Weekend Away: Heidelberg
Less than three hours’ drive from Luxembourg City, Heidelberg makes a perfect weekend getaway.
Located in south-western Germany on the banks of the River Neckar, Heidelberg was founded as a university town in the 14th century. You can wander the red stone ruins of the city’s castle, the cobbled pedestrian streets, or discover medicinal cures from across the centuries and get up close and personal to the human body.
The old town of Heidelberg was razed to the ground by fires during a French assault in 1693 during the Nine Years’ War. What was rebuilt is mostly in a uniform Baroque appearance, with red roofs and half-timbered houses, giving it a charming feel.
Old town and castle
A good central place to park is Parkhaus Kornmarkt which charges €2,50 an hour or €19,50 for 24 hours. From here, walk the three minutes or so to the Church of the Holy Spirit, which sits on a square filled with restaurants and cafes. It's the perfect place for a spot of lunch and people watching.
Back near the parking you can take the funicular or the cobbled stone path (an approximately 15 minute walk) up to Heidelberg castle, perched above the old town and the former seat of the city’s princes. It began life as a 13th century fortress, but in the 15th and 16th centuries was expanded into a palace. Over the next 300 years it suffered from fire, thunderbolts, and repeated attacks during wars. Its ruins have inspired German Romantics and were painted by William Turner.
You can visit the Renaissance ruins and the Deutsches Apotheken Museum (Apothecary Museum) on an audio tour. It documents the history of pharmacies and medical science in Germany in 11 rooms set within the castle, with seven replica pharmacies, including how one might have looked in Renaissance times. The museum also has a huge collection of pharmacy-related products including glass containers and technical equipment dating from the 1600s.
It's worth taking a stroll through the park by the castle for views over Heidelberg. Take a look at the statue of Neptune, and an unusual modern sculpture entitled “chariot”.
Afterwards head back to the old town and a 2km-long pedestrian street filled with shops. You can wander to the Körpwelten or the Body Museum (open at weekends from 10.00-18.00), which exhibits bodies preserved for anatomical research, including a footballer, an archer, a ballerina, plus a flying pig.
Philosophers' path and Heidelberg monkey
On day two, start at the 18th century Palais Morass, home to the Kurpfälzisches Museum (open 10.00-18.00 at weekends), a treasure trove of paintings, sculpture and archaeology relating to the human history of the Lower Neckar Valley. You can marvel at the paintings of Lucas Cranach the Elder, Anselm Feuerbach and Max Beckmann, or the Altar of Apostles, sculpted by Tilman Riemenschneider in 1509. Decorative arts through history take you through the 1700s and 1800s and include furniture, glassware, porcelain and period clothing.
Afterwards, head on foot to the Brückenaff, a statue of the Heidelberg monkey (and a mouse). It is said that rubbing the fingers of the monkey will mean you will return to this city. From here you can take the old pedestrian bridge, originally built in the 18th century, to the other side of the River Neckar and start the Philosophenweg (Philosophers' path).
It’s paved so you don’t need walking shoes, and the 2km path will give you great views over the city to the castle. The path climbs from the Neuenheim district up the Heiligenberg Hill and passes villas, and university buildings. The terraced philosopher’s garden houses a bronze relief of Freiherr von Eichendorff who used this very walk to ruminate.
You can take a detour from the philosopher’s path to explore Heiligenberg, a 440m sandstone hill which was once the city’s oldest quarter, including a Celtic defensive wall that dates back to the 4th century BCE. At the summit you’ll find the 11th century Monastery of St Michael, abandoned centuries ago.
On this side of the river, you’ll find the Botanical Gardens and Heidelberg Zoo and its lions, giraffes and chimps if you want to stay longer.
There are plenty of hotels to suit all budgets. At the cheaper end is Hemingway’s, where the famous author allegedly stopped for a glass of Tyrolean wine in 1950. Close to the pedestrian bridge a double room will set you back €75 and a quadruple €105. It has a restaurant and bar on the premises serving burgers and tapas.
If you are travelling with a dog, then Boarding house Luise 5 is near the Body Museum, and has apartments for two at €139, and for four at €189, with a €10 charge for your dog.
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