Skip to main content

Karlsruhe, Germany: Off the beaten path in the Rhine Valley

Written By | Jun 4, 2017

@Ron Stern All rights reserved

KARLSRUHE, Germany, June 4, 2017 – Located in the state of Baden-Württemberg roughly midway between Frankfurt, Germany and Basel, Switzerland, Karlsruhe is the second largest city in Southwestern Germany.

Founded in 1715, the city boasts a mild climate, unique street architecture, green spaces, a zoological garden, and two notable residents whose inventions transformed the face of transportation forever.

The name of the city actually translates to Charles’ repose, whose meaning has been subject to speculation as to its meaning. The prevailing theory is that Margrave Charles III William sought to build a palace here as a peaceful refuge away from his wife.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved

The Baroque palace is considered the heart of the city and was designed with 32 streets radiating out from its central tower. Some say this resembles a fan, and hence the moniker the “Fan City” has stuck. However, the streets also resemble spokes on the bicycle wheel, which would be appropriate considering the bicycle’s inventor.

Mannheim, Germany: Unexpected culinary diversity

However, the streets also resemble spokes on the bicycle wheel, which would be appropriate considering the bicycle’s inventor, Baron Karl von Drais, was born here.

The design of the city caught the attention of Thomas Jefferson, who visited here while an envoy to France. Some believe that aspects of Karlsruhe and some other European cities were incorporated into the design of Washington D.C.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved

Although the actual work on the invention of the bicycle was done in Mannheim, locals are quite proud of their cycling heritage and just celebrated the bicycle’s 200-year anniversary in honor of inventor Baron Karl von Drais.

Special events, exhibits, and historical bike races were all part of the festivities and showcased some of the ingenious works of this mode of transportation like the Laufmaschine (running machine or dandy horse as it was sometimes called).

The earliest model of this bike (1818) was made of wood requiring the rider to straddle the bike using their own feet to move it along. Many other cycles have been created since, of course, and during the anniversary festivities, cycle enthusiasts dressed up in period attire and competed in races, all for the love of the bike.

Today, a bicycle is still one of the best ways to explore Karlsruhe, and you see them everywhere. Dedicated lanes for cyclists are found throughout the city, making it easy to get around without having to rent a car.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved

One of the more unusual sites you will find is a pyramid located in the center of the Market Square (Marktplatz). Currently undergoing renovation, this odd piece of architecture covers the tomb of Margrave Karl-Wilhelm, the city’s founder.

Karl Friedrich Benz was another of Karlsruhe’s famous inventors. Benz, like Drais, was born here. He received a patent for the world’s first practical motorcar, which he created in Mannheim in 1886. His Benz Patent-Motorwagen went into production in 1888 and the rest, as they say, is history.

His Benz Patent-Motorwagen went into production in 1888 and the rest, as they say, is history.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved

A not to be a forgotten part of Karlsruhe’s history, however, is the story of Benz’s wife Bertha. On August 5, 1888, Bertha loaded up her children in Benz’s automobile and without his knowledge, drove from Mannheim to Pforzheim, a distance of approximately 66 miles, to see her mother. Seemingly an inventor in her own right, along the way Bertha had to obtain gasoline at pharmacies and fix several mechanical problems. She also enlisted a shoemaker to attach

She also enlisted a shoemaker to attach leather to the brakes, thus creating the first brake linings.

After arriving at night, Bertha sent a telegram to her husband letting him know about her adventure. Her ride had the effect of showing the practicality of motorized transport, and her shrewd marketing effort paid off for the entire world to see.

Today, Germany honors her every two years with an antique automobile rally along the same route she traveled.

Visitors to Karlsruhe will be greeted with plenty of open and green spaces including some 70,000 km of trails for walking or hiking. Since this area of Southwestern Germany is among the warmest in the country, you can enjoy the mild climate during the year.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved

The Karlsruhe Zoological Gardens are owned by the city and located just opposite the main train station. The gardens contain lush landscaping, a variety of native and ornamental trees, and a gondola ride that will take you on a slow, meandering tour of the gardens.

The zoo here is well laid out over several acres and is home to birds, reptiles, elephants, penguins, and even a polar bear.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved

The ZKM Centre for Art and Media is another popular venue for locals and tourist. Boasting the world’s first interactive museum, the building was a former industrial site but has been transformed with a modern design.

They host various conferences and exhibits featuring artists such as Markus Lüpertz and others from around the world.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved

There are a variety of dining options in Karlsruhe, but for the regional fare, try Oberländer Weinstube or international slow food at EigenArt.

As Margrave Charles III William sought out Karlsruhe as a refuge to get away from it all, so too will you find Karlsruhe a place of repose and relaxation where you can explore without getting caught up in the crowds of larger cities.


Germany the Sunny Side (Tourism)

Hotel Eden– A three-star superior hotel located in the heart of the city. There is easy access to most of Karlsruhe’s main sights and attractions. Breakfast is included as part of your stay.

MK Bikes– Just a couple of doors from the Hotel Eden, they rent bikes, including the electric variety.

FTC Disclosure:  This was a sponsored visit, however, all opinions herein are the authors.

Ron Stern

Ron Stern aka "The Global Gumshoe," I am a travel photojournalist and the author of hundreds of international and domestic travel articles. I am the Denver City Guide Editor for The Daily Meal, and a staff writer for Communities Digital News. My articles have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, San Diego Union-Tribune, Sun Sentinel, Yahoo News, MSN, and others. Magazines include Shape, Cruise, AAA Motorist, Visit Los Cabos Guide, Destinations West, Key Biscayne and La Jolla Today. My contributions have been noted by PBS, Mobil Travel Guides and my photography/ videography has been used extensively by entities such as tourism boards and public relations firms.