Ladenburg is another of those little towns that rarely gets attention from visitors, but the locals know it very well. It is about the most colorful and best preserved of the towns on the Neckar River. Years of reconstruction and renovation have restored much of the city's old wall, and it displays its old Roman heritage proudly. It's an excellent place to go on a sunny day when all you want to do is sit back, relax, and have a coffee or pils, or just walk around.
Ladenburg's history is spelled out in great detail on a large stone tablet mounted near one of its archaeological digs in the center of town. Site of a 1st century Roman settlement, it changed hands many times over the centuries as it occupied prime terrain, among the last bends in the river before the Neckar dumped into the Rhein. The digs themselves showed the foundations of several Roman-era stone buildings, and they were well marked.
Modern visitors go because of the old stone streets and colorful half-timbered buildings in Ladenburg's marketplaces. The downtown is practically a maze, with lots of twists and turns among its very tight streets. The Hauptstrasse was a minor exception -- it ran straight from the main parking lot outside the city wall directly to the main market square, or Hauptmarkt, shown in the first picture.
The two times I went there in March 2003, the skies were perfectly sunny and the weather was warm, conditions very rare in Germany at that time of the year. So, it was not surprising to see throngs of people wandering about the downtown. In fact, my second trip was on the weekend of Ladenburg's spring festival, and the market squares were utterly packed.
The second photo shows the Catholic church, which from a distance would be the most prominent feature in the town with its two octagonal spires. Its entrance served as a smaller market square that hosted outdoor seating for a nearby restaurant (the yellow building at right) and an Italian ice cream parlor across the street. The archeaological digs were deeper in the town, in an area surrounded by the old city wall, shown in part in the third photo. The row of buildings at left were some of the more traditional-style guesthouses and restaurants, while another Catholic church and a museum sat on the opposite side.
In my first trip there, I ventured down to the river itself, across a secondary road and through the city park, which was also packed with people. A small earthen dyke was all that protected the city from the river, and I walked along the top of the dyke passed the red brick Wasserturm (water tower). The Neckar seemed very peaceful with barely a ripple in it until a huge barge came by on its way west toward the Rhein. Passing through the park, I noted an old ferry that carried cars and people across the Neckar to the south bank, and I was amused to see it -- it was very small and not at all powerful, crawling across the river while chugging loudly under the weight of a mere two cars.
I scoured the entire city wall as well, and the fourth photo shows the corner tower, one of several still standing. Much of the wall has been restored, and the newer parts were easy to identify. Some of the residences incorporated themselves into the wall, with its new windows set into the old holes where the archers once defended the town.
I have been told that Ladenburg's restaurants ranked among the best in the Heidelberg area, but as of this writing I had not had a chance to try. Particularly raved about was a place called die Kartoffel (The Potato) that served streaks cooked on heated stone at your table. I've added this to my "list" of things to do in the future...
Ladenburg was a lovely visit, both times. I enjoyed the peaceful views of the Neckar, the colorful half-timbered buildings of the downtown, and the tremendous history on display between the ruins and the city wall. It was only about a twenty minute drive from downtown Heidelberg, easily accessible, and parking was not much of a challenge. So, if you are in the Heidelberg area some time, you might look for this little gem on the Neckar's north bank.
Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin