The pretty city of Tübingen in SouthWest Germany, combines traditional charm with a youthful atmosphere created by the University of Tübingen and its large student population. This Swabian city offers cobbled streets to wander, half timbered houses with centuries of history, riverside walks by the Neckar and that essential castle on the hill. It’s all within easy distance of Stuttgart, making Tübingen an ideal destination for a weekend break or stop on your touring holiday.
If you need more reason to visit, for a week in December, Tübingen is transformed into the city of chocolate as it hosts ChocolART, the biggest Chocolate festival in Germany, as well as Christmas markets and other seasonal festivities. Read about this paradise for chocolate lovers and the many other things to do in Tübingen when you visit.
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ChocolART festival in Tübingen
At the beginning of the advent season, the old town of Tübingen turns into a city of chocolate, hosting ChocolART, Germany’s biggest chocolate festival. From 3-8 December 2019, chocolatiers from all over the world gather at the Schokoladenmarkt Tübingen, to showcase their sweet creations in this charming historic town, with over 100 stalls set up on the Market Square and surrounding cobbled streets.
The range of chocolate on sale at Tübingen ChocolART is a chocolate lovers dream. Wouldn’t you love to indulge in pralines, truffles, nougat, bitter dark chocolate or creamy milk chocolate? Your every chocolate desire is covered here! Are you looking for vegan, ethically sourced or sugar free chocolates? The festival features many producers of organic, vegan friendly and Fairtrade chocolates.
The Tübingen Chocolate festival offers stalls around the old quarter of Tübingen where you can taste and buy the chocolate, as well as a full programme of activities. You can find out how chocolate is made from bean to bar and taste the raw cocoa beans, enjoy a tasting of vegan chocolates, or attend a yoga and meditation session fueled by raw cocoa from Peru.
There are chocolate making classes and cooking demonstrations for all ages. Children can dive into the complex and mysterious ways of chocolate making while grown-ups can discover the different cocoa fruits and how they go from being a fruit on a tree to a chocolate bar in a shop.
In the chocolateROOM at the Tübinger market square, you can watch top confectioners produce artistic pieces from chocolate, with moulding and painting of the artworks to make edible masterpieces. The restaurants in Tübinger join in, with special chocoKULINARIUM menus, showcasing dishes on a chocolate theme that you can enjoy in many places around town.
As night falls over the festival streets, the aroma of chocolate is in the air and the medieval houses surrounding the market square are lit up with coloured illuminations, to complete the fairytale scene. For those who want more sweet chocolate treats, Tübingen is part of The Chocolate Way, a project that draws together different chocolate locations in Germany and Europe, for chocolate connoisseurs to visit.
More info: ChocolART Website and programme | Instagram @schokofestival | Facebook | The festival is held in the Old Town streets of Tübingen with free admission | Stalls and activities daily Tues 3 – Sun 8 December 2019 | Free shuttle bus during the weekend from the bus station to the Chocolate Festival.
Tübingen Christmas Market
Following the Tübingen Chocolate Festival, you can also enjoy the Tübingen Christmas Market on the third Sunday of Advent. The Weihnachtsmarkt Tübingen takes place over three days, this year Fri 13- Sun 15 December 2019.
Hundreds of stalls create a festive atmosphere at this traditional German Christmas Market, against the backdrop of the picturesque half timbered houses in the Market Square and Old Town.
Here you’ll find handmade gifts and crafts, as well as plenty of delicious festive food and drink, with a fairground carousel and musical entertainment to keep the whole family happy. The market opens on Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm and on Sunday from 11 am to 7 pm.
More Things to do in Tübingen
While the Chocolate Festival and Christmas Market are a great reason to visit, there are plenty more to do in Tübingen, that you can enjoy at any time of year.
Am Markt or Market Square in Tübingen
The Am Markt in Tübingen is the heart of the old town, surrounded by medieval houses with their steeply pitched and red tiled roofs. Markets have been held here for centuries and outside the Christmas Market season, you can shop on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Farmer’s market.
The 15th century Rathaus or Town Hall boasts a pretty facade that was painted in 1877 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the University, topped with an astronomical clock. Look out for the Neptune’s Fountain that stands in front of the Rathaus, with the Roman God of the sea, created by court architect Heinrich Schickhardt in the 17th century.
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The Collegiate Church of St. George
Close to the Market Square of Tubingen is the Collegiate Church of St. George, which is also worth a visit. The church was founded in the 15th century, at the same time as Tübingen University and was the place that the canons held their masses, lectures and graduations. If you climb the 169 steps to the top of the tower you have a fantastic view over the town and River Neckar.
Schloss Hohentübingen – the castle on the hill
Perched on the hill overlooking the town and river sits Tübingen Castle, which was built in 1037 but extended and rebuilt in the 16th century. It’s an easy walk from the old town up the cobbled road to the castle, passing through the ornate Renaissance gate to reach the square enclosed courtyard.
In the 19th century many of the University collections and institutions were transferred to the castle and it now houses a number of small museums, the best known of which is the Ancient Culture Museum. It’s free to look around the castle buildings but there are admission charges for the exhibitions and museums inside.
The Ice Age figurines made of mammoth ivory in the museum have been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status and the collection also includes finds from prehistoric stilt houses in the Swabian Alb, Egyptian and Babylonian artefacts.
Museum Alte Kulturen / Museum of Ancient Culture | Open Weds – Sun | Entrance €5
You can visit other parts of the castle interior as part of a guided tour, to see highlights such as the oldest giant wine barrel in the world which holds 84,000 litres of wine. One of the former kitchens of the castle was converted in the 19th century into a bio-chemical laboratory and it was here that Friedrich Miescher discovered DNA in 1869.
Getting outdoors in Tübingen
River walks on the Neckar Insel
At any time of year it’s great to get outside and enjoy the walks along the river and green spaces of Tübingen. From the old town it’s a short walk to cross the Eberhardsbrücke and find yourself on the Neckar Insel – a park on a long island in middle of the river. The island is a great place to look back at the views of pastel painted half timbered houses that line the river bank, their outlines reflected in the water. Taking the steps down from the bridge, take a walk under the leafy canopy of the Platanenallee, an avenue of 200 year old planar trees.
Punting on the River Neckar
In summer, punting or Stocherkahn is a popular pastime on Neckar river , echoing the punting at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The boats are owned by the student fraternities within the University and the island is a popular spot to watch the Stocherkahnrennen or race of over 40 boats that takes place in June.
Hölderlinturm in Tübingen
Adding to the scenic charm of the riverside walks is the fairy tale Holderlin’s Tower, or Hölderlin turm as it’s known in German. The tower is named after the famous German poet, Friedrich Hölderlin who studied in Tübingen and returned to live in the tower for a while. When the tower is open to visitors, you can see three rooms that were used by the writer, with letters and information about his life, although it’s closed for renovation until the end of 2019. More info about Hölderlin Tower
Botanical garden in Tübingen
Close to the centre of Tübingen is the Old Botanic Garden, which is a popular park to relax and ride bikes. A little further to the north of the town if the much larger New Botanical Garden, which offers free entry every day of the year. The garden is a teaching and research resource for the University University, with rhododendrons, rare plants of the Swabian Alb and hothouses with succulents and tropical plants. You can reach the Botanical Garden by taking bus line 5 or 13 from the centre.
Kunsthalle Tübingen – a contemporary art museum
If you’re a fan of contemporary art, you can visit Kunsthalle Tübingen, which is a short distance by bus from the Old Town. The leading art museum was founded in the 1970s and hosts exhibitions of contemporary and modern artists as well as talks, workshops and events about art and culture. Bus lines 5, 13 and 17 run from the centre of Tübingen stopping at Kunsthalle.
Boxenstop – a quirky motor museum
Also worth visiting for vintage motor enthusiasts is the quirky Boxstop museum of old cars and motorbikes, one of the oldest in Germany. It’s a former bus depot full of vintage racing cars and bikes that you can wander through and get up close to the cars – even touching is allowed! Over the years the museum has been extended to also include toys such as model trains and dolls. There’s also a circus theme restaurant Rastelli, filled with motor memorabilia where you can have a coffee or lunch. Open Weds – Sun €7
Not far from Tübingen
Kloster Bebenhausen – a medieval monastery
Just north of Tübingen, the Bebenhausen monastery sits among the green, rolling hills of the Schönbuch nature reserve. It was founded in the 12th century by Rudolph I, Count Palatine of Tübingen for the Cistercian order and became one of the wealthiest medieval monasteries in the region.
After the reformation the monastery declined and became in turn a school and later in the 19th century a hunting lodge for the kings of Württemberg. Highlights include the half timbered cloisters and the summer refectory, a light and airy hall with a painted Gothic fan vaulted ceiling.
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In 1873 King Karl I of Württemberg converted some of the monastery buildings into a palace and you can see the collections of armour and weapons that he added to create a medieval theme that was popular at the time.
The Art Nouveau Grüne Saal (green room) and modern kitchen were installed in 1915 by royal couple, Wilhelm II and Charlotte, who were given the right to remain in Bebenhausen after Württemberg ceased to be a monarchy.
Queen Charlotte’s bathroom with bath, shower, a toilet and bidet offered running hot and cold water and central heating, the height of luxury at the time and was in use by the Queen until her death in 1946.
You may like to combine your visit to Bebenhausen with some time in the surrounding Naturpark Schönbuch, a nature reserve with many hiking and cycle trails.
Kloster Bebenhausen website | Monastery and Palace open daily Tues – Sun Closed Monday and for lunch. See website for opening hours | Palace can only be visited on hourly guided tour | Monastery €5, Palace €7, Combined ticket €9 | Bus line 826, 828, 754 from Tübingen
Hohenzollern Castle in the Swabian Alb
If you’d like to venture a little further from Tübingen, the Hohenzollern Castle is around 40 minutes drive south, and makes an easy day trip. The castle is set on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding countryside, on the edge of the high plateau of the Swabian Alb.
You can take the shuttle bus or hike through the forest up to the castle, which was the ancestral seat of the Prussian royal princes. Regular guided tours take you through the state apartments with their fine art collection and the treasury with the Prussian Royal Crown. Christmas markets are held on the weekends of 29 Nov – 1 Dec and 6-8 Dec 2019.
Burg Hohenzollern website | Open daily all year round | Tickets €7 for Castle complex or €12 including visit to castle interiors | Visit to palace interiors only as part of guided tour (English tours available)
Where to eat in Tübingen
There’s a wide range of restaurants in Tübingen, from gasthaus serving hearty Swabian dishes to the trendy, veggie cafes popular with students – the following are worth trying.
Neckarmueller – A popular brewery with a terrace overlooking the Neckar offering their home-brewed beer and traditional Swabian dishes, with beer tastings and beer to take away.
Mauganeschtle at Hotel am Schloss – Set just below the castle, the restaurant offers views over the town and serves Swabian dishes using seasonal ingredients – their Maultaschen (pasta pockets) are a specialty with different meat and fish fillings.
Wurstküche – a cosy atmosphere and more Swabian specialties in this Gasthaus with biergarten in the heart of the Old Town.
Willi Tübingen – Close to the University and popular with students, this all day cafe serves coffee, cakes, sandwiches and paninis and doubles as a second hand store.
Vegi – friendly and popular veggie / vegan cafe and bar specialising in falafel, pita and other vegetarian dishes.
Hotels in Tübingen
If you’re looking for a hotel in Tübingen, check out our suggestions;
Hotel Krone | An 18th century hotel with modern extensions, Hotel Krone is just across the bridge from the Old Town and has been renovated in the last few years in contemporary style. The 4 star hotel has 65 rooms, car parking and a hotel spa.
Hotel am Schloss Tübingen | A traditional 3 star hotel with comfortable rooms on the steep cobbled street that leads to the castle. There is valet parking available. Family rooms and apartment also available.
Hotel La Casa | On the south side of the river and a short walk from the Old Town, this 5 star hotel offers 34 individually decorated rooms. The decor is warm and inviting, with a small pool, spa and wellness area – a good choice for those who want to relax and unwind as well as visiting Tübingen.
Ibis Styles Tübingen | A modern 3 star hotel with 126 rooms, that’s close to the station and main roads, making it ideal for those who are touring the region. The hotel is decorated in colourful contemporary style, has a fitness area and there is paid public parking nearby.
Not what you’re looking for? You can also see a range of other hotels in Tübingen
Need to know for visiting Tübingen, Germany
You’ll find more information to plan your trip on the Tübingen tourism website.
Map of Tübingen
Find all the places mentioned on my map of Tübingen below
How to get to Tübingen in SouthWest Germany
Tübingen is situated in the SouthWest of Germany, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, which borders France. It’s 45 km or 45 min by car, from the state capital of Stuttgart and there are also railway connections to Stuttgart (60min) and other destinations in Germany.
Getting around Tübingen, SouthWest Germany
The centre of Tübingen’s old town is pedestrianised and no-where is very far, so you are best to wander on foot. There are also buses and taxis to take you around town, as well as a well developed network of bike routes, and you can even take the bikes on some buses.
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Photo Credits: River Neckar in Tübingen, Germany by Gaertringen | Hölderlin tower by Maxmann | Rathaus in Tübingen by Maxmann | Collegiate Church of St Georg by Maxmann | Schloss Hohentübingen by Maxmann | Schloss Hohentübingen from river by Maxmann | Schloss Hohentübingen courtyard by Maxmann | Bebenhausen Monastery by Catkin | Bebenhausen Monastery by Catkin | Punts on the River Neckar by Maxmann | Hohenzollern Castle by Maxmann | Pinterest Photo by SofiLayla