Saarbrücken has an impressive history of over a 1000 years, with its predecessors dating back to ancient Roman Empire. It has architectural heritage to prove that, and stands picturesquely over the bends of the river Saar, serving as the gateway to this underrated region of Germany.
Saarbrücken is the capital city of Saarland, one of the federal states of Germany. At 180,000 inhabitants (2018), it is at the lower end of Germany's long Großstädte (large city) list, and is perhaps the least prominent state capital, at least from the tourist's point of view.
Saarbrücken has been a primarily industrial city since coal extraction started in the first half of the 18th century. The steel industry developed on that base and up to today Saarbrücken has many plants manufacturing various metal products and components. Automotive components in general are another mainstay of the local economy, supplying many of the leading automakers all over Europe. In more recent decades, Saarbrücken has also developed into a robust hub for software production, employing thousands of local workers. For those reasons, Saarbrücken, while not popular as a tourist destination, sees a sizeable business-related visitor traffic, and due to its small size and location in a densely-populated area, it also has one of the proportionally largest commuter workforces, measured tens of thousands of workers.
1 Saarbrücken Airport (SCN IATA). This small international airport is 15 km (9.3 mi) from the city centre but in the same fare zone. Regional bus R10 travels once an hour from the airport to the main railway station and takes 28 minutes. To get to city centre a ticket of price level 0 can be purchased which costs €2.60 (as of 2020).
Apart from flights to holiday destinations, the airport has only four, albeit frequently-operated, connections. The shortest - and most often the cheapest - is the Luxair flight to Luxembourg Findel Airport, code-shared with Lufthansa. It is one of Europe's shortest flights, lasting just 30 minutes over just 100 km. The price is accordingly reasonably low. Some of the Luxair planes continue from Saarbrücken to Hamburg and Berlin-Tegel and back. You can connect to selected European destinations of Luxair from Luxembourg, but there are no options to continue your Luxair flight from Saarbrücken via Berlin or Hamburg on another airline. Luxair, although an affiliate of Lufthansa, is not a Star Alliance member and the Luxembourg airport has no intercontinental connections.
That said, flying to Luxembourg on Luxair or any other airline and travelling the remaining 79 km by bus is perhaps the cheapest way.
Lufthansa provides a shuttle between Saarbrücken Dudweiler Bus Station and Frankfurt Airport, which is their largest hub for European and intercontinental flights. The shuttle is actually bookable as a Lufthansa flight (destination code for Dudweiler Bus Station is SDA), earns Miles&More participants miles and counts as a flight stretch, and can be combined with most Lufthansa flights to/out of Frankfurt. SDA appears as an available destination only when booking directly with Lufthansa. The flight numbers for the bus shuttles are LH348x-LH349x and there are multiple shuttles at different times of the day. The bus journey lasts around 2 hours and costs EUR 27 one way when booked on its own, and as a part of a connecting flight it usually incurs minimal price hike vs. flights to Frankfurt only.
There are direct regional trains to Frankfurt that stop at Frankfurt Airport.
The so-called 2 Frankfurt Hahn Airport (HHN IATA) in Hahn, likewise in Rhineland-Palatinate, is yet another close airport. There are no direct connections from this airport to Saarbrücken. One of the possibilities you have is to take the Airport Shuttle Mosel (RegioLinie 750) from the general bus station 500 meters from the airport to Bullay and switch to the regional train to Saarbrücken.
From points east in Germany, it is reachable on the Autobahn A6 and A620, taking about two hours from Mannheim, while from Koblenz and Trier it is accessible on the Autobahn A48 and A1.
From Metz in France, follow the A4 up to exit 40, where you can then take the A320 up to the first exit of the A6 and follow the B41, while coming from Strasbourg, it is reachable on the N61/B406 from A4 exit 42.
3 Saarbrücken Central Station. is on the Paris-Frankfurt high-speed route, served by the superfast ICE and TGV trains of Deutsche Bahn and SNCF (French Railways), respectively. There are 5 such trains a day in each direction calling at Saarbrucken, and you can purchase tickets on all of them both from DB and SNCF, as they operate under a mutual ticketing agreement. The journey to Paris is actually shorter (1 hr 50 min) than to Frankfurt (2 hr 30 min).
Frankfurt can also be reached by regular, regional trains, which take not much longer than the ICE (2 hr 50 min), but often aren't any cheaper either. The benefit of those is that there is at least one train per hour, even at nighttime, between Saarbrucken and Frankfurt. Other important difference is that ICEs don't stop at Frankfurt Airport, while the regional trains do.
Other destinations with direct express trains to Saarbrücken include Stuttgart (2½ hr), Ulm (3½ hr), Munich (4½ hr) and Salzburg in Austria (6½ hr) and some minor stations on that line. Regional trains calling in Saarbrücken can carry obviously carry you around Saarland, but they also reach out to many cities of Rhineland-Palatinate, as well as Lorraine in France (including Metz). Travelling to other destinations generally requires changing trains in Mannheim, Frankfurt or Paris for long-distance express trains or night trains, or procuring a more intricate combination of small stretches from one of the more minor stations closer to Saarbrücken.
CFL, Luxembourg's railway company, offers a bus connection between Luxembourg Gare (railway station) and Saarbrücken Busbahnhof (bus terminal). Multiple buses a day are coordinated with trains from Luxembourg to Brussels and from Saarbrücken to Mannheim and Frankfurt, as the other city does not have a direct connection with those destinations - thus the bus bridges the gap in the railway network. One-way ticket costs €9 as of 2014.
Between Saarbrücken in Germany and Sarreguemines in France, both of which are served by good domestic train connections, you can take a ride on the Saarbahn, a border-crossing tramway which is a part of Saarland's public transportation system. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes and in 2010 the ticket (to be bought at a machine, present also at the station of Sarreguemines) costs €4.60.
Saarbrücken has a decent public transport system. It has city buses and a tram line.
- 1 St. Johanner Markt (St. Johanner Market Square). A pedestrianized square with bars, restaurants and frequent markets (see below).
- 2 Rathaus St. Johann (Town Hall), Rathausplatz 1, ☏ , email@example.com. M-F 09:00-18:00, Sa 10:00-16:30. The Neo-Gothic town hall from 1900 was designed by Georg J. von Hauberrisser, the architect who was also responsible for the town halls in Munich and Wiesbaden. There is a tourist information office in this building. Free.
- 3 Johanneskirche (St. John’s Church), Cecilienstraße 2. Tu-Su 15:00-18:00; service: Su 11:00. Neo-Gothic church. Free.
- 4 Basilica St. Johann, Gerberstraße 31, ☏ . M F Sa 09:30-19:15, Tu Th Su 08:30-19:15, W 08:30-17:00. A church erected around 1754. Free.
- 5 Ludwigskirche (Ludwig’s Church), Am Ludwigsplatz, ☏ . Jan-Mar: Tu 12:00-17:00 (if no wedding), W-Sa 10:00-17:00, Sun-M closed; Apr-Dec: Tu-Su 10:00-18:00, M closed; service: Su 10:00. Free.
- 6 Schlossplatz (Castle Square). The Baroque Ensemble.
- 7 Saarbrücken Castle, Schlossplatz 1, ☏ . Free.
- 8 Schlosskirche (Castle Church), Am Schlossberg 6, ☏ . Tu Th-Su 10:00-19:00; W 10:00-20:00. The church holds a museum. Free.
- 9 Völklingen Ironworks, Rathausstraße 75-79, Völklingen (just outside Saarbrücken; there is a train station in Völklingen about a 3-minute walk from the site; it is 10 minutes by train from Saarbrücken Hauptbahnhof), ☏ . Apr-Oct: daily 10:00-19:00; Nov-Mar: daily 10:00-18:00. It was one of the most important Ironworks in the world. It was closed in 1986. Now they are the only intact example, in the whole of western Europe and North America, as such they have been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are museum and Multimedia displays bringing the site to life. It also includes a display celebrating a convicted war criminal who used forced labour in the Ironworks during World War II. Adults €15, concessions €12, Tuesdays from 15:00 free entrance.
Music and performing arts
- 1 Saarländisches Staatstheater, Schillerpl. 1, ☏ . Opera, theatre and dance performances, symphony and chamber concerts and more.
- Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern. A radio orchestra dating back to 1937. The current form was established in 2007 due to a merger of the public broadcasting corporations with nearby Kaiserslautern.
- Saarbrücker Kammerkonzerte.
- 2 HFM University of Music. The music conservatory (established in 1947) has public concerts.
- Max Ophüls Preis. This film festival takes place end of January and shows a wide range of short, medium and long movies.
- Perspectives. German-French festival.
- Jazz-Festival. A jazz festival organized by Jazz-Syndikat. Usually around November.
- 3 Urwald vor den Toren der Stadt. A nature reserve ideal for hiking. Maps are available online. They can also be picked up for free at the tourist information at city hall. One way to get there is to take the tram to stop "Heinrichshaus", which is also marked in the bottom left corner of the map with an "S".
- 1 Saarbrücker Bauernmarkt, St. Johanner Markt. Every Saturday from 09:00-16:00. Farmers market where regional products are sold.
- 2 Europa-Galerie, Trierer Straße 1 (opposite the Hauptbahnhof). A large shopping centre serving the region. Partially housed in a elegant late 19th-century historic building of Bergwerksdirektion Saarbrücken, the erstwhile mining enterprise. Otherwise less exciting, holding the usual chain stores and a food court.
A Saarlandish specialty is Schwenker, a steak prepared on a special grill where the grilling rack is swung by the cook over a fire. It is often served at festivals and Biergärten.
- 1 Sander Bakery, Försterstraße 29 (Nauwieser Quarter; the logo over the door says 'Stein'). Local bakery with one of the best croissants in town. Come early as they might be sold out quickly.
- 2 Café de Paris, Blumenstraße 10 (Nauwieser Quarter), ☏ . Restaurant that specialises in Flammkuchen and French wines at reasonable prices. Su closed.
- 3 Das Flammkuchenhaus, Im Almet 63, ☏ . Restaurant with savoury and sweet Flammkuchen. They also brew their own beers. An all-you-can-eat Flammkuchen option is available for around €15-16. Mon closed.
- 4 Trattoria Toscana, Fröschengasse 18-22, ☏ . Italian restaurant spread over several floors of an old building. They also have an open-air roof terrace. Reserving a table in advance is recommended (especially for the terrace).
- Alex, Saarstr. 15.
- Alex Brasserie, Bahnhofstr. 38.
- Grand, the Asia Restaurant, Triererstr. 14.
- 5 Cafe Kostbar, Nauwieser Str. 19, ☏ . Comfortable, casual restaurant with nice outside seating and daily specials
- 6 Brasserie Schlachthof, Straße des 13. Januar 35.
- 7 Oishii, Berliner Promenade 17-19, ☏ . Japanese all-you-can-eat restaurant. Maxium stay is 2 hours. You place your orders via tablets.
The main town square (St. Johanner Market) and the Nauwieser Quarter feature many bars and restaurants.
- 1 Stiefel Bräu, Am Stiefel 2, ☏ . Brewpub and restaurant serving local dishes.
- Bar Central, Nauwieser Str.. The only smoker's café/bar in the inner city.
- 2 Wally's Irish Pub, Katholisch-Kirch-Str. 1. Small Irish pub with a great selection of (mostly Scottish) whiskies.
- 3 Baker Street, Mainzer Straße 8, ☏ . Criminal tearoom (afternoon) & pub (evening). British/Irish beers, on Sundays all-you-can-eat English breakfast.
- 1 Saarbrücken Europa-Jugendherberge, Meerwiesertalweg 31 (bus 101 from Rathaus to Prinzenweiher takes 8 minutes or bus 124 from Saarbrücken main railway station likewise to Prinzenweiher), ☏ . A youth hostel located between the city and the university. €18.40 per night with breakfast.
- 2 Domicil Leidinger, Mainzerstraße 10, ☏ .
- 3 Mercure Hotel Saarbruecken City, Hafenstr. 8.
- Saarschleife (Saar loop) — Take the regional train to Mettlach and then walk for about 5 km along the river upstream. There is also a lookout ("Cloef") which can be reached within about 1 hour from the bottom of the hill. Make sure you are on the left side of the river if you want to reach the lookout (you have to cross the river once when coming from the train station). You can also easily go to the Saar loop by bike from Saarbrücken (60 km one way).
- Luxembourg — Easily reachable by bus (direct connection: 1 hour and 30 minutes).
- Strasbourg — Easily reachable by regional train (direct connection: 1 hour and 45 minutes).
- Trier — Porta Nigra, nice old town centre, etc. Easily reachable by regional train (direct connections between 1 and 1½ hours).
- Metz — French city with the modern art gallery Centre Pompidou-Metz, Cathedral, food market, etc. Easily reachable by regional train within about 1 hour (some direct trains are available). Consider the special DB regional train ticket "Saar-Lor-Lux" for the entire trip, especially if you are travelling in a group.
- Nancy — A cheap option to go there is to buy a Saar-Lorraine-Tarif ticket (only available at the train station; return tickets can only be bought at the counter).