Stuttgart is the capital city of the federal state, or Bundesland, of Baden-Württemberg in southwest Germany. Stuttgart originated as a Stuotgarten, or stud farm, founded by Duke Liudolf von Swaben in 950. A thriving, local wine industry subsequently developed in and around the settlement, but Stuttgart did not formally become a city until the 13th century. The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century transformed the city into one of the main commercial centres in the country and, although the manufacturing sector has declined, Stuttgart is still the centre of the largest industrial zone in southwest Germany.
During World War II, Stuttgart city centre was almost completely destroyed by Allied bombing but, following the war, only the major monuments were reconstructed in their pre-war form. These monuments included the Neues Schloß, or New Castle, which is now the seat of the Baden-Württemberg state parliament, the Königsbau, or Royal Pavilion, which is now an exclusive shopping centre, known as Königsbaum Passagen, and the most important church in the city, the Stiftskirche, or Collegiate Church. All three monuments are situated in, or around, Schloßplatz, a green square in the heart of the city, which also plays host to concerts, festivals and other events throughout the year. The summer months are a particularly busy time for festivals, but they take place between April and December and, of course, include the Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt, or Stuttgart Christmas Market, which occupies part of Schloßplatz and beyond between the end of November and December 23.
From a cultural leisure perspective, Stuttgart offers a fine selection of hotels, hostels and bed and breakfast establishments, along with 70 Michelin starred restaurants and, of course, hundreds of more modest eateries, offering local and international cuisine. The Staatstheater Stuttgart, or Stuttgart State Theatre, continues to break new ground in ballet, opera and theatre while, for the more mechanically minded, the Porsche Museum in Zuffenhausen and the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Bad Canstatt are obvious attractions. No part of Stuttgart escaped the destruction of World War II, so it seems fitting that, in the post-war years, rubble and debris was collected and piled up to create and artificial hill, officially known as Birkenkopf, which stands as a memorial to local people who lost their lives during the conflict. Today, the top of Birkenkopf stands nearly 300 metres above the Neckar River and those who climb to the top are rewarded with sweeping views across Stuttgart, the Neckar Valley and the Swabian Alb.
Stuttgart offers a wide selection of bars, clubs and live music venues, catering for everything from low-key ambient music to pumping acid house beats. The portion of the Bundesstraße, or federal road, 27a known as Theodor-Heuss-Straße, which runs through the city centre from Friedrichsbau and Rotebühlplatz, is where many of the popular bars and clubs are situated. Aficionados of jazz, soul and funk are well catered for by Kiste, the oldest jazz bar in Stuttgart, on Hauptstätter Straße and BIX Jazz Club, ranked as one of the top 50 clubs in the world by Downbeat magazine, on Leonhardsplatz. Both establishments are open until well into the early hours six days a week.