7 Unexpected Reasons to Visit Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle is one of Germany’s iconic destinations – with good reason. Poised high on a mighty hill overlooking Heidelberg’s old town and the Neckar River, the castle is a photo op paradise. If you’ve never visited, you should. If you’ve already been, here are seven reasons to entice you to go again. Heidelberg Castle may be one of Germany’s most popular tourist destinations, but it still contains plenty of mystery!

1. There are two ways up, and at least one is fun(icular)

If you’re into medieval exercise, then the walk from the city center to the castle can be fun. Visitors work their way up a concrete path that goes straight up the hill — none of this newfangled constant switchback stuff. Which means that, by the time you finish covering the 260-foot vertical distance, you’ll be breathing like a knight dressed in chain mail.

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A less sweaty option involves taking the funicular railway from the Kornmarkt to the Castle. It’s fun, easy, and riders can also buy a ticket that includes castle admission. As a bonus, you can shake your head at the struggling walkers below.

2. There is an enormous wine vat

You may have heard of the Heidelberg Tun, which was built in 1751 and which looks like something called a Tun would look. It is a massive, 58,000-gallon, wooden wine vat that hasn’t held as much wine as one might think (because, honestly, lugging that much wine up an 18th century hill would have been very difficult).

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Yet, the Tun is a must-see. In its way, it is a marvel of human ingenuity. And it makes the mind wander to all sorts of unexpected places. As in, how was this Tun the third one that the medieval royals built, and why did they think the first two (both of which were also massive) were too small?

3. A cup of water allegedly killed a court jester

It is true that, prior to the 20th century, water was more dangerous than wine or beer (think cholera and a lack of motorized vehicles). Still, one has to feel sorry for poor Perkeo, an 18th-century court jester for Prince-Elector Carl Philipp von der Pfalz. According to legend, Perkeo was an expert wine drinker who could, ahem, polish off thousands of liters of wine without problem.

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And so it was, then, that drinking a cup of water supposedly did him in. No one is quite sure what exactly happened, but it is certain that the prankster was missed by the Prince-Elector and his hangers-on. No one is sure, either, whether the ghost of Perkeo is still haunting the Tun…

4. The castle is kind of a naturalist’s paradise

There are protected animals that make their homes in the Castle. Bats love it, including the tiny pipistrelle bat, as well as the large mouse-eared bat. If you’re lucky, you can also spot European toads, Alpine newts, and fire salamanders.

Heidelberg Castle also contains a Paleozoic-era rock outcropping, known as a geotope, that geology buffs rave about. Toss in beautiful trees, manicured gardens and other greenery, and the castle starts to feel even more magical.

5. It has an awesome festival every summer

We’re talking plays, musicals, concerts, illuminations, artisans, food, and drinks! And, of course, all of it is set in one of the most beautiful locations in the world. As a bonus, the fun lasts for most of June and July.

So if you’re thinking about a summer visit, do a little research in advance. Being festive at the Heidelberg Castle Festival is an unforgettable experience.

6. The castle guides wear costumes

Living history may seem a little cringe-worthy sometimes. After all, we live in the age of jeans and t-shirts. Who needs ruffled collars, bonnets, knee-high leather boots or 17th century dresses, anyway?

Oho! The guides at Heidelberg Castle, that’s who! And if you opt for a guided tour, you won’t regret it for an instant. The costumed guides are knowledgeable, funny, and will let you see the castle in a completely different light. When you’re done with a guided tour, you’ll walk away with a whole new appreciation for the complexity and majesty of the place.

Guided tours in English are offered hourly every day from April to early November, and daily between November and March. Cost is €6 for adults.

7. You probably won’t get hit by lightning

Okay, the logic here is admittedly shaky, but it’s based on the fact that lightning has already struck the castle… twice. The two most famous lightning strikes — in the 16th and 18th centuries, respectively — did a lot of damage: both of them led to fires and the subsequent destruction of many structures.

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The castle was rebuilt both times, of course. And those efforts led, in part, to the incredible place that is so famous today!

Getting to Heidelberg Castle

By car, Heidelberg is an hour from Kaisers­lautern, an hour from Wiesbaden, and 1.5 hours from Stuttgart. Please check with Deutsche Bahn for train details.

Categories: Attractions, Kid Friendly, Newbie Tips, Rest of Germany, Rest of Germany, Rest of Germany, Road Trips, Travel