The federal state of Baden-Württemberg in Southwestern Germany is the country’s third-largest in terms of population and area – with an area of 35,751 km2 (13,804 sq mi) and 10.8 million inhabitants. The state capital and largest city is Stuttgart.
The sobriquet Ländle (“small land” in the local Swabian and Alemannic German dialects) is sometimes used as a synonym for Baden-Württemberg.
Bordering the neighboring countries of France and Switzerland, Baden-Württemberg is subdivided into 35 districts. Previously organized into three separate entities, Baden, Württemberg-Hohenzollern and Württemberg-Baden after World War II by the allies, these states merged following a public vote and became today’s federal state in 1952.
Baden-Württemberg comprises some of Germany’s most affluent regions and has a traditionally strong economy coupled with comparatively low unemployment rates, particularly in the rural parts of the state. While there are several areas primarily stamped by a strong agricultural tradition focusing on fruit-growing and viniculture, the more urban areas are the home of some of Germany’s largest companies.
Stuttgart, where both Porsche and Daimler AG have their headquarters, is a center of the automotive industry, while other regions are important for the textile, engineering and electronics industries. The city of Walldorf is home to Europe’s largest software company, SAP and the town of Pforzheim has become famous for its jewelers and as such is one of the popular tourist destinations of the state. Of these, Baden-Württemberg has quite a number, ranging from the low mountain range of the Swabian Jura to the Alps foothills and the world-famous Lake Constance and Black Forest. In addition, the state’s cities attract many tourists from abroad. Among them are Heidelberg with its romantic castle and the luxurious spa town of Baden-Baden which is visited by thousands of international visitors every year.
Baden-Württemberg is a popular holiday destination. Main sights include the capital and biggest city, Stuttgart, modern and historic at the same time, with its urban architecture and atmosphere (and famously, its inner city parks and historic Wilhelma zoo), its castles (such as Castle Solitude), its (car and art) museums as well as a rich cultural programme (theatre, opera) and mineral spring baths in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt (also the site of a Roman Castra); it is the only major city in Germany with vineyards in an urban territory.
The residential (court) towns of Ludwigsburg and Karlsruhe, the spas and casino of luxurious Baden-Baden, the medieval architecture of Ulm (Ulm Münster is the tallest church in the world), the vibrant, young, but traditional university towns of Heidelberg and Tübingen with their old castles looking out above the river
Neckar, are popular smaller towns. Sites of former monasteries such as the ones on Reichenau Island and at Maulbronn (both World Heritage Sites) as well as Bebenhausen Abbey are to be found. Baden-Württemberg also boasts rich old Free Imperial Cities such as Biberach, Esslingen am Neckar, Heilbronn, Ravensburg, Reutlingen, and Schwäbisch Hall, as well as the southernmost and sunniest city of Germany, Freiburg, close to Alsace and Switzerland, being an ideal base for exploring the heights of the nearby Black Forest (e.g., for skiing in winter or for hiking in summer) with its traditional villages and the surrounding wine country of the Rhine Valley of South Baden.
The countryside of the lush Upper Neckar valley (where Rottweil is famous for its carnival (Fastnacht)) and the pristine Danube valley Swabian Alb (with Hohenzollern Castle and Sigmaringen Castle), as well as the largely pristine Swabian Forest, the Upper Rhine Valley, and Lake Constance (German: Bodensee), where all kinds of water sports are popular, with the former Imperial, today border town of Konstanz (where the Council of Constance took place), the Neolithic and Bronze Age village at Unteruhldingen, the flower island of Mainau, and the hometown of the Zeppelin, Friedrichshafen a.o., are especially popular for outdoor activities in the summer months.
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In spring and autumn (April/May and September/October), beer festivals (fun fairs) take place at the Cannstatter Wasen in Stuttgart. The Cannstatter Volksfest, in the autumn, is the second largest such festival in the world after the Munich Oktoberfest. In late November and early December Christmas markets are a tourist magnet in all major towns, with the largest being in Stuttgart during the three weeks prior to Christmas.
The Bertha Benz Memorial Route is a 194 km signposted scenic route from Mannheim via Heidelberg and Wiesloch to Pforzheim and back, which follows the route of the world’s first long-distance journey by automobile which Bertha Benz undertook in August 1888.