Besides the Old Bridge and the Neckar river the impressive castle ruin is one of the most popular sights in Germany and belongs to the landmarks of Heidelberg. The castle was built in the 13th Century as a fortress from the red sandstone of the Neckar Valley. Later it served as residence for the Electors until its destruction in the War of Palatine Succession (1689). The castle has been rebuilt several times over the centuries by the electors and consists today stylistic elements of three different eras. From the Old Town you can reach the castle by foot or funicular railway.
Old Town (Altstadt)
The Main Street (Hauptstraße) leads from Bismarck’s Square (Bismarckplatz) to Karl’s Gate (Karlstor) right through the Old Town. With a length of 1,6 km (1 mile) it is considered as one of the longest pedestrian areas of Germany. After the War of Palatine Succession the baroque buildings were built on the old fundaments of the ruins. Heidelberg remained unharmed by the two world wars which preserved its authentic past.
Old Bridge (Alte Brücke)
The Old Bridge is about 230 years old and is named after its founder, the Elector Karl Theodor. Once it was considered to be an important trade route and only link between Frankfurt and Basel. Together with the castle and the Neckar river it is one of the landmarks of Heidelberg. From the Old Bridge you go through the Stone Alley (Steingasse) to the Market Square (Markplatz) and the Chruch of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggeistkirche).
The Knight’s Inn
The The Knight’s Inn with its magnificently decorated facade is considered to be one of the oldest buildings in Heidelberg. It was built in 1592 by the huguenot cloth merchant Belier in Renaissance style and survived all wars and town fires. After the War of Palatine Succession, it served as a temporary town hall. Since the end of the Thirty Years War, it is used as a tavern and inn.
The Church of the Holy Spirit is situated at the Market Square, in the centre of the Old Town. Originally it was erected as the burial place for the prince electors and housed the Palatinate Library, a valuable collection of medieval manuscripts, which were carried off during the Thirty Years War. As a spoil of war the library was granted to the Vatican. The Church combines gothic and baroque architecture at the same time.
On sunny days you can enjoy a wonderful view from the Philosopher’s Walk on the Neckar river, the old town and the castle, located above it. The Philosophers Walk runs 1.5 km (0,9 miles) parallel to the Neckar river at the foot of the Holy Mountain directly through the former vineyards.
The Philosopher’s Garden is a place for relaxation and an oasis. Due to the mild climate, exotic plants, such as almond and orange trees are flourish there. Even famous philosophers and poets have been inspired by this magical place.
The Heidelberg University with its 12 faculties was founded in 1386 by Ruprecht I. It is the oldest university in Germany. From the 148.000 inhabitants of Heidelberg about 30.000 are students. In former times the university had its own jurisdiction. Till 1914 the students who broke the order were put into the Student’s Jail (Karzer). Nowadays the Karzer is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Heidelberg. The inner walls of the cells are painted with the various inscriptions and drawings. The Old Assembly Hall (Alte Aula), a representative hall of the university, is presented in Neo-Renaissance style and decorated with the wooden panels and also deserves the tourists attention.