LivingTravelKnow before you go: Heidelberg Castle

Know before you go: Heidelberg Castle

The ruins of the once grandiose Schloss Heidelberg (Heidelberg Castle) stand on a rocky hill above the university town of Heidelberg. While young students and crowded buses move below, Heidelberg Castle presides above, attracting approximately 1 million visitors a year.


Once a Gothic masterpiece, Heidelberg Castle has encountered turbulent times. The first structure was built in the early 1300s and continued to grow and expand until it became two castles in 1294. However, the dark times were yet to come.

It was looted and burned by the French army in 1689, then struck by lightning 100 years later. Lightning struck twice when another lightning strike in 1764 destroyed what little had been rebuilt. The ruins were looted to use the red brick to build new houses in the city.

Unlike many German castles, Heidelberg Castle never regained its original glory and is still in partial ruins. But the ruins have an uneven charm of their own. Each building highlights a different period of German architecture and the ruins are considered the symbol of German romanticism and Heidelberg Castle is one of the highlights of the German castle route.


Visitors begin their journey by admiring the castle from afar. He dominates the horizon, presiding regally above the turbulence of everyday life. Once you’ve reached the castle grounds, stop and look out over the city and the iconic bridge. It’s a great sight as visitors roam the elegant castle grounds for free.

For the full experience, purchase an entrance ticket to the castle to explore the spectacular interiors. A guided tour will help you appreciate the many stories that this castle possesses. For example, the Ottheinrich building is one of the first buildings of the German Renaissance palace. Adorned with impressive sculptures, Herrensaal (Hall of the Knights) and the Imperial Hall host many of the special exhibits. Or that 1590 Fassbau (cellar) that houses the world’s largest wine barrel, Heidelberg Tun, which holds 220,000 liters (58,124 gallons) of wine.

Or stand in front of the Friedrich Building and gaze at the emperors and kings from the palace courtyard. Or the story about Mark Twain visiting the castle back in the day, and the subsequent boat trip down the nearby Neckar River that supposedly inspired him to write a Huckleberry Finn chapter.

Three times every summer, Schlossbeleuchtung (castle lighting) and fireworks take place. This is to commemorate when the castle burned down (1689, 1693 and 1764).

After climbing to the top, you may need sustenance. While the old-fashioned kitchens may not measure up to the masses, Heidelberger Schloss restaurants include a stylish Weinstube , a bakery, and a space for special events.

How to get there

Heidelberg Castle is located at Schloss Heidelberg, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany, 57 miles south of Frankfurt. Here’s how to get there:

  • By car : take the Autobahn (highway) A 5 or A6 in the direction of Heidelberg; exit at the A 656 motorway, which will take you to the center of Heidelberg
  • By train : take the train to Mannheim and then take a regional train to Heidelberg, which is only 15 minutes away

Once you reach the foot of the castle hill, visitors can climb it on foot or take a historic cable car to the castle. This 1.5 km journey is the longest cable car route in Germany, reaching a height of 550 meters past the castle to Königstuhl.

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