Germany is a place full of romantic charm and fairy-tale-like locations. For the visitor who specifically seeks to experience these things, there is no better destination than Heidelberg Castle. These impressive palace ruins sit on a hill overlooking the university town of Heidelberg and the pristine Neckar Valley. With multiple massive buildings that were built in stages over some 500 years, this palace encapsulates the Romanticism of Germany and a tour of the structures and adjoining grounds can easily take up an entire day.
Here is everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Heidelberg Castle:
Because Heidelberg was constructed over such a long period of time, its buildings demonstrate the different periods throughout German history. The Ruprecht Building is the oldest standing structure on the grounds. Built by King Ruprecht in the early 15th century, it has the Gothic style of the Middle Ages. Visitors can also experience quintessential German Renaissance style in the Ottheinrich and Friedrich Buildings, which were subsequently built in the 16th and 17th centuries. Although both of these buildings were damaged by fire, they have now been restored and are open to tours.
There is also the Barrel Building, where you will find a 130,000 liter wine barrel that has sat in the same spot since 1591; the English Building, which was built for Princess Elizabeth Stewart of England and offers beautiful views of the Neckar River; and the Hall of Glass, a stunning work of architecture that was named for the Venetian mirror glass it once housed.
While you are there, make sure to tour the grounds as well. Between 1916 and 1919, when the palace was occupied by Prince-Elector Friedrich V, an elaborate garden was installed which included an assortment of ornamental flower beds, hedge labyrinths, pergolas and pavilions, and many exotic plants. There was also a series of ornate fountains as well as animatronic figures, which caused some to declare this garden the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Construction of the garden ceased after Friedrich became King of Bohemia, but visitors can catch glimpses of its past majesty.
To visit Heidelberg Castle from the main part of the town, you will need to get up the hill that gives it such a commanding view. If you are feeling energetic, take the steep path that winds up from the town to the castle. However, it is also fun to ride the historic funicular cable car! It goes all the way up the hill, and at 1.5 kilometers is the longest cable car ride in Germany; to visit the castle, get off at the first stop.
Exploring Heidelberg Castle is a great way to spend some time during a trip to Germany. Whether that trip is a river cruise, an exploration of Germany, or a grand tour of Europe, I can help you plan the perfect vacation.
Kira Gartner is the owner of Blue Sky Destinations, a boutique travel agency specializing in river cruises, luxury expedition cruises and customized European vacations. For years she has helped curious travelers plan vacations that allow them to unwind, reconnect, and immerse themselves fully in a destination. Reach out to her for a free consultation - and let her start designing your dream vacation!