Heidelberg’s sprawling castle sits front and center above the old city, proudly heralding its ancient history. The castle is an enormous fortification built in 1214 AD to overlook and protect the Neckar River, a vital German shipping route during the Middle Ages. Although the fortress has been damaged twice by lightening, tourists today are fortunate that so much of the structure has survived. It is beautiful to visit and I recommend it as a free attraction for you and your family. Yes, it costs €3 for adults and €1.50 for children to enter the inner courtyard and visit a small portion of the interior, but those are really not essential to the enjoyment of the fortress. The capacious grounds are free to roam and offer the same splendid city views as elsewhere in the castle.
One can literally spend an entire afternoon picnicking and wandering the terraced, upon terraced, upon terraced gardens with their numerous sculptures, fish ponds, and grottos. On the eastern side of the grounds is an observation deck where one can view the castle from a distance and take great photos. Follow the very deep moat around the structure - there are various collapsed towers and other interesting ruins. Super tip of the day: there are free restrooms on the grounds, near the entrance to the courtyard.
|Mark Twain said, after visiting Heidelberg Castle,|
"Nature knows how to garnish a ruin
to get the best effect."
There are four ways to get up to the castle from town. You can walk up the strenuous Burgweg path which begins next to the Rathaus (city hall), you can ride a bike or drive a car (we drove and had no trouble finding parking on a side street near the castle), or you can ride the funicular, or Bergbahn (the most fun for kids.) Catch the Bergbahn just south of the Kornmarkt in town in parking garage #12 up the side of the mountain.