The city of Heidelberg is located about 48 miles south of Frankfurt on the Neckar River. The village of Bergheim, which now lies at the heart of modern Heidelberg, was first mentioned in documents dated 769 AD. The founding of Heidelberg is considered to be 1196 when that name was referred to in a document in Schönau Abbey, a 12th century monastery.
From almost anywhere within the city center of Heidelberg, you can’t miss Schloss Heidelberg, the Renaissance castle that sits atop Konigstuhl Hill. The eventful history of Heidelberg Castle began when the counts palatine of the Rhine established their residence in Heidelberg. First mentioned in 1225, this was destined to become one of the grandest palaces of the Renaissance. In the late 17th century the palace was repeatedly attacked and then ravaged by fire from lightning storms in the late 1700’s.
Two very important building facades within the courtyard of the castle, both considered masterpieces of Renaissance architecture are Ottheinrich Hall and Friedrich Hall. The façade of Friedrich Hall has life-sized statues of notables from the House of Wittelsbach. Down below, in the cellar of the structure next to the hall you can find what is reported to be the world’s largest wine barrel, known as the Great Heidelberg Tun. It was built in 1751, reputedly requiring 130 oak trees and initially had a capacity of 221,726 liters.
The Heidelberg University, considered one of Germany’s most prestigious universities, was founded in 1386 making it Germany’s oldest. It has an undergraduate enrollment of a little more than 30,000. The city of Heidelberg is home to several internationally renowned research facilities adjacent to the university, including the Max Planck Institutes, a science and technology research organization, with 33 Nobel Prizes awarded to their scientists.
Another notable landmark in Heidelberg is the Karl Theodor Bridge, commonly known as the Old Bridge or Alte Brücke. The current bridge, the ninth built on this site, was constructed in 1788. The bridge gate on the southern end also dates from the middle ages. As early as the 15th century there has been a statue on the bridge of a monkey holding a mirror. Below the monkey is a poem written in 1632 that references the “old monkey in Heidelberg”.
Next stop: Frankfurt, Germany