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Wunderschöner Ausblick auf Heidelberg, Bild: leoks / shutterstock

Heidelberg – Where many a person has lost his heart

Almost all Americans on a visit to Germany put two destinations at the top of their wish lists: Neuschwanenstein and Heidelberg. “Romantic Germany” and the city on the Neckar – they are one and the same thing overseas. The city of Heidelberg is the epitome of German Romanticism.

If you look out of the plain and see the chain of the Odenwald Mountains in front of you, you can see the gap between the Heiligenberg and the Königsstuhl from afar. The two mountains stand on the sides like massive cornerstones – guardians of a large landscape. Here the Neckar leaves its valley. As you get closer, a great prelude and a rousing melody enchant: Heidelberg! The reputation of the much-sung city is no coincidence. The visitor succumbs to the charm of “Old Heidelberg” right away.

City of Romanticism with the most beautiful ruins in Germany

Many cities are considered romantic, but none deserves this attribute as much as Heidelberg. The poet Friedrich Hölderlin was so fascinated by the old city on the Neckar that he wrote a hymn to Heidelberg in 1800. Countless scholars, poets and musicians of the 19th century were captivated by the magic of the city.

Heidelberg, Castle
The Heidelberg Castle, Image: anyaivanova / shutterstock

The fact that Heidelberg’s old town is worth a visit doesn’t have to be told by the American tourists. Goethe visited the city no less than eight times, Eichendorff was decisively inspired here, Hölderlin dedicated an ode to it; but Mark Twain, Victor Hugo, Gottfried Keller and many famous names are also associated with this city.

Day and night, a stream of tourists from all over the world moves from Karlstor through Heidelberg’s main street. Here is the oldest town house in the city, the “Haus zum Ritter”, which survived all the destruction in 1592. A few steps further on is the famous Heidelberg University, built in 1712/28, with the magnificent auditorium on the first floor. The dungeon in the Secret Annex was once smeared and decorated with martial paintings by students. Also worth seeing is the Heiligenkirche from 1400. It was partially preserved during the destruction of the city. Its bell tower and high Gothic nave tower over the houses in the town centre, which was completely undestroyed during the Second World War. To the east of the church is the representative town hall of the town (1701-03). Soon, after a few steps across the fish market, you will reach the Old Bridge with two baroque gate towers.

Heidelberg wants to be seen, studied on foot and experienced via hikes through its alleys. During a stroll through the longest pedestrian zone in Europe, your eyes wander again and again through the charming side streets to Heidelberg Castle.

What would the city of Heidelberg be without the castle?

Above the rooftops of the old town, the extensive castle complex rises on the slope, which makes Heidelberg’s cityscape so unmistakable. The former castle from the 12th century was converted into a residence after 1356. Heidelberg’s history is closely linked to the history of the rulers at the castle. From there, the electors and counts palatine determined the fate of the country for five centuries. They decisively shaped the architectural face of the city on the Neckar. Since the destruction in 1689 and 1693, the castle complex has been a ruin.

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The writer Mark Twain once mentioned: “To look good, a ruin must be in the right location. This one couldn’t have been more conveniently located.” The castle rises on the north side of the Königsstuhl and towers over the picturesque houses and alleys of Heidelberg’s old town. In addition to an enchanting view, it entices with historical anecdotes. The view of the city, the Rhine and Neckar valleys is a highlight from the large castle terrace. The terrace extends far into the valley. The east and north façades of the residence can be easily overlooked. So does the Old Bridge and the city with its churches.

Tip: Since 1926, the annual Castle Festival has invited visitors to various performances.

Revived splendour of old times – the nostalgic museum landscape of Heidelberg

The Old Bridge (Karl-Theodor-Brücke) in Heidelberg
The Old Bridge (Karl-Theodor-Brücke) in Heidelberg, Image: Sergey Dzyuba / shutterstock

Heidelberg is not only the city of poets and romanticism, but also offers a variety of museums.
At first, visitors linger at the castle on their museum tour. Because here in the Friedrichsbau there are true-to-the-original living areas from different centuries.

In the fireplace room as well as in the green or white room, valuable furniture from the past can be admired. One of the most beautiful museums is the German Pharmacy Museum in the Ottheinrichsbau of Heidelberg Castle. The museum displays a unique pharmaceutical collection spanning several centuries. The collection features impressive exhibits that vividly present the entire historical spectrum of pharmacy. Nearby is the Carl Bosch Museum. It presents the work of the chemist and Nobel Prize winner Carl Bosch.

In the cosy old town, countless museums are close together. A visit to the Museum of Sacred Art and Liturgy is recommended. It houses works of ecclesiastical art from the 17th – 19th centuries. The University Museum offers a lot of interesting information about the history of the university, which was founded in 1386 by Elector Ruprecht I. Not far away, the Museum of Classical Antiquities presents one of the most impressive archaeological university collections in Germany. Last but not least, the Electoral Palatinate Museum commemorates the original seat of the Electoral Palatinate imperial princes. It provides wonderful insights into the history, art and religion of an ancient region.

The Packaging Museum Heidelberg presents itself as the most bizarre museum in Germany . Original and creatively designed highlights from more than 200 years of packaging culture can be seen.

Unforgettable: Heidelberg at night! In the dim glow of the lanterns, the city finds its way back to its original face. Old Heidelberg looks medieval and Gothic, as it did in the days of its powerful electors.

The atmosphere of the city can only be experienced with amorous eyes and alert senses. What remains is a valuable memory. As Goethe once paid homage: “Seeing Heidelberg again must be wonderful, just thinking about it brings me into a very special state.”

Facts about Heidelberg

  1. Historical significance: Heidelberg is one of the oldest cities in Germany and can look back on a history of over 800 years. The first mention of the town dates back to 1196.
  2. Heidelberg Castle: Heidelberg Castle is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. It is an impressive ruin that towers high above the old town. The castle is one of the most visited sights in Germany.
  3. Ruprecht-Karls-University: The University of Heidelberg was founded in 1386 and is one of the oldest universities in the German-speaking world. It is considered one of the most renowned universities in Europe.
  4. Old Bridge: The Old Bridge (Karl-Theodor-Brücke) is a historic bridge over the Neckar and connects the old town of Heidelberg with the district of Neuenheim. It was first built in the 13th century and has been rebuilt several times.
  5. Romantic Old Town: The old town of Heidelberg is known for its picturesque alleys, historic buildings and charming squares. Here you will also find many cozy cafes, restaurants and shops.
  6. Philosopher’s Path: The Philosopher’s Path is a popular walking path that is located on the opposite side of the Neckar River and offers a magnificent view of the castle and the old town.
  7. Heidelberg Barrel: Heidelberg Castle is home to the famous Heidelberg Barrel, which is known as the largest wine barrel in the world. It has a capacity of about 220,000 liters, although it has never been filled with wine.
  8. Literary connection: Heidelberg was once a popular destination for many writers and poets, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Mark Twain. The city inspired them with its romantic atmosphere and picturesque surroundings.
  9. Neckarwiese: The Neckarwiese is a sprawling green space along the Neckar River and a popular place for locals and tourists to relax, picnic, or exercise.
  10. International fame: Heidelberg is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world and is visited by millions of visitors every year.
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Museums in Heidelberg

  1. Electoral Palatinate Museum: The Electoral Palatinate Museum is located in Heidelberg Castle and displays an impressive collection of artworks and historical objects that cover the history of the region from prehistory to modern times.
  2. German Pharmacy Museum: This museum is also located in Heidelberg Castle and is the oldest pharmacy museum in Germany. It displays a fascinating collection of historical pharmacy utensils and medicines.
  3. Heidelberg University Museum: The University Museum is dedicated to the history of Heidelberg University. It shows exhibits from various disciplines and thus provides an insight into academic life in the past.
  4. Carl Bosch Museum: This museum is dedicated to the chemist and Nobel Prize winner Carl Bosch, who was born in Heidelberg. It sheds light on his life and his groundbreaking discoveries in the field of chemistry.
  5. Haus zum Ritter: The Haus zum Ritter is a historic building in the old town of Heidelberg and houses the private museum Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma. It tells the story of the Sinti and Roma in Germany.
  6. Fairy Tale Paradise: The Fairy Tale Paradise is a museum located in the old town of Heidelberg that is fun for children and adults alike. It offers an interactive exhibition with fairy tale characters and fairy tale puzzles.
  7. Ethnological Museum Heidelberg: The Ethnological Museum houses an extensive collection of ethnographic objects from different parts of the world and offers insights into the cultures of other peoples.
  8. Kunstverein Heidelberg: The Kunstverein Heidelberg is a contemporary art gallery that presents changing exhibitions of contemporary artists from Germany and internationally.