Another interesting city that one can visit situated down the Neckar river is Germany’s Heidelberg. This beautiful city that is located on the river Neckar in the Rhine Rift Valley in the Baden-Württemberg province in south-west Germany is an attractive touristic destination with its cityscape that offers a modern urban environment that managed to emerge in a well-preserved architecture. Heidelberg is very closele located to the (less attractive) Rhine-cities Mannheim and Ludwigshafen (10 kilometres westwards) and should not be missed if your ship sails along by. Two prominent landmarks of the city are its Heidelberg Castle and its baroque style Old Town.
Can a city be more romantic?
If we describe the city with just one word, it should be ’romantic’. Heidelberg is situated on the Rhine Rift Valley that boasts mild central-European climate that creates environment for figs and almond trees. The valley is bordered by two small mountains – Königsstuhl (568 m) and the Gaisberg (375 m). The river Neckar is 22 km away from Rhine, which makes a boat or cruise trip to Heidelberg a comfortable and worthy detour. Due to its mild climate, the city and its area offer a variety of flora and fauna with particularly interesting bird species such as rose-ringed parakeets and Siberian swan geese.
The oceanic climate of the area makes Heidelberg a city with four seasons, a cold winter with low temperatures and warm summer with high temperatures, especially in July. Heidelberg is actually one of the warmest places in Germany.
Historic record of Heidelberg
Heidelberg boasts the Heidelberg man. The jaw of a prehistoric man was found in archeological diggings in 1907. The remains are presumed to be of a human being that lived somewhere between 600 000 and 200 000 years ago and are considered to be the earliest evidence of a human life in Europe. In addition to this, the city has a rich and vivid historic background – the city’s roundabouts were once occupied by Celts, Romans, and of course – Germanic tribes. In the Middle Ages, from when the modern city dates, its population gradually converted to Christianity, monasteries, castles and fortresses were constructed, and the territories of the city were conquered by Germanic rulers.
Old Town of Heidelberg
The first thing to do after reaching Heidelberg by boat, car, or train, is take a stroll in the Old Town. The Baroque style place has over a mile-long pedestrian street that goes throughout the place and is the main street in the city centre. There is an old, 18th century stone bridge with a medieval gate that overlooks the Old Town. Among the landmark buildings of the Old Town are the Gothic Church of Holy Spirit that s situated at the marketplace. Right across it is the late Renaissance building Zum Ritter Sankt Georg, named after a sculpture of a knight on its top. Another Sehenswürdigkeit, as the Germans name the worthy for seeing landmarks, is the triumphal arch the Karl’s gate erected in honour of the ruler Prince Electoral Karl Teodor in the late 18th century. The arch is located at Heidelberg’s east side. Yet another remarkable building is the Heidelberg University’s cafeteria, a former stables located on the bank of the Neckar and called the Marstall.
Philosophers’ walk -for the wise men
If you enjoy walking, you should definitely take the Philosophers’ walk (German: Philosophenweg). The trail is located along the side of the Heiligenberg mountain that is north of the Neckar river. From there one has a beautiful view to Heidelberg’s Old Town and castle. Not surprisingly, the path is named so because it was a favorite place for Heidelberg’s academia and intelligentsia. The scenic path leads to the ruins of a monastery and a Celt fort dating from 4th century BC.
Great view: Heidelberg Castle
As already mentioned, one of the greatest attractions in the city is the Heidelberg Castle. The building that was destroyed and generously remodeled through the ages has preserved styles beginning from the Gothic and spanning to the Renaissance. Nowadays the castle is a cultural hall and is used for fests, theaters and other public events. In the park surrounding the castle there is the so called Heidelberger Bergbahn funicularrailway that could take you from Kornmarkt to the summit of the Königstuhl mountain via the castle.
Expect many tourists!
Since Heidelberg is a touristic city, there are many events for tourist throughout the year. The city is also an academic hub. The Heidelberg University is internationally acclaimed and along with its multicultural students and staff, the city is hosting many research centers. In terms of festivals, one of the outstanding such is the Ball of the Vampires, held in February. It includes a giant vampire-costume party usually held in the castle. In the last weekend of September there is an annual Old Town Autumn Festival that includes a medieval arts and crafts market. In the summer there are festivals for classical music and in autumn – for jazz music and theater. There is a traditional Christmas Market, and last but not least, for the cinema lovers there is the International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg – a film fest hosted by both cities. The event promotes the movies of art house debut directors and hence attracts a sophisticated arty audience.
… and students
Did you know that Heidelberg host the eldest German university which was foundet already in 1386, well a hundred years before America was discovered? It is not the largest, but still very popular amongst German and international students, non the least due to its picturesque charme. The Faculty of Medicine in Heidelberg is one of the most prestigious ones in Germany and has the longest history. If you want to avoid loud, partying students you should go there in late December, February or August/September when there are no university sessions and most students have left the city.
Museums in Heidelberg
Among the note-worthy museums in Heidelberg are the Carl Bosch museum, where one could emerge in the life of the Nobel-Prize winner Carl Bosch and the Documentation and Culture Centre of German Sinti and Roma – an exhibition displaying the Nazi genocide of Sintis and Romas. There are also museums that exhibit art, archeology and historical artifacts.
For the church lovers, the city offers beautiful God’s houses from different periods and with different architecture in Heidelberg. With its motley history and touristic-friendly atmosphere, the romantic city of Heidelberg is definitely a great stop for a city break.