I have to confess, I knew almost nothing about the city of Karlsruhe, Germany before spending a few hours there but that lack of familiarity meant it was a blank slate – a wonderful opportunity to “meet” a new city. I quickly realized that it’s unlike most other cities I have visited in the region. Although Karlsruhe may not be at the top of most Germany travel itineraries, here are a few reasons why you should consider exploring the city as you travel around this beautiful corner of Germany.
Large and industrial, technology has almost always been important to Karlsruhe but, curiously enough, so has art and media. That’s why one of the first stops for me was a visit to one of the most unique museum and research complexes in the world, the ZKM or the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. It exists at the intersection of art and technology, showcasing cutting edge modern art and is actually somewhat difficult to explain. At the heart of the experience is all forms of contemporary art – ZKM is a place for cross-border experiments between fine art and performing arts. Home to two different museums with constantly rotating exhibits, it’s one of the most forward-thinking institutions in the world.
It’s also a place for apprentices and students, all there to learn the latest innovations in their crafts and adding to the curious mix of intellectual creativity that I think defines the ZKM. The center is housed in an old munitions factory, which adds a certain industrial charm and beauty to the visitor’s experience and is really the ideal location for the institute. Visitors can self-guide their way through the museums easily but be sure to spend plenty of time as you explore this large space.
A new city by Europe standards, Karlsruhe is a planned city that was brought to life in 1715. Laid out by the Margrave at the time, the incredibly well-organized city was used as inspiration for other urban planners such as Jefferson and L’Enfant. It’s this level of precision that has earned Karlsruhe the nickname The Fan City, which is best seen from the top of the Karlsruhe Palace.
An architectural wonder in its own right, for a modest fee visitors can climb the central tower for the perfect view of the city, nearby park and surroundings.
Great regional food and wine
Karlsruhe calls the state of Baden-Württemberg home and, from lots of personal experience, it is one of the culinary hotspots of Germany. There’s a lot to love about the regional dishes found in and around the state, heavily influenced by neighboring regions like Swabia. Delicious noodles and dumplings in rich gravies, fresh meats and cheeses and enough pastries and desserts to keep even a sweets-obsessed traveler like myself happy and content. Baden-Württemberg is also a great wine-producing region and for many visitors that is the highlight of the culinary experience. There are a number of places where you can enjoy some fantastic Baden wine, tasting the wide variety of vintages available and enjoying a lazy afternoon out with friends.
Karlsruhe may not be the normal tourist stop in Germany and it’s definitely not a city where I’d spend more than a day but, like most places, with a little sleuthing it turns out that there’s a lot to love about this great and oddly important city.