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Travel Black Book With Kai Chan

Stunning Stuttgart

This German city abounds in beautiful scenery, great food and local culture

Who: Hong Kong-born Kai Chan, in her 40s, president of Carlson Wagonlit Travel (Asia Pacific).

She is a German citizen living in Singapore.

Favourite destination: Stuttgart, Germany

Why: I love the outdoors and Stuttgart is one of the most scenic and beautiful places I've visited in Germany.

It is surrounded by vineyards and greenery and a short one- to two-hour drive from stunning destinations such as Heidelberg, the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) and the famous Lake Constance (Bodensee).

I have friends and family living in Stuttgart, so I've been there frequently over the past 20 years.

I visit three or four times a year and spend almost my entire annual leave there, largely because of my family.

Favourite hotel

I recommend the Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin (tinyurl.com/zls8dh2).

It's an elegant and luxurious hotel that also has a traditional feel.

Most importantly, it's located in the centre of Stuttgart, making it easy to explore the city. It's also directly opposite the main railway station - convenient for travelling to other parts of Germany.

Favourite restaurant

I always make it a point to dine at Alte Kanzlei (www.alte-kanzlei- stuttgart.de), which means Old Chancellery.

It is a traditional and historic restaurant housed in a 16th-century building and within walking distance of the Schlossplatz square and the picturesque Old Castle.

It's a great place to try Swabian cuisine, the predominant local cuisine in Stuttgart.

I recommend the maultaschen - a hearty German dumpling similar to ravioli, but bigger in size. It's filled with minced pork, spinach and fried onions, with gravy on top and served with a south German- style potato salad. It costs about €12 (S$18).

Best place for breakfast

A typical breakfast in Stuttgart would include cold-cut meats and a variety of cheeses. Stuttgart is also famous for its baked rolls, buns and dark rye bread, which can be found easily and are so fresh.

Alte Kanzlei also serves great breakfast.

For value for money, I would recommend one of the many local bakeries such as Maurer, a chain that serves freshly baked cakes, cookies, breads and piping hot coffee for about €4 each. The bakery is well-known in the suburbs of Stuttgart.

Must try

Try rostbraten with spaetzle (roast beef with noodles in gravy), linsen with wurstchen (a kind of a dhal with pork sausage) and saure kutteln (sour tripe). All are typical dishes in Swabian cuisine and are offered in almost every restaurant in Stuttgart. Prices range from €8 to €15 a dish.

Another delicious local staple is the handmade kaese spaetzle, which is like German macaroni and cheese made with fresh pasta, local cheeses and fried onions. You will find a good version at the Weinstube Zur Kiste (www.zur-kiste.de), a traditional and cosy restaurant in Stuttgart.

Favourite museum

The Staatsgalerie (www.staatsgalerie.de/index_e.php) is a massive art museum exhibiting 14th- to 20th- century art.

I love its unique architecture and it regularly features interesting exhibitions of classic and contemporary art.

If you're a petrol-head, the Mercedes-Benz Museum (tinyurl.com/jv4nysh) is a must-see.

It is 30 minutes by train or public transport from Stuttgart's main railway station and showcases the rich and decorated history of Germany's automobile industry.

It also sells toy cars and souvenirs that make great gifts.

Experience local culture

The people in Stuttgart are incredibly friendly.

They love to travel, so it's almost certain that you'll meet a few people who have visited Singapore.

If you want to learn more about the culture, don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with the locals.

Event to bookmark

Stuttgart has a number of festivals including a Spring Fair and a Wine Fair, but my favourite is the annual Christmas Market, which runs from end-November through December.

The whole city centre is transformed into a winter wonderland - with concerts, antique markets and stalls selling food, drinks, toys and Christmas knick-knacks.

Best view

Head to the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart (tinyurl.com/jzfy6am), an art museum housed in a glass cube. It has a wonderful restaurant and cafe.

Go to the Cube restaurant on the top floor to catch a stunning view of Stuttgart. It is also the perfect place to watch the sunset with a clear view of the new and old palaces and the bustling shopping belt of Koenigstrasse (King Street).

Best shopping

Breuninger (www.breuninger.com), one of the major department stores in Stuttgart, is a shopping paradise. I like going there because it has the best customer service.

It offers luxury, high-street and local brands and you can buy everything from apparel to household goods. It also has one of the largest shoe departments that I've seen.

Men are not left out, as the mall has a designated area for them to sit and enjoy a glass of champagne or cup of coffee and read. Best hidden find The Wilhelma Zoological and Botanical Garden (www.wilhelma.de/nc/en/home.html) is the largest combined zoo and botanic garden in Europe.

Surprisingly, despite its size and accessibility, it is not well-known. It is a 10- to 15-minute ride from the main train station.

Worthwhile side trips
Do visit Tubingen, 30km south of Stuttgart.

It is a beautiful old town with well-preserved, half-timber houses and a century-old marketplace. You will feel as if you have travelled back in time when you are there.

You can also enjoy a boat ride on the Neckar River, which runs through it.

Ideal length of stay

I recommend taking at least three to four days to experience Stuttgart.

If you would like to explore the entire city and experience all the local cuisine and culture, you could easily spend a week.

The central tourism bureau, Touristeninformation I-Punkt Stuttgart (tinyurl.com/hj34pz5), is an excellent place to start planning your trip.

If you are looking for a local to help you, there are plenty of multilingual guides at the bureau.

Most are volunteers and some are former history teachers - making them well-equipped to take you around Stuttgart and tell you about its rich history and culture.

Foodie souvenirs

Pick up delicious cold cuts and fresh cheeses from the local butchers and cheese-makers around Stuttgart.

The cold cuts and cheeses would typically cost between €2 and €3 for 100g. A great place to get all these is the famous Markthalle (www.markthalle-stuttgart.de), a food market in the city centre.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 13, 2016, with the headline 'Stunning Stuttgart'. Print Edition | Subscribe