Karlsruhe is a city on the Rhine in Baden-Württemberg in Germany. It is in the north of the Black Forest, close to the French border. Karlsruhe is famous in Germany for both hosting two federal courts and being a major hub for science and technology. With 300,000 people, Karlsruhe is the largest city within 60 km. It is not usually visited by tourists from abroad, but is a relaxed and pleasant city to work and study in.
The city was founded in 1715 by Margrave Karl Wilhelm von Baden. The city was laid out on the drawing board. It consists of a central circle, containing the castle, and streets running towards the castle as radial "spokes". This pattern is still visible today. Due to the fan-like layout, Karlsruhe is known as the "fan city" (Fächerstadt).
The Rhine valley, where Karlsruhe is located, is the warmest part of Germany because it is only about 115 m above sea level and there are mountains in the east (Black Forest) and west (Vogesen). Therefore, Karlsruhe has more sunny days than many other parts of Germany.
There isn't a lot of tourist traffic to Karlsruhe. Tourists generally tend to gravitate towards the cities of Heidelberg (50 km to the north) and Freiburg (100 km to the south), with their well-preserved old towns. It's a shame though, as Karlsruhe's radial layout is one of the best early examples of New Urbanism, and is really a joy to explore. Maybe that's a benefit to travelers who do venture there as the number of visitors is low enough to be sort of a novelty for the locals.
Karlsruhe is home to the two highest federal courts of Germany, the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court) and the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice). Because of this and other administrative facilities, Karlsruhe has a reputation as a city of civil servants.
Karlsruhe has a large and renowned technical university (KIT) as well as several other colleges. The presence of the technical university has promoted the city somewhat in the world of Free and Open Source Software: Karlsruhe was the home of LinuxTag until 2005. Karlsruhe also hosts some of the major internet companies of Germany.
The city centre is plagued by considerable construction sites for a tram subway ("Kombilösung") that is to be completed in 2020.
- Baden-Airpark (FKB IATA). is the nearest local airport, about 40 km from the city. The airport is served by low-cost carrier Ryanair, which offers cheap flights to several European destinations. There is a cheap airport shuttle bus (Baden-Airport-Express [dead link]) (leaving 8 times a day on weekdays but no buses on weekends, synchronized with the flight schedule) to Karlsruhe Main Station. One-way-tickets can be bought from the driver (€9, cash only). Alternatively, you can take a bus to Rastatt (lines 234 und X34) or Baden-Baden (line 285), and from there take a connecting train or a tram-train to Karlsruhe. This connection is part of the Karlsruher Verkehrsverbund (KVV), the public transport provider for the region, and through-ticketing is available.
- Frankfurt airport (FRA IATA) is Germany's biggest airport and is served by all major carriers that operate in Germany. It has a direct ICE high speed train connection to Karlsruhe (1 hour).
- Stuttgart airport (STR IATA) is reachable by train in one and a half hours.
- 1 Karlsruhe Hauptbahnhof. The main train station is located south of the city centre, with roughly 5–10 minutes by tram to the central market square, and direct tram links to other parts of the city. Karlsruhe is well linked to other larger cities by ICE high-speed trains. The schedules for the inter-city connections can be found on the site of Deutsche Bahn (German railways). There are also direct links to Paris and Marseille by French TGV high-speed trains.
Karlsruhe has several exits from the A5 autobahn, approximately 130 km south of Frankfurt. The autobahn A8 joins the A5 just south of the city, connecting to Stuttgart 80 km east.
The bus station is at the south entrance of the train station. You can buy tickets for a couple of international destinations inside the train station.
There are long-distance cycle routes connecting Karlsruhe with the surrounding cities, such as Heidelberg and Pforzheim. It is especially convenient travelling along the Upper Rhine Plain between the cities of Mainz and Basel.
A lot to see in Karlsruhe is along Kaiserstraße. Because all the streets radiate outward, Marktplatz (market square) is a great place to start a walking tour of the city. If you go up or down Kaiserstraße, you will find a great variety of shops and restaurants on both sides of the streets. If you go towards the Palace (right in front of you if you're on Marktplatz), you can visit the city museum inside the castle, or the park right behind it, where the people of Karlsruhe congregate to picnic, play sports, and relax on nice days. Go farther and you can take a walk into "Hardtwald" forest which has a lot of trails right near the city center. Go south from Marktplatz and you will soon come upon "Ettlinger Tor" shopping mall and "Staatstheater" theatre. Exploring on foot allows you the opportunity to go down the alleys and smaller streets in Karlsruhe where you can find a wonderful variety of shops, kneipes, and restaurants.
By public transport
Karlsruhe has an excellent public transport system called Karlsruher Verkehrsverbund (KVV) (Karlsruhe Area Mass Transit Authority). It is mostly built on tram-trains (Stadtbahn). This allows trains to run on tram tracks within the city or on railway tracks to serve the surrounding region. An overview of the entire transport network can be downloaded here Liniennetzplan Schiene.
A single ticket for a trip within the city limits costs €2.50 for adults, €1.40 for kids. A day ticket (valid until 06:00 the next day) for one person costs €6.40 (Citysolo) and for up to 5 persons €10.60 (Cityplus).
Most tickets have to be stamped upon entering a tram and controllers are quite frequent. In particular, for longer distances outside of Karlsruhe buying the right ticket can be a bit challenging, but in front of the main train station as well as at Marktplatz, you will find a KVV office that will be happy to assist you.
Trains operate late into the night, in particular on weekends, but almost every line stops for a few hours every night. Schedules and maps are posted on virtually every station.
During the summer, spring and autumn rental bikes are available throughout the city from the service Call a bike. A mobile phone is used to rent a bike and it can be 'returned' (again, using the mobile phone) at any inner city corner. Renting a bike costs no more than €0.08/min or €9.00/day.
- 1 Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (ZKM) (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie), Lorenzstraße 19, ☏ . W-F 10:00-18:00, Sa Su holidays 11:00-18:00 (opening hours vary according to exhibitions). ZKM is devoted to interactive and 'media art'. The museum is quite unique, and the exhibitions are world-class. The ZKM also hosts many cultural events, check their home page for the schedule. The same complex also hosts the Museum für Neue Kunst (Museum for New Art) and the city gallery.
- 2 [dead link] Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe (Art Hall of the State), Hans-Thoma-Straße 2 - 6, ☏ . Tu-F 10:00-17:00, Sa Su holidays 10:00-18:00. This museum shows mainly classical paintings from the 16th century on.
- 3 Karlsruhe Palace (Schloss Karlsruhe) (directly north of the city center). The palace is directly north of the city center, a 2-min walk on foot from the Marktplatz. The palace was rebuilt after World War II, and now hosts the Badisches Landesmuseum.
- Badisches Landesmuseum. Tu-Th 10:00-17:00, F-Su and holidays 10:00-18:00, special exhibitions Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. The palace hosts the Badisches Landesmuseum, a museum dedicated to historical exhibitions and local interest. There are also special exhibitions from time to time. Adults €4.
- Palace Garden (Schlosspark). North of the palace is a vast park area, the palace garden, where the locals hang out on summer days. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays during the summer season you can also take a ride on the small train that runs through the gardens. Steam trains usually run on Sundays while dieselpowered trains operate on Saturdays. Entry to the gardens is free.
- 4 Karlsruhe Pyramid (on the Marktplatz). The emblem of the city. It marks the place where Karl Wilhelm was buried, and is somewhat unremarkable.
- 5 Karlsruhe Zoo (Zoologischer Stadtgarten Karlsruhe) (near the main station). Opening hours vary throughout the year, but the main entrance is open at least daily 09:00-16:00, and longer in the summer months. The other entrances have shorter hours, check on the web page. The zoo is moderately large, and does have some special attractions. In the Zoo, there is an artificial mountain (the Lauterberg), and a memorial for the 49° N parallel. You can also ride small boats ("gondolettas") in the lake. A so-called water organ (music and fountains) plays every 30 minutes. Adults €6.50, children (6-15 years) €3.
- 6 State Museum of Natural History Karlsruhe (Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe), Erbprinzenstraße 13 (very close to Marktplatz), ☏ . Here can be found lots of interesting animals also plants. Ideal to see with children.
- 7 Baden Art Association (Badischer Kunstverein), Waldstraße 3, ☏ . Tu-Fr 11:00-19:00, Sa-Su and holidays 11:00-17:00, Mo closed. The second-oldest art association in Germany, founded in Karlsruhe in 1818. Its focus is on contemporary art exhibitions and events (for example lectures, movies, guided tours). Adults €3, reduced €1.50.
- Bauhaus-Siedlung Dammerstock. The suburb Dammerstock has a residential area in the Bauhaus style, planned i.a. by the renowned architect Walter Gropius.
- Durlach. Now a part of Karlsruhe, it is much older (first mentioned in the 12th century) than Karlsruhe itself and has a charming medieval town-center. It can be easily reached by tram 1 in a quarter of an hour. A word of advice: calling an inhabitant of Durlach a "Karlsruher" is asking for trouble. From the Turmberg (tower hill), you have a nice view over the city and the Rhine valley.
- Kombilösung. This controversial project refers to the combination of a tram tunnel in Kaiserstraße and a road tunnel in Kriegsstraße, allegedly the solution (Lösung) for public transport capacity problems in Karlsruhe. There is an information pavillon near the Staatstheater, and in the coming years there will be lots of construction in the city. Not a sight as such, but interesting for public transport geeks.
- 1 Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, Hermann-Levi-Platz 1, ☏ . The biggest theatre and opera house in the city. Your ticket entitles you to use public transportation within the entire KVV to get to the theatre and back on the day of the performance (and until 03:00 the next day).
- There are various smaller theatres. A list can be found on the city homepage.
- 2 Wildparkstadion. The stadium where the Karlsruher Sport Club (KSC) plays all of their home games. If you are in Karlsruhe in the Fall or Spring, during the Bundesliga season, you should try to catch a KSC game during the weekend. KSC fans, including the "Ultras", are some of the loudest and most passionate fans in all of German football, and definitely make the experience a good one. To really get in the action purchase a ticket in the 'Stehplatz' (Standing section) and try to buy early, as these are very popular events and the tickets go quickly!
- Go cycling. The city has developed a 20 point plan to become the cycling city in Germany. Many bike lanes and good direction signs for cyclists are a visible mark. However, the activists of VCD and ADFC will be able to point out weaknesses and dangerous spots.
- There are several man-made lakes in towns around (10–20 km) Karlsruhe, e.g. Epplesee in Rheinstetten (no BBQ allowed!) and in Weingarten and Untergrombach. Going by bike is a flat one-hour trip by bicycle, and swimming combined with a barbecue is a nice thing on a hot summer day.
The Schauburg and the Kino im Prinz-Max-Palais are independent cinemas which occasional show movies in their original language. The other cinemas tend to stick to the usual German-dubbed fare.
- [dead link] Das Fest. In July. Karlsruhe's most famous yearly event taking place on a weekend in July in the Günther-Klotz Anlage (a suburban park) with about 200,000 spectators: An open-air festival comprising live music of various genres on multiple stages, presenting a mixture of world-class local and national artists. Attendance is €5 per day for the main stage, but other stages are free. Tickets are usually sold out about one month in advance.
- African Summer Festival. In July. African culture in Karlsruhe's Nordstadt. Markets, drumming workshops, exhibitions, a varied children's programme and musical performances take place during the three days, the aim being enjoyment for the whole family.
- Schloss in Flammen. In July. A music and fireworks performance in front of the palace. Tickets are quite expensive.
- KAMUNA (Karlsruhe Night of Museums). In August. Once a year many museums in Karlsruhe cooperate to remain open until late into the night, hosting talks, workshops and rallys. The night usually ends with a live concert as the closing event. Special KAMUNA buttons are sold that allow for entrance in all participating museums and are also a ticket for the public transport. On the day of the KAMUNA the schedule of public transport is changed to allow the visitors to get home easily. KAMUNA is very popular in Karlsruhe and many people are attending.
- Medieval Spectaculum. In August. Medieval themed event with a market, games, music, knights in armor, magicians, fire show, etc. in the area around the Karlsruhe palace.
What to eat (if you want to try something typical):
- Flammkuchen: The South-West German variant on pizza. The base is very thin and crispy and usually rectangular rather than circular. The traditional topping (some purists would say the only legitimate one) is cream cheese, onions, and bacon, but there are many variants (in particular some very tasty sweet ones that come flambéed). Just order one after the other (they get cold very fast), always sharing each one with everyone on the table.
- Käsespätzle: a special kind of pasta in a heavy cheese sauce.
- Gebratene Maultaschen: kind of like Ravioli, but much larger and fried with onions. May sound strange, but you really can't do much wrong with these.
- Wurstsalat: Sausage Salad; well, its Germany after all. Comes with bread and is really quite tasty.
- Hackepeter: Raw minced meat with fresh onions and bread. You don't get this very often (but for example at Vogelbräu).
- Yufka Döner: A kind of döner but a wrap is used instead of proper bread. Sold in dozens of places it is probably the cheapest way to get a complete meal.
Where to eat:
- 1 ViVA Restaurant, Lammstraße 7a, ☏ . Offers vegetarian and vegan food in the city center.
- [dead link] Shogun, Zähringerstraße 96. A good place to eat sushi.
- Pizzahaus is an Italian restaurant with good pizza. (Rintheimer Straße 2)
- 2 Vogelbräu Karlsruhe, Kapellenstraße 50, ☏ . Open daily. A beer garden, restaurant and brewery. You get good beer and German food here, really a nice place for lunch, dinner or drinking. There are two more 'Vogelbräu' restaurants in the nearby towns of Ettlingen and Durlach.
- [formerly dead link] Litfaß, Kreuzstraße 10. A restaurant in the heart of Karlsruhe that offers a good variety of regional specialties including Maultaschen, Käsespätzle, and a pretty tasty Jägerschnitzel.
- Café Bleu, Café Emaille. Two restaurants owned by the same purveyor that runs "Die Kippe". Both have the same menu as Die Kippe, but different atmospheres. (Bleu is at Kaiserallee 11 and Emaille at Kaiserstraße 142) All three restaurants are as described above, and always a nice place to grab breakfast, a drink with friends, or a quick meal without breaking the bank.
- Dean&David, Kaiserstraße 223a. A very modern franchise restaurant that strives to offer healthy fast-food from fresh ingredients. It offers mostly curries, soups and a large selection of salads.
- 3 Stövchen, Waldstraße 54, ☏ . A great place to try Flammkuchen and relax with a cocktail or two. The name means little oven.
- Panda, Scheffelstraße 2 (on the crossroads between Kaiserallee and Scheffelstraße), is a food stall serving authentic Chinese food at about €6 per meal.
Like other cities in Germany, Karlsruhe has a few regional brands of beer, of which Hoepfner is the most famous. It is also worth exploring the microbreweries scattered around the city, such as the Vogelbräu, Wolf Brauerei and the Badische Brauhaus, all of which have seasonal specialities.
- 1 Badisch Brauhaus, Stephanienstraße 38-40, ☏ . A very large multi-story beer garden, brewery and restaurant. On its uppermost floor is a cocktail bar; probably the nicest place in Karlsruhe for cocktails (although on weekends it can be difficult to get a seat and service can be slow).
- 2 Hoepfner Burghof, Haid-und-Neu-Straße 18, ☏ . Brewery and beer garden.
- 3 Alter Brauhof, Beiertheimer Allee 18a. A nice place to sit outside and have a beer (only a good place in summer), also offers decent food. Its not so well known, so you stand a good chance of finding a nice place even on a nice summer evening even on weekends.
- 4 Z-10, Zähringerstraße 10, ☏ . A bar run by local university students that is frequented by the Karlsruhe's student population. There are several local beers offered here for very cheap (think €1-1.50) and also decent cocktails. Bands are frequently playing on Saturdays (no entry fee) and visitors can play cards, board games and table soccer with other patrons. Check the website for hours as the bar is generally only open when school is in session.
- 5 Scruffy's, Karlstraße 4 (across from the Europaplatz), ☏ . Scruffy's is Karlsruhe's best Irish Pub. The interior of the bar is reminiscent of the hold of an old ship and is a comfortable environment. There are a variety of beers and whiskeys, as well as good Irish music every week. Often the owner's band will play, always a treat. The bartenders and some of the patrons are native English speakers, so it's a good place to let the tourist's brain relax after speaking a lot of German! Just make sure you keep a good count on how many beers you order - the owner occasionally miscounts.
- 6 Dorfschänke, Am Künstlerhaus 33, ☏ . The Dorfschänke is Karlsruhe's oldest Kneipe, and a good place to meet up with people. With the normal selection of beers and drinks, this is also a good place to see bands or to watch soccer outside during the summer. There is also a fairly popular "Kicker" (or Foos-ball) table inside where you can pick up a game or two. Be prepared to pay cover on nights when bands are playing.
- Agostea. A nice but pricy club near the Kronenplatz with 2 dancefloors.
- Leonardo's Expresso Bar, Zaehringerstraße. There you can enjoy original Italian coffee, good cocktails and also a lot of wines. The bar is a smoker bar with a separated room where you can smoke cigars. The bar is also offering many cigars from around the world. The prices are okay. The personnel speak English. The Leonard, or also called Leo is one of the political Bars in Karlsruhe. High ranking officials from the City, the Courts, the University and the Party are there often seen.
Most shops are located in the pedestrian zone in the Kaiserstraße. At Ludwigsplatz, near Kaiserstraße, there are various open-air cafes where the shopper can relax. Some of the more expensive boutiques and shoe shops are also located in this area.
In the south of the Marktplatz, at the end of the pedestrian zone, is a big shopping mall called "Ettlinger Tor". Definitely an alternative to the Kaiserstraße, especially when the weather is bad.
- 1 DJH Youth Hostel Karlsruhe, Moltkestraße 24, ☏ . Requires membership in their hostelling organization.
- 2 A&O Karlsruhe Hauptbahnhof, Bahnhofsplatz 14-16, ☏ . Hostel
- 3 Hotel Garni Betzler, Amalienstraße 3.
- Bed & Breakfast in Karlsruhe Durlach, Am Steinbruch 1, ☏ . Two furnished guestrooms for 1-3 guests in one of Karlsruhe's historical districts. From €25 per person.
Karlsruhe is maybe one of the safest cities in Germany especially the centre of the town. There are a lot of policemen walking and driving around, mainly because of the important courts. Maybe some suburbs should be avoided at night (Oberreut, Neureut and Daxlanden (not really)), but otherwise, one will feel safe in this city.
- Thalia - A bookstore in the main shopping street (Kaiserstraße 167) has some internet terminals in the uppermost floor
- Gelbe Seiten [formerly dead link] - This quite stylish bar/cafe close to Ettlinger Tor (Karl-Friedrich-Straße 22) has free WLAN, one internet computer; offers a nice selection of drinks&cocktails and some simple food.
- Kaffee Schiller - Has free WLAN and a few computers to use. You also get good coffee, cakes and some simple (but good) food. Its close to the main shopping street and the university. (Kronenstr.30)
- An extensive (but German) list of further locations can be found here.
- Unsere Liebe Frau, Marienstr. 80 (from central station 800 m direction Nordeast). Su 10:15; Tu 15:00; Th-F 18:30
- St. Michael, Barbarossaplatz (from central station 1000 m direction west). Sa 18:00; Su 11:15, 16:00 (Croat.); Tu 08:00; W 07:45; Th 18:00
- St. Elisabeth, Südendstraße 39 (from central station 1400 m direction NW). Su 09:45; Tu 18:00; W 07:45; Th 18:00
- Deutschsprachiger Muslimkreis (German-speaking Muslim circle), Kaiserpassage 10 (from central station 1400 m direction center).
- Chabad of Karlsruhe Jewish Synagogue and Center that holds services on Friday nights (varying times), Saturday mornings and on Jewish holidays 10:00.
- Ettlingen — the neighboring town
- Bertha Benz Memorial Route — follow the tracks of the world's first automobile journey (Mannheim - Pforzheim/Black Forest - Mannheim) back in 1888, leading right through Karlsruhe-Grötzingen
- Paris — the French TGV high speed train gets you there in as little as 2 hours and 31 minutes