Though mentions of the old Wolfsburg Castle date back many centuries, the city as it exists today was founded only in 1938, primarily as a place to house automotive workers for the newly created Volkswagen factories. Even today, this auto manufacturer has a profound impact on the city’s identity, providing jobs for much of the populace while drawing in crowds of tourists with popular features like the Autostadt. But while this young and friendly city owes much success to the automotive industry, it’s a cultural powerhouse in its own right, with a vast display of artistry and a flair for popular science.
Location: Linked by Water Across Europe and Beyond
Wolfsburg sits along the River Aller and on the extensive Mittelland Canal, in the Brunswick region of Lower Saxony. Trains run frequently to and from Berlin and Hanover, as well as several smaller destinations. Once on site, transit is easy in the very pedestrian-friendly city center. But while public transit is available (in the form of buses and a free shuttle hitting several of the major sights), anyone venturing further out than the primary attractions may wish to rent a vehicle – Wolfsburg is truly built for cars.
Business: Volkswagen Shapes the City
Wolfsburg is most famous as the headquarters of the massive automotive manufacturer Volkswagen AG, and the home to the world’s largest car plant. Roughly 40% of the city’s population work here, and Wolfsburg reaps the rewards of this successful and lucrative industry – in 2013, it boasted the highest per capita income in all of Germany. Retail is huge as well, with the highlight being the Porschestrasse – a fully walkable shopping street nearly a kilometer long, at the heart of the city.
Culture: Modern Arts Atop an Ancient Backdrop
Don’t think that this city is all business and technology – the famous Wolfsburg Museum of Art (Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg) is an internationally renowned showcase of modern and contemporary arts, more of which can also be found in the Municipal Gallery (Städtische Galerie). And though the city itself is rather young, a rich history of settlement in the region is here for your exploration – visit the Town Museum (Stadtmuseum Wolfsburg) in the Wolfsburg Castle.
Activities: Explore an Engineering and Scientific Heritage
Those with even a passing interest in cars should not miss the Autostadt, a highly popular attraction adjacent to the Volkswagen factory. Essentially a theme park in its own right, the center features a masterful automotive museum, driving track, and interactive attractions (ever design your own car?), and even dining opportunities. This is also where you’ll go to begin tours of the factory itself, offered Tuesday through Friday. Science lovers will enjoy the city’s planetarium and the Phæno Science Center – completed in 2005, this incredible attraction provides hands-on exhibitions and has been granted multiple awards for its architecture.