One of Europe's most famous landmarks, the romantic ruins of Heidelberg Castle have been attracting visitors since the 19th century.
It is the paradox of seeing something so magnificent in a state of such beautiful ruin that gives Heidelberg Castle and its park such a captivating aura. The epitome of German romanticism, it's like something from another world. Even the majestic ruins, overgrown with ivy, still reflect the power and magnificence of the castle's former residents, the Wittelsbach dynasty. Built as a fortress with towers, casemates and moats in around 1300, this castle perched high above the town developed over four hundred years into a symbol of the feudal power of the Palatinate Electors of the time. The oldest still discernibly residential building is the Ruprecht wing with its magnificent Renaissance fireplace. The Otto-Heinrich wing was the first castle building in Germany to have elaborate exterior decoration. The best-preserved building is the Friedrich wing whose facade with statues of the electors is like an ancestral portrait gallery. On the ground floor is the castle church, still intact, with residential rooms above. Particularly enchanting is the Hortus Palatinus pleasure garden, an earthly paradise created by human hand during the reign of Friedrich V. For a long time, this was considered the eighth wonder of the world, even though it was never completed. On Saturdays the 'Life at court' guided tour offers an insight into the everyday lives of the people who used to reside at Heidelberg Castle – an enthralling experience for all the family. The fascinating German Apothecary Museum in the Otto-Heinrich wing documents how medicines have been prepared and dispensed down the ages. Nearby attractions: The Philosophers' Walk, Heidelberg's best-known and most scenic trail, looks out over the old quarter and the castle amid the peace and quiet of nature. The German Limes Route is for visitors following the trail of the ancient Romans along the UNESCO World Heritage Germanic-Rhaetian Limes.