The palace courtyard and palace building mark the entrance to the magnificent gardens, which are a unique example of the late baroque art of the garden in original or authentically restored form. Extending along the central baroque axis is a roughly 200 acre circular French parterre garden, which is adjoined by rococo bosquets and sections in the English landscape style. The gardens were laid out in 1748 according to the plans of the garden designers Johann Ludwig Petri, Nicolas de Pigage and Friedrich Ludwig Sckell. The castle gardens abound with buildings, including a garden mosque (I), the bathhouse (II), the Temple of Apollo with an open-air hedge theatre (III), and the orangery (IV). In addition, the gardens boast four museums: the “garden documentation centre” in the southern circle provides information on the individual sections of the world famous garden park (V). Fascinating information on historical gardening can be found in the orangery, while the lapidarium presents a large proportion of the original garden sculptures from the eighteenth century (IV). Finally, a museum for historical garden tools housed in the former storehouse next door completes the overview of the gardens’ history (VI).
The baroque ensemble that constitutes the eighteenth century summer residence has remained to this day the heart of Schwetzingen. After the destruction of the previous building during the Thirty years War and the War of the Grand Alliance, Prince Elector Johann Wilhelm saw to the rebuilding of the baroque palace. Its heyday came when it became the summer residence of the art loving Prince Elector Carl Theodor (1724-99), who further extended the palace from 1748 onward and added the quarter-circle pavilions and the wide-ranging gardens.