Built out of red sandstone from the Neckar valley, Heidelberg Castle with its Baroque garden is now enthroned as a ruin above the city. With around one million visitors per year, it is one of the most popular sights in Germany.
The castle has a number of different architectural styles, as it has been expanded over the centuries by various rulers. You will find elements of Gothic, Renaissance, Late Renaissance and Historicism styles in the building complex. Since the early 19th century, the ruin has also been synonymous with the Romantic era. Various guided tours are offered to explore the castle and individual rooms. Some of them even with guides in costume.
The Great Heidelberg Tun in the cellar is well worth a visit, too. In 1591, a 130,000 liter cask was built there and expanded twice over the next 200 years to hold a total of 220,000 liters. You can still see this barrel today. You have a great view of Heidelberg's Old Town from the "Stückgarten", a green terrace at the foot of one of the impressive towers. There is also Elisabeth's Gate, which Elector Friedrich V had built in 1615 as proof of his love for his wife.
In the basement of Heidelberg Castle you will find the German Pharmacy Museum. It tells the history of German pharmacy from antiquity to the 21st century. The entrance fee is included in the castle ticket.
As early as the 13th century, the count palatines (later electors) established their first residence in Heidelberg. Heidelberg Castle was a representative ancestral seat of the electors for 300 years. In the 17th century the large garden complex, the Hortus Palatinus or "Garden of the Palatinate", was made famous by Elector Friedrich V. Because of the elaborate flower beds on terraces, the labyrinths, the grottoes, the fountains and water features, the garden was called the "eighth Wonder of the World" among contemporaries. When the outer walls were blown up by the French army during the Thirty Years' War and the castle was destroyed by wars of succession, the electors lost their interest in the ruins and moved to Mannheim.
Over time, the castle became more and more dilapidated and burnt out after two lightning strikes in 1764. Around 1800 travelers, painters, and poets immortalized the monument in their writings and described the castle ruin as the "epitome of a romantic ruin above the Neckar river". The exiled Frenchman Count Charles de Graimberg first came up with the idea of preserving the ruins. Thereupon, in 1900, the "castle controversy" ("Schlossstreit") broke out, in which experts argued over the reconstruction of the castle. However, the representatives of the office for the preservation of historical monuments asserted themselves and decided to preserve the castle as a ruin. Only the splendid "Friedrichsbau" with its stucco ceilings and wooden and sandstone portals was redesigned as a museum.
- Heidelberg Castle is among the 5 best rated Tourist Attractions in Baden-Württemberg.
How to get there
Take bus 33 to the stop at the funicular railway station. This will take you directly to the castle. The travel costs for the funicular are included in the entrance fee.
Take the A656 towards Heidelberg. The A656 merges with the B37 and follows the course of the river to the "Alte Brücke" ("Old Brige"). At the second corner, turn into the Mönchgasse. At the Karlsplatz you can park your car in the underground garage. Then you can take the funicular up to the castle.