Tübingen is a traditional university town in central Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is situated 30 km (19 mi) south of the state capital, Stuttgart, on a ridge between the Neckar and Ammer rivers.
Tübingen’s population of about 85,000 people is a mixture of students, researchers and academics, medical specialists and “Gorgen” (the people whose families have been there since forever, they used to grow wine berries on the hills around the town. “gorge” ~ cork). About one in ten people living in Tübingen is a student. The university and its network of hospitals are its economic lifeblood (and the biggest employer in southern Württemberg); Eberhard-Karls-Universität, founded in 1477, is reputed to be one of the top 5 German universities for studies in German, medicine and law, and Tübingen serves as a regional medical service hub (they even have a malaria clinic).
About 20,000 students fill Tuebingen’s pubs, cafe patios and university lecture halls during “lecture time” (mid of October until mid of February and mid of April until mid of July). Meanwhile, the high concentration of educated folks with lots of free time means that there are plenty of things to do for the size of the town – 16 choirs; 3 theaters; a fine little art gallery; special lecture series at the university; and, of course, constant parties hosted by the student associations of the various departments (it’s almost a competition to see whether the chemists or the anthropologists do it better). The town does get quiet, though, in the breaks between semesters (Feb 15 – Apr 15, Jul 15 – Oct 15).
The city dates back to 1078 A.D. and is remarkably well-preserved; only one bomb fell in Word War II – on the house where Goethe lived (or was it Schiller?). The “old town”, which lies along the Neckar river, looks much as it would have in the 1600s – its crooked, cobblestoned streets will have you walking in circles, when you’re not climbing up and down the stairs built into the sidewalks! The Arts campus of the university lies nearby, while more modern science faculties and student residences perch on the large hills that surround the centre of town. Everywhere you go, there are signs of those who went before, sometimes literally (“Dr. Alzheimer worked in this building”), sometimes less so – you can find Tübingen’s traces in the writings of Hesse and Hölderlin…
Tübingen has fairly good weather compared to the rest of Germany (slightly worse than Freiburg, though). Sudden changes in the weather can make your ears pop heading up into the hills by bus, or just sitting in the marketplace in the centre of town! The medieval architecture, the students’ joie de vivre, the 40% of residents who vote for the Green Party, the absurd charm of the constant festivals that wind through the streets…it’s a unique little spot.
Tübingen’s scenic location between the forests, the Swabian Jura (Schwäbische Alb) and the river Neckar make it a beautiful stop in south-west Germany. Its flair is comparable to cities like Heidelberg or Freiburg, although Tübingen is smaller than those cities. The primary attraction is the unspoiled Altstadt (city centre) and the lively student population.
- The city centre, full of crooked half-timbered houses, small alleys, cobblestone roadwork and some nice old churches.
- The river Neckar next to the city center, on which the students go punting (similar to what they do in Oxford or Cambridge) in summer time, occasionally with a barbecue and a crate of beer on board. In June (normally at lunch on the second Thursday of the month), there is a famous punt boat race (Stocherkahnrennen) in which more than 40 punting boats race along the river, trying not to come in last, as each crew member of the last boat has to drink half a litre of sun-warmed cod-liver oil. Traditionally, most of Tübingen’s student fraternities participate in the race, but also private crews are allowed.
- About 6 km north of Tübingen, right in the Schönbuch forest reservation, is the old cistercian monastery (founded 1187 A.D.) of Bebenhausen (http://www.bebenhausen.de/) with a small village next to it, especially nice to visit at night when part of the monastery is illuminated.
- The Schloss, or castle, can be a fun place to wander around. Look at the intricately carved gate at the entrance. Skip most of the center courtyard and head up the stairs on the back side of the courtyard. This leads to a beautiful garden/courtyard, with some beautiful views from atop the wall to the left. Alternatively, go through the tunnel on the backside of the main courtyard that will take you through the backside of the castle, a much more medieval and beautiful part of the Schloss. From back here there is a path that will take you along the wall of the castle and through the woods, ending up on Haaggasse very near the Marktplatz.
On certain times, there are archers shooting in the eastern moat (the “Hasengraben”) of the castle. You find their shooting times here (German only).
- It’s an easy day trip to see the Burg Hohenzollern, a fairytale castle dramatically set on top of a conical hill.
- Kunsthalle Tübingen, Philosophenweg 76, +49 (0) 70 71 / 96 91 0. A small modern art museum on one of the hills.
Tübingen is situated at the southern rim of the Schönbuch, a large forest reservation area which offers some beautiful scenery for hiking, cycling, etc.
If you arrive in Tübingen at summer, make sure you take some time to stroll along the Neckar river, maybe get some ice cream and sit on the old city wall above the water.
If you are more adventurous, you might try yourself at punting: push a large wooden boat with up to 14 passengers along the river using a long wooden pole. It’s not as easy as some of the professional punters make it look.
The Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen dates from 1477, making it one of the oldest in Germany. The city is also host to several research institutes including the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, The Friedrich Miescher Laboratory of the MPG, and the Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research.
- Vinum, on Lange Gasse, across from the Stiftskirche, has many wines, spirits, and other things, and a great atmosphere to boot. A great place to buy a gift for someone.
- Mokka, on Collegiumsgasse near the Wilhelmstift, is a great place to buy teas, coffees, and chocolates. Again, a great place to buy gifts for someone.
- There are a some tourist shops that sell souvenirs (mugs, T-Shirts etc.): one at Holzmarkt and the other at Marktplatz, furthermore one in tourist information at Neckarbrücke.
- University Shop, Neue Aula, Wilhelmstr. Across the street from the Neue Aula (right by the Neue Aula bus stop) is a university shop, selling sweaters, mugs, hats, and other things with the University logo printed on it.
- One of the most popular places in Tübingen is the Neckarmüller, serving a regional beer brewed in Mössingen with the Swabian specialty Brezeln or an onion dish called Zwiebelkuchen. You can sit outdoors in the beergarden and enjoy the view of the Neckar and its stalk boats.
- Right after the Neckarbrücke (Neckar Bridge) on the corner to Gartenstrasse, facing the Neckarmüller there is a Turkish restaurant called Kalender, where you can order high quality döner kebap called “Scheibendöner”.
- One of the more special places to eat is the Mauganeschtle, right next to the castle, with a nice small garden above the city. It specializes in a special Swabian dish called “Maultasche” which is basically a large ravioli and comes in all different kinds of flavors. The restaurant is a bit posh and a little on the costly side, though.
- An excellent but usually overbooked Italian restaurant is the Al Dente below the main church; try the pizza with fresh tomatoes.
- Get the best french fries in town from X on Kornhausstrasse (take Marktgasse off the Marktplatz, it will take you straight to it). In summer time, hundreds of students do this, and take them along with a beer to the market place and spend a warm summer’s night right there, squatting on the cobblestones.
- Manufaktur, on Haagtorplatz, serves large pizzas for about 5 euro.
- Istanbul, just on the south side of the Neckarbruecke, serves some of the best Turkish food in town.
- Across the street from the city administrative building is a Thai market that serves dishes for about 5 euro. Standing room only.
- On Lange Gasse, just below the Stiftskirche, is an Indian market/restaurant that has inexpensive lunch specials.
- Wok In, on Wilhelmstr. just by the Lustnauer Tor bus stop, serves filling, if mediocre, Chinese dishes at bargain prices.
- El Chico, in the same building as the Neckarmueller, serves passable Mexican food by German standards. Prices are about 10 euro per dish.
- Kichererbse, on Metzgergasse, serves tasty vegetarian Lebanese food.
- Eiscafe San Marco, in the Nonnenhaus, serves huge ice cream dishes, including a plate of spaghetti made of ice cream, ice cream “hamburgers” etc. Eiscafe San Marco
- At night, there are only a few places where you still can get something to eat: “X” near the marketplace, McDonalds Drive-Through on the road to Reutlingen, Burger King at the train station, a small Italian take away in Mühlstrasse, a Döner Kebap next to the Epple-Haus (central bus station) is opened until 4 a.m. on the week-ends, and of course any fuel station.