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Heidelberg is a university town in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, situated on the river Neckar in south-west Germany. The Heidelberg University, which is the first in Germany, was created in the year 1386.
The oldest written mention of Heidelberg originates from the year 1196.
In 1907 a jaw-bone was discovered in a gravel pit in Heidelberg. Recent tests have confirmed that the fossil is more than 600,000 years old making the find the earliest evidence of human life ever to be found in Europe.
The Marktplatz (Market Square) is the heart of Heidelberg Old Town
This is the main and one of the oldest city squares and represents the heart of the Old Town Heidelberg.
Since the Middle Ages, this square has been used for public proceedings. But these were not just limited to markets. Witches and heretics were burned at the stake here, and citizens charged with petty crimes served their time hanging in a cage, for all to see and torment.
A fountain with a statue of Hercules on a column, built between 1703 and 1706, forms the centerpiece of the Market Square. This hero of Greek myths, known for his strength, symbolizes the heroic efforts that Heidelberg’s residents made to rebuild their devastated city in the years after 1700.
The Hercules statue in the fountain today is a replica. The original is displayed in the Kurpfälzisches Museum.
Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit)
The Church of the Holy Spirit is the most famous church in Heidelberg, Germany. It stands in the middle of the market place in the old center of Heidelberg.
Old Bridge (Karl Theodor Bridge)
Spanning the Neckar and joining the two sides of historic Heidelberg, the famous bridge with its lovely sculptures is named after the man responsible for designing and building its nine red sandstone arches in 1788.
Interesting fact: Monkey Sculpture
The bronze sculpture of a monkey guards the southern end of the Old Bridge. Stroking the mirror is said to bring prosperity while touching the pointed fingers of the right hand means you’ll come back to Heidelberg one day and touching the mice next to the monkey means you’ll have a lot of kids.
Haus zum ritter (Hotel Zum Ritter St. Georg)
One of the more interesting and historic hotel buildings in Heidelberg Old Town is the Hotel Zum Ritter St Georg at Hauptstrasse 178.
Hotel Zum Ritter St Georg is near the Heiliggistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit Church) on Marktplatz.
On top of the pointy gable of the building is a knightly bust of St George, after whom the building was named.
One of the famous guests of Hotel Zum Ritter St Georg was Victor Hugo who described the hotel as a gorgeous building.
Schloss Heidelberg (Heidelberg Castle)
Originally a fort, it was transformed into a castle in 1544.
Strikes of lightning, fires, wars – not only ravages of time left their traces on Heidelberg Castle.
Heidelberg Castle can be reached by the Bergbahn, a funicular railway running from the Kornmarkt, or via a 15-minute walk from the Old Town.
Official site: www.schloss-heidelberg.de/en/home/
The Philosophers’ Way
Among the most romantic things to do in Heidelberg is a stroll along the well-marked Philosophenweg, or Philosophers’ Way. On the north side of the Neckar, this wonderful pathway runs along the side of Heiligenberg, or Saints’ Mountain, and is where the university’s philosophers would walk and carry on discussions as they admired the scenery.
Interesting fact: Hidden amphitheater from Heidelberg
Hidden from view from the town at the top of the surrounding wooded hills, the ‘Thingstätte’ was built in 1935 by the Nazis.
It was used by the Nazi party for rallies and solstice festivals. It is now preserved as a monument, but it is still used for many festivals and cultural events throughout the year.
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