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Travel to Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg is one of the few German cities that wasn't destroyed in World War II; plenty of old world charm fills the narrow cobble stone streets of its Old Town, which was the center for Germany's romantic period. The ruins of the once grand Heidelberg castle, the oldest university in the country, and the idyllic river valley make Heidelberg one of the most picturesque destinations in Germany.
Tourist Attractions in Heidelberg
Hauptstrasse and the Altstadt (Old Town)
Heidelberg's Hauptstrasse is the place to start exploring this beautiful city. From this narrow main street, you'll find countless even narrower side streets and alleyways just begging to be explored, each bursting with things to discover: unspoiled medieval architecture; splendid old churches; and numerous boutique shops, galleries, cafés, and restaurants. Highlights include the early 15th-century Heiliggeistkirche, the Church of the Holy Ghost, and Haus zum Ritter, a Renaissance building dating from 1592.
Heidelberg Castle can be reached by the Bergbahn, a mountain railway running from the Kornmarkt, or via a 15-minute walk from the old town. Built of red Neckar sandstone on the terraced hillside some 195 meters above Heidelberg, this 16th-century castle is one of the best examples of German Renaissance architecture. After its destruction by the French, who devastated the Palatinate in the 17th century, it has remained the largest and most picturesque such ruin in Germany. The castle is home to many excellent festivals, most held in its evocative courtyard, as well as theatrical performances, concerts, and firework displays. One of the most popular is the Heidelberg Castle Festival from June to August, which boasts an eclectic mix of theater, choral music, chamber orchestras, jazz, folk, and opera.
On the south side of the Hauptstrasse lies Universitätsplatz, with the Old University dating back to 1711. On its east side, in Augustinergasse, is the Pedellenhaus with the former Student Prison, Karzer, in use from 1778 to 1914. The New University was built in 1928-31, behind which rises the Hexenturm, or Witches' Tower, once part of the town's fortifications. Nearby, in Grabengasse, you'll find the richly stocked University Library whose principal treasure is the 14th-century Manessische Handschrift, an illuminated manuscript of medieval songs. Also of note are the Seminargebäude, the Mensa students' refectory, and the 15th-century Peterskirche, a tiny chapel now used mainly as the university church.
Karl Theodor Bridge
Also known as the Old Bridge, Heidelberg's spectacular Karl Theodor Bridge has been immortalized in numerous poems and paintings, testament to the romanticism that surrounds the structure. Spanning the Neckar and joining the two sides of historic Heidelberg, the famous bridge with its lovely sculptures is named after the man responsible for designing and building its nine red sandstone arches in 1788 as a replacement for the numerous wooden bridges that came before. The bridge is well worth strolling along for its views of Heidelberg and its sister bridge, the twin-towered Brückentor.
The Philosophers' Walk
Another great way to explore Heidelberg is along the well-marked Philosophenweg, or Philosophers' Walk. On the north side of the Neckar, this wonderful pathway runs along the side of Heiligenberg, or Saints' Mountain, and is where the university's philosophers would walk. It's not hard to see the attraction: the views across the Neckar to the old town are incredible, and provide an excellent excuse to visit a few other notable attractions, including the ruins of the 11th-century Monastery of St. Michael, and the adjoining Thingstätte, a Nazi-era amphitheater. Also making the uphill trek to the trail worthwhile are the ruins of an ancient 4th-century Celtic hill fort.
Königstuhl - The King's Seat
Just seven kilometers east of Heidelberg, the Königstuhl - or King's Seat - is a hill rising some 567 meters with spectacular views as far as the Rhine Valley. Access to the summit, part of the Odenwald Mountains, is via the Heidelberg Mountain Railway, the same funicular railway that takes visitors to Heidelberg Castle. It's an excellent place to explore the beautiful countryside surrounding Heidelberg, especially as the difficult part - getting there and back - is taken care of via the railway.
Heidelberg Zoo and Germany's Oldest Botanic Garden
The Heidelberg Zoo is certainly worth a visit, particularly if traveling with youngsters. On the north bank of the Neckar, this fun zoo has more than 1,100 animals encompassing some 250 species. A registered member of the European Endangered Species Program (EEP), as well as West African Primate Conservation Action (WAPCA), the zoo has a special focus on conservation and breeding programs for endangered species. Afterwards, be sure to visit the Botanischer Garten adjacent to the university. Established in 1593, it's one of the oldest - and largest - botanical gardens in Germany. Another great place for a garden stroll is Skulpturenpark Heidelberg, a sculpture park, which is also next to the university.