Our first stop in Heidelberg was Schloss Heidelberg, or Heidelberg Castle in English! We got really lucky. It was supposed to rain, but when we arrived it was warm and sunny. We went right up to the Castle as soon as we checked in to our hostel, just in case the weather changed. I would recommend doing the same; if rain is forecasted, take advantage of any sun to visit the Castle, as its largely open air.
The Castle is located above the Altstadt, and there are two ways to get up to the castle – walk or take the funicular (an elevator/train that goes up the side of the mountain…err, hill). We opted to walk. The walkway is paved and consists of a series of steps. I had to make a stop on the way up to catch my breath (and I blame the jet-lag/dehydration from the free trans-atlantic vino…), but it wasn’t a bad walk. In reality, the walk is steep and not recommended for the mobility impaired, but it is most certainly doable for able-bodied adults. The finicular costs €6 and includes admission to the castle grounds, so its effectively free. Take your pick!
When you get to the top, you can walk around the outskirts of the castle for free, but to enter into the true castle “grounds” and/or the interior of the castle, you have to buy a ticket. You can purchase the tickets on the spot from the gift shop at the top of the hill.
While the castle is “ruined,” I thought it was in pretty good shape and there is a lot to see! There are two options to see the actual castle – € 6 to walk around the castle grounds (included with funicular ticket) or €10 to take a guided tour of the interior AND walk around the grounds. We decided to take the English tour of the castle, which started at quarter-past every hour. Our main motivation was to see the interior, and this tour is the only way to see the interior of the castle. The tour lasted about an hour. It was good. The guide told a lot of history about the castle. It was also interesting to see some of the interior rooms – they were decorated nicely and it shed some light on the Castle’s history. I would certainly recommend the tour, but I wouldn’t consider it a “must do,” especially if you are short on time or cash. Note – there are no pictures allowed in the castle interior.
After our tour, we went to see the Great Tun, which is the largest wine vat in the world. The Wine Vat was HUGE and it used to be filled with a mixture of different types of local wine – yuck! Note – there are two large wine vats, make sure you make it past the first one to see the really large, old wine vat! There is also a wine bar right next to the Great Tun selling local wine and wine flights at a very low cost. For example, I ordered a local red wine flight for €7. The pours were very heavy and the bar tender explained each type of wine in the flight. She even asked us about our preferences when putting together the wine flight. What a great deal! Craig had a reisling flight, which he enjoyed as well. The wine bar also sold glühwein (a spied wine, served on ice this day, but usually warm) and a souvenir tasting glass (filled with wine for €3), which we all had to have!
We decided to try to make the Philosopher’s Walk around sunset, per our tour guide’s recommendation, so we missed the Apothecary Museum (located in the castle grounds with free admission). When walking out of the Castle, be sure to leave time to take in the great views from the Castle. We must have taken 100 pictures of the town. Such a gorgeous part of Germany!
69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Some notes – there is a cafe or two on the castle grounds serving snacks/lunch. I recommend taking some water with you to the castle. There is a lot of walking. You do not need reservations for the cafes on site or the wine bar at the Great Tun. It’s all very casual.