Saarbrücken

Saarbrücken is the capitol of the state Saarland. It may not as big and glamorous as Berlin, but it does have its own unique charm. It's pretty close to the French border. In fact you can take the tram (called “Saarbahn”) in Saarbrücken and ride to Sarreguemines (“Saargemünd”) in France. That makes it the only city in Europe that has a tram that crosses the border to another country.

Since Saarbrücken has been part of France more then once in history, you'll feel the French influence everywhere. You can see it in the food, wine, and the “savoir-faire”, a French word that literally means “know how to do” and means how to respond appropriately to any situation.

One could argue that the “Saarbrücker” (the inhabitants of Saarbrücken) tend to be more relaxed than the people in other parts of Germany. This too has probably something to do with the French influence on the culture here.

The “Saarbrücker” loves to eat and drink well. He's also known to be a huge barbecue fan. They have their own kind of grill called the “Schwenker”. The “Schwenker” consists of a fire bowl or maybe just a camp fire, and a swinging grill hung from a tripod. Sometimes the “Saarbrücker” will build his own “Schwenker,” but you can also buy it in everywhere in town. Confusing for outsiders, there is also a certain type of marinated pork neck steak, the “Schwenkbraten” that is commonly referred to as “Schwenker” as well. You'll be able to buy one at every butcher's shop in town. If you visit the city during the summer months, make sure to try one. If you like barbecue, you won't regret it!

Infrastructure

Saabrücken has it's own airport (SCN) and its train station is served by a German high speed train called ICE, which is short for Intercity-Express. With this train you can reach Paris in  under two hours.

There are quite a few universities and colleges in Saarbrücken: The Saarland University, an art college,  a technical University, a conservatory and different smaller colleges.

Museums and Exhibitions

Even though Saarbrücken has less than 200,000 inhabitants, it has quite a few museums to choose from. The most interesting is probably the “Saarlandmuseum”. Technically, it consists of three different museums.

The 1st one is the “Museum in der Schlosskirche”. It focuses on sacral medieval art. The 2nd one is the “Alte Sammlung”. Here you'll find works of different atrists from the 16th to 19th century. Among them are  Abraham Mignon, Joos de Momper, Gillis van Coninxloo, and Johann Boumann. They also have an interesting collection of historical coins, miniatures, furniture and porcelain.

The 3rd is the “Moderne Galerie,” where different works of modern art are on display.

Another interesting venue is the “Saarländisches Künstlerhaus”. It showcases local artists. Since Saarbrücken has a well known art college, there's always something interesting to see here.

Other museums include the “Arzneipflanzenmuseum” (Museum for medical plants), “Historisches Museum Saar” (historical museum), and the “Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken” (Saarbrücken city gallery).

Theater

The biggest theater in Saarbrücken is the “Saarländisches Staatstheater” (state theater of Saarland). It shows theater plays, muscials, operas and dance theater. The 2nd biggest theater in town is the “Alte Feuerwache” (old firehouse), which - as you might have guessed - is located in an abandoned firehouse. And if you prefer minor art, performances or fringe theater, you should pay a visit to “Sparte 4”.

Other theaters in Saarbrücken include “Theater Überzwerg” (a children theater), Studio-Theater, “Kleines Theater im Rathaus”, and the “Theater im Viertel”.

Every year in May Saarbrücken celebrates the “Perspective Festival”. It's a theater festival devoted to Franco-German stagecraft. A multitude of plays and music performances are hosted all over the city and if you find the time, make sure to check some of them out.

Imposing structures

There are many very interesting buildings in Saarbrücken. One of the most imposing buildings is probably the castle “Schloss Saarbrücken”. From it's unique location you'll have a wonderful view.

Other remarkable structures are the “Adelspalais”, the old bridge (“Alte Brücke”, build in 1546), the old townhall, the new townhall, Castle Halberg where the local broadcasting station is located, the ministry of education and cultural affairs (build in 1952 as a french embassy), the state parliament, the old Saar-crane (orginally build in 1762, reconstructed in 1991) and the “Achterbrücke”, a steel bridge build in 1931.

Street festivals

Did we mention that the Saarbrücker likes to party? Between July and August, there are three different street festivals in Saarbrücken. All of them draw a huge crowd. The 1st one is the “Altstadtfest” (historic city festival). Hundreds if not thousands of people come into the historic city center to drink, feast, listen to various bands live bands, or just to stroll along the dozens of kiosks and look for something nice to buy.

The 2nd one is the “Nauwieserfest”. The Nauwieserviertel is  a part of town that is close to the city center, but one could say it's more alternative in nature. It's also the home of most bars in the city and on the weekend the streets are usually filled with hundred of students from one of Saarbrücken's universities. While it can be crowded on a normal Friday night, it's hardly comparable to what's going on during the “Nauwieserfest”. Even though the area isn't that big, it may take you more than one hour to get from one side of the district to the other site during the festival. But you shouldn't be in a hurry anyway. Just go with the flow and check out the various kiosks and food stands. Don't forget to eat a “Schwenker” and drink at least one glass of German beer!

The 3rd street festival is also the biggest one. It's called “Saarspektakel” and takes place all over the city center. It's pretty much the same as the “Altstadtfest,” just even bigger. On top of many smaller stages all over the city, there is also a big stage near the “Staatstheater” (state theater) where a  popular international music star will show his or her talent.

During the year there are some other smaller street festivals but none of them are as exciting as these three.

Bars

Even though Saarbrücken isn't exactly that big, it has a very interesting bar and club scene. This probably has to do with the fact that Saarbrücken is a college town. As we've mentioned earlier, most bars in Saarbrücken are located in a district called “Nauwieserviertel”. Which bar you prefer is just a matter of taste. If you prefer to drink your beer and “Schnapps” with a bunch of long haired metal fans in black t-shirts, you should visit the “Karateclub Meyer”. If you're more of a hipster, you  could check out the “Feinkost Schmidt” just across the street. Both get very crowded on the weekend, so come early or expect to stand for a while.

“Feinkost Schmidt” offers over 12 more or less interesting shots. One of them contains a lot of Tabasco so you might want to ask about the ingredients before you drink it. Another recommendable bar is the “Kurzeseck”, but don't expect it to be any less crowded. It should be noted that all bars in the “Nauwieserviertel” cater to a more alternative student crowd.

If you prefer a more fancy location and even seat reservation -something you wont find in the Nauswieserviertel- you might want to check out the bars at St. Johanner Market. There isn't a dress code but you can expect to stand out a little bit if you're wearing that old faded t-shirt from your favorite band. If you insist on wearing it, but don't want to go the “Nauwieserviertel”, even though it's just a 5 minute walk away, check out the “Tante Anna” or maybe the “Kyus”. Both are great if drinking and talking isn't enough for you. “Tante Anna” has table soccer and “Kyus” has a pool table and a dart board.

In case you leave a club at let's say seven in the morning and you're looking for another drink, try the “Bauernschenke”. It might not be the fanciest place in the world, but it gets the job done.

Clubs

Unlike the bar scene in Saarbrücken, the clubs are scattered all of the city but fortunately, they're all within walking distance of each other except maybe for one, the “KuFa”. The “KuFa” is one of the biggest clubs in town. The music selection is usually pretty mainstream and the club usually draws a more younger crowd. Some electronic music events might be the exception to the rule. You'll get a card when you enter the club and all you drinks will be saved on the card. Once you leave you'll pay for the drinks. Don't forget to bring enough money or you'll get in trouble later. Make sure to not lose your card because that can be quite costly as well.

Another big club with a similar music selection and crowd is the “N8werk”. It's the perfect place if you'd like to meet the town people from surrounding areas dressed up in their nicest outfits. The real Saarbrücken party crowd usually shies away from both clubs.

The 3rd biggest club in Saarbrücken is the “Garage”. Here you'll find a very mixed crowd. In general the people here tend to be more alternative and dress code isn't really an issue here. The music is more rock-heavy, and if you're into badly dressed students, this is just the right place for you. They have a 2nd floor that is used for smaller rock concerts every know and then. Once a month, they have a gay and lesbian party.

Now what about the smaller clubs? Well, the 1st one that comes to mind is the “Secret Club”. The crowd is usually pretty young but well dressed. A bouncer once assured me that everyone inside was in fact over 18 years old (legal age in Germany) so it must be true. This club used to be a pretty cool albeit messed-up club named “6null3”, sadly it closed about a year ago. The new owners did their best to make it look fancy. Sadly, it kind of lacks soul now.

Another smaller venue is the “Seven”. They usually play house and hip hop. They claim to have the #1 student party in Saarbrücken. There, you'll get 50% off the admission fee if you have a valid student ID. This club used to be called Atomic-Club.

Another small club is the Modul. They have a multitude of different parties every month - from Dancehall to Mash-Ups. Hard to go wrong with this one. Great DJs, nice barkeepers and surprisingly relaxed bouncers at this place.

The “Jazzkeller” (Jazz cellar) is pretty close to the Modul. During the week, they sometimes have jazz sessions but on the weekend it's just another club. It's probably best known for it's Gypsie party.

The last club I'd like to mention here is the “Club #1”. If you can't stand wearing anything else but Armani shirts and imported Italian shoes, this could be the place for you. Naturally, it does draw a crowd that likes to feel important. On the plus side (for single men), the share of women is usually pretty high.

Aside from the clubs that I've mentioned here, there are some irregular parties at special locations every know and then. If there happens to be one, while you're in Saarbrücken, make sure to check it out. You wont be disappointed.

As you can see, be it cultural events or partying, Saarbrücken might be worth a look. It's also a great place to stay if you plan on taking hiking trips in the Saarland or in France.

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