The beautiful Renaissance structure up on a hill beside the Neckar River in Heidelberg is possibly one of the most famous castle ruins in the world. Heidelberg Castle has dominated the skyline of Heidelberg's old town for over eight centuries.
After the first building was erected at dawn of the 13th century, this palace has undergone several episodes of damages and destruction from lightning bolts to fires to wars for centuries.
Still, it sits proudly on the northern slope of Königstuhl hill, captivating everyone who passes through the opposite side of the river.
This architectural beauty consists of several buildings constructed at successive times. While some buildings of the palace represent the magnificent Renaissance architecture, others portray Baroque and Medieval architecture. Only a few structures stand for simple and unembellished designs, depicting no recognised architectural style.
Along with the residential buildings, a superlative palace, ladies' building and emperor's hall, the castle was furnished with massive fortification and a famous terraced garden.
Upon entering the main courtyard passing a bridge through the great gate tower, a highly decorated building attracts the eyes of the visitors. The black gabled roof building with sandstone elevation was built between 1601 to 1607 during the time of Prince-Elector Friedrich IV.
The front elevation is adorned with fine sculptures of Wittelsbach family figures. Architect Johannes Soch and sculptor Sebastian Goetz created the sculptures by carving stone. This residential building was severely damaged in the mid-18th century. Historic preservation of this building took place in the 1900s as the building was nearly rebuilt to its original look. Both the exterior and the interior are well preserved by the revival of Renaissance style.
After the Friedrich Building, a roofless building on the right side of the courtyard entices people's eyes. The Ottheinrich Building portrays one of the most attractive structures of the German Renaissance.
The facade of this building – decorated with stone figures of ancient heroes and important Roman monarchs – was built by sculptor Alexander Colin. Made from red sandstone, this superlative palace homes the renowned German Apothecary Museum in its basement. The gabled roof of the building was damaged by fire during a war in 1693, and by a lightning bolt in 1764. However, remnants of luxurious decorations are preserved in the interior.
A small building with an unadorned design – Glaeserner Building – connects the Friedrich Building and Ottheinrich Building. Once a mirrored facade structure, this is now ruined. In 1764, the Glass Hall lost its roof in a firestorm. View from the central court represents the front elevation with Renaissance columns holding Gothic vaults.
The Ruprecht Building near the great gate tower is one of the oldest structures in the Heidelberg Palace. This residential building represents medieval architecture with simple facades. Once a single storied structure with a Baroque style entry, this was expanded to several stories later.
The great terrace behind the renowned Friedrich Building is one of the best places to have a view of the nearby Neckar River and the opposite hills. Also, it serves as a good place to enjoy the back elevation of the Friedrich building with other ancillary structures.
Beside the renowned Friedrich Building, another red sandstone structure with arched Baroques windows captures the eyes. This is nothing but the famous Barrel Building of the palace. A great barrel with the capacity of 220,000 litres of wine is the main attraction in the building. For celebrations, wine could be directly pumped through pipes to the King's Hall and nearby Ladies' Building.
Leaving the main court and setting foot on the palace garden, people would be charmed by the Elizabeth Gate – a small gate compared to the great gate tower. This adorned gate with white sculptures was a birthday present of Prince-Elector Friedrich V to his English wife Elizabeth Stuart.
The Artillery Garden, a private garden designed for the electress and ladies, is on the west side of the palace, enterable through the Elisabeth gate. The wide view of Heidelberg's old town including the Neckar River and the old bridge can be enjoyed from the garden.
The damaged tower ruins, casemates and the English Building are also best enjoyed from the Artillery Garden. Compared to the decorated Friedrich and Ottheinrich Building, the English Building is roughly a simple structure with no detailed ornamentation.
The roof of the building was destroyed during a war in the 17th century and it was never rebuilt again. The vacant and unadorned windows with blue sky in the background are puzzling to people as the building stands without any roof.
The palace was expanded to a fortress in the 17th century and for that reason, casemates or vaulted passageways were constructed along with towers and defensive walls. The ruin of the towers and walls can be seen surrounding the palace while walking through the landscape garden.
An eye-catching garden was built on the southeast of the castle – designed by French architect Salomon de Caus at dawn of the 17th century. The terraced garden with various plant beds, pergolas, an interesting network of passages and paths worked as the leisure and promenade space for court personnel. After centuries, the garden lost its grandeur but the east side of the garden is now the best place to enjoy the view of the towering castle from an eye level.
In the landscape garden, various fun sculptures are placed including the figure of Father Rhein. A Goethe Tablet was also erected to commemorate the famous poet for his visit to Heidelberg. The upper portion of the old Terraced Garden is now used for concerts, theatre in the summertime. People from Germany and abroad find a place to sunbathe and enjoy a drink here.
Entry to the landscape garden is free for everyone.