Heidelberg Castle has an incredibly long, difficult history. Its ruins tower over the city of its namesake. Originally built in the 12th century, the castle played an integral part in Germany’s early history. Its location on the Rhine River was strategic. If any area military wanted to cross the Rhine, they had to cross the castle first. With cannons upon cannons, this was not an easy feat.
The castle was home to many important royal families. It housed German nobility up until World War II, at which time Nazi rallies were held. Today, the castle is in ruins. After many fires, including two originating from lightning strikes, the castle has not been fully rebuilt. Tours are given daily, both guided and unguided. After several visits to the grounds, I finally took an interior tour. I highly recommend it!
The castle is open to visitors nearly every day of the year, including Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Normal hours are 8 am to 6 pm, Christmas Eve and NYE hours are 8 am to 2 pm. Christmas Day is the only day the castle is closed.
Tickets for the Palace, which includes the use of the Funicular Railway, Great Tun (barrel), and the German Apothecary Museum, are 8 euros for adults and 4 for children. In order to view the interior of the castle, as I did, you must purchase tickets for a guided tour. Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and funny. He made the tour interesting and fun. For only 6 euros extra, you can see the inside and get a verbal history of the castle. Tours are offered in English and German every hour. Tickets can be purchased at the castle.
Visitors can take the public railway to Heidelberg central station and take Bus 33 from there to the castle. The Bergbahn (mountain train) is another rail option. There are several parking garages near the castle, should you prefer to drive. The closest garage is Kornmarkt/Schloss. Street parking is also an option, but be aware that it is typically limited.
There are many steps to finally get to the castle entrance. Depending on where you park or get off public transport, you could be trekking up quite a number of steps. You can definitely skip leg day after your visit!
After the tour is over, you are welcome to visit the basement of the castle. This is no ordinary basement, however. It’s home to the world’s largest wine barrel. Seriously!
The barrel can hold up to 58,124 gallons (220,000 liters). You can feel *wine fine* for the next 20-plus years with that! In case you run out, there’s a smaller barrel and a bar to indulge in. Wine sampling is available at the bar at various price points. You can sample wine from the region, including whites, reds, and blushes. If you’re feeling really fancy, you can pair your wine with chocolates for 14.50 euros.
For 9.50 euro ($10.50), I sampled a white, red, and blush wine. I could choose dry or semi-dry in each. It was a great way to finish the day at the castle.
If your tour worked up your appetite, don’t worry. There is a small restaurant near the visitor center that offers snacks and mulled wine (my fave!).
If you prefer, you may have a more expensive meal in a restaurant built in the castle. Our tour guide made it a point to either go there “with a big budget or a small appetite,” so there you are. You can see some of the selections from the cafe below. The cafe is more my price point.
Touring the town
Heidelberg town is an adorable quintessentially German town. Full of cobblestone streets and colorful buildings, you don’t want to miss it. It has a beautiful town square, as you can see in the above photo of the castle at night. Shops filled with everything from souvenirs, German specialties, and plenty of food and drink. Wandering the town is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. In the warmer months, be sure to grab some gelato to accompany you on your walk through town.
I recommend grabbing some food at Hans Im Glück. They have great burgers and meal specials! If burgers aren’t your thing, there are endless options around.
Have you visited any castles? What was your favorite? Let me know!
Until my next adventure,