GERMANY is well-known for its beer and sausages but if wine is your tipple of choice, Stuttgart is the city for you.
Nestled in a fertile valley in the Swabian Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg region, with the Neckar river running through it, the beautiful city is just an hour from the Black Forest and surrounded by hills â almost all of which are covered in vineyards.
Forget Oktoberfest, for wine-lovers Stuttgartâs three-week Weindorf (or wine village) festival, which has been running annually for 45 years, is a must.
The charming market square and surrounding streets are taken over by 30 innkeepers selling street food and a huge variety of local wines by the glass.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that 70 per cent of the regionâs wines are red â and incredibly good ones, at that.
Thereâs Trollinger, made from a grape almost exclusively grown in the region, which is light and refreshing with a fruity flavour, which would make a welcome addition to a summer lunch.
And the second most common in the region, Lemberger, is a heavier, darker wine more akin to the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, but is incredibly quaffable.
To get a closer look at the wonderful vineyards, we embarked on a bus tour devoted to the drink, The Weintour.
Itâs a hop on, hop off service that takes you above the city for a stunning view of the vine-covered slopes with the chance to taste the local blends along the way.
The 18-euro city ticket for the bus also allows you to enjoy two more tours around the city, which is famous for its castles, called Schloss in German, within a 24-hour period.
Itâs a fun way to stop off at the many museums along the way, including the quirky SchweineMuseum â or Pig Museum â with over 45,000 porcine exhibits.
Or thereâs the Mercedes-Benz Museum, a must for any car enthusiast, which showcases over 160 cars, ranging from some of the oldest automobiles ever built to futuristic research vehicles, as well as motors once owned by Princess Diana and Ringo Starr.
Save time to explore the Schlossplatz, a stunning square in the centre of the old city.
From here you can marvel at the beautiful Baroque- style Neues Schloss (New Palace), built by Duke Carl Eugen von Wurttemberg, from 1746, in a bid to make Stuttgart âthe new Versailles.â
Behind the palace lie some picturesque gardens and the Opera House, an imposing colonnaded building with a rounded facade overlooking a huge lake.
This area is brimming with cafes and coffee bars, too.
Our favourite was Carlâs Brauhaus, which has a great range of local and European food, including plenty of choices for vegetarians and vegans like the delicious plant-based Schnitzel.
The Alte Kanzlei restaurant, in the square outside the Old Palace, has seating inside and out and it is a great place to sample the traditional local dishes, including Kasespatzle (egg noodles with melted cheese and fried onions), Maultaschen (a meat filled pasta) and Schupfnudeln (potato and wheat noodles).
If youâre after something a little lighter, the lively Markthalle (Market Hall) is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, herbs and all sorts of culinary delights.
Then wash it all down with a delicious unfiltered, cloudy lager from a brewery two miles from the city centre, Dinkelacker Kellerbier.
An unexpected treat opposite our apartment hotel, The Adina, is the new library â built in 2011 at a cost of 80million euros â which is a triumph of modern design, with a central spherical gallery rising up through the nine floors and lit solely by a skylight above.
STEEPED IN HISTORY
The hotel, where the attractive rooms come with their own fully equipped kitchen, is a short walk from the centre of the city and close to a Tube station where you can access the well-run and user-friendly public transport system.
For best value, you can buy three-day travel cards, valid for 72 hours after you stamp it in the orange machines on board the first train you travel on.
While Stuttgart might not be top of most peopleâs must-see places, this pretty city, steeped in history, is well worth a long weekend.
And if you can visit during the Weindorf, thereâs an added magic.
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