Heidelberg Castle is the most popular castle ruin in Germany.
Nestled in the hill 80 meters (260 feet) above the city of Heidelberg stands the breath-taking Heidelberg Castle.
As a symbol of German romanticism the castle attracts yearly countless tourists from all over the world and is one of the must-see German destinations.
The Heidelberg Castle is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles.
The earliest castle structure was built before 1214 and later expanded into two castles circa 1294 ; however, in 1537, a lightning-bolt destroyed the upper castle.
The present structures had been expanded by 1650, before damage by later wars and fires.
In 1764, another lightning-bolt caused a fire which destroyed some rebuilt sections. The palace decayed. Heidelberg citizen even used the ruin as a source of building materials for their own houses.
In 1810 Charles de Graimberg dedicates himself to the preservation of the Castle ruins.
The question of whether the castle should be completely restored was discussed for a long time. In 1868, the poet Wolfgang Müller von Königswinter argued for a complete reconstruction, leading to a strong backlash in public meetings and in the press.
Only the Friedrich Building, whose interiors were fire damaged, but not ruined, would be restored. This reconstruction was done from 1897 to 1900 by Karl Schäfer at the enormous cost of 520,000 Marks.
The main gate was built in 1528. The original watchhouse was destroyed in the War of the Grand Alliance and replaced in 1718 by a round-arched entrance gate. The gate to the left of the main entrance was closed by means of a drawbridge.
The forecourt is an enclosed area between the Main Gate and the Castle Gate an includes incredible terrace from which there are amazing views over the Old Town. The Forecourt also includes the romantic Elizabeth Gate, built by Friedrich V in a single night in 1615 as a surprise for his wife Elizabeth Stuart.
Friedrich Building is the building in the finest condition of any at the Castle. Constructed at the start ofthe 17th century, the building’s facade was severely damages in 1693 and the interior was destroyed in the fire approximately sixty-years later. In the early 20th century a reconstruction effort utilized as much of the existing structure as possible in order to reflect the intentions of the original architect.
Ottheinrich Building – Introduced a wonderful renaissance style to Heidelberg with its façade bearing biblical and mythological figures. Well known sculptor Colin of Mecheln designed the main entrance which has a triumphal arch emblazoned with the Elector’s coat of arms.
In spite of its Gothic interior it was not before 1934, that the King’s Hall was added. Today, the hall is used for festivities, dinner banquets, balls and theater performances.
The Heidelberg Tun, or Great Heidelberg Tun, is an extremely large wine vat contained within the cellars of Heidelberg Castle. There have been four such barrels in the history of Heidelberg. In 1751, the year of its construction, the present one had a capacity of 221,726 litres (58,573.8125 U.S. gallons). Due to the drying of the wood its current capacity is 219,000 litres (57,853.6795 U.S. gallons). It is the world’s largest wine barrel.
The Upper Prince’s Fountain was designed and built during the reign of Prince Karl Philipp. Over the gate to the fountain house is his monogram with the date 1738 chiseled in the stone.
In former times, the geometrically designed terraces of a Renaissance garden stood out against the wooded background of the Heidelberg Castle.
Around 1800 the ruins became an object of Romantic enthusiasm. For many artists, the ruins, the surrounding hills and the river were a perfect ensemble. The best depictions are those of England’s J. M. W. Turner, who stayed in Heidelberg several times between 1817 and 1844, and painted Heidelberg and the castle many times.
Victor Hugo waxed lyrical over the beauty of the castle within his writings.
Mark Twain, the American author, described the Heidelberg Castle in his 1880 travel book A Tramp Abroad.
The Heidelberg Castle Festival, which is held every summer, is also held in the castle courtyard, wheremusicals and theater shows are held.
Heidelberg Castle is served by an intermediate station on the Heidelberger Bergbahn funicular railway that runs from Heidelberg’s Kornmarkt to the summit of the Königstuhl.
Nowadays, the enigmatic castle attracts several million tourists each year.