Serving as the capital of Saarland, Saarbrücken is also the cultural hub of the state and its largest city. The region developed as the industrial and transport center of the Saar coal basin, with the city of Saarbrücken created in 1909 follow-ing the merger of three towns - Saarbrücken, St. Johann and Malstatt-Burbach.

Overlooking lively Ludwigsplatz in the heart of the old town, the most prominent landmark in Saarbrücken is the Protestant church, Ludwigskirche, which is re-nowned for its elegant, baroque-style architecture. Also of note is the Gothic church of St. Arnaud and the 18th-century Saarbrücken Castle, together with the 16th-century stone bridge that crosses the Saar River.

Art enthusiasts should make a point of visiting the Saarland Museum, which houses an extensive collection of works dating from the Middle Ages. Admire the colorful stained-glass work of 20th-century German artist Georg Meistermann and religious artworks from the mid-16th century, as well as displays of old fur-niture, silverware and porcelain from throughout the region.

Need some retail therapy? Head to the Europa-Galerie mall that’s clustered with more than 100 retail shops and lies opposite the main railway station of Saar-brücken. Alternatively, wander through the pedestrianized zone of St. Johanner Markt, a historic shopping hub that serves as the heart and soul of the city. Soak up the views of the castle from the 18th-century baroque fountain, then wander along the charismatic Fröschengasse that’s lined with old worker’s houses now occupied by an eclectic range of cafes, boutiques and restaurants.