Wolfsburg is a city in the German state of Lower Saxony most known for hosting the headquarters of Volkswagen Group. While the castle that gave the city its name is as old as 1302, the city has been essentially created only in the 20th century around the original Volkswagen factory. It became a major tourist destination in the 21st, with the creation of Volkswagen AutoStadt, the Phaeno science museum and the opening of a high-speed railway line to Berlin.
Wolfsburg hosts the worldwide headquarters of the car manufacturer Volkswagen. It was built and founded in the 1930s as a place to live for the employees of Volkswagen (literally: people's car) and the factory still dominates the scenery. While it was founded by the Nazis and Hitler personally loved all symbolism associated with wolves (he interpreted his first name to be related to the word "wolf"), the town only officially got its name after the war being called "Stadt des KdF-Wagens bei Fallersleben" (city of the strength through joy car near Fallersleben) during the Nazi era.
Wolfsburg is a rare case of a German town that was founded in the 20th century (other examples include Salzgitter and Eisenhüttenstadt). It is often ridiculed as bland, generic and without history. The suburb of Fallersleben (the author of Germany's national anthem, Hoffmann von Fallersleben is originally from that town) used to be an independent town and there is a castle, that gave Wolfsburg (literally castle of the wolf) its name. Some of the annexed suburbs predate Wolfsburg proper by centuries and still contain some pretty medieval and early modern buildings. During the 1950s and 1960s Wolfsburg attracted many immigrants and most of them came from Italy, who are still visible in the city today. Some of the Italian quarters have gotten the nickname Castellupo (Italian calque of Wolfsburg) over time. In the 1990s with VW in a difficult economic position and the town still dominated by the car company and little else - not even car parts manufacturers - offering employment or leisure activities the city entered a bit of a slump and both VW and the city government decided to do something about it, founding a jointly owned company ("Wolfsburg AG") to combat the decline, offer jobs in the service sector and pretty up the town. Given that the GDP per capita of Wolfsburg is the highest in Germany (and one of the highest in the EU) and Wolfsburg's population is growing again and has almost reached 1970s levels, the effort seems to have been mostly successful.
The Mittellandkanal and the railway line (which both existed before Wolfsburg was founded) served as primary drawing factors to put Volkswagen there, and still serve as a rough dividing line with most of the plant north and most of the city south of it.
Wolfsburg's location was seen as advantageous during the 1930s as it sat pretty much in the middle of what was then Germany (albeit a bit towards the North) and had both a major railway and a major canal right next to the VW plant. However, German partition cut off much of the eastern hinterland of Wolfsburg and the Autobahn connection of Wolfsburg is still less than would be expected for a major center of car manufacturing.
Wolfsburg also lacks a truly major airport, though VW handles corporate flights through a nearby airfield. According to a tale commonly told by VW workers, the British occupation powers that came after World War II rejected dismantling the plant and taking the patents because they thought the Käfer was a worthless design that would find few buyers and British cars were clearly superior. The Käfer would of course prove to be a major economic success and become the most sold car in the world until overtaken by the VW Golf (its indirect successor), remaining in production until 2001 in Mexico.
Wolfsburg is easily accessible by road and rail.
The main line rail station is Wolfsburg Hauptbahnhof, Willy-Brandt-Platz 3, and there are regular services to many destinations. There is regular direct ICE service from/to Berlin (in fact some people use the ICE for their daily commute on that route) but for many other connections you'd have to change trains in Brunswick and/or Hanover. There are big parking lots next to the train station and you can easily leave your car there for several days.
Take junction 5 off of the A39 and head towards Wolfsburg-Morse.
While there is an airport (BWE IATA) close by, it is mostly used by VW and thus chances are for most flights you will fly from Hanover (HAJ IATA) or Hamburg (HAM IATA). Frankfurt airport(FRA IATA) is also often an option worth considering.
- See also: Intercity buses in Germany
Regiojet serves Wolfsburg, while Flixbus surprisingly doesn't. Flixbus does however serve many surrounding cities which are in turn served by public transit options to get to Wolfsburg.
Perhaps surprisingly for a city built on for and by the automobile, walking is the best option. Everything is close to each other in the city and the downtown core is largely pedestrianized. Wolfsburg has a public bus system that will get you to most suburbs and outlying parts of town. There is no light rail or tram, but regular rail service also has stops in Fallersleben (which is part of Wolfsburg, but much older) and several other places.
Wolfsburg is quite a modern city having been built, in the main, from 1938 on to house workers from the newly built VW factory. However, its castle dates from 1600 and today houses the Stadtmuseum. It has a rundown of the city's history from 1938, when the VW plant was founded, to the present day. There's also a small regional history museum and two art galleries that host rotating exhibitions.
- 1 AutoStadt. AutoStadt is the home of Volkswagen AG. AutoStadt theme park is a city in itself and offers entertainment, dining, tours, driving, and more. Visit the website to plan your day or days at the AutoStadt in Wolfsburg.
- 2 Phaeno Science Centre, Willy Brandt Platz 1 (just south of the railway line and the canal opposite Autostadt). Tu-F 09:00-17:00, Sa Su 10:00-18:00, open on some Mondays and most holidays. A visit is an absolute must. It is a new building designed by Zaha Hadid and is a breathtaking and revolutionary space. While the architecture was a bit controversial with locals at the time of its construction, the museum - focused on science and the likes - is a good place to take the kids to but also a fun place for adults to "toy around" with their inner child, observing and exploring phenomena as diverse as fire tornadoes, brain waves or vacuum. Adult €14, child €9, senior €11, reduced €10, half the price 90 min before closure.
- 3 Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg.
- 4 Wolfsburg Castle (Schloss Wolfsburg).
- Volkswagen AutoMuseum, Dieselstraße 35. Tu-Su 10:00-17:00, closed Mondays, some holidays and from Dec 24-Jan 1. Apart from all the attractions at the AutoStadt, including the Zeithaus, there is also a separate Volkswagen AutoMuseum in Wolfsburg situated somewhat farther afield from the Volkswagen complex. €3-6.
- 5 Planetarium Wolfsburg, Uhlandweg 2, ☏ . The origins of this building are a curious tale of German-German relations during German partition. When VW made a deal to deliver something they produced to the East, the East German regime (ever conscious of their limited supply of hard currency and anxious to reduce hard currency expense if possible) "paid" by delivering optical implements made by their world renowned optical industry in Jena. VW having little use for that decided to donate the goods to the city of Wolfsburg and hence the Planetarium could be built.
- Volkswagen Factory Tour, ☏ , email@example.com. 09:00-16:00, English tour at 12:10, tour lasts 50 min. Factory tours are organized for customers picking up cars directly from the factory, but participation is possible for the general public availability permitting. Tours are only organized during factory work days (M-F) and may be unavailable due to various circumstances. Contact AutoStadt customer care in advance to book, or if already on location, the welcome desk on the Piazza. Guests are transported from the AutoStadt to the factory by boat, departing where the Maritime PanoramaTour does.
- 1 Maritime PanoramaTour. Five times a day, a canal boat departs for an hour's tour of the canals around some of the most prominent buildings on the Volkswagen campus, including the power plant and factory itself. €4-6.
- 2 VfL Wolfsburg (soccer club Wolfsburg), Volkswagen Arena, ☏ (ticket hotline). The town's first division soccer club that has enjoyed some success both for their male (German champion 2008/2009) and their female (winner of the UEFA champions league, the German cup and the German championship in 2012/2013) side. Unlike many other German soccer clubs, Wolfsburg does not boast a lot of tradition: the city itself is younger than many other clubs. €15-70, children €6-35.
- Economy Training. Learn to drive economically with Volkswagen's on-site experts, using less fuel and putting less wear on your car while at the same time becoming more environmentally-friendly. Vehicles are provided for participants on the training course. €17.
- Safety Training. A special course featuring obstacles simulating various hazards on the road is in the AutoStadt, and various courses are offered with professional instructors teaching participants how to handle those dangers in Volkswagen-provided cars. From €28.
- 3 Allersee. this artificial lake was dug in the early 1970s and has served various recreational purposes (mostly bathing and swimming) ever since.
- 4 BadeLand. a large indoor pool near Allersee
- 5 Eis Arena Wolfsburg. home of the local first division ice hockey team
Porschestraße is the principal commercial street of the town and was pedestrianized after serving as one of the prime traffic axes in the earlier years of Wolfsburg's history. There are several chains and malls along this road as well as some regular events such as farmer's markets.
- 1 Designer Outlets Wolfsburg, An Der Vorburg 1, ☏ . M-Sa 10:00-19:00, Su 13:00-18:00. Wolfsburg Outlet Shopping Centre is a place to find designer discount brands. They have brand shops such as Diesel, Adidas, Fossil, Nike, Puma, Clinque, and Calvin Klein.
- 2 Brandgehaege retail area. Includes REAL supermarket which is open from 07:00 to 23:00 (has free WLAN), MediaMarkt and a number of other out-of-town goods and food chains.
- 3 City-Galerie Wolfsburg, Porschestraße 45. Shopping mall with the usual cloths chains and a number of budget food outlets.
Generally speaking, Wolfsburg has what you'd expect in food for a city of its size. However, due to its sizable Italian descendant population, Italian restaurants and pizzerias are cheap, plentiful and often of amazing quality.
- 1 Sausalitos, Porschestraße 32, ☏ . M-Th 12:00-01:00, F 12:00-02:00, Sa 17:00-02-00, Su 17:00-01:00. Mexican chain restaurant and cocktail bar.
- 2 Trattoria Incontri, Goethestraße 53, Wolfsburg, ☏ . M-Sa 11:30-23:00, Su 16:00-23:00. Good pizzeria.
- 3 Restaurant Aqua, Parkstraße 1, Wolfsburg, ☏ . Gourmet food on offer from the multi-Michelin star chefs at the Ritz-Carlton. Expect to pay handsomely for the experience. Splurge.
- 4 Brackstedter Mühle, Zum Kühlen Grunde 2, ☏ .
- 5 La Rotonda, Schillerpassage 7, ☏ . small cosy Italian with reasonable priced tasty food.
- 6 BellaItallia, Berliner Ring 12 (Parking Lot of the Edeka), ☏ . This streetfood style cart might not look like much, but the pizza (made to order with Italian ingredients that the owner imports himself) is certainly worth it.
Wolfsburg is not a university town and as such nightlife is nothing to write home about. There are a few bars, but Braunschweig is where the party's at for the most part.
- 1 Café & Bar Celona, Porschestraße 32, ☏ . M-Th Su 09:00-01:00, F Su 09:00-03:00.
- 2 Irish Pub WOB, Goethestraße 61, ☏ . M-Tu 17:00-01:00, F 17:00-03:00, Sa 12:00-03:00, closed Su.
- 1 Leonardo Hotel Wolfsburg, Rathausstraße 1, ☏ . In the centre of the city. In need of refurbishment but service is good, free drinks in mini-bar. Large extension being built next to original hotel. Mid-range.
- 2 Global Inn, Kleiststraße 46, ☏ . Quality rooms. Close to main VW factory.
- 3 Parkhotel Wolfsburg, Unter den Eichen 55, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Great facilities but on the pricey side Splurge.
- 4 Ritz-Carlton, Parkstraße 1, ☏ . This modern Ritz-Carlton is an integral part of the AutoStadt and features a three-Michelin-star restaurant. A Club Level lounge is accessible to residents of upper room categories.
- 5 Seehotel am Tankumsee, Eichenpfad 2, Isenbüttel, ☏ . Good sized room and reasonable breakfast. Good restaurant although a little expensive. Ideal location if you want to be out of town, but will need a car.
- 6 Innside by Meliá Wolfsburg, Heinrich-Nordhoff-Straße 2, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: from 15:00, check-out: to 11:00.
- 7 Tryp Wolfsburg, Willy Brandt Platz 2, ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: from 15:00, check-out: to 12:00.
- Brunswick close enough for some to commute daily, this town's historical centre is a welcome refreshment after the bland architecture of Wolfsburg.
- Quedlinburg is a short ride on the Autobahn away and can be done in a day trip. Quedlinburg was an important royal residence as early as the 10th century and thankfully survived later centuries pretty much intact.