Heidelberg: My First German Castle and ‘Old Town’ Experience

After thirty hours of travelling I finally touched down at Frankfurt Airport where my Schnucki was eagerly awaiting. He didn’t want my first glimpse of Germany to be the concrete jungle of Frankfurt city, so we drove about an hour south on the Autobahn to a more ‘quintessentially German’ town called Heidelberg.

Famous Madonna Statue in the Corn Market

Heidelberg is famous for its ‘Old Town’ or Altstadt which is an area of the city full of old German buildings, Baroque and Renaissance style structures, cobblestone streets and of course, Heidelberg Castle. Once we got there, we met up with my Schnucki’s friend who had volunteered to be our guide for the day.

My first ‘real’ German Schnitzel definitely tasted better than the imposters sold in New Zealand supermarkets!

We started off by walking down the Main Street or Hauptstrasse, which is a pedestrian only shopping street that runs down the length of the Altstadt. The shopping street is about 1.7 kilometres long (apparently the longest one in Europe) and is full of beautiful old buildings which all have different façade designs – some were plain and some were amazing in their intricate detail. I stared at them in awe as we went past.

Hotel Ritter on the Hauptstrasse is treasured as one of the most impressive examples of a late Renaissance period style structure and is more than 400 years old!

There was a vast array of German shops down the Hauptstrasse and there was the usual tourist-trap souvenir shops and global brands like Pandora and Swarovski which ruined the Old Town look a little bit. The street ended up at the famous Church of the Holy Spirit and Altstadt marketplace, which was full of people dining outside different cafes and restaurants – which was quite an amazing sight!

Altstadt Marketplace and Church of the Holy Spirit in the background

My Schnucki’s friend currently studies at Heidelberg University, so he took us to see the old university library…and what a library that was! The building entrance and façade was so gorgeous – why doesn’t every library look like this?

The Heidelberg University is famous for being one of Europe’s oldest institutions and Heidelberg itself is one of the oldest university towns in Germany. My Schnucki’s friend also mentioned that the university is also infamous for its old school fraternity houses that (rumour has it) still teaches its male members how to dual with swords.

Heidelberg University Library

Our next stop was what I’d been looking forward to the most: Heidelberg Castle.

The castle is located about 80 metres above the Old Town and it’s an impressive sight looking up at it from below. What I didn’t realise until we got up there however, was that most of the castle itself is in ruins and there is only a small portion of it that you can go inside.

Heidelberg Castle

After paying an (overpriced) entrance fee, we got to see the inner courtyard of the castle and the world’s biggest wine barrel (it was truly massive!) and the Apotheke Museum showing the history of German medicine, which was surprisingly interesting. The rest of the inner castle was only open to guided tours so we didn’t get to see that…but the view of the city from the castle was well worth it!

Church of the Holy Spirit from Heidelberg Castle

I really loved seeing the sea of pointed orange rooftops from up there – they just looked so different from what I was used to. These houses looked exactly like how a kid would draw a house; square building with square windows, a pointed roof and a chimney or two.

It was a nice surprise seeing so many beautiful old brick buildings too, because as you may know, my hometown of Christchurch lost all of its brick buildings in the earthquakes. Because of this, I had this idea in my head that brick was an outdated and undesirable building material, but seeing all of these intricately designed brick façades and amazing buildings in the Altstadt definitely changed my mind.

These brick buildings looked so stoic and had such a warm aura…I couldn’t help thinking that Germany was lucky not to be affected by earthquakes.

Old Bridge over the Neckar River

All in all I really enjoyed the charming Altstadt of Heidelberg and I would love to visit again. My favourite parts were the narrow cobblestone streets, rows upon rows of old buildings steeped in history and the view from up at the castle. I just adore towns like this where everything you need is in walking or biking distance and I think it’d be a really great place to live and study.

Heidelberg Castle overlooking the city

Thank you Heidelberg, you were an awesome introduction to Germany!


Did you enjoy my Heidelberg post?

Is this a town that you’ve visited or want to visit?