On the last Thursday in November, the city of Stuttgart opens its “Fairy-Tale” Christmas market with a concert in the castle’s inner courtyard. A giant Ferris wheel, roundabouts, fairy-tale figures and a mini railway station with a real steam train delight the child in everyone. Clowns and magicians appear daily on the children’s stage to narrate fairy-tales and give puppet performances. The romantic, wintry atmosphere is enhanced by the open-air skating rink, the smells of cinnamon and vanilla wafting through the air and the backdrop of the Old Castle, the Collegiate Church and the baroque grounds of the New Palace.

First mentioned in a document in 1692, the Christmas Market in Stuttgart with its more than 200 delightfully decorated stands is not only one of the oldest, but certainly also one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe. Over 200 small wooden houses are decorated with angelic figures, fir branches and Christmas balls and offer a wonderful array of toys and gifts. Christmas tree decorations, crib figures, toys, woodcuts, puppets, candles and lambskin shoes are in abundance. A wide range of culinary delights makes it difficult to choose between hot chestnuts, gingerbread, roasted almonds, grilled sausages and mulled wine. Musical scores and concerts create enthusiasm and spirit as choirs perform on the steps of the city hall and in the Renaissance-style inner courtyard of the Altes Schloss.

For those seeking perhaps an alternative approach, the Christmas Antiques Market is located downtown on Karlsplatz in white tents and one can find high quality furniture, table ware, dolls and toys, books and porcelain. But Stuttgart is really a paradise for all types of shoppers. Elegant shopping arcades, exclusive boutiques, large department stores and the longest pedestrian zone in Germany are appealing to all. Every Saturday during Advent, an additional service is available for shoppers: they can deposit their heavy shopping baskets in package storage buses on Schlossplatz.

In and between the Christmas markets, museums dot Stuttgart’s cityscape. Not far from the city center is a new highlight: the recent opening of the Weissenhof Museum in the Le Corbusier House. In 1926, the 17 architects, including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier and Hans Scharoun, made architectural history in creating 33 houses and 63 apartments. www.weissenhofmuseum.de The Mercedes Benz Museum has already become a prominent local landmark for car lovers of all ages since its opening earlier this year. www.stuttgart-tourist.de And, visitors always enjoy the Gottlieb Daimler Memorial Sight, where you can visit Daimler’s former workshop in his garden house where he and Wilhelm Maybach secretly invented the world’s first sprinting motor in 1883. www.stuttgart-tourist.de

Other top cultural choices include the State Gallery www.staatsgalerie.de (German only) and the Stirling Gallery, as well as the Art Museum Stuttgart, a spectacular glass cube well designed to show modern art’s story. www.kunstmuseum-stuttgart.de In the Old Castle, the exhibit, “Kingdom of Wuerttemberg 1806-1918″, Monarchy and Modern Times” covers 112 years of Baden-Wuerttemberg’s history as a kingdom. www.koenigreich-wuerttemberg.de (German only) The perfect finale after the Christmas markets and the museums is an evening at Stuttgart’s State Opera which has just been voted “Opera House of the Year” again – for the sixth time!

For more information on Stuttgart, go to www.stuttgart-tourist.de