Visiting Heidelberg Castle was without a doubt one of the highlights of our time in Germany this month. As first-timers visiting the country, and with only a few days to explore, it wasn't easy to choose what we'd see.
For those of you who want fairytale castles and to be surrounded by magical medieval architecture – but don't feel like renting a car – Heidelberg is perfect. You can reach it easily from any major city or town nearby, or even take a direct bus. You'll be transported to a town that is not only easy to walk through but beautiful every step of the way.
This quirky university town has had most of its buildings preserved since it wasn't affected by the heavy bombarding periods occurring in the area during World War II. So, once you're in Heidelberg, one of the immediate must-dos is visiting Heidelberg Castle (a.k.a. "Schloss Castle").
As with most historic landmarks, there's much more to this location than meets the eye.
First, some Heidelberg Castle history
The Heidelberg Castle you'll be visiting is the remains of what was once a fantastical and fortified castle. You might initially assume, upon visiting, that the destruction of the castle was caused by WWII; however, the reality is that the castle incurred all of its damage in the 17th century during the 30 Years' War (a war between Protestants and Catholics) and during the Nine Years' War (war with France). The majority of the damage caused to the fortifications and defensive structures of the castle is believed to have come from the latter.
Thankfully, the castle wasn't completely decimated. Then, in 19th–20th centuries, thanks to artists who started to promote the importance of maintaining this Renaissance castle's remains, a partial reconstruction began. It has since become one of the most famous castles to visit in Germany and Europe.
How to get to Heidelberg Castle (funicular, bus, and more)
We walked our way back down from Heidelberg Castle, and it couldn't have taken more than 10–15 minutes. A downhill (or uphill) walk with scenic views of the city.
Taking a funicular up to Heidelberg castle is the most popular way to get to the castle, although it was shut down during our visit due to a "major turnaround" (and would be back up in April of 2019. If you're interested in taking this method up to the castle (which we recommend), take a look at the seasonal funicular railway schedule below:
As I previously mentioned, the funicular was shut down during our visit, so an alternative method of transportation (bus) was available to visitors. In just a few short minutes, the bus took all those waiting below up to the entrance of the castle.
Heidelberg Castle wine barrel, balconies, palaces, and more
Fassbau (or "wine barrel building") is where you'll find the world's largest wine barrel, otherwise known as the Heidelberg Castle wine barrel. How large is it, exactly? 58,000 gallons (nearly 220,000 liters)! This 16th-century wine barrel is one of the most photographed spots in all of Heidelberg and with good reason.
Want to take in some of the most impressive views of Heidelberg? After checking out the Heidelberg Castle Wine Barrel, make your way over to the balconies just outside.
Then, stroll through the Ottheinrich Building, which was one of the first palaces built in the German Renaissance era.
Next, get lost in the majestic Heidelberg Castle gardens that surround the castle grounds; what was once even considered to be the "Eighth Wonder of the World" (before the Thirty Years' War).
Following that, explore the innards of the German Apothecary Museum, a charming, intriguing, and intricate museum containing the history of pharmacy as we know it today. What's cool is that this museum contains pieces that are mostly from the 18th century!
One huge thing we didn't have the time to get to was traversing the inside of the castle. From what one visitor we met in Germany told us, you'll find different rooms in the Heidelberg castle that recreate what it once was in its glory days (i.e., Medieval period). You'll need to go on a guided tour that costs an additional 5 euros, however. Also, make sure to take advantage of the great audioguides available here!
Admire Heidelberg Castle from these viewpoints
To observe the castle and go home with a gorgeous photo of the town and castle, you'll have to cross the river via the "Old Bridge" to reach the other part town. After crossing the bridge (and possibly taking a photo or two thousand along the way), take the stairs immediately after getting off the bridge. This will lead you to a beautiful and cozy riverside park that is beyond perfect for watching the sunset, enjoying a snack or meal, and taking in the view of Heidelberg and its incredible castle.
Go on Heidelberg's Philosopher's Walk and be amazed yet again at the view of the Heidelberg Castle as it sits perched over the town. This free walk takes you all the way up through the vineyards located on the other side of the Neckar River just in front of the castle. The walk has earned its name because of the many professors and philosophers that have traversed it over the years.
Heidelberg Castle Prices and Schedule
Visiting the castle costs 8 euros per person (and when its reduced, 4 euros), and its hours of operation are 8 am to 6 pm. The first guided tours, including those through the Apothecary museum, start at 10 am. Click here more info.