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Heidelberg: Germany at its most romantic.

Heidelberg is a city that will capture your heart. Famous the world over, it is a perennial favourite among international tourists. The city has so much to offer: charm and character in abundance between the Old Bridge and the mighty castle, an unparalleled choice of culture and entertainment, hearty yet heavenly cuisine and a picturesque setting nestled between the Neckar river and the foothills of the Odenwald forest.

With around three million day-trippers every year, Heidelberg can boast some of the most impressive visitor statistics in Germany, Europe and probably the world. In some ways this is a shame, because one day really isn't enough. Those who stay just a little longer will discover a host of attractions away from the beaten track and will have more time to soak up the unique atmosphere that sets Heidelberg apart from your average university city. The main attraction for all visitors is, of course, Heidelberg Castle, perched on the slopes of Mount Königstuhl some 70 metres above the Neckar. It's easy to see why, too. Together with the Old Bridge across the river, the castle and its neighbouring buildings are among the most impressive sights anywhere in Germany. Although you can explore the ruins under your own steam, it's well worth joining a guided tour, if only to appreciate the history of this mighty fortress, which has experienced its fair share of ups and downs over 700 years. To get them through these turbulent times, it's likely that the lords of the castle would have made regular use of the royal wine cellar. This is home to the biggest wine barrel in the world. Made from 130 oak trees, it is seven metres wide, over eight metres in length and has a capacity of precisely 221,726 litres. For a time, Elector Karl Theodor employed the Italian court dwarf Perkeo to guard the barrel. Perkeo's name is said to have derived from his fondness for drink. Whenever anyone asked him if he would like another glass of wine, the answer came back "perché no?" – why not?

The castle has also established a reputation for its summer castle theatre festival, first held in 1926 and now one of the best-loved outdoor theatre festivals in southern Germany. From the castle, a path takes you straight down into the old town, which features an important site of remembrance amid its beautiful streets. The permanent exhibition at the Documentation and Cultural Centre for German Sinti and Roma sheds light on the lives and fates of these people and serves as a poignant reminder of the Nazi-era genocide. At the centre of the old town is the market square, where you'll find another of Heidelberg's many beautiful fountains, alongside grand period houses, lots of cafés and even more pretty little shops. Towering above this delightful scene is the famous Church of the Holy Spirit. From here it's just a stone's throw to Kornmarkt, for many Heidelberg's prettiest square. The Madonna from 1718, who is held aloft by angels atop a fountain pillar, was meant to entice Protestants to return to the 'true faith' following the Catholic Revival. Today we can all enjoy the statue, which combined with the castle forms one of Heidelberg's most popular postcard motifs. The next square, Karlsplatz, is also decorated by a fountain, which offers a playful take on the famous humanist and cosmographer Sebastian Münster. That such feats should be honoured reveals much about Heidelberg. Because over the course of the centuries a great many scholars have shaped the intellectual and cultural ideas of this former electoral seat. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Robert Bunsen, Max Weber and Karl Jaspers are just some of the famous names who have studied or taught at the university – the oldest on German soil. Today, around 30,000 students are enrolled there, and although they work hard, it's not uncommon to see them in the numerous cafés and drinking establishments. The best thing is: you too can feel like a student in the welcoming and time-honoured student bars, no matter how old you are!

City Highlights

With its history, architecture and unique location overlooking the town, Heidelberg Castle is one of the most famous historical monuments in the world. The ruins rise majestically on the site of a medieval castle complex high above the narrow lanes and picturesque jumble of roofs of the old town, like a scene from the pages of a storybook. For five centuries, the castle was home to the Palatinate electors of the Wittelsbach dynasty. The castle has many tales to tell, some of which you can hear on a guided tour available in seven different languages. Read more.

Heidelberg's historical old quarter is the oldest part of town. Situated at the foot of the castle, it enchants visitors with its wealth of romantic lanes and many of the town's most fascinating attractions, such as pretty little squares, ornate Renaissance buildings and imposing churches. At its heart is the market square with its rustic cobblestones and impressive fountain. The old quarter is brimming with delightfully cosy pavement cafés, restaurants and bars which are always full of life. The area is very compact making it easy to explore on foot.

Since 1957 the Pharmacy Museum has been located in Heidelberg Castle, in one of the most beautiful and important Renaissance buildings in Germany.

It presents the history and advancement of the apothecary trade from ancient times right up to the 20th century and has fascinating collections, rare apothecary workshops and an alchemy laboratory. Visitors can also learn a lot about the healing methods of previous generations that often seem peculiar to us today. In addition to the Italian, Dutch and German faience earthenware, the apothecary jars of German origin are especially interesting.

A permanent exhibition about the fate of the Sinti and Roma, and the Nazi acts of genocide against this minority, has been on display at the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma since 1997.

The history and persecution of Sinti and Roma are presented on three floors: from their gradual exclusion and disenfranchisement to their systematic extermination in Nazi-occupied Europe, an unimaginable crime against humanity. An eternal flame commemorates the over 500,000 Sinti and Roma from all over Europe who fell victim to the Holocaust.

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