Set in a lush valley ringed with vineyards and thick forests, Stuttgart may well be the greenest city in Europe. The citizens pride themselves on their environmentalism. Stuttgart is also one of Germany's premiere wine-growing regions, and its many mineral spas are a draw for relaxation seekers.
With its moderate climate, proximity to the Black Forest and unique Swabian heritage, Stuttgart is a great place to experience an authentic German city without hordes of tourists. For a more raucous time, visit during the Cannstatter Volksfest, Germany's second-largest Oktoberfest celebration.
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While Stuttgart's cultural attractions are certainly worth seeing, make sure to take advantage of all the outdoor activities this green city has to offer. Hiking can be combined with wine tasting in some of the more than 500 local vineyards. Soak in a mineral spring, or swim in one of many open-air pools.
Stuttgarters are avid music fans, and the year kicks off with the acclaimed Eclat New Music Festival (January/February) devoted to avant-garde composers. Fasnet, the Swabian version of Carnival, revels in its pagan origins, as celebrants dress as witches and ghosts in ancient wooden masks and participate in parades, dances and macabre rituals. The festivities intensify over six weeks, culminating on the Tuesday before Lent. The Jazzopen Festival in July features popular acts. The Bach Summer Academy, presented by the renowned International Bach Academy, draws large crowds of classical music lovers in early September.
Wine lovers descend upon the city during Weindorf, a 10-day celebration in which hundreds of local vintners showcase their vintages (late August or early September). The Cannstatter Volksfest (People's Fair) is the event of the year, held over three consecutive weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) from late September to mid-October and second only in size to Munich's Oktoberfest. In addition to copious quantities of beer, the Volksfest features fireworks, carnival rides, oompah music and Swabian specialties like Spätzle and Bretzel. The Christmas Market, which begins the last Thursday in November and runs until December 23, is a winter wonderland of local crafts, choirs, a children's village, and hearty food and drink.
Stuttgart's public holidays include New Year's Day (1 January), Epiphany (6 January), Easter, Labour Day (1 May), Whit/Pentecost (May or June), Corpus Christi (June), Assumption Day (15 August), Day of German Unity (3 October), All Saints' Day (1 November), Christmas and Boxing Day (25 & 26 December). All shops and banks close on public holidays.