Weekend Wanderlust: Finding high culture and simple pleasures in Karlsruhe

Michael Stuchbery
Michael Stuchbery - [email protected]
Weekend Wanderlust: Finding high culture and simple pleasures in Karlsruhe
The Schlosslichtspiele Karlsruhe at Schloss Karlsruhe. Photo: DPA

Some say it was inspired by a grand dream of the Markgraf von Baden-Durlach, Karl Wilhelm. Others, cheekily, think he established a new city as somewhere he could avoid his wife.


Whatever the case, we're glad to have Karlsruhe - 'Karl's Peace' - one of Baden-Württemberg's real gems.

The fan-shaped city extending out from the palace of the Markgraf was a triumph of design for the 18th century, with its wide avenues and monumental buildings an inspiration to city planners across Europe. Again, depending on who you talk to, it may have inspired any number of cities across the continent and even the New World. 

The palace, the Karlsruher Schloss, exists today as both a showcase of Baden's grandeur, but also as the setting for the Badisches Landesmuseum, a storehouse of thousands of years of history, both local and global. A particular highlight are the archaeological collections, now brought to life through the use of very clever technology. 

While heavily damaged in the war, the palace was painstakingly rebuilt to reflect the opulence of Baden's past. Outside, the expansive grounds and gardens host festivities throughout the year - such as the Schlosslichtspiele (light show) which  takes place until September 15th - possible due to the city's unusually warm micro-climate and significant hours of sunlight.

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Head down the avenue to the right as you leave the palace, and passing Germany's Federal Constitutional Court, the Bundesverfassungsgericht (occasionally open to the public for tours), you will find yourself at the city's main art gallery, the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe.

Lots of culture

Whatever your tastes when it comes to art, you'll be well-served here, with everything from medieval sacred art to contemporary abstract works. It's a bit of a local institution, much loved by the inhabitants of the city. 

Equally beloved is the Naturkundemuseum Karlsruhe, in operation since 1785. Far from simply dry stuffed animals and rock specimens, this natural history museum boasts cutting-edge exhibits that bring visitors right up close to some of nature's most thrilling creations. 

For a change of pace, catch the tram out to Durlach. This was once a separate town - and the former seat of the Margraves of Baden-Durlach. In fact the suburb is dominated by the remains of the Karlsburg, their baroque castle.

Today the castle houses a museum, telling the story of the surrounding area from the Stone Age onwards. One needn't go in though - much of the joy of this part of town is finding a place to sit at a café in the sunshine among the old buildings, people-watching. 

If you'd like to finish your dream in a manner fit for a Markgraf, we recommend Zum Ochsen on Durlach's Pfinzstraße. This Michelin star restaurant in an 18th century dwelling is a little pricey, but the atmosphere, superb local dishes and excellent wine list make it worthwhile. 

Karlsruhe is a delightful mix of high culture and simple pleasures. It's a place that's perfect for a weekend break, when you're looking to indulge yourself with a little bit of sun without leaving the country. One thing's for sure - we'll be returning for another piece of Karl's dream. 




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