Heidelberg Castle

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Home Page > Travelogues > Germany > Baden-Württemberg > Heidelberg > Heidelberg Castle

Other Chapters in the Heidelberg section:  Living in Heidelberg ] Southern Suburbs ] Philosopher's Way ] Hauptstrasse ] [ Heidelberg Castle ]

Also available:  Segment on the Heidelberg Christmas Market  


Heidelberg Castle -- Majestic, Scenic, Breathtaking


The title of this travelogue says it all.  The Heidelberg Castle was Majestic -- a massive structure that has perservered despite the extensive damage it has Castle Overlooking Downtown sustained over the course of its 800 year existence -- Scenic -- providing a wondrous view of the Neckar River and the City of Heidelberg -- and Breathtaking -- because by the time you climb all those @#$$%)(@(*) steps to get up there, you won't have any breath left!!!   The Castle was also a mandatory stop for all the various visitors I would receive over the years.  All of them, young and old, had heard of the Castle and had to see it!

Why was it so well known?  Probably because of its location.  It sat at the west end of the Burgenstrasse (Germany's Castle Street), a short drive north of the Black Forest, and on a major tour route between Strasbourg and Cologne.  Above all, it lorded over Heidelberg, one of the better-preserved and picturesque cities in western Germany.  Frankly, Heidelberg Castle was not the most impressive one in Germany (probably not even in the Top Ten -- see King Ludwig's Castles, Schloss Wilhelmshoehe in Kassel, or the Schwerin Schloss), but its name and reputation seemed to stretch further and wider than any of the others. 

Western TowerThere were several ways to climb to the Castle, some of them more strenuous than others.  The way I normally went up was the staircase -- of 315 stairs.  I knew there were 315 because they were numbered (every couple years someone repaints white numbers on the steps).  There was also a ten-degree cobblestone incline one could take across the front of the castle, but that climb always wore my legs out worse than the stairs.  With visitors, however, I preferred to take them on the Bergbahn, a funicular railway originating just south of the Kornmarkt in Parking Garage #12 that went all the way up the side of the mountain to the Konigstuhl on top.

Entrance to the outer courtyard and the castle garden was free (only the inner courtyard required a ticket).  The outer courtyard occupied the western side (see the ruined tower in the second photo), giving a great view of the Marktplatz and Kornplatz below.  Looking toward the castle from there, one can see how deep the moat was.  Didn't matter if it was filled Neptune Fountain and Pondor not, one who fell in was not getting out.

The castle garden was a simple grassy field with a small pond and a Neptune statue in the corner (seen in the third photo).  On a sunny afternoon, this garden was always filled with University students seeking a place to read, relax, or play games after class.

Over the years, Heidelberg Castle has been undergoing a steady dose of renovation, one tower at a time.  The purpose seemed to be only to clean it, not to rebuild the castle to its original form.  The collapsed western tower shown in the second photo and the split southeastern tower shown in the fourth photo were shown "post-renovation".  In the latter case, the renovation effort focused on building a solid foundation for the facade that had fallen off so it didn't shift or tip over any further.

Beyond the garden was an arched wall that followed the eastern ridgeline, ending with a great observation deck that allowed me to get an excellent view of the castle from a distance (as seen in the first photo), or the city below (as seen in the fifth photograph).  The best time to visit the observation deck was in the morning, because the city lay to the west, positioning the sun optimally for good photographs.  Also, the Neckar River tended to kick up some haze during the summer afternoons.

The inner courtyard was worth the small fee to visit.  The courtyard was the best-preserved part of the castle (that is, the only part not succumbed to ruin).  The courtyard had a small square for hosting summer concerts, a very posh restaurant, and a surprisingly large apothecary museum.  For an additional fee, visitors can also tour the inside of the residence.  Tours were available several times a day in both German and English.

Beneath the courtyard was my favorite part of the Castle, an exhibit of the world's largest barrel (das Grosses Fass) --  a twenty-foot tall barrel with a capacity of about 100,000-liters.  Seeing was definitely believing.  The fass was so big, they built massive scaffolding around it to allow visitors to climb all around it.  Given its size, and the tight fit in its room, I mused over how they got it in there during my various visits.  Outside the fass was a weinstube (wine parlor) that opened during certain times of the year, or for pre-arranged visits by tour groups.  The weinstube offered tastings of local wines (primarily from the states of Rheinland-Pfalz and Baden-Wuerttemberg).  

Once finished with walking the Castle grounds, probably the best thing to do is shop for souvenirs.  Some of the best souvenir shopping in Heidelberg lay right outside the entrance, and the prices and quality were comparable to the shops in the Altstadt below.

If you visit Heidelberg, you must reserve about a couple hours to go enjoy the Heidelberg Castle -- part of that time will be needed for the travel up to and down from it.  After all, you will need to build up the appetite so that you can better enjoy the wonderful restaurants waiting for you in the city below!

Other Chapters in the Heidelberg section:  Living in Heidelberg ] Southern Suburbs ] Philosopher's Way ] Hauptstrasse ] [ Heidelberg Castle ]

Also available:  Segment on the Heidelberg Christmas Market  

Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin

Useful Links:

Baden-Württemburg Tourism Page -- http://www.tourismus-baden-wuerttemberg.de/pannet/english/home.htm 


City Visitors Bureau -- http://www.cvb-heidelberg.de/index.hei?lang=1


City Home Page -- http://www.heidelberg.de


Y! Travel Guide -- http://travel.yahoo.com/p/travelguide/484522 



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