Founded in 1715, Karlsruhe is nicknamed the ‘fan city’ (‘Fächerstadt’) due to the distinctive way in which it is laid out — the streets radiate out like the creases of a fan from the palace which forms the city’s core. It is also a synonym for Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court, which is based here. Boasting almost 2000 sunny hours a year, it is one of Germany’s warmest cities.
Things to see and do
In German, ‘Karlsruhe’ means ‘Charles’ Rest’ — the Karl in question being the city’s founder, Karl Wilhelm, Margrave of Baden-Durlach, whose distinctive pyramid-shaped tomb is located right in the middle of the town. According to legend, Karl dreamt up the city when taking a nap whilst on a hunting trip.
Karlsruhe Palace is the geographical epicentre of Karlsruhe, with all streets radiating outward from it — an outstanding urban design which won it the nickname “fan city”. The baroque castle was built in 1715, and today houses some of the Federal Constitutional Court as well as the cultural heritage museum “Badisches Landesmuseum”.
Karlsruhe has plenty of green space to enjoy a sunny day outdoors. The Schlossgarten Park (Palace Garden Park) surrounding Karlsruhe Palace is one of the city’s best-loved parks. It is mostly an English landscape garden, but retains some of the original French baroque elements. A popular spot for summer barbecues, games and sports, it is also just the place to catch some winter sun.
In close proximity to both Karlsruhe Palace and the “Bundesverfassungsgericht”, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, the Botanical Garden is a green oasis filled with historic buildings and exotic plants. It was designed by two of the most significant architects of Baden, first Friedrich Weinbrenner and later Heinrich Hübsch.
Opened in 1846 in a neoclassical building for the vast collection of the Margravine of Baden, the Staatliche Kunsthalle is one of Germany’s oldest museum buildings set next to the Karlsruhe Castle. It now houses art from the 14th to the 19th century. 20th century art, including popular art works of classical modernism, is displayed in the Botanical Gardens’s former orangery nearby.
Federal Constitutional Court
In Germany, Karlsruhe is closely associated with the supreme constitutional court “Bundesverfassungsgericht”, which has its seat here. Oral hearings and pronouncements of judgments are open to the public (registration is required) and guided group tours are offered on request.
Turmberg (‘Tower Hill’) takes its name from an ancient castle tower, which dates back to the High Middle Ages, when the Hohenstaufen dynasty ruled the local area. You can take Germany’s oldest operational funicular railway running since 1888, or climb the 528 ‘Hexenstäffele’ (‘Witches’ Steps’) to the top. From the summit, you’re rewarded with a beautiful view of the city below.
ZKM — Centre for Art and Media
The ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie) is an institute for the exhibition, research and development of media and art. It houses the Museum of Contemporary Arts and the Media Museum, and organises a variety of cultural events, including contemporary music performances. The Museum of Contemporary Arts exhibits many well-known pieces by artists like Andy Warhol and Josef Beuys, whereas the Media Museum is the world’s first fully interactive museum, featuring video projects and computer simulations.
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
The “Karlsruher Institut für Technologie” is one of the largest research and educational institutions in Germany and among the leading universities for engineering and the natural sciences in Europe. Six Nobel laureates are affiliated with KIT, as well as many inventors and entrepreneurs who studied or taught there, including Heinrich Hertz, Karl Friedrich Benz and the founders of SAP SE. Tours are offered of campus north, where you can get an introduction into some of the large-scale research.
‘Das Fest’ is Karlsruhe’s biggest music festival with live acts on up to five stages. Discover newcomer artists, or see some well-loved ones live here, while sampling food from a variety of stalls, or participate in one of the many activities for all interests and ages.
‘Zeltival’ (a merger of the words “Zelt” (=tent) and “Festival”), houses jazz and world music concerts, cabaret and performances in — you guessed it — a tent between June and August.
British-German Town Twinnings
Town twinnings between British and German cities play an important role in promoting cultural exchange. Karlsruhe has been twinned with Nottingham in Nottinghamshire since 1969.