Schwetzingen is centrally located between Mannheim and Heidelberg. This unassuming German town in Baden-Württemberg is full of surprises and is surrounded by sheer beauty. Visitors to the castle will be thrilled to see the spectacular gardens. Music lovers will be in for a treat, as well: the town offers world-renowned music festivals, including one scheduled for this fall.
Upon approach, Schwetzingen seems very much like many other small German cities. It offers half-timbered buildings, a town square and an overall sense of impeccable neatness and cleanliness.
It does have something quite unique, however: an amazing palace, complete with castle and gardens. And, as travelers get closer to the palace, they might notice a distinct difference in the state and stature of this former cultural and political seat for Palatine princes.
The Schloss (castle) dates back to 1350 when it was a small moated castle and hunting lodge. In the 1700’s, Prince Elector Johann Wilhelm commissioned work to be done to increase the palace space and gardens.
Another highlight of this castle is the theater. Of special note, the Rococo Theater is an ornate and majestic entertainment venue in the north wing of the palace. It was also was the first theater in Europe to include galleries.
There is a wealth of information available on the castle’s website. For a great outdoor experience, most visitors can easily manage to fill a full-day trip of seeing the never-ending gardens (€7/adults or €17.50 for a family ticket).
The magnificent gardens of Schwetzingen immediately take your breath away. Visitors are often impressed – and sometimes overwhelmed – with the attention to detail in the many gardens of this estate. When you go, take a good pair of shoes: the grounds are extensive. It took us a little over two hours to finish most of them.
Our first stop was in the garden museum, which introduced us to the many phases of expansion of the gardens over the years. A great deal of restoration began around the 1970’s and continues today to maintain the integrity and authenticity of each garden’s intent.
As we walked the gardens, we could definitely see the difference between the influences of the time, style and design. Those who love to garden (and even those who don’t) might be able see the strict, linear lines of early 18th century French gardens. It’s also fun to turn a corner and then be pleasantly surprised by the free-spirit English features intertwined into the design.
Schwetzingen Gardens offer a veritable treasure trove of sculptures. Though many are classic in design and intent, you’ll be surprised and delighted by how and where they are placed throughout the outdoor visiting areas.
There are also a number of wonderful buildings to find, view and explore. These include a mosque in the Turkish garden, a Roman aqueduct, and Roman baths. All together, these help contribute to an overall sense of being transported to a different time and place.
Today, Schwetzingen is famous for hosting excellent annual music festivals. Most notably, the Schwetzingen community embraces and celebrates the classics.
Though COVID restrictions put a damper on anything happening during most of the last year, this autumn promises to be a good time. The SWR Schwetzingen Festival is planned for October 15-31, 2021, and offers a full slate of excellent musical choices. More information can be found at https://www.swr.de/swrclassic/schwetzinger-festspiele
Certainly, as the world (and the country) gets back into the swing of things, the tradition of musical festivals in Schwetzingen will continue.
One of the best discoveries of Schwetzingen is its proximity to both of the beautiful cities of Mannheim and Heidelberg. Traveling to Schwetzingen is definitely worth a day trip. But by making a weekend of it, you would be seeing the best this area has to offer.
How to get there
A drive to Schwetzingen is approximately 1 hour east of Kaiserslautern, 1 hour and 30 minutes north of Stuttgart, and over 1 hour south of Wiesbaden. Check the Deutsche Bahn website for train details.
Author’s Profile: Wendy Payne is a military spouse and lives with her family in Stuttgart, Germany. She is a freelance writer, blogger and photographer. She also enjoys gardening, hiking, yoga and sharing Europe with people.