Lonely Planet review
Sticking up above the Altstadt like a picture-book pop-up, Heidelberg’s ruined Schloss is one of the most romantic spots in Germany. Palatinate princes, stampeding Swedes, rampaging French, Protestant reformers and lightning strikes – this Renaissance castle has seen the lot. Its tumultuous history, lonely beauty and changing moods helped inspire the German Romantic movement two centuries ago.
To reach the red-sandstone castle, perched about 80m above the Altstadt, you can either hoof it up the steep, cobbled Burgweg in about 10 minutes, or take the Bergbahn , opened in 1890, from the Kornmarkt station. Schloss tickets include travel on the Bergbahn – or, to put it another way, Bergbahn tickets include entry to the Schloss. The Schloss’ courtyard and terrace are accessible 24 hours a day – tickets are required only from 8am to 5.30pm.
Audioguides that cite Goethe’s poems and Mark Twain’s stories can be hired at the Ticket Office , to the right as you enter the gardens from the Bergbahn station. They are available in eight languages, including Chinese, Japanese and Korean. You’ll be asked to leave ID as a deposit.
Except for the museum, almost the entire Schloss is wheelchair accessible, though the cobblestones can make for rough rolling.
The Schlosshof , the castle’s central courtyard, is surrounded by Gothic and Renaissance buildings so elaborate they often elicit gasps from visitors, as do the breathtaking views of the Altstadt and the Neckar Valley from the terrace (through the archway at the bottom of the courtyard). The terrace’s benches are perfect for a picnic.
The only way to see the less-than-scintillating interior of the Friedrichsbau , rebuilt (or, more accurately, built) a century ago, is on a guided tour (€4). Psalm 118 is inscribed on the facade in Hebrew and Latin.
With a capacity of about 228,000L, the mid-18th-century Grosses Fass , shaped from 130 oak trees, is the world’s largest wine cask. Describing it as being ‘as big as a cottage’, Mark Twain bemoaned its emptiness and mused on its possible functions as a dance floor and a gigantic cream churn.
The adjacent cafe serves beer, wine and, in winter, Glühwein (hot mulled wine). Sampling three different wines costs €5.50.
The surprisingly interesting Deutsches Apotheken-Museum , off the Schlosshof, illustrates the history of Western pharmacology, in which Germany played a central role. Exhibits include pharmacies from the early 1700s and the Napoleonic era. Kids can use a mortar and a pestle to blend their own herbal tea (details available at the entrance). Most signs are in English.
The grassy, flowery Schlossgarten , on the hillside south and east of the Schloss, is a lovely spot for a stroll or a picnic. The cracked Pulver Turm (Gunpowder Tower) was damaged by French forces in 1693.