Surrounded by beautiful gardens, the majestic red sandstone building is situated 300 feet above the city. The construction was begun around 1300 and lasted over 400 years. Later on, ramparts, outbuildings and palaces in all styles from Gothic to High Renaissance were added. Over four centuries, Heidelberg Castle served as the residence of the Prince Electors of the Palatinate. During the 30 Year´s War, Heidelberg suffered destruction and plundering. Later, Karl-Ludwig rebuilt castle and university. To keep peace with France, his daughter Liselotte married the Duke of Orléans, brother of Louis XIV. After the death of Karl-Ludwig´s son, the French laid claim to the Palatinate, which resulted in French invasions in 1689 and 1693 - and in vast destructions of town and castle.
It was Prince Elector Ruprecht III (1398 - 1410) who had erect the first representative building as a regal residence in the inner courtyard. The exterior of the building, divided into a ground floor made of stone and framework upper levels, seems quite unpretentious today. Another regal building is located opposite to the Ruprecht Building: the Fountain Hall. Prince Elector Philipp (1476 - 1508) is said to have arranged the transfer of the hall´s columns from a decayed palace of Charlemagne to Heidelberg.
The Prince Electors of the 16th and 17th century turned the fortress into a castle and added two representative palace buildings to the complex. The two dominant buildings at the eastern and northern side of the courtyard were erected during the rule of Ottheinrich (1556 - 1559) and Friedrich IV (1583 - 1610). Today, they are considered to be two of the most important buildings in German architectural history. Under Friedrich V (1613 - 1619), the main building of the westside was erected, the so called "English Building".
The Castle and its garden were destroyed, however, during the 30 Years' War. Later, it was rebuilt by Prince Elector Karl Ludwig (1649 - 1680), only to be destroyed once again by French troops. Prince Elector Karl Theodor who resided in Schwetzingen tried to restore the castle to make it inhabitable once again, but in vain: Lightning struck the Castle in 1764. In the centuries that followed, the Castle was misused as a quarry - castle stones helped to build new houses in Heidelberg. This was stopped in 1800 by Count Charles de Graimberg who made any effort he could to preserve the Heidelberg Castle. Inspite of its Gothic interior, it was not before 1934, that the King's Hall was added.
Today, the hall is used for festivities, e.g. dinner banquets, balls and theatre performances. During the Heidelberg Castle Festival in the summer, the courtyard is the site of open air musicals, operas, theatre performances and classical concerts performed by the Heidelberg City Orchestra.
Entry for the Castle yard, Great Vat and German Pharmacy Museum:
Adults € 3; reduced rate € 1.50
Adults € 4 , reduced rate € 2 - groups with more than 20 people € 3.60
Worldwide biggest Wine Barrel
The first “big barrel” in the cellar of Heidelberg Castle was built in 1591. Today´s tourist attraction, the barrel built in 1751, is even bigger: More than nine yards long and eight yards high, it has a capacity of 55,345 gallons of wine. In former times, the wine growers had to pay their share of taxes by delivering wine to the castle.
In Englisch, French Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Russian
Price: 3,50 €; Groups up from 20 people: 2,50 €
In former times, the geometrically designed terraces of a Renaissance garden stood out against the wooded background of the Heidelberg Castle. Before the 30 Years' War, contemporaries even considered the "Hortus Palatinus" as being the "Eighth Wonder of the World". In the south-east corner of the garden, visitors will find the remains of the "Great Grotto". Rocks were blown up to create this romantic grotto displaying musical water arts. The walls were abundantly decorated with rare polished stones, shells and corals.
Left of the grotto, a pond contains the enormous sandstone sculpture of a resting "Father Rhine". A monumental dimension is added to the Castle Gardens while strolling on the "Great Terrace" and enjoying the wonderful view of the Castle's east front rising dark into the sky as well as a view of the Rhine Valley. It was the famous garden architect Salomon de Caus, who discovered this unique spot and view. He created the Castle Gardens as a homage to Heidelberg's surroundings.