Heidelberg — picturesque city in Baden-Württemberg, home to Germany’s oldest university

View of Heidelberg Castle and Old Bridge

Heidelberg is a picturesque city located in Baden-Württemberg, in the south of Germany. Situated on the bank of the River Neckar and surrounded by the hills of the Odenwald forest, it inspired numerous poets and painters of the Romantic era. Heidelberg is a traditional university town — the University of Heidelberg is the oldest in Germany, and has more than 30,000 students.

Things to see and do

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle at dusk

Built before 1214, Heidelberg Castle served as the residence of the Palatinate electors. Destroyed in the course of the Nine Years’ War from 1688 to 1697, it has become one of the most famous ruins in the world. Featuring the Great Heidelberg Tun, a wine barrel with a capacity of more than 220,000 litres, the German Pharmacy Museum and the Castle Gardens, it attracts about one million visitors a year.

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Old Bridge

Heidelberg bridge monkey

Heidelberg’s old sandstone bridge was constructed on behalf of Prince Karl Theodor in the 18th century after several wooden bridges had been destroyed by wars and floods. It links the old town to the eastern end of the Neuenheim district. Next to the medieval Bridge Gate, the Heidelberg Bridge Monkey, a bronze sculpture by Professor Gernot Rumpf, holds up the mirror of self-reflection.

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Philosopher’s Walk

View of Heidelberg Old Town

This two-kilometre path leads from district Neuenheim to the top of the Heiligenberg (Saints’ Hill) and offers a charming view over the Neckar and the city’s old town. The Philosopher’s Walk owes its name to the fact that Heidelberg’s early students and professors would walk along the pathway to discuss and contemplate different topics.

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The open-air amphitheatre built in 1935 is an example of National Socialist architecture in Heidelberg. It is situated amidst the woods on top of the Heiligenberg (Saints’ Hill) and was used for propaganda events — the word ‘Thing’, designating a type of governmental gathering common to ancient Germanic societies, was appropriated by the Nazis as a term for these events.

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Students’ Prison

Heidelberg Student Jail

In the 18th and 19th centuries, students were detained in the University’s prison for minor offences such as insulting officials, womanising, fighting duels and playing pranks. A pathway gave students access to the lecture hall, allowing them to attend classes during their confinement. It became fashionable to get locked up at least once and write or paint something on the prison walls.

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British-German Town Twinnings

Town twinnings between British and German cities play an important role in promoting cultural exchange. Heidelberg has been twinned with Cambridge in Cambridgeshire since 1965.