During my short visit to Frankfurt, I have decided to organise a day trip to Heidelberg, considered in many rankings one of the most charming towns in Germany.
Heidelberg is easily reachable by train (it’s situated 80 km from Frankfurt), main attractions of the city are situated within walking distance.
My main goal of the visit was Heidelberg castle, a picturesque fortress which is rated by many as of of the most romantic castles in Europe (but also in the world).
I recommend to see the castle first–in order to make sure you have enough of time for a detailed visit and take part in guided tour for English speakers, and only then proceed to sightsee the old town–which is also found by many as one of the most charming German cities.
- Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg castle is one of the most visited places in Germany and you can find it on almost all romantic paths around the country.
The construction of the castle started in Middle Ages, at the beginning the building was a fortress, with time gradually changing to have more representational function which resulted in building renaissance style sculpted decorative façades, the building was extended with part of it transformed into palace. The castle was bustling with social and cultural life, Shakespeare’s plays were performed in the theater situated in one of the towers. The castle was also famous of its magnificent gardens full of sophisticated sculptures, altars and flower arrangements, sadly the gardens no longer exist.
The castle’s history is full of dramatic events, almost completely destroyed by French troops led by king Luis XIV in 17th century, then it was seriously damaged by the lightning in 1764 when majority of the building burned from the fire.
The castle was abandoned, and only at the end of 19th century its restauration began. The tragic history and architectural values made the building one of the symbols of 19th century German romanticism.
Today, the castle is open to visitors, one can look at the impressive gothic renaissance facades of the castle, walk on the terraces overlooking Heidelberg town and hills on the other side of Neckar river.
One can enter also enter few chambers inside of the castle during guided tour. There is only few visits conducted in English during the day, so make sure you arrive early enough (not late afternoon).
Attention catches old solar clock hanging on one of the walls of the castle and the big wine tun in the basements where you have to take stairs to get on top of it–this is one of the world largest barrels so definitely have a look!
The Heidelberg castle hosts also the Pharmacy Museum (the entry is included in general ticket). The exhibition shows the use of natural medicaments–herbs, plants or stones which were used in a healing process across centuries (from Middle Ages up to Early Modern Age). You can see how various ingredients were stored and preserved in the old times pharmacies. You will find there approximately 1,000 remedies. Some of the ingredients known for the healing and strengthening powers are a part of contemporary healthy cuisine (ginseng root, ginger, rhubarb), some would be considered dangerous to health nowadays.
Part of the museum rooms are also designed to show how the pharmacy from previous centuries looked like, wooden furniture with endless small shelves containing the ingredients, countless jars and bowls, weight and other accessories which gave impression we are in an alchemist’s study. The modern pharmacies definitely do not have the same charm (but for sure more efficient drugs).
- The old town
After visiting the castle, it’s worth strolling down from the hill to the old town. Heidelberg is an academic town, the university was founded in 1386 and is Germany’s oldest academic institution (and one of the oldest in the world). The academic traditions visibly shaped the city’s prosperity since it was a cultural centre for the arts (mainly literature) throughout the centuries.
During one day trip, it’s worth to have a walk around the Old Town to admire the historic buildings and stop by to try the traditional German cuisine. Don’t miss the Karl Theodor Bridge known as the Old Bridge. The construction was built 250 years ago, however it is a successor of 8 bridges erected in the same place before (first of them in the 13th century).
From the bridge, you have a beautiful view at the old town, Heidelberg castle and the vineyards on slopes of the hills surrounds the city.
Heidelberg is situated in Baden region where you can try German local wines–Pinot Noir, Riesling (also known as Klingelberger) and Spicy Gewürztraminer. If you are wine connoisseur, you can prolong your stay and continue along Baden Wine Route which passes through the wine-growing areas of the Baden Mountain Route, Kraichgau, Ortenau, Kaiserstuhl, Tuniberg, Breisgau and Markgräflerland. I didn’t follow the wine path this time, but would definitely discover at least part of it during longer stay. During one day trip to Heidelberg you can have a small glass (or a bottle) of local wine in many authentic restaurants and cafes in the old town or (my choice) in the restaurant in Heidelberg castle. Slowly sipping glass of local Riesling and overlooking the gothic renaissance façade of the castle is a very refreshing–and romantic if you came with someone to share this moment–experience.
- Practical tips
- Heidelberg is a perfect one day trip destination from Frankfurt. You will have to change a train in Mannheim and take regional train S1 to Heidelberg-Altstadt (check the official German railways website for schedules here)
- Since there are only few English guided tours around the castle, it’s better to start your visit there, and then proceed to the Old Town
- For opening hours and ticket information, check official website of the castle (click here).
- Practical tips