Baden-Württemberg is a federal state (Bundesland) in Germany. Its world famous Black Forest and the celebrated, romantic city of Heidelberg are top tourist destinations within Germany and Central Europe, but there is much more to see.

It's part of the southern German speaking world where dialect and tradition remain strong and shares many traditions with its neighbours in Alsace, France to the west and in Switzerland and Vorarlberg, (Austria) to the south. It's also much more rural and bucolic than central and northern Germany; this makes it a popular destination for visiting natural spas with supposed curative properties or going on long hikes in its many old-growth forests.

Alternative spellings of the Land's name are Baden-Wuerttemberg and Baden-Wurttemberg.


Map of Baden-Württemberg
Bodensee Region
Lake Constance, on the border with both Switzerland and Austria, is Germany's largest lake, a source of drinking water for millions and a haven for hikers, cyclists and sailors. Around its banks, you can discover Stone Age settlements, the "Flower Island" Mainau. Further inland, the region boasts many cities with history reaching deep into the Middle Ages, like Ravensburg, famous worldwide for jigsaw puzzles.
Black Forest
The world famous Schwarzwald was declared the first national park in Baden-Württemberg in 2014. The region around it is the heart of historic Baden, with Kurorts such as Baden-Baden, as well as rich history reaching back to the early medieval times, exemplified by the university city of Freiburg.
Swabian Mountains
The Schwäbische Alb in the south is a rough landscape with limestone geology, featuring huge caves, deep blue lakes (e.g. the Blautopf) and long walking trails.
Stuttgart Region
The dense yet very green metropolitan area around the Land's capital on the river Neckar can surprise with the beauty of its vineyard-adorned landscape and wealth of cultural attractions.
Northern Baden-Württemberg
The northern part of the Land is quite densely urban, especially in its west, with important and famed cities like Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Heilbronn and Heidelberg.


Other destinations

Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart


Among the West-German states, Baden-Württemberg is one of the youngest, having been founded in 1952 through a unification of administrative areas that, until the end of WWI in 1919, had been mostly covered by the kingdom of Württemberg, the grand-duchy of Baden and the kingdom of Hohenzollern. The consequence of this - and that's the important bit a traveller should know - is that there are now two tribes living together in the state: Badener in the west and Schwaben in the east. Both speak different dialects (see below) and share a love-hate relationship towards each other that's nurtured with a lot of humour. For what unites both tribes and the rest of the people living here is a pride for "their" Baden-Württemberg and what they have made of it since its creation, that's surprising for Germans from up north. Since 1999, the state has been advertising itself all over Germany with the slogan "We can do everything - except speak Standard German." (Wir können alles, außer Hochdeutsch), a tongue-in-cheek play on the infamous dialects (see below).

And indeed, Baden-Württemberg is doing quite well in terms of economics compared to other places in Germany. It boasts the lowest unemployment rate of the Federation, some of the best universities in Germany, a GDP per capita that rivals Switzerland and is the only German state that still has a higher birth than death rate. The European Statistics Office (Eurostat) has called Baden-Württemberg the "high-tech central of Europe". And, famously, the percentage of people owning their own home is by far the highest in Germany.

The main reason for all those superlatives lies deeply in the history of the land: Although nowadays there are about as many non-Catholics as Catholics living in Baden-Württemberg (and a third group of comparable size without religious faith), during the reformation South-West Germany was strongly influenced by the schools of Martin Luther, John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli, which left behind a society with moral values circling around hard work, self-control and the general motto "God helps those who help themselves".

Hence the country that was once dirt poor, having to struggle with hard winters and frequent famines, today is plastered with high technology companies. The most important sectors are mechanical engineering (most famously Robert Bosch Inc.), Chemistry, Biotechnology and, above all, motor vehicles (which were, in fact, invented here, as everyone will be happy to point out). Daimler and Porsche were founded and still have their headquarters around Stuttgart; Audi, Volkswagen and others have large plants in the state. If one counts in the small and medium-sized suppliers, every other employee in Baden-Württemberg is working for the car industry, directly or indirectly. As Max Weber, a philosopher at Heidelberg University said, around here, it's "Capitalism as it was meant to be".

Rainbow over the Hochenzollern Castle in the Swabian Mountains


While every region in Germany has its own Germanic "dialect" in addition to Standard German (Hochdeutsch) Baden-Württemberg (together with parts of Bavaria and Saxony) is among those regions where the "dialect" is actually the native language of the near-majority of the population (except in the north).

The traditional "dialect" in most of the state is Alemannic (Alemannisch) which is by far the main language in German-speaking Switzerland, Liechteinstein and Vorarlberg in Austria, as well as being spoken natively by many is western Bavaria and as a minority language in Alsace in eastern France. As it is divided into numerous local dialects and has its own written language, it is very disputed as to whether it is a dialect or in fact a separate language. More and more people understandably state the latter.

The exact proportion between native speakers of Standard German and Alemannic is unclear; however in general more Alemannic speakers are found in rural areas than in say, Stuttgart, where Standard German nowadays seems to be the more common mother tongue.

Kurpfälzisch is the traditional language in the north of the state (i.e. the region surrounding Mannheim and Heidelberg) but standard German is what dominates in most places. That said, it is still spoken by many people in the rural areas.

As good as all Alemannic-speakers are fluent in Standard German and many also in English, even in rural areas, but also tend to be surprisingly proud of their "dialect" and learning a few words or phrases in it might in fact not be the most foolish thing to do. Although native Standard German-speakers are a majority in many cities, you still will encounter plenty of native Alemannic-speakers as well, some of whom might in fact be uneasy about speaking Standard German (mostly rural elders).

All in all though, language is not a major barrier, and even a monolingual English-speaker should have no difficulty truly enjoying this sunny part of Germany.

Get in

Stuttgart, the Land's capital, has the largest airport within Baden-Württemberg

By air

Stuttgart has an international airport which is served by all major carriers. Frankfurt airport (IATA: FRA), the busiest airport in mainland Europe, although not in Baden Württemberg, is well within reach by train (1 hour from FRA to Stuttgart main station via the high-speed ICE connection). For most "traditional" airlines and many German charter airlines, a train ticket from FRA can be booked together with the flight for a reduced price or even for free. See rail air alliances for details. Low-fare airlines offer services to the local airports of Karlsruhe-Baden Baden and Friedrichshafen.

Travellers beware: "Frankfurt Hahn" (IATA: HHN), the big hub for low-fare airlines, should not be confused with FRA. In stark contrast, it has no train station and is in a rather remote location. It is possible to get from Hahn into Baden-Württemberg rather conveniently, but it definitely takes a lot longer and is much more hassle than from FRA.

For the southern part of Baden-Württemberg, the airports in Zurich, Switzerland, and the EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse on French territory are convenient, too. Another option is Memmingen (IATA: FMM) which is deceptively marketed as being close to Munich, while in actuality it is much closer to southern Baden Württemberg than to Munich.

By train

All major cities are well connected through the Deutsche Bahn (DB) rail system. Ulm, Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Stuttgart and Freiburg even have ICE connections (slick, comfortable, white high speed trains travelling at up to 250km/h). Tickets can be booked via the Deutsche Bahn website.

Baden-Württemberg (as well as some other regions in Germany) offers a special regional train ticket (in this case, the Baden-Württemberg-Ticket). It's valid for 18 hours from 09:00 until 03:00 the next day on any day you choose. A second class ticket for one person was priced at €23 (with each extra additional passenger just €4) in September 2014. First class tickets cost €31 with each extra additional passenger €12. The ticket can be used on all regional trains within Baden-Württemberg except InterCity(IC), InterCityExpress(ICE), EuroCity(EC) and some special trains.

By bus

The long-distance bus market is exploding in Germany, since a new law was passed in 2013. There are dozens of daily services from most major cities, which are often significantly cheaper than trains. Most buses offer amenities like Wi-Fi and power outlets and some can even transport bicycles.

Get around

By train and bus

Baden-Württemberg has an excellent rail network, serving even quite remote areas. Especially rural villages are served by buses which generally leave from main train stations in larger towns and cities. Buses are quite frequent near big cities, but especially on weekend in rural areas there are only 2–4 bus connections a day. All connections can be checked at this website.

If you're travelling within Baden-Württemberg, you can purchase the Baden-Württemberg-Ticket, which will give you all-day travel in regional trains (categories S, RB, RE and IRE) within Baden-Württemberg and even to the nearby cities of Basel, Lindau and Würzburg. You can use it also for private trains and most of local buses and city transport. On working days the ticket is valid 09:00-15:00 the following day. On weekends is valid from 00:01.

There are five variants of Baden-Württemberg-Ticket:

For general information about Länder-Tickets see Germany#Network tickets.

By car

Of course you can always use your car. If you are travelling in the Black Forest or the Swabian Alb during winter, bring snow chains as some smaller roads may not see snow ploughs frequently enough. When travelling on the Autobahn, the same precautions as everywhere on German high speed roads apply: If you're not willing (and prepared) to drive consistently above 80mph (130km/h), stay on the right. Make room for people trying to overtake, use your common sense, don't drive faster than you can think.


For those interested in high culture:

Stuttgart's museums and cultural institutions are world-famous
The unique, Manhattan-like street grid is the distinguishing feature of Mannheim
Heidelberg is the location of Germany's oldest university
See the world's tallest church steeple in the medieval old town of Ulm

For those fond of nature:

For those interested in touring castles

For those interested in more ancient history

For those interested in tourist routes

The official tourism homepage is at Click on the "English" link at the top.


Maultaschen mit Kartoffelsalat, the staple dish of the region



Stay safe

Baden-Württemberg is one of the safest regions in Germany. In large cities like Mannheim and especially Stuttgart, be aware of theft. Other regions are safe and you can travel alone without any problems. Even walking alone late at night is no problem. When out hiking and trekking have a map and take proper clothing. The forests are thick and dark and surprisingly rural considering the population density of Central Europe. Whilst walking in forests, you should be aware of ticks as they carry Lyme disease. Take extra care and if you see a tick you should brush it off immediately and seek medical advice if a noticeable bite occurs

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.