only veggie option and the portions are huge! Meals are, on average, €15 (http://www.wurstkueche.com).

It’s rumored that while at the Weinstube Forelle, Goethe declared life was too short to drink bad wine. Forelle has taken that declaration to heart, offering diners a broader wine menu than otherwise found in town while serving high-end variations of classic Swabish dishes such as roast beef with red wine and onion confit or wild boar with mushrooms and artichoke polenta. Entrees range from €10 – €20 (http://www.weinstubeforelle.de/Forelle/index.html).

Schlaf gut – sleep well

To sleep centrally and well, the Hotel Hospiz has comfortable rooms with homely touches including a bath, internet access and breakfast for €105 - double occupancy.

More luxurious accommodation can be found at the Krone Hotel near the Neckar. Rooms range from singles to suites, all including breakfast, with double rooms ranging from €139 - €159 per night.

Located directly on the Neckar, Hotel Domizil caters to both the business and leisure traveler with standard rooms and suites, conference rooms and a fitness and wellness center. Double rooms range from €133 – €143; pet’s welcome!

Getting here

From outside of Germany: The closest airport to Tübingen is Stuttgart, which has a connecting airport sprinter bus for €5 and a tram/train connection to the Tübingen main train station for about €10.

Within Germany: The town is easily accessible by the German Railway.


Herzlich Willkommen, a heartfelt welcome; Wir freuen uns auf Ihren Besuch, we look forward to your visit.