Beautiful and romantic Heidelberg is the jewel in Germany’s tiara. It is a destination of many unique attractions and breath-taking blend of medieval and Baroque architecture. More than its iconic landmark, the ruined castle of Schloss, there are more that Heidelberg offers the world.
Yet, it is undeniable that coming to Heidelberg can’t be complete without paying homage to this red-sandstone castle that sticks up overlooking Altstadt (Old Town) and the Neckar River. Schloss nestles on the scenic slopes of Mount Königstuhl looming above the Neckar. If its walls can speak, this Renaissance castle has a lot to say having been built in 1300 AD and the silent witness of the city’s tumultuous and historical past.
Today, over 3 million tourists grace Heidelberg to see Schloss; those who did not just pass through have discovered that there’s more to Schloss and to Heidelberg in general. Here are some noteworthy points to remember:
- More of Schloss: This is among the most impressive wonders in the entire Germany. Check out the Alte Brucke or the Old Bridge (Karl Theodor Heuss Bridge) spanning the Neckar River and among the most visited bridge. It was built in the 18th century and is adorned by the medieval gate that raises it aesthetics a notch higher. Schloss also houses the biggest wine barrel in the world – the Heidelberg Tun – said to have been made from 130 oak trees in 1751 by Prince Karl Theodor. It is 7m high, 8 ½ meters wide, holds 220,000 liters of wine, and with a dance floor is built on top of it.
- Castle lighting (Schlossbeleuchtung): Three times each summer, a fireworks display is held in Schloss to commemorate the three times it went up in flames – in 1689 and 1693 during the wars with France, and in 1764 after a lightning struck it.
- Schloss Schwetzingen: This is a well-known venue for its excellent program of summer concerts as it is for its exquisite gardens. Schlossgarten covers more than 180 acres with a mix of French and English styles along with a number of 18th-century structures. It is even better if you can plan your holiday to coincide with the Schwetzingen Festival, an annual event highlighted with opera, choral, symphonic, chamber concerts, recitals and dance performances.
- Down the Old Towns Squares: From the castle, take the path going to the town’s Old Town Squares packed with the Gothich church, imposing period houses, little cafes, dainty shops, quiet nooks to relax and markets. You won’t miss the Marktplatz with its Hercules fountain (no square doesn’t have one) that’s perfect when you’re looking for a beehive of fun and action; it is after all the center of Alstadt street life. Just across is another landmark, the baroque Hofapotheke, erected in the early 1700s. If you want some peace and quiet, head to Kornmarkt, the city;s prettiest square or Karlsplatz also beautifully adorned with a fountain.
- The Palatinate Museum (Kurpfälzisches Museum): For more history, visit this museum located along the Hauptstrasse, specifically in the Baroque Palais Morass. Built in the 1870s, it houses collections of Applied Arts, medallion coins, area porcelain, glassware, sculptures from early to contemporary centuries, including early baroque sculptures, and even the mandible of a half-millennial Heidelberg Man.
- Heidelberg Zoo, Botanischer Garten and Skulpturenpark Heidelberg: These are great places for families. Heidelberg Zoo has more than 1,100 animals belonging to about 250 species. The Botanischer Garten having been built in 1593 is certainly one of the oldest and biggest gardens in the country. Skulpturenpark Heidelberg is a unique a sculpture park located adjacent to the university.
- River Neckar: The River gives you another beautiful view of the castle, the Karl Theodor Heuss Bridge and hundreds of ducks that renders the entire ambiance with organic quality. No wonder, even the locals like hanging out along River Neckar especially when the sun takes a peek.
- The Quirky Monkey: The Bridge Monkey of Heidelberg carry superstitions, that you may well want find out for yourself. Touch the mirror that the monkey holds for wealth and prosperity. If you want to return to this most romantic place, touch its fingers. Be careful with what you touch, though… touch the mice and you’ll have a throng of kids
- The Gastronomies: Heidelberg’s culinary offerings are as exciting as its aesthetics, stretching from fine luxury dining to old-fashioned pub fares to enchanting intercontinental gastronomies. Heidelberg’s most outstanding restaurants: Ai Portici, a standout Italian restarant with excellent wine selection; Heidelberg Suites Patria, a plush restaurant on board a 930s riverboat serving Mediterranean-inspired cuisine; Restaurant Serai, a cozy restaurant serving Malaysian cuisine; Restaurant zur Herrenmühle, an authentic German restaurant in a laidback ivy-covered abode; and Scharffs Schlossweinstube, a restaurant that boasts of its authentic German repertoire of dishes located within the Heidelberg Castle walls. There’s more… checkout Veggieart, Wirtshaus zum Nepomuk, Wirtshaus zum Spreisel; and Zum Roten Ochsen.
Heidelberg is a wonderful year-round destination. Plan a holiday with a few days stopover in Heidelberg and you will never regret your decision.