Set deep in the heart of rural Baden-Württemberg, Tübingen is a charming little market town that is just begging to be discovered
Tübingen: Baden-Württemberg’s hidden gem
For those who choose pastoral Baden-Württemberg over Berlin or Bavaria as their German holiday destination, there is far more to experience than the endless green slopes of the Black Forest, with Tübingen the unsung jewel in the region’s rural crown. Situated 30 kilometres southwest of Stuttgart and tucked between a series of rolling green hills, the town’s old centre is an explorable warren of winding cobbled streets, pretty little squares and delightfully colourful half-timbered buildings.
Things to see and do
With a native population of around 90,000 – boosted by 25,000 university students – Tübingen is just the right size to discover over a leisurely weekend. Climbing the stairs to the viewing tower of the Stiftskirche, the town’s 520-year-old Gothic-style church, provides unobstructed views of the area. From up there, the river Neckar seems to slice the town in two. On one side, the Altstadt’s (or old town’s) sea of red tiled roofs stretches away, houses erected seemingly higgledy-piggledy, rather like in so many French villages. The other side is a bit more ordered, a bit more modern, a bit more grey.
The Stiftskirche provides a bird’s eye map of Tübingen’s most tempting attractions. On a small hill in the middle distance, partly obstructed by trees, is the Hohentübingen Castle. Partly dating back to the 11th century, the castle provides fine views of the town, and, on clear days, the Swabian Alb. Inside is a museum containing some of the world’s oldest human made sculptures, some dating back more than 30,000 years.
Down the slope from the castle is Tübingen’s lively main square, which houses the town’s 500-year-old Rathaus (town hall). Get there on Wednesday or Friday mornings to buy locally produced goods and food at the bustling market.
Exploring the Altstadt’s intertwining streets brings further unexpected delights. Inhale deeply as you pass Mokka on Collegiumsgasse, a tiny shop full of handmade dark chocolates and aromatic coffee beans from around the world. Head down to the Neckar and admire the charmingly idiosyncratic houses and the charming weeping willow and plane trees. In summer, take a trip on a gondola, or simply sit with a cold beer on the wall at the river’s edge, feet dangling 10 feet above the clear water.
Food and where to eat
Tübingen has a variety of restaurants, cafes and food outlets to suit every taste and budget. Those with limited finances should head to X on Kornhausstraße for currywurst mit pommes. Germany’s fish and chips, this meal – a large grilled, sliced bratwurst covered with tomato ketchup and sprinkled with curry powder, served with chips (and a free roll thrown in if you’re lucky) – is a mildly spicy sensation, guaranteed to warm hearts on a cold winter’s day. X also sells the usual range of burgers and bratwursts, and they also have beer on tap. A full meal, excluding drinks, should set you back no more than €5.
Hungry travellers wishing to experience a genuine Swabian eatery should give Restaurant Mauganeschtle a try. Situated near the top of the snaking slope up to the Hohentübingen Castle, you’ll be glad you made the effort. Take your pick from many different varieties of Maultaschen, a local dish that looks like giant ravioli, but tastes like, well, whatever you choose. Main courses here range from €10-20.
Slightly cheaper is the more family-friendly Casino restaurant on the banks of the Neckar, near the Blaue Brücke bridge. Diners can choose from a range of hearty meals with a slight regional bias. The schnitzel and spätzle (a kind of homemade egg pasta) are highly recommended, with main dishes costing from €8.
Those who fancy coffee and cake, as many of the locals seem to do on a regular basis, need look no further than the numerous little cafes that dot the streets of the Altstadt.
If you want snacks for when you’re on the go, take some local pretzels, called Brezeln. They taste different in every Baden-Württemberg town, but Tübinger Brezeln are hard to beat. Soft in the middle with a crunchy, salty coating, they are perfect with butter or dipped in a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
Supplementing your evening meal with a few drinks is no problem in Tübingen, as there are plenty of bars and pubs – not surprising when you consider the 25,000 resident students. Try the Neckarmüller and its flowery beer garden on the river’s edge at Gartenstrasse. Or, if you just have to have a pint of Guinness, visit the Irish pub on Wilhelmstraße. Later on, you can dance the night away in one of the town’s nightclubs, or head down to the brightly painted Epplehaus on Karlstrasse for live music and DJs.
Tübingen is compact enough to get around on foot. For a relatively small town, though, it has an excellent bus service. Single tickets start at €1.60, and are bought from machines on the buses themselves. You could also hire a bike, but be aware that you’re not allowed to cycle in parts of the Altstadt.
Stuttgart airport is about 20 minutes from Tübingen by car, and there are also regular trains and buses between the two towns, which take about an hour. Flybe and British Airways both have connections to Stuttgart airport from the UK.
Where to stay
For a pleasant and comfortable stay in the Altstadt, try Hotel Hospiz on Neckarhalse.
Or check out the homely Hotel am Schloss, which houses the Restaurant Mauganeschtle.
If you are on more of a budget, try the Jugendherberge Tübingen hostel.
And, for those who just love the outdoor life, there's a campsite: Neckar Camping.
A general overview of where to stay in Tübingen can be found here: http://www.tuebingen-info.de/hotels/hotel_en.htm
Tübingen tourist information: www.tuebingen-info.de
Tübingen’s official website, also containing useful information for visitors: www.tuebingen.de
Restaurant Mauganeschtle: www.hotelamschloss.de
Casino Restaurant: www.casino-am-neckar.de
Stuttgart Airport: www.flughafen-stuttgart.de