Schloss Ludwigsburg was born out of Duke Eberhard Ludwig’s envy of palaces admired on military campaigns abroad. French troops, who in 1697 reduced the ducal hunting lodge here to ashes, provided the required excuse to build a replacement, in the form of a Baroque palace, duly begun in 1706. Just before its completion, the duke demanded two further wings, in part to lodge his mistress. The court was furious at his extravagance, yet a second, far larger Corps de Logis rose to close the square.

However, Eberhard Ludwig was almost modest compared with his successor Duke Carl Eugen. Upon ascending to the duchy throne in 1744, the 16-year-old ruler declared the Residenzschloss his home and established the most vibrant court in Europe where the finest opera, ballet and French comedy was offered, and extramarital dalliances were part of the menu too: the Duke forbade ladies from wearing blue shoes at court except “those who would … devote their honour to him … (and who should) never appear without this distinguishing mark,” notes a 1756 court report. Small wonder his wife stomped back to her parents after eight years of marriage.

The interior

Of the sixty-odd rooms on show of the palace’s 452 across eighteen buildings, the older ones are perhaps the most extravagant: a gorgeous allegorical fresco of the arts and sciences for Eberhard Ludwig in the Ahnensaal (Ancestors’ Hall) leads to Carl Eugen’s charming Schlosstheater, which entertained Mozart, Casanova and Goethe and where classical music is still staged in the summer. Eberhard Ludwig’s Schlosskapelle spurns Protestant piety to show off ritzy Baroque. The east wing’s Satyrkabinett features cherubs above moustachioed Turkish prisoners of war who lament Eberhard Ludwig’s success in the field, and trompe l’oeil frescoes play tricks on the ceiling of the Ordenshalle, the festive hall of the ducal hunting order. The new Corps de Logis is largely dressed in opulent early Neoclassicism that ranks among Germany’s finest, a makeover for Frederick I’s summer retreat; the Stuttgart king who became so bloated through gluttony that he had to be hoisted by block and tackle on to his mount until one could be trained to kneel camel-fashion. The palace entry ticket also covers small palace museums of theatre and court dress, and a shop retails the hand-painted china of a factory established in 1758 by Carl Eugen.

The Blühendes Barok

To the rear of Schloss Ludwigsburg lies the Blühendes Barok, its landscaped gardens, which provide a natural breather from the head-spinning opulence inside. Largely landscaped in naturalistic style, punctuated with a castle folly, a Japanese garden, an aviary and a whimsical fairytale garden – complete with kitsch sound effects – they’re a relaxing spot to lounge and picnic.

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