17 Best Things to Do in Karlsruhe (2021)

Karlsruhe is known for science and technology and the home to the highest court in Germany. It dwells on the Rhine Plain amidst the Vosges Mountains, the Black Forest, and the Palatinate Forest. Art and culture are exceptionally rich in Karlsruhe as it has always been more copious than most other cities in Germany. Perhaps the reason is that it is one of the youngest cities in Germany. The city without walls expresses its liberal, open-minded, and stoic side. Karlsruhe is also commonly known as the ’Fan City’ owing to its map. When Margrave Charles III William founded this city, he placed his palace at the north pinnacle with 32 radiating avenues towards the south, east, and west. An aerial view of the city appears like a hand fan.

The Neoclassical buildings and the findings by Baden’s margraves, high-born dukes, and prince-electors add to Karlsruhe’s vigor and strength. Ever since the war ended until 1918, this city has been the home to the Federal Court of Justice and the Federal Constitutional Court in Germany.

The simplest way to reach Karlsruhe is by train. The high-speed train joins most European cities and airport centers. Tourists from overseas may opt to board a flight to Frankfurt am Main International airport. The next best option is Stuttgart airport, which is close to Karlsruhe.

17. Pfarrkirche St. Stephan

St. Stephan
St. Stephan parish church (Günter Josef Radig/Wikimedia)

The St. Stephan parish church is a homage to Stéphanie de Beauharnais. She was Napoleon’s first wife, Joséphine’s half-sister. Friedrich Weinbrenner, The Neoclassical architect, also contributed to the design of the Pfarrkirche St. Stephan. Grand Duke Karl Friedrich summoned him to devise the creation of the church in the early 19th century.
 
The building stands upright on the Roman Pantheon. Every design is as per Friedrich Weinbrenner except the 43-meter tower.
 
The church faced severe damages during the war—consequently, some of its elements, such as the organ and the high altar, needed replacement.

16. The Karlsruhe Pyramid

Karlsruhe Pyramid
Karlsruhe Pyramid (Tupperdose1953/Wikimedia)

In the very core of Karlsruhe’s famous market square lies The Karlsruhe Pyramid. It is one of the main landmark icons of the city.
 
Friedrich Weinbrenner was a city planner and a famous architect. He conceived the design for the market square with a set of buildings surrounding it, such as the town hall and the evangelical church. The entire design took place at the beginning of the 19th century.
 
He named the entire plan of the square ‘Via Triumphalis,’ which grew as a neoclassical urban planning treasure. It may have been created over 200 years ago but reflect a few modern signs in looks.
 
There lies a sandstone pyramid at the epicenter. The pyramid supports the tomb of Margrave Charles III William, the founder of the city. The design of the tomb takes influence from the Egyptian pyramids. 

15. St. Bernhard Church

St. Bernhard Church
St. Bernhard Church (Meph666/Wikipedia)

The St. Bernhard Church, or the Catholic church of St. Bernard, is a hidden gem. If there is anything, you might find fascinating next to Karlsruhe Palace is either the St. Bernhard Church or Schloss Gottesaue. The inauguration took place in July 2018 with a joyful service, a church square fair, followed by an eventful concert.
 
It’s a quaint and serene gothic church in Karlsruhe and very easy to find. Take a walk from Karlsruhe Palace to Schloss Gottesaue, and you won’t miss it, although the walk can be longer than expected.
 
The church building reflects the architectural style and is one of the most ancient sites you will encounter in Karlsruhe.

14. Alter Schlachthof

Alter Schlacthof
Alter Schlachthof (storebukkebruse/Flickr)

Alter Schlachthof was once an urban abattoir and a cattle farm in Karlsruhe’s Oststadt. It shut down in 2006 only to reopen as a cultural setting and office area.
 
The nightclubs and restaurants now stretch across the nostalgic industrial buildings from the 1880s and 1890s.
 
There is also an exhibition hall, once a meat market, while the old pig market has now turned into a home for startups. Its set-up is so brilliant that 68 one-time shipping containers are now small office segments.
 
But the unique place of attraction that anchors all the attention is the Kulturzentrum Tollhaus. It is a performance hub for a wide range of genres, such as dance, comedy, music, and street theater.

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13. Karlsruhe Majolika

Majolika Karlsruhe
Majolika Karlsruhe (christophjkonrad/Flickr)

If you go around Schlossgarten or the palace park, you will notice that the ground has an elongated strip of blue tiles. That’s the grand Blauer Strahl or the Blue Beam. It has 1,635 majolica tiles and draws from the palace to the Majolica Manufactory, Karlsruhe.
 
The foundation of the Majolica Manufactory took place in 1901. Grand Duke Frederick I founded it, and it is still doing lucrative business despite all the disruption of the last 116 years.
 
The ceramicists styled and designed this manufactory taking influence from Nazi art. In terms of Expressionism, they took inspiration from Art Nouveau. The manufactory also takes the affluence of the 50s and 60s. There is a museum in the old workshops that reflects the aesthetics of this place.
 
The items that you can commonly find in the factory shop are vases, bowls, tiles, and plates, all bearing the eminent ceramicist signatures in this business. 

12. Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe
Baden State Theatre (MHikeBike/Flickr)

The Ettlinger Gate situates the Baden State Theatre. It is one of the most acclaimed opera houses in Germany, pleasing classical arts enthusiasts’ fancies. 
 
The construction of the theater took place after the loss of the 19th-century hall in the war. This modern opera hosts ballet, opera, and theater performances. Both Baden State Philharmonic and Baden State Opera Choir subjoins the opera, and they partner with the musical theater and ballet performances.
 
The annual Handel Festival takes place in February. The festival arranges concerts on 23rd February to honor and match with the birthday of the Baroque composer. If you visit this time around this month, don’t miss it for the world.

11. Kaiserstraße

What is a vacation without shopping, including buying fascinating items as souvenirs? If you visit Karlsruhe Palace, head a couple of blocks down, and you will find the Kaiserstraße shopping complex in Karlsruhe. It’s where people do their shopping and open only to strollers.
 
Like most streets near the palace, or the center of the city, the shopping place is a sharp straight passage. It cuts through from east to west amidst nine of Karlsruhe’s scattered streets and runs on for about 2 kilometers.
 
It is Germany’s primary shopping hub as most of the retail chains run their shops here. At the same time, there are also shops by free merchants or families.
 
The café terraces are all across the marketplace and are quite a hit with doing trade during summer. 
 
If you are looking for shops selling antiques, head towards the intersecting streets of Herrenstraße. When you are there, don’t miss visiting the Postgalerie, the erstwhile Neoclassical post office building that is now a shopping center.

Staatliche Kunsthalle
The State Art Gallery

The State Art Gallery is a fines arts museum and houses over 800 years of European art. It primarily shows the French and Dutch artworks from the 17th and 18th centuries. The foundation of this Neoclassical museum took place in the 1840s. There is also the botanical garden that boasts an incredible array of the Baden house.
 
Landgravine Caroline Louise of Hesse-Darmstadt began the museum in the 18th century. She was a renowned dilettante artist herself. It would be best to visit this museum because you will witness exquisite pieces by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Baldung, David Friedrich, Rubens, Caspar Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, Degas, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Pissarro.
 
That’s not all. The museum also exhibits 20th-century art till 1945 by Delaunay, Kandinsky, August Macke, Kirchner, Otto Dix, and Franz Marc.

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9. Marktplatz (The Durlach District)

Marktplatz
Marktplatz (yashima/Flickr)

The Durlach district lies in the suburbs towards the east of Karlsruhe. This district is one of the oldest, and it was only in 1938 that it became part of the city. It is the largest district laying quietly at the apex of the Black Forest with 30,000 settlers.
 
Durlach is also quite distinct in character and concept. It is more striking, with scampering medieval alleys embraced by town halls.
 
The Marktplatz is the magnetic core of Durlach as the Renaissance town hall overlooks the square. This town hall has a crow-stepped roof, and its balcony upholds the statue of a knight.
 
It is a widespread belief that the knight is Margrave Charles II. He named Durlach as the capital of Baden in 1563. The margraves lived at his palace, Schloss Karlsburg, for the next 150 years until Charles III William came to rule.

8. Badisches Landesmuseum

Landesmuseum

The Baden State museum opened in the castle twice, first in 1921 and the second time round in 1959 after rebuilding. The museum reflects centuries of human history, exploring Baden- Württemberg’s generous assembly of tasteful treasures and ancient artifacts. These museum pieces can be found on the ground floor and basement.
 
The museum also displays regional porcelain, weapons, furniture, the cabinet of curiosity of the margraves, and the palace’s history.

7. Schloss Gottesaue

Schloss Gottesaue
Schloss Gottesaue (Fyrtaarn/Wikimedia)

What’s an exploration of a place if you can’t find its music significance? The Schloss Gottesaue came to being in 1989 in a Renaissance fashion. It is now the renowned music school in Karlsruhe. Take a picture in front of the picturesque building to seem to appear for a magazine cover. If you are a music enthusiast, you cannot miss this place.
 
The Schloss Gottesaue is a small enterprise that has faced destruction several times since its origin as a summer house. First during the Palatinate war of succession in 1689 and secondly ravaged by fire in 1735. The restoration began on a minimal form serving as the fruit store for the margraves’ legal hold, then as quarters from 1818 until finally taken over by the police. It got pulled down again by an air raid in 1944.
 
The ruins were a hint of its eventful history until its repair as the music house began in 1982. The sole purpose behind making a modern building was to aid as a modern school for music with a Renaissance structure.
 
It renders a creative teaching block across the multimedia complex. There is also the Music Multimedia Theater segment, which offers ample space for the Karlsruhe University of Music’s wide range of courses. The Wolfgang-Rihm-Forum, the new concert theater, is a reserve to enhance and expand variety in events segments.

6. Botanischer Garten

Botanischer Garten
Botanischer Garten (Pero.s/Wikipedia)

Margrave Charles Frederick first opened this municipal botanical garden towards the palace ground’s southwest region under his rule. Karl Christian Gmelin, a renowned botanist, designed the garden and Neoclassical Friedrich Weinbrenner devised the orangery and winter garden. Later on, in the mid 19th century, came the greenhouses.
 
At present, the former scientific center has become a blissful green space with the set-up of historic landmark sculptures, buildings, and basins.
 
The garden is a haven of about 20 species of exotic trees. The greenhouses consist of a small but magnificent collection of Mediterranean and tropical plants.

5. State Museum of Natural History

State Museum of Natural History
State Museum of Natural History (Martin Dürrschnabel/Wikipedia)

This fossils museum’s forerunner was Princess Caroline Louise of Hesse-Darmstadt’s cabinet of curiosities, or ‘Naturalienkabinett.’ She was Baden’s wife. Baden was a scientist, dilettante artist, salonist, and collector.
 
It first opened to the public in 1785. Later, it found its roots at this eminent-looking hall in 1872. The collections have been ever-expanding with time. At present, it holds excellent exhibitions for entomology, geology, zoology, mineralogy, and some fascinating fossils.
 
One of its famous fossils is the skeleton of Andrias, a giant salamander. Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, the Swiss naturalist, discovered it in 1726 and inadvertently identified it as human.
 
The museum also has a 30-tank vivarium as a home for marine and tropical freshwater species. It also has a terrarium for amphibians and reptiles.

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4. Turmberg

Turmberg
Turmberg Castle (Robb/Wikipedia)

Do you want to have a day out from Karlsruhe? Head over to the popular hill across the suburbs of Durlach, Turmberg. The ruins of a castle stand at an altitude of 246 meters at the Black Forest’s northwestern peak.
 
Turmberg formerly belonged to the Durlach Margraves. They abandoned it and chose to live in the town instead during the 16th century and left a keep behind as a watchtower.
 
An observation platform now stands on the tower. On today’s date, you can visit the tower and gaze towards the west of Karlsruhe’s geometrical cityscape and even beyond till the Vosges in France.
 
There is a 1781-built stairway of 528 steps to arrive at the top of the tower. Alternatively, the Turmbergbahn may seem more agreeable if the stairway appears a little too taxing to climb. Turmbergbahn, built in 1888, is the oldest operating mountain cable car in Germany.

3. Karlsruhe Zoo

Karlsruhe Zoo
Zoo entrance (4028mdk09/Wikipedia)

The Zoo Karlsruhe opened in 1865 and is one of the first zoos in Germany. It lies in the north of the Hauptbahnhof across 22 hectares of land.
 
The zoo always makes sure to meet current ethical standards concerning its animal enclosures. It has continuously combined the botanical display of the Stadtgarten, or the City Garden as popularly known, from its inception.
 
One of the latest additions is the innovative Exotenhaus or the Exotic House. It is a space with climate control within a remodeled indoor swimming pool.
 
The zoo shelters 4,000 animals coming from over 250 species. While many animals are within an enclosure, there are birds, bats, and two sloths who are free to move about where they fancy.
 
Other additions include the largest compound for coatis in Germany and the Himalayan mountain area housing red pandas and snow leopards.
 
There is a rose garden in the Stadtgarten. The garden is one of Germany’s first Japanese gardens from 1918 and grows 15,000 bushes.

2. Centre for Art and Media: ZKM

ZKM
ZKM (storebukkebruse/Flickr)

ZKM is a cultural foundation in a re-engineered munitions factory that dwells the outlines between art and technology. The agape courtyards of the factory lie under a glass roof and enclose two museums. One museum covers contemporary art, while the other media and contains three research establishments.
 
Both museums hold brief shows on varied and seasonal themes. Some exhibitions may get catchy and intriguing. You could always enquire about their workshops beforehand because they take place keeping children in mind.

1. The Karlsruhe Palace

Karlsruhe Palace
Night at the Palace (DanGrothe/Flickr)

If you visit Karlsruhe, you cannot miss The Karlsruhe Palace. It lies in the core of the city, making it the landmark and the starting point of the ‘Fan City.’ It is the former home to the margraves and high-born dukes of Baden and now a museum reflecting the city’s history. Margrave Charles III William established this palace. It remained the house of power for two centuries up till 1918. 
 
The building earned its distinctive dome in 1785, and the Baroque architecture dates back to the 18th century. The palace faced the brunt of the war and faced grave damage. However, the city decided to keep it as it is without repair and make it into a museum for Baden. You may regard it as a Museum in the Palace as commonly known to everyone.