The art historical German city of Heidelberg is one of those compact cities which can easily be explored on foot. Wander through the picturesque streets of the old town, sit with a beer or a coffee at one of the many bars or cafés, or climb up to the castle, or up out of the valley onto the Philosopher’s Walk, or the hill of Heiligenberg for excellent views.
Heidelberg lies in the Neckar river Valley, between the legend-rich Odenwald (forest of Odin) and the plains of the Rhine valley. In this picturesque setting, it is easy to understand why this historical city is a popular tourist destination. Due in part to its old and well-regarded University, and the US army barracks situated on the edge of the town, this is a truly cosmopolitan destination, in spite of its small size and the fact that it has only around 147,000 inhabitants.
Unofficially, Heidelberg is known as Germany’s intellectual capital. Many poets, philosophers, artists, academics and scientists have been drawn here over the centuries, and this spirit of learning is still very much present in the city today.
Heidelberg Castle is, arguably, one of the most beautiful in Germany. The red stone walls stand out against the trees behind, and tower over the streets of the historic city centre like something from a fairytale.
Fortunately, the baroque charms of Heidelberg’s Schloss (castle) and the old town were spared from the widespread bombing that destroyed many of Germany’s cultural and architectural treasures during the Second World War. As well as the many beautiful houses and business premises of the old town, there are also a number of fascinating churches from different eras, and the longest shopping street in Germany.
Climb the stairs that wind steeply up from the old town to Philosophenweg on the northern side of the city and you will be rewarded by breathtaking views of the town, river and castle. Or climb Heiligenberg, on which you will find the remnants of a wall build by ancient Celts to keep out invading Germanic tribes, Heidelloch, a deep well of unknown origins, and the 10th Century ruins of a Cloister. You will also find an open air theatre built for Nazi propaganda events in 1934. Another way to gain an excellent vantage point is to take the historic wooden funicular railway to the top of Königstuhl mountain, or, if you are feeling energetic, take the Himmelleiter (Heaven’s ladder or Sky ladder) with its 1200 steps to reach the summit.
With its eight theatres, as well as numerous art galleries, museums and other sites, Heidelberg is a cultural and artistic mecca. Highlights include the packaging museum, ethnographical museum, museum of ancient art, Cajeth House Museum, and the art association gallery, though there are many other very interesting museums to choose from.
So, Heidelberg is well worth a visit if you are interested in history and culture, or simply wish to enjoy a stein or two in one of Germany’s most beautiful cities.