Heidelberg Castle

The Story of Heidelberg Castle

Rising tall and rugged above the town of Heidelberg is the ever so romantic and beautiful Heidelberg castle which is a world-famous and historic landmark you certainly won’t want to miss. For over 500 years, Heidelberg Castle played home to the Prince Electors of the Palatinate, though now it is a stunning tourist attraction that millions of tourists from around the world flock to see every year. When you travel throughout the awe-inspiring town of Heidelberg, from nearly every angle you will see a perfect silhouette of the grand castle in the distance.

Heidelberg Castle from a distance
Heidelberg Castle from afar. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The History of Heidelberg Castle

Right as you see the castle, you can see the rugged ruins and even without prior knowledge, you can gain an insight into the turbulent history that has since been put behind it but definitely not forgotten. The sunset coloured structure has crumbled, been blown into chunks, and renovated throughout the years, but the intriguing history is something that has stayed with it throughout it all. It is said that the history of Heidelberg Castle is essentially a cycle of construction and destruction which makes it all the more intriguing.

The Early History

Although no confirmation has ever been found, it is said that the castle foundations were settled into two complexes- the upper castle and the lower castle. However, disaster struck in 1537 when the upper complex became the victim of a harsh lightning strike and burnt down. The ruins we see today are of the lower structure which was unharmed.

It was when Elector Ludwig (Louis) V came along that Heidelberg Castle truly blossomed. Over time, Electors such as Ludwig, Otto-Heinrich, and two more Electors, both named Friedrich, commissioned many things to make the castle grander than ever before. Unfortunately, the goodness within didn’t stick around for long and in 1618, Friedrich was forced to flee during the 30 Years’ War.

The 30 Years’ War

The initial onslaught didn’t affect the castle but unfortunately, the stunning Hortus Palatinus gardens did not survive and instead fell into ruin. It wasn’t until the late 1600’s that the castle fell victim to the French forces. Without so much as a second thought, they went ahead and released their wrath upon the castle and destroying the notable Powder Tower. However, that still wasn’t enough for them and in 1693, they returned to complete their unfinished business which led to most of the castle becoming ruins.

The disheartened townspeople of Heidelberg worked hard to restore the castle to its former glory, though their efforts proved futile. Despite numerous rebuilding efforts, the Electors essentially called it quits and moved their court to Mannheim and essentially condemned Heidelberg Castle to obscurity. Though the despair didn’t end there when Heidelberg Castle was again hit by lightning in 1764 which ignited another fire that swept across and left Heidelberg Castle burning. It was from then on, that Heidelberg Castles became an eternal ruin.

Heidelberg Castle at night
Heidelberg Castle at night. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Later History

When you visit Heidelberg Castle, you will be pleasantly overwhelmed by the stunning mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles you will encounter throughout. The original structure of the castle is said to have been built far before 1214 and then expanded on before 1650 which was then damaged by fire and war. It was in 1810 that Charles de Graimberg became dedicated to preserving the castle’s ruins.

For a long time, there was heated discussion relating to the castle’s restoration. Some wanted to complete only minor restorations while others wanted to completely restore it to its former glory. It was eventually decided that only the Friedrich building, which was fire damaged, but not ruined, would be restored. From 1897 until 1900, these restorations were completed by Karl Schäfer costing a massive 520,000 Marks.

Modern Day

Nowadays, the romantic appearance of Heidelberg Castle is what attracts most tourists. Artists, writers, poets, and creative types flock from all over the world to revel in the ivy-covered, decaying buildings that once made up a grand and magical sight. Perhaps it appeals to writers so much because of its history of being idealised by the Romantic movement.

Heidelberg Castle ruins
Heidelberg Castle ruins. Source: Flickr

Turner spent his days painting many angles of the grand and magnificent castle emphasising on the castles rugged and natural beauty whereas Victor Hugo, the leading French Romantic and author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, wrote profusely about the stunning castle he had encountered. Though it is mainly accredited to Mark Twain’s description of the castle that it gained worldwide recognition. He described the castle as “deserted, discrowned, beaten by the storms, but royal still, and beautiful”.

The Heidelberg Castle Wine Barrel

Inside Heidelberg Castle sits another of its claims to fame, the largest wine barrel in the world. The barrel is so huge that it took 130 trunks of oak to make and an entire orchestra could fit inside of it, in fact, they did! During the banquet held by Elector Karl Ludwig, an entire orchestra was smuggled into the barrel and when the banquet ended, they shocked everyone by suddenly playing music.

The desired result was met when everyone there was completely surprised and in awe of the gesture.

Heidelberg Castle wine barrel
The Heidelberg Castle wine barrel. Source: Flickr

The Town of Heidelberg

Heidelberg itself is absolutely beautiful. It has a unique and Medieval feel to it and certainly sparks a creative streak in even the least creative of people. There are plenty of amazing places for tourists to stay that are deeply infused with a historic flavour and achingly beautiful views. Historical charm and romanticism simply ooze from this quaint town and even the most cynical people will find it hard not to fall in love.

There is certainly a lot to see in the stunning town of Heidelberg and if you want to spend your time wandering around, one day just isn’t enough. Just as you thought that Heidelberg couldn’t get any more beautiful, it also plays home to even more stunning landmarks and museums that you simply cannot miss. Other than the castle, people love to spend time strolling over the gorgeous arched bridge which is lovingly named ‘Old Bridge’.

Heidelberg plaza
Heidelberg plaza. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Another great thing to experience is the Heidelberg funicular railway. You will be whisked away on an enticing adventure that is accompanied by breathtaking views over the mountain. Heidelberg is completely packed with amazing monuments and rich history and the best bit is, most of the townspeople speak English!

Because English is heavily spoken there, it makes the perfect destination for first-time tourists. This means that not only will you be welcomed by amazing and historical architecture, rich history, and friendly people, but you will also be able to speak to people when it is needed without requiring a translator.

Heidelberg Castle is a stunning landmark featuring rugged beauty and intense history. The magnificent ruins and romanticism are hard to capture in words and photos, so, for your next adventure, consider adding Heidelberg Castle to your bucket list.

If you enjoyed this article we think you would enjoy our article on Norwich Castle.

Heidelberg Castle’s Timeline

  • 1225- first named as a ‘Castrum’
  • 1303- Mention of two castles
  • 1537- Upper castle destroyed by a lightning bolt
  • 1610- Creation of the palace garden
  • 1622- Tilly conquers the city and castle in the Thirty Years War
  • 1642- The castle plants are renewed
  • 1688/1689- French troops caused destruction
  • 1693- Renewed destruction in the Palatinate succession war
  • 1697- Reconstruction starts
  • 1720- Transfer of the residence to Mannheim
  • 1742- Reconstruction begins again
  • 1764- Once again destroyed by a lightning bolt
  • 1810- Charles de Graimberg decided to dedicate himself to the preservation of the castle ruins
  • 1860- First castle lighting
  • 1883- The ‘office of building of castles of Baden’ is established
  • 1890- stocktaking by Julius Koch and Fritz Seitz
  • 1900- Restorations and historical development

5 Heidelberg Castle Facts

With an interesting history and charm in all corners, Heidelberg Castle has many facts that you are bound to find interesting. Let’s take a look at five interesting facts about Heidelberg Castle.

  1. Back in 2009, over a decade ago, Heidelberg Castle was made readily available to the general public to hold events such as weddings and has since become a very desirable venue for weddings.
  2. Everyone knows about the massive wine barrel in the cellar, but did you know that it also has a large dance floor on the top of the barrel? Visitors are able to climb a set of stairs to make their way up and dance.
  3. Millions of tourists visit Heidelberg Castle every year, but the majority of tourists who visit in current times come mainly from Japan and the USA.
  4. Though Heidelberg Castle fell victim to the war in the 13th through 18th centuries, it was luckily spared in World War ll because the Allied forces had no interest in it.
  5. Heidelberg Castle is an estimated 807 years old according to tales of the construction being started before 1214.

Featured in TV and Film

  • Wild Castles- (2017)

Heidelberg Castle Books

  • Heidelberg Castle: A Guide to the Castle and Garde by Wolfgang Wiese (1999)
  • Heidelberg Castle: A Guide to the Castle and Gardens by Wolfgang Wiese (1998)
  • Heidelberg Castle by Wolfgang Wiese (2005)
  • The Ghost of Heidelberg Castle by Beverly Van Hook (year of publishing unknown)
  • Heidelberg Castle by Wolfgang Wiese and Karin Stober (2009)

Ownership

These days, the castle remains in the ownership of Bishop of Worms (first known owner).

Heidelberg Castle Tour

A great way to view the romantic ruins is to purchase a ticket for the guided tour. The tour is mainly centred towards tourists who are in it for the romantic and Disney-like properties it holds though the actual history is light in the tour. You won’t find any informational plaques or signs around the castle; however, it doesn’t take much to get a feel of the intense history that the castle holds.

Luckily, you are provided with a guidebook that gives you a great insight into the castle, it’s history, and even some weird stories relevant to the castle. For example, here is an interesting story that will send shivers down your spine: legend says that the castle will be handed over to any individual that manages to bite through the iron-ring doorknocker on the thick wooden door to the residential courtyard. The most interesting bit is that there is also a story of a which sinking her fangs into the doorknocker but not being able to bite through it completely.

Getting to the castle is fairly easy as it is situated right next to the town. Tickets to the palace for adults are 9,00 €, however, there are other prices. The guided tour prices are:

  • Adults- 6,00 €
  • Reduced- 3,00 €
  • Family- 15,00 €
  • Audio guide- 5,00 €
  • Groups of 20 people or more- 5,40 € per person

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