Like many other cities in Germany, much of the central part of Karlsruhe, including the Schloss (castle), was reduced to rubble by Allied bombing during World War II, and rebuilt after the war.
With a population close to 300,000, the city is located in the south west, near the French-German border on the Rhine and in top of the Black Forest. The city was founded in 1715 by Karl Wilhelm von Baden and laid out in a central circle, containing the castle, and streets running towards the castle as radial spokes, a pattern still visible today. Due to this fan-like layout, Karlsruhe is known as the fan city or Fächerstadt. The town became the seat of two of the highest courts in Germany, the Federal Constitutional Court or Bundesverfassungsgericht and the Federal Court of Justice or Bundesgerichtshof, the highest court of appeals in civil and criminal matters. Because of this and other administrative facilities, Karlsruhe has a reputation for being a city of civil servants.
Fortunately, the Rhine valley where Karlsruhe is located is the warmest part of Germany, only 115 m above sea level with protective mountains in the east (Black Forest) and west (Vogesen). Karlsruhe consequently enjoys more sunny days than many other parts of Germany, but nonetheless, tourists gravitate towards the cities of Heidelberg (50 km north) and Freiburg (100 km south). Karlsruhe has a large technical university, as well as several other colleges.
Baden-Airpark is the closest airport, 40 km from the city, served by low-cost carrier Ryanair. There is a reasonable airport shuttle bus (Baden Airport-Express) which leaves 8 times a day on weekdays, 3 times a day on Saturdays, to Karlsruhe Main Station, synchronized with the flight schedule. One-way-tickets from the driver cost 9 EUR, cash only; alternatively, take a train or a tram-train to Rastatt or Baden-Baden and then a connecting bus.
The train station is located south of the city centre, 5-10 minutes to the central market square, and there are direct tram links to other parts of the city. Karlsruhe is well linked to other larger cities by ICE high speed trains. Schedules can be found on the site of the Deutsche Bahn or German railroads. The bus station is located at the south entrance of the train station.
Because all streets radiate outward, the Marktplatz is a good place to initiate a walking tour of the city. If you go up or down Kaiserstr, you will find a great variety of shops and restaurants on both sides of the street. Try to visit the city museum inside the castle, and the park right behind it, where locals picnic, play sports, and relax on fine days.
Karlsruhe has an excellent public transportation system called KVV, mainly trams or streetcars. Trams run not just within the city but also far into the surrounding area. A single ticket for a trip within the city limits costs 2€ for adults, 1€ for kids. Most tickets have to be stamped upon entering a tram.
During summer, spring and autumn, rental bikes are available throughout the city. A mobile phone is used to rent a bike and it can be 'returned' again using the mobile phone at any inner city corner. To rent a bike costs no more than 9 Euros a day. Karlsruhe is quite safe particularly in the town centre where you will see many policemen walking and driving about; don't forget the ready access to the courts!
If you work up an appetite, try some of these local dishes: Flammkuchen: similar to pizza, but with thinner pastry, topped with sour cream instead of tomato sauce; Käsespätzle: a pasta in a heavy cheese sauce; Gebratene Maultaschen: like Tortellini, but much larger and fried with onions; Wurstsalat: sausage with bread and quite tasty; Hackepeter: raw minced meat with fresh onions and bread; Yufka Döner: with different bread and probably the cheapest complete meal.
Suggested tourism visits: ZKM or Media Museum: the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie is devoted to interactive and media art and hosts many cultural events. The same complex also hosts the Museum für Neue Kunst or Museum for new Art and the city gallery; Staatliche Kunsthalle or Art Hall of the State: A museum with primarily classical paintings from the 16th century on; Badisches Staatstheather: the biggest theater and opera house in the city; Cinemas: The Schauburg and the Kino im Prinz-Max-Palais occasionally show movies in their original language; Palace: The palace was rebuilt after World War II, and now hosts the Badisches Landes Museum dedicated to historical exhibitions and local interest. There are also special exhibitions from time to time. North of the palace is a vast park area, the Palace Garden or Schlosspark; The Pyramid - on the Marktplatz, and the city's emblem, marks the place where Karl Wilhelm was buried; Das Fest - is Karlsruhe's famous yearly event one weekend in July featuring music on multiple stages. Free attendance; African Summer Festival - African culture in Karlsruhe's Nordstadt. Markets, drumming workshops, exhibitions, a varied children's programme and musical performances during the three days in July; KAMUNA - Karlsruhe Night of the Museum. Once a year in August many museums in Karlsruhe open late into the night, there are many events at these museums and a live concert at the end; Medieval Spectaculum Medieval themed event with a market, games, music, knights in armor, magicians, fire show etc. in the area around the Karlsruhe palace in August.
Adam Southwood writes for Canadian, U.S. and European magazines and newspapers. He is a graduate of both McMaster University in Hamilton and UWO in London with an interest in culture and history. He has produced several educational programs for TV.
Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/
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