Sights in Heidelberg
Heidelberg is a lively town in a fairytale setting crowned by a beautiful castle (13th century) and served by a stone bridge and city gate dating from 1786. As the home of Germany's oldest university it boasts one of the country's youngest populations. One out of every five residents is a student. The world famous operetta "The Student Prince" (by Sigmund Romberg) is set here and is based on the life of these students. The bustle in the old town with its vibrant cafes and bars signal the town's youthful attitude. At least one full day is needed to appreciate the sights of Heidelberg, but a few days could easily be filled at a more leisurely pace.
Top Sights in Heidelberg
Heidelberger Schloß (Heidelberg Castle)
Looming high above the old town is the impressive Heidelberger Schloß. Construction of the castle began in the 13th century and lasted over 400 years, resulting in a mix of styles ranging from Gothic to Renaissance. The castle was destroyed three different times, twice from wars (1622 and 1693) and later from a lightening strike and fire (1764).
The castle gardens make a beautiful stroll and take you back to days long since past. The Great Vat is the world's largest wine barrel. So large in fact that you take the stairs to the large dancing platform on top. Here you'll learn about the legend of the man who personally drank at least half this much wine during his life. The highlight of an interior tour is seeing the model of the castle that helps you to understand what it looked like before the most recent destruction. Finally the pharmacy museum gives you an interesting peak into Germany's past.
As noted above, the castle is located high above the city. It is a very strenuous hike up from the town, or you can take the Mountain Railway. This funicular departs from the Kornmarkt car parking lot. The funicular stops near the castle entrance and then goes farther up the mountain. The mountain top has hiking trails best enjoyed during the summer.
The Philosopher's Walk
This walking / hiking path (Philosophenweg in German) is located on the opposite side of the river Neckar from the old town. The romantic name recalls a time when the city's scholars and philosophers supposedly walked here contemplating academic pursuits. If you decide to take the hike, it will be for the view of the old town and the castle.
Friedrich-Ebert (Reichspräsident Memorial)
This memorial is a museum dedicated to the life of President Ebert (1871-1925), who was the first democratic head of state, and considered one of the best politicians in the history of Germany. The display notes are only in German, so it may not be for everyone, but you can tour his birthplace and get an insight into local life in Germany around 1871. If you only wish to see the birthplace, turn left and go up the stairs as you enter the memorial courtyard.
There are several churches and museums also worth considering, plus the Old University where you can visit the auditorium and library, tour the museum showcasing the history of the university and the student's prison.
Purchase the Heidelberg Card at the Tourist Information office at the main train station and you'll get free public transit (including the mountain train), entrance to the castle (including tours), the Old University sights and some museums in town. Discounts for many other sights and special offers at city restaurants and shops are also included. The card costs about $15 per person allowing 2 days of use. There are special prices for families and longer stays. You will break even if you only take the mountain train to the castle, take the castle tour and then visit one other attraction in town.
Walking- The Old Town of Heidelberg is perfect to explore on foot. You can walk from one end of town to the other in about 15 minutes. The 'Philosopher's Walk' and the Castle require more strenuous uphill walking / hiking.
Trains- The train station is most easily accessible to the old town by taxi ($10-$15) or bus. Taxis are right outside the main doors, and an information kiosk is set in the large roundabout.
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