In the Old Town of Heidelberg
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!
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.
Another attraction of the Marktplatz is the Heiliggeistkirche (the church of the holy spirit).
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.
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.
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.
To go back down the mountain, you can either take the funicular, walk down or take one of the city's buses.
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.
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.
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.
THE CASTLE IS ON FIRE!
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.
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!
Winter in Heidelberg
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.