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Heidelberg and the Neckar valley

Heidelberg and the Neckar valley

By car, 85 km, 2 days

Thanks to Heidelberg and its castle, the Neckar valley is highly placed in German romanticism, where it is celebrated notably for its poet Hölderlin. The Neckar then goes down between wooded mountainsides upon which stand castles like Hirschhorn, built on a fortified mountaintop outcrop, or again like Hornberg castle. Regarding the elevated town of Bad Wimpfen, there is a magnificent collection of half-timbered houses to discover along the lacing, winding lanes.

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1

Heidelberg Castle   Worth a journey Worth a journey Worth a journey

Schlosshof 1 69115 Heidelberg
Architecture, castles and historic districts

To enter the castle, you go via the Rondell, the Great Tower and then the Elizabeth Gate. This was built in a single night by Friedrich V as a surprise for his wife, Elizabeth Stuart. The path leading to the courtyard crosses the fortified bridge protected by the Gate Tower. On your right is the Gothic Hall of the Well Wing, whose granite Roman columns came from Charlemagne's palace at Ingelheim. The Gothic library with its fine loggia, set in a deep recess, once housed the books, art and treasure collections of the princely family. The Friedrich Wing (largely reconstructed at the beginning of the 20C) has a distinctly Renaissance layout, even though the light and shadow contrasts created by the pilasters and cornices presage a taste for the Baroque. Note in passing the statues of Friedrich IV's ancestors. Now only a shell, the Hall of Mirrors Wing also shows the Italian Renaissance influence, as does the Otto Heinrich Wing, named after one of the most enlightened rulers of the period. Inside, two models show the castle as it was in the 17C and as it is today. You can also see the Great Vat (Grosses Fass) with a capacity of 221 726 litres, brought in at the end of the 18C, and the German Pharmaceutical Museum, containing apothecary's utensils from the 18C and 19C.

2

Knight's House   Interesting

Hauptstraße 69117 Heidelberg
Architecture, castles and historic districts

This magnificent burgher's house (1592) owes its name to the bust of St George in knight's costume on the scrolled pediment. It is the only house from the end of the Renaissance to have survived the devastations of 1689-1693.

3

Museum of the Electoral Palatinate of Heidelberg   Interesting

Hauptstraße 97 69117 Heidelberg
Museums and art

The museum is housed in the Baroque palace built by JA Breunig. The section devoted to the history of the electoral Palatinate contains a mould of the jawbone of prehistoric «Heidelberg Man». The German Primitives department has the Altarpiece of the Twelve Apostles. The collection of Romantic works has a number of views of the city and castle.

4

Hirschhorn Castle   Interesting

Schloss Hirschhorn 69434 Hirschhorn
Architecture, castles and historic districts

The castle stands on top of a fortified spur. The terrace and tower both offer a majestic view of the bend of the Neckar and wooded valley roundabout.

5

Hornberg Castle  

74865 Neckarzimmern
Architecture, castles and historic districts

At the summit of a slope covered in vineyards, the castle stands out from afar with its high cylindrical donjon. Part of it has been made into a museum where the armour of Götz von Berlichingen can be seen. From the tower there is a fine view over the valley.

6

Guttenberg Castle  

Burgstraße 1 74855 Neckarzimmern
Architecture, castles and historic districts

Protected by a mighty defensive wall on the mountain side, the castle houses unusual collections of archives and art objects. Note in particular the 18C herbarium-library, where the plant specimens are enclosed in 92 false wooden books. Also see the reredos of the Virgin in her Mantle (15C).

7

Bad Wimpfen am Berg   Worth a detour Worth a detour

74206 Bad Wimpfen
Architecture, castles and historic districts

Imperial residence of the Hohenstaufens in the 13C, the small fortified town of Wimpfen overlooks the River Neckar. Remains of the imperial palace, such as the Blue Tower, which offers a superb view of town and valley, are still visible in Bad Wimpfen am Berg (upper town). Take the time to wander through the network of tiny narrow streets lined with old half-timbered houses.

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