Did you know that the inventor of the bicycle, Karl Dreis, was born in Karlsruhe? Ok, it wasn’t quite the modern bike but his ‘laufmaschine’ (running machine) was a recognisable two-wheeler, albeit without pedals or chain. A less important piece of trivia is that Karl Benz, the inventor of that other vehicle, was also born here
One of the city’s goals is to become Germany’s most cycle friendly city, and they’re well on their way. There is a very good cycle path network, both on and off road, although the construction of another new tram line is causing some inconvenience. Karlsruhe was founded in 1715 and is beautifully planned with streets radiating out from the palace like bicycle spokes. The city is in the southern half of the ‘wheel’, and has since fanned out to the east and west – in fact Karlsruhe is often referred to as Fan City. To the north of the palace are extensive grounds, the Botanic Gardens and Waldstadt – a large area of parkland and forest.
The train station is on the southern perimeter close to the Stadtgarten and Zoo. However due to the design of the city, nowhere is hard to reach. There are some bike hire shops and the bikeshare scheme, Fächerrad (part of the nextbike network) is quite extensive. The tourist office also operates a two-hour guided tour Karlsruhe by Bike.
Karlsruhe is on the banks of the Rhine and only a short distance from Alsace in France. It is the second largest city in Baden-Württemberg, after the state capital Stuttgart. More importantly there are a number of long distance cycling routes passing through or close to Karlsruhe:
This is one of only three cities in Germany built in the neoclassical style and, although founded in 1715, Karlsruhe was largely rebuilt after World War II. This included the palace (Karlsruher Schloss), the focal point of the city. This is now home to the Landesmuseum (State Museum) – a fascinating repository of local culture and history.
Just south of the palace is the central square (Marktplatz) with a pyramid honouring the city’s founder. The state art gallery (Kunsthalle) is definitely worth a look, as is the ZKM – a former munitions depot now home to an art and electronic media centre.
Not far out is the Turmberg castle ruins with a hilltop tower providing spectacular views over Karlsruhe and the surrounding area. Over 500 steps will bring you to the top of the hill – or take Germany’s oldest funicular railway!
Food, Accommodation and getting around
As with all German cities food and accommodation are in plentiful supply. For a local food experience the Vogelbräu microbrewery, the Oberländer Weinstube or the student hangout Die Kippe are hard to beat.
Several properties in Karlsruhe have received the ADFC bed and bike certification – a scheme that operates across many European countries. The Karlsruhe listings range from a hostel, to B&B’s and hotels, and each shows a cost range as well as how far they are from the bike path – neat!
Getting around Karlsruhe is easy and getting better all the time. Cycling infrastructure is good as are general attitudes to cyclists – cycling proficiency being a school subject certainly helps. However, for a break from the bike the public transport system is also very good - and if you also frequent museums the Karlsruhe Card may be well worth the cost.
Events can be either the time to head for Karlsruhe or to avoid it. A large open air music festival, Das Fest, is held in July. There is also a beer fair in early September and Christmas markets in December – a more complete list can be found here.
The author travelled to and stayed in Karlsruhe at his own expense.
To check out all bike tours in Germany go to cycletoursglobal.com/Germany and use any other filters or keywords (e.g. Karlsruhe) to find the tours that best suit you.