Karlsruhe – ten reasons

Celebrating its 300th anniversary this year, Karlsruhe is “the marketplace and major hub of the entire region.”

Karlsruhe – ten reasons that speak for the fan-shaped city

1. Karlsruhe – the model for Washington, DC

Karlsruhe is fan-shaped. Legend has it that when Margrave Karl Wilhelm of Baden-Durlach (1679-1738) went hunting one day, he was overwhelmed by fatigue and stopped for a nap under a tree. While he was asleep, he dreamed of a city shaped like a fan, with a magnificent palace at the centre. So it was in 1715, in the Hardtwald forest, still an impenetrable wilderness at the time, that the Margrave decided to build his new residence. The entire palace compound centres geometrically around an octagonal tower, with everything else arranged symmetrically around it. The city hinges on this pivotal hub, which serves as a starting point for its 32 roads and paths as they radiate from the palace like the rays of the sun.
One visitor, incidentally, who was particularly impressed by the view from the tower towards those roads was Thomas Jefferson who later became a US President. So he drew a sketch of the city’s layout and sent it to the most famous town planner of the time, Pierre L’Enfant, who then felt inspired to design the layout of the United States capital, Washington, DC.

2. ZKM: the world’s biggest cultural workshop

Visitors to Karlsruhe can look forward to a special cultural experience at the ZKM (Centre of Art and Media Technology), Germany’s equivalent of the Centre Pompidou. This first interactive museum in the world is a great place to be involved in everything that is happening and to be continually amazed. The Media Museum, the Institute for Visual Media, the Institute for Music and Acoustics, the Department of Basic Research and the Institute of Network Development have made ZKM the world’s biggest cultural workshop.
The unique atmosphere of its gigantic atrium courtyards have attracted art lovers from around the world to this former ammunitions factory in Karlsruhe. The ZKM Atriums 1 and 2 contain the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was opened in 1999. Visitors can admire works from several important private collections, occupying over 7,000 square metres. Featuring continually changing combinations and extensions, the museum presents examples of tendencies in European and American art between 1960 and the present day. It is a place where one of the biggest media art exhibitions in the world combines media art with painting, sculpture and photography. Its immediate neighbour, the Städtische Galerie, houses numerous artistic treasures, ranging from Hans Thoma to Markus Lüpertz.

3. A pyramid in the market square

The heart of Karlsruhe is its market square where visitors can view Karlsruhe’s major landmark: a seven-metre pyramid, made of red sandstone. The unusual structure houses the burial vault of the city’s founder, Margrave Karl Wilhelm. The pyramid quickly became quite popular with Karlsruhe’s citizens and is still used in the city’s official logo, where it features as a stylised triangle.

4. The Baden equivalent of savoir-vivre

The immediate vicinity of France can be felt everywhere in and around Karlsruhe. It’s a region where pleasure and culinary delights are valued greatly, and Baden’s regional cuisine is widely known in Germany. Several restaurants in Karlsruhe specialise in first-class Baden food, for instance the Anders auf dem Turmberg (with Germany’s youngest celebrity chef, Sören Anders), the Alte Schmiede (in Durlach, the historic part of Karlsruhe), the Künstlerkneipe (an artists’ pub which offers not only great food but also matinées and concerts) and Hügels Restaurant Dudelsack (with a superb selection of Baden wines from the Karlsruhe region).
But visitors to Karlsruhe are spoilt for choice in so many other ways. The city has everything that revellers may wish for. Traditional local restaurants with breweries – such as the Vogelbräu, Wolfbräu, Hoepfner Burg and Badisches Brauhaus – offer hearty home cooking, and a cosmopolitan flair can be enjoyed at any of the trendy cafés around Ludwigsplatz. Both here and everywhere else in Karlsruhe you can feel that this is an outdoor city, featuring beer gardens on every corner and continually attracting visitors to its great outdoor facilities with the first rays of sunshine.

5. Globally unique TramTrain system

Karlsruhe is considered to be a pioneering city in public transport. This is where, in September 1992, global attention was attracted by a totally new system of light rail-bound vehicles, removing the distinction between the city’s trams and the wider railway system. The resulting Karlsruhe Model was subsequently imitated in many other cities, both in Germany and abroad. Karlsruhe’s tram will take the visitor straight to the Black Forest and indeed to Heidelberg and Baden-Baden.

6. Mediating between the past and the present: the Staatliche Kunsthalle

The Staatliche Kunsthalle is one of Germany’s oldest and most important museums. Opened in 1846, it is one of the few early German art galleries that have largely been preserved with their original substance and furnishings. It occupies three historic buildings, all situated on the edge of the Botanical Gardens. The collection, which covers seven centuries, focuses mainly on German, French and Dutch painting. In addition to these works – of which there are over 800 – visitors can enjoy the Kupferstichkabinett, which houses over 90,000 drawings and graphic prints, as well as one of the biggest publicly accessible museum libraries. The Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe is intended as a mediator between the past, present and future, and its youth section – Junge Kunsthalle – specialises in changing exhibitions that are aimed specially at children and young people.

7. Ceramic design made in Karlsruhe

“Ceramics is a passion, and once you’ve been caught up in it, it’ll never let you go.” – This enthusiasm, as expressed by the artist Hans Thoma, is still shared by the staff, the artists, the collectors, the customers and the visitors at Staatliche Majolika Manufaktur Karlsruhe. But ceramic art and design are not just on display here. This is also where all these unique items are made, and the various studios at the Majolika serve as workshops for international artists.

8. Karlsruhe – an active city with a green environment

Karlsruhe combines a cosmopolitan flair with a beautiful natural landscape. Only a few minutes from the city’s vibrant shopping streets visitors feel invited by its many green oases – ideal places to walk around and relax. Karlsruhe’s Stadtgarten also has a zoo and is among the biggest inner city parks in Germany. Another popular destination is the Schlossgarten, the palace grounds – a park that was built in a French baroque style between 1731 and 1846. Over the years it was gradually transformed into an English landscape garden. In addition to the spacious parkland, fountains and sculptures from various periods, it has an idyllic lake where visitors can rest and relax.
The total length of Karlsruhe’s footpaths amounts to over 70,000 km (over 40,000 miles), and visitors can also enjoy a well developed network of cycle paths that take them through some lovely varied scenery. Watersports enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that Karlsruhe has one of Germany’s biggest inland harbours, the Rheinhafen, with a 3-km (2-mile) course suitable for amateurs and professional athletes alike.

9. Great shopping in the fan-shaped city

Karlsruhe has a wide range of shopping facilities, for instance Ettlinger Tor, the biggest indoor shopping centre in southern Germany, and Kaiserstrasse, the longest shopping mile in the Baden region. Those who are looking for something special will enjoy some of the side streets, just off Kaiserstrasse. Südliche Waldstrasse, for instance, has a large number of exclusive boutiques, antique shops and also interior design studios and galleries, all concentrated along 214 metres. High-quality fashion and unusual design can be found in Erbprinzenstrasse and Karlstrasse.

10. New opportunities for creative industries in Karlsruhe

Karlsruhe’s abattoir, which was founded in 1887, only stopped operating quite recently, in late 2006, when the site was renamed Kreativpark Alter Schlachthof (Old Abattoir Creativity Park). Its new purpose was to offer a broad spectrum of cultural facilities and to give fresh prospects to the city’s creative industries. Since then many media and cultural workers have set up their studios here. The result has been a new and vibrant district with cultural facilities and restaurants. Innovative research-focused enterprises can be found side by side with the creative industries. The idea is to provide new, forward-looking and creative workplaces close to the city centre and the university. It’s a place where activists from different creative industries can work together in an environment that is innovative, communication-focused and inspiring.