After hearing that I love touring castles and palaces, L and M decided to take me to visit Ludwigsburg, a city approximately 12 kilometers north of Stuttgart. Nicknamed the “Swabian Versailles,” Ludwigsburg Palace is one of Germany’s largest Baroque palaces and was at one time, one of the grandest courts in Europe. The adjective “Swabian” refers to the old region/duchy of Swabia, which encompasses modern day Baden-Wurttemberg and the Swabia area of Bavaria. The palace was home to the court of the Dukes of Wurttemberg, the rulers of this Germanic region until modern times. At one time, the Duke of Wurttemberg was raised to the status of King by Napoleon Bonaparte.
At Ludwigsburg Palace, you can explore the courtyards and gardens for free. You can only tour the inside of the residence with a guide, but for 6 Euros you get a wonderful and in-depth 90 minute tour with an informative guide. There is an English language tour at 1:30 PM everyday and additional English tours at 11 Am and 3:15 PM on weekends and bank holidays. German tours run continuously. Our guide Wolfgang was hilarious, and the tour was not rushed at all. Actually, I think our tour ended up being 2 hours long – you really do get the value of your admission ticket. There are also a few small museums on the grounds, including a fashion museum for the time period, and two smaller palaces.
Although there is evidence of human settlement dating back to the stone and bronze ages and the area was occupied by different groups (including the Romans) throughout history, the modern city of Ludwigsburg was only founded in the early 18th century while this palace was built.
Duke Eberhard Ludwig of Wurttemberg first built Ludwigsburg Palace as a pleasure palace and hunting lodge. However, after seeing some of the palaces built by other European royals at the time, the duke decided to expand his palace partly as a way to project his absolute power and partly to serve as his headquarters. Ludwig also just liked living there.
While the palace is mostly built and decorated in the Baroque style, it also features Rococo and Empire style. During the original Duke Ludwig’s time, the Baroque style was popular among the aristocracy as a way to impress others and demonstrate power and control. The Baroque style is characterized by drama and grandeur expressed through architectural details such as large entrances, grand courts, dramatic staircases, and opulence.
There are beautiful chandeliers in every room.
You can tell it’s for the king because there are three steps to his throne. The queen only gets two steps.
Apparently, this palace had so much furniture that it had to give some away to other palaces that were damaged by WWII.
Above is the room of mirrors.
In those days, every palace had to have a room or hall of mirrors as a show of opulence and richness. During that period, mirrors were as precious as gold. According to our guide, the dukes of Wurttemberg used this room to rendez-vous with his mistress. One of the dukes actually died in here, waiting for his mistress to come.
The pictures above and below are of a grand audience room that is still used by the German government for certain meetings and speeches.
There are whimsical paintings on the wall, including this one of Duke Lugwig, the original builder of the palace.
At the end of the tour are some rooms set aside for children of visitors to play. The kids can dress up in 18th century court costumes – it’s quite cute.
Casanova once visited Ludwigsburg Palace and proclaimed it the most magnificent court in Europe. While it is not the scale of Versailles, it certainly comes close in its opulence and splendor. Despite having visited many grand castles and palaces in Europe (including Versailles, Neuschwanstein, and Windsor Castle, among others), I think this is my favorite palace in Europe so far. Unlike the short tours that are packed full of people at these other European tourist attractions, I feel like I really got to see how the dukes/king lived at Ludwigsburg. You could actually talk to your tourguide and didn’t feel like you were part of a tour factory. All in all, Ludwigsburg Palace was a perfect ending to my tour of Swabian culture.