In the Old Town of Heidelberg

Heidelberg old town, Germany

You can cross on foot the whole of the old town of Heidelberg in less than 1 hour! But why would you want to walk that fast? There are so many interesting buildings and sites to see! Here's a few of them:

Haupstrasse (Main street)

You should know first that most of the old town is car-free and only the residents and delivery vehicles are allowed in most of its streets. This makes it very agreeable for pedestrians to stroll slowly up and down the Haupstrasse (Main street) and stop whenever they like without having to look around all the time to see if a car is coming to knock them down!

But don't worry if you are a driver: there are parking lots at the entrance of the old city, and the public transportation in Germany is one of the best in the entire world.

The Main Street is still paved with cobblestones and most of the facades of the buildings have been left intact since the 18th century. It is the economic and tourist center of the old town; you will find there many good restaurants, Weinstube, Brauhausen (pubs), hotels, small and big shops of all kinds, Apotheke (chemist or pharmacy) etc. Many bakeries and restaurants have chairs and tables directly on the streets while others have an interior courtyard at the back. So, take your time, pick a Weinstube that looks nice and enjoy a Dunklesbier or a German pastry!

Heidelberg Marktplatz, Germany

Marktplatz (Market Square)

As its name indicates, the Marktplatz is the place where local vendors sell their products. Market days are usually Wednesdays and Saturdays but there are special occasions, such as Christmas and Easter, when the markets stay open for weeks or weekends on end. During the "normal days" in the morning, there are stalls where local (and sometimes exotic) products are sold such as white asparagus and other veggies, cheese and chicken, sausages of every kinds, etc.

There are also many artisans who have stalls, to sell candles and clothing and decorations, especially during the Christmas market and for Easter.

Another attraction of the Marktplatz is the Heiliggeistkirche (the church of the holy spirit).

Heidelberg Heiliggeistkirche, Germany The construction of the building started in 1398 by Prince Elector Ruprecht III. It is in the Gothic style except for a Baroque roof that was built in 1698 to replace the one that burned down in 1693 during the War of Succession.

Actually, many town inhabitants had taken refuge in the church during the destruction of their town by the soldiers of Louis XIV and it was only minutes before the roof collapsed on their heads that the French Field-Marshal took pity on them and let them out.

It is the biggest Gothic church in the whole of the old Palatinate, being 60 meters long and 20 meters wide, and one of its more bizarre features is the fact that there have been vendor stalls between its buttresses since the Middle Ages!

There were many tombs of the Prince Electors in the church before 1693, but most of them were destroyed then. Only the tomb of its founder, Ruprecht III and his consort, Elisabeth of Hohenzollern, have survived unscathed and can still be seen in an alcove in the church.

The church is still in used as a temple of faith with masses being celebrated, and there are concerts given with its fantastic organ several times a year.

Heidelberg Karlstor, Germany

Karsltor

This huge door at the entrance of the Alte Stadt (old city), Karsltor (Karl's door), in the shape of a triumphal arch, was built by the city's officials in honour of Prince Elector Karl Theodor. It is of Roman design, with influences from the baroque style and its building started in 1775. The marquetry of its ceiling is really something to marvel at.



Heidelberg Bergbahn to Konigstuhl, Germany Bergbahn and the Königstuhl

The easy way to get up the mountain overlooking Heidelberg is to take the Bergbahn, the funicular railway that goes up to the top of the Königstuhl. The Funicular makes three stops on its way to the top of mountain: first at the level of the castle, then to the Molkenkur where you can take a second train to the Konigstuhl.

The first train that brings you from Kornmarkt station to Molkenkur is brand new while the second one, from Molkenkur to Konigstuhl, is more than a 100 years old and its coach is made of wood!

Heidelberg Konigstuhl, Germany It is a good way to enjoy the view of the town and the countryside around Heidelberg and there is a restaurant as well as a Fairy Tale Paradise for kids to enjoy at the top of the Königstuhl.

To go back down the mountain, you can either take the funicular, walk down or take one of the city's buses.



Heidelberg Alte Brucke, Germany Alte Brücke (Old bridge)

There have been at least four other bridges built before the present day "Karl-Theodor Brücke" better known as Alte Brücke, but these bridges were made of wood and were susceptible to damage by flood, ice and fire. So, when the last wooden bridge was yet again destroyed in 1784, Prince Elector Karl Theodor asked for a stone bridge.

The building of this bridge started in 1786 and lasted 2 years. One of the things that the builders changed is the shape of the two towers' roof: pointy cone-shapes on the previous bridge-towers were replaced by Baroque style helmets.

Also, part of the original old city town wall can still be seen on the town side of the medieval bridge gate.



Philosophenweg (Philosopher's Walk)

A good way to see the town of Heidelberg and its castle is to cross the river and walk along the Philosophenweg. You can either stroll along the bottom part of it or climb the Heiligenberg (Mountain of the Saints) to the old monasteries of Stephankloster and Michaelkloster. Both were abandoned in the 1500s and are now in ruin.

Heidelberg Nazi Amphitheatre, Germany Another little surprise is awaiting you on your way to the top of the mountain between the 2 cloisters. It is an amphitheater built by the Nazis in 1935 as a "germanische Thingstäte".

It was used as a kind of open-air ceremonial theater by the members of the Nazis Party, thankfully abandoned at the end of the 2nd World War.

Heidelberg Jewish Temple, Germany

Other sights of interest

There are many more sights to see in Heidelberg (Kornmarkt, Rathaus, Jesuitkirche, Studentenkarzer, Universitatmuseum, etc.) and the best way to see them is to simply take a stroll through the city!

A few of these sights were found by us by accident, just walking and looking around the city. One such sight is the commemorative plaque and small empty place where the Jewish Temple used to be.

The Temple was destroyed by the Nazis in November 1938 during the Kristallnacht (night of the glass). Not only did the Nazis destroy it, they made the Jews pay for the cleaning of the site afterwards.

Since its destruction, nothing has been built at this site and a plaque was placed there to explain what happened to it and to the houses' windows on that night.

In short, our advice is to take it slow while walking in the old town, you never know what you'll find!

THE CASTLE IS ON FIRE!

Heidelberg Castle, Night of Fires



About three times each summer, the castle is on fire! Well, not really on fire, but close enough.

You see, every summer there are fireworks displays and for these occasions, the castle is lit by red floodlights as if it was on fire. These floodlights are a reminder of the great fires of 1689, 1693 and 1764 that destroyed the castle when it was the Residence of the Prince Elector.

These simulations started in July 1807 in honour of Prinz Karl of Baden and his consort, and were actually huge log fires that were lit in the Schlossgarten. The next illuminations of the castle were in 1815 and 1830 to once again honour noble guests.

Heidelberg Fireworks

In 1860 the castle ruins were illuminated by Bengal fires (flares) for the first time with great success. This was the prefer method of illumination until the invention of floodlights. It is so well done that, from the other side of the Neckar River, the castle really looks like it's on fire!

After the illumination of the castle, when all the red floodlights are off, the fireworks on the old bridge start! They are magnificent! And to see it even better, the streetlights of the whole city are extinguished! What better service could you get? Free entertainment and they switch off the lights for you to enjoy!





Winter in Heidelberg

Heidelberg Castle in Winter

Although we were told that Heidelberg can be cold at times, we have not experienced anything colder than -5oC, and this only for a few days. So, nothing to compare with Canadian winters! But yes, it can get a bit chilly at times when it is humid and the sun is hiding behind clouds.

On the other hand, one February we were able to sit outside in shorts and T-shirts (or no shirt at all!) enjoying a rum punch on the balcony while looking at the flowers!




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