Stuttgart to Heidelberg - Opinions on Two-Day Itinerary?

May I please get some opinions about our first day in Germany? Since we try and sleep on the flight, we hope that this first day is doable. We don't intend to see Stuttgart and plan to go straight to Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg for the 11 am English tour. After that, we'll head up the Neckar Valley. From what I can tell, most of the castles along the Neckar Valley are either ruins, or their small tours are in German (which we don't speak). We're not new to castle ruins, plus we'll see some during our subsequent days on the Rhine (2 nights) and Mosel (3 nights). Thank you for your thoughts!

First Day
- 8:30 am - Arrive in Stuttgart (pick up rental car)
- 11 am - take English tour at Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg, wander gardens
- 3 pm - Head toward the Neckar Valley - Bad Wimpfen wander around
- 5 pm (or so) - Katzenbuckel stop if weather is good
- 7 pm - Neckargemünd 2 nights (Hotel Kredell)

Second day - train to Heidelberg (overnight back in Neckargemünd)
see Heidelberg sights

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10204 posts

I don't think day 1 is advisable, unless you're flying in from somewhere in Europe. That's simply too much driving through an extremely congested area when jet lagged. Important thing to remember about jet lag, it's not just a lack of sleep, it's also a circadian rhythm disruption. When they've studied jet lagged pilots on flight simulators, the results showed that their results were not much better than if they had been legally drunk, no matter how fatigued they reported feeling. Also note that to reach the summit of Katzenbuckel, the last kilometer or so is an uphill walk. The only real reason to visit Katzenbuckel is the view from the tower at the top. It's the highest point in the region, but because it sits on a high plateau, from the approach you'll take from the Neckar, it just looks like a normal hill.

Perhaps consider staying in Stuttgart the first night. See Ludwigsburg on your first day, get a good night of sleep, then continue onto the Neckar valley the next day.

PS- I don't think any of the castles on the river offer tours, except for the Heidelberg Schloss. Hornburg is semi-ruined, but has a self-guided tour. I think the only other one that charges admission is the small ruin in part of the castle town of Dilsberg. Burg Hirschhorn houses a restaurant-hotel, but you can walk around the outside. The Mittelburg at Neckarsteinach and Schloss Zwingenberg remain as private residences. The rest are all open ruins without admission, you can come and go as you please.

Posted by Russ
Paradise
2136 posts

"That's simply too much driving through an extremely congested area when jet lagged."

Tom's exactly right.

But I don't think that being cautious about driving should confine you to Stuttgart for 24 hours. Pay Ludwigsburg a visit. It's 10 minutes by train from Stuttgart, and the L'burg station has lockers for your bags. To reach Neckargemünd that same day, well, N'gemünd has a train station as well, and you can catch a train there from L'burg via Mosbach-Neckarelz and the very scenic Neckar Valley route - just get a window seat and enjoy the ride. Both train journeys will total €27 for two using a Baden-Württemberg Ticket (a day pass) and take about 2 hours total.

The BW Ticket

The next morning you can head into Heidelberg (a ride of less than 15 minutes) to see the town and pick up your car. It's a lot easier navigating out of Heidelberg on Day 2 after adjusting to your new time zone - and a much shorter drive to N'gemünd - than it would be if you just jumped in the car on Day 1 to get out of much more congested Stuttgart.

Posted by Kay
Vancouver, WA, USA
322 posts

Thanks, Tom and Russ. I appreciate your input. While I'm not suggesting that jet lag won't be a factor, last year we flew into Heathrow, got our car and drove two hours north to our destination.

I like the idea of taking the train to L'Burg (and maybe on up the valley). Is there a train link from the airport to the central station? If not, how do we otherwise get there? Which train goes to L'Burg? (I'm afraid we are a bit challenged when it comes to train travel although we have done it easily previously and love it.)

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

Stuttgart Airport can be reached easily and quickly, thanks to excellent travel infrastructure. You can continue your journey to the airport from Stuttgart Central Railway Station (Hauptbahnhof) with the municipal rail lines (S-Bahn) S2 or S3. You arrive without changing at Level 1 of Terminal 1.

The journey between Stuttgart Central Railway Station and Stuttgart Airport takes 27 minutes. The municipal rail (S-Bahn) departs from Stuttgart Central Railway Station from 4.55 hours (or 5.25 hour on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays) until 0.25 hours every 10 or 20 minutes, and every 30 minutes on weekends.
The trains run between 5.08 hours and 0.08 hours from the airport to Stuttgart Central Railway Station.

Posted by Russ
Paradise
2136 posts

You can find all your own train connections for anywhere in Europe using the DB ITINERARY PAGE.

Station names for Day 1 journey to Ludwigsburg:

Start: STR StuttgartAirport

Destination: Ludwigsburg

There will be a change at Stuttgart Hbf (main station.) Click on the white-on-red arrow at the left of any itinerary that pops up, and you will see the details (train platform, etc.) Entire trip takes 45 min.

Posted by Kay
Vancouver, WA, USA
322 posts

thank you, Christi and Russ, for this great info. And nicely detailed. The DB Bahn site is good. But plugging in the stops/locations and reading schedules is where I'm greatly challenged. For instance, when I put in the start at Stuttgart airport and the end at L'Burg, I come up with a 1 hr 40 min trip that costs EUR42 per person one way (standard fare). Seems so expensive and time consuming. Can this be right? I have found that if one doesn't know the station name, it's difficult to plot the trip and feel confident about it.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
3657 posts

I think you put in Ludwigshafen, which is up by Mannheim. The ride to Ludwigsburg does not give a price because the ticket has to be bought from the local transit authority. It is 45-55 minutes and has a single change in Stuttgart Hbf underground station. The 45 minute connection has only 3 minutes to change, but not to worry, they're on the same track, so one train leaves and the other train pulls up.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

From Stuttgart Hbf it is 15 mins Ludwigsburg using the S Bahn S5 line departing from platform 102 (double check as this can change)
You will arrive to Stuttgart Hbf on the S2 S3 line - that trip is 27 minutes

Here are the details:

Station/Stop Date Time Platform Products

Stuttgart Hbf (tief) Mo, 14.07.14 dep 09:58 102 S 5 S-Bahn Direction: Bietigheim-Bissingen

Ludwigsburg Mo, 14.07.14 arr 10:13 2

runs daily
Hint: Departure/Arrival replaced by an equivalent station

Posted by Kay
Vancouver, WA, USA
322 posts

Sam, that’s exactly what I did. (sheesh)
Christi, thanks so much for showing me the page for searching. I found the information that you specified. Yay! (BTW, I’m looking at Sat 06.09.14) If I miss the departure at 09:18, is it correct that the next train from the airport is:

dep 9:38, platform 2, S-bahn 2, direction Schondorf
arr 10:05, platform 102
transfer time 3 min (no problem according to Sam)
dept 10:08, platform 102 on S-4 to Backnang

Would you say that the distance from L’burg train (check bags) to Residenzschloss is easily walked? (We’re good walkers.)

Anyone familiar with car rental agencies in L'burg? We want to make some stops along the way up the Neckar and the train wouldn't allow that.
Danke!

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
3657 posts

" We want to make some stops along the way up the Neckar and the train wouldn't allow that."
No true, you can specify stopovers on a regular train ticket, but if you leave after 9 am (a civilized time in my opinion) you can travel all day in Baden-Wuertemberg, hop-on hop-off style for one low price of 27 euro for the 2 of you. Its called a regional day ticket. Now, if you want to visit places a train and your legs can't get to, that's a horse of a different color. What to do with the luggage can be problematic as well.
http://www.bahn.com/i/view/USA/en/prices/germany-regional/baden-wuerttemberg-ticket.shtml

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2029 posts

Pipping in to add that the drive from the Stuttgart airport to Ludwigsburg will almost certainly take longer than it should, due to construction and traffic. Supposedly Stuttgart has the worst traffic of any major metro in Germany, which is one of the reason I try to take the train whenever possible if I'm getting out of town.

So with that in mind, I'm behind Russ' idea. That said, having a car does allow for more convenient stops (and to get to Bad Wimpfen you'd have to get off the train and take a bus...) and give you more flexibility. I've both trained and driven through the upper Neckar valley, I think there's much to be said for either way.

Also don't think the 11am Ludwigsburg - 3pm Bad Wimpfen - Katzenbuckel at 5pm or so is very realistic, assuming you're taking the 27 through the valley. That also often backs up because it's a popular road.

In my opinion rushing along the Neckar valley kind of misses the point, really. It's one of the most scenic areas I've seen living in Germany, yet mostly foreign-tourist free. There are so many beautiful towns to stop in from Stuttgart to Heidelberg.

In my opinion, I'd consider trying to free up more time to wander, via car, from town to town on the 27, and leaving Heidelberg as a half-day stop on your way north. Heidelberg is worth seeing, but I don't think it's necessarily a full-day jaunt, and is far more touristy and has less charms than the unique Swabian villages like Bietigheim-Bissingen, Bad Wimpfen, and Hirschorn am Neckar. (Or in the other direction, 10 minutes on the river in the opposite direction from Stuttgart, is Esslingen am Neckar, which somehow manages to evade the notice of American tourists despite being absolutely wonderful).

And as a matter of record, it's somewhat painful to see the idea of having to spend any amount of time in Stuttgart as a punishment. We're a thriving metropolis, home to numerous great festivals, two of the world's premier car museums, great food at charming wine taverns up in the vineyards WITHIN city limits, and so forth. I understand you don't have time to stop in Stuttgart on this trip, but people shouldn't rule it out, especially when arriving from a long flight. It's a great area to get adjusted to the jet lag (Stuttgart has to be one of the easiest cities to navigate by public transit or foot, and due perhaps to the large number of American and foreign workers here, nearly everyone speaks English and is very helpful and used to dealing with foreigners here)

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

"Would you say that the distance from L’burg train (check bags) to Residenzschloss is easily walked? (We’re good walkers.)"

It's about a 10 minute walk.

There is a Sixt car rental near the Bahnhof.

Posted by Kay
Vancouver, WA, USA
322 posts

Ok, folks. I'm close to eliminating Ludwigsburg Palace from our itinerary in favor of taking more time up the beautiful Neckar (27 and 45) Valleys. Is this perhaps the best choice? If we do this, how would you recommend getting out of the airport. Take the train to a smaller area with rental cars? We really do want to flexibility of stopping in little towns without dependence on the train. (So sorry, Sara, not to visit Stuttgart on this trip. Maybe next time.)

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
3657 posts

As Christi said, there is a Sixt rental right outside the Ludwigsburg train station. If you've never heard of them, they are a large reputable rental car company headquartered in Germany with locations all over Europe, and increasingly, Florida and the Southwest. You might even get a better rate than at the airport. Then you're in the northern suburbs of Stuttgart and bound to be a bit less congested.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2029 posts

um, it's more like 20-25 minutes from the ludwigsburg bahnhof to the entrance of the schloss where you start the tour. it's no difficult walk, but FYI. There is also a bus, but you may not want to deal with figuring that out.

Kay - what day are you flying in? Honestly, if you're going to have a car for the Neckar Valley IMO you might as well rent it at the Stuttgart Airport rather than training to a suburb of Stuttgart to rent it with your luggage and all. If you're coming in on a weekday, yes you will hit traffic, but you'll miss the worst of it. Either way, you will have no problem getting to Ludwigsburg at 11am if your flight arrives at 8:30, the only issue will be exhaustion from the flight.

But IF you decide to skip Ludwigsbourg then it might make sense to take the very easy S-bahn train from the airport into Stuttgart and rent a car elsewhere. I can't imagine the Sixt at Ludwigsburg is very large - it's not a huge city or anything. But if you decided to train on further, well, then it might make sense to get your car elsewhere.

My advice re: traffic in the Stuttgart area was not saying "don't rent a car at the Stuttgart airport" but rather "reconsider your original, hectic itinerary". If you want to drive to Heidelberg, period, it will still probably be most convenient to pick up a car at the Stuttgart airport, just plan for some traffic.

I haven't been on the board for months (bad me!) but if you want a lot of detailed, individual recommendations from Stuttgart to Heidelberg via the 27 I can give you some advice, just PM me.

Posted by Russ
Paradise
2136 posts

It's probably a good idea for anyone renting a car from any company to review rental car experiences over at Tripadvisor, where you'll find several long threads like THIS ONE about Sixt.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
3657 posts

Yikes! I'm sure glad I didn't read that one. I would never have had such a good experience with my last Sixt rental. But I would definitely have stayed away from Hertz, from the recent horror story on this site. In fact, you can't find a rental company that someone hasn't griped about on the web. Anyway, that's what makes travel exciting, a venture into the unknown.

Posted by Kay
Vancouver, WA, USA
322 posts

20-25 minute walk from the train is another reason to pass on Ludwigsburg Palace. Thanks for that clarification, Sarah. It sounds like you've been there more than once. That's a bit much with the jet lag. We've now got our first reservation in Bad Wimpfen (as has been advised) so I think we'll just enjoy the scenery and towns up to that point. Our next overnight will be in Neckargemund and that will give us a nice day cruising up the Neckar followed by a visit to the Heidelburg Castle on our way to Bacharach the next day. I'm sure we'll manage with the car rental and driving out of the airport. (We've managed fairly well out of some of the largest airports in Europe and the U.S.)