What's most striking is the architectural variety of this great complex. The oldest parts still standing date from the 15th century, though most of the castle was built during the Renaissance in the baroque styles of the 16th and 17th centuries, when the castle was the seat of the Palatinate electors. There's an "English wing," built in 1612 by the elector Friedrich V for his teenage Scottish bride, Elizabeth Stuart; its plain, square-window facade is positively foreign
compared to the castle's more opulent styles. (The enamored Friedrich also had a charming garden laid out for his young bride; its imposing arched entryway, the Elisabethentor, was put up overnight as a surprise for her 19th birthday.) The architectural highlight remains the Renaissance courtyard—harmonious, graceful, and ornate.
Even if you have to wait, make a point of seeing the Grosses Fass (Great Cask) in the cellar, possibly the world's largest wine barrel, made from 130 oak trees and capable of holding 58,500 gallons. It was used to hold wines paid as taxes by wine growers in the Palatinate. In summer there are fireworks displays (on the first Saturday in June and September and the second Saturday in July). In July and August the castle hosts a theater festival. Performances of The Student Prince often figure prominently. Take the Königstuhl Bergbahn, or funicular (€6.50 round trip), faster and less tiring than hiking to the castle on the Burgweg. Audioguides are available in seven languages.
Deutsches Apotheken–Museum. The castle includes the Deutsches Apotheken–Museum. This museum, on the lower floor of the Ottheinrichsbau (Otto Heinrich Building), is filled with ancient flagons and receptacles (each with a carefully painted enamel label), beautifully made scales, little drawers, shelves, dried beetles and toads, and marvelous reconstructions of six apothecary shops from the 17th through the 20th centuries. The museum also offers young visitors the chance to smell various herbs and mix their own teas. 06221/25880. www.deutsches-apotheken-museum.de. Apr.–Oct., 10–6, Nov.–Mar., 10–5:30.
Schlosshof, Heidelberg, 69117, Germany
Mar 22, 2006
I first visited Schloss Heidelberg as an 8 year old US Army brat. My family returned again and again during our stay in Germany, then returned again during our second tour when I was in high school. Just last April I took my own 8 year old daughter, 1 year old son, and wife to visit and all loved it, especially my daughter. Now we're getting ready to return and spend an entire week in Heidelberg next month!