Tübingen is a university town in the state of Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany (map). Surrounded by forested hills and overlooking the Neckar River, Tübingen is home to one of the few completely intact Altstädte (old town centres) in Germany (having survived WWII unscathed). It also has one of the oldest universities in Europe, with students comprising about one-third of the total population. There are many things to do in Tubingen, with its historic houses, atmospheric cobblestone streets and Neckar riverfront as the main highlights. The old town is very compact, making it easy to explore on foot.
When I planned my southern Germany road trip, I made sure to include a day in Tübingen in my itinerary. With hindsight, I wished I’d planned an overnight stay as Tübingen turned out to be one of the highlights of my road trip. I’m a big fan of medieval towns, and Tübingen, with its charming old town, was an absolute delight to explore.
Punting in Tübingen
I started my day in Tübingen with a serene punting experience along the Neckar River. Perhaps inspired by their counterparts in Oxford and Cambridge, Tübingen students introduced punting in the tranquil Neckar River in the 20th century.
The long, narrow wooden boats (punts) are propelled by pushing the riverbed with a pole. This tradition can be enjoyed by visitors, and I highly recommend it!
The views from the water of the historic houses that line the Neckar (the Neckarfront) are absolutely stunning.
Visitors can book a 1-hour tour in a punt at the Tübingen tourist office next to the Eberhardsbrücke (map).
A walk around historic Tübingen
The best thing to do in Tübingen is to simply wander around its quaint streets. After the punt ride, I crossed the Eberhardsbrücke (which also provides gorgeous views of the Neckarfront) to the old town. I turned left after the bridge and continued up the Neckargasse towards the Holzmarkt and 15th century Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church).
I loved the historic half-timbered houses that line the streets – it’s amazing how well preserved they are. Tübingen is such a photogenic town that I had to constantly remind myself to put down my camera!
From Holzmarkt, I continued my walk to the Marktplatz (market square), a picturesque square with a fountain of Neptune, and fronted by the 15th century Town Hall. The gabled Town Hall features an astronomical clock that still works till this day.
From the Marktplatz, I roamed aimlessly around the charming streets such as Haaggasse, Ammergasse, Münzgasse, Marktgasse and Kornhausstrasse. I made sure to explore the little lanes and narrow staircases that connect the main streets in this hilly town.
I stopped for lunch at Vegi, a little restaurant in Kornhausstrasse that serves excellent falafel, then continued up Burgsteige to the 11th century Schloss Hohentübingen (Castle). Part of the University of Tübingen, the castle houses the Museum of Ancient Culture. The little mammoth tusk figurines in the museum are some of the oldest artworks ever found! There’s a large DNA structure in the castle’s square, a tribute to Friedrich Miescher who discovered DNA in 1869. From the castle, there are beautiful views of the red rooftops of the old town.
From here, I made my way down the hill for a refreshing beer at Martkplatz. It was market day so the square was buzzing with people browsing the many fruit, vegetable and flower stalls. There was also a wedding across the square in the Town Hall – the gathering of people in the square burst into cheer when the newlyweds stepped out onto the balcony for a kiss. The atmosphere was just wonderful and I soaked it up as I sipped on my beer.
I only got to spend half a day in Tübingen but if you plan to visit, I recommend spending a night there. There’s quite a few things to do in Tübingen and I can only imagine how magical the town looks in the evenings!
Other things to do in Tübingen
- Have a taste of the local brew and enjoy the local cuisine at Gasthausbrauerei Neckarmüller at the Neckar River, with views of the river.
- Stroll along the tree-lined Neckarinsel, a small island in the Neckar River, with a park full of old plane trees.
- Visit the historic Bebenhausen Abbey, a 12th century Gothic church and monastery a short drive north of Tübingen.
How to get to Tübingen
Tübingen is situated about 30km south of Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg. From Stuttgart, it’s a 45-minute drive or train ride to Tübingen.