There was a time when it was de rigeur amongst the German aristocracy to have a duelling scar on the cheek, earned in single combat at Heidelberg's ancient university. Even now, looking across the River Neckar past the glorious Old Bridge (18th century) to the castle on the wooded hills of Odenwald (Odffi's Forest) beyond, one might still be in that vanished era.
In fact, Heidelberg owes its historic character to the fact that it wasn't bombed in World War II, because the Americans had earmarked this city in the south west of Gerrrumy as a desirable base when hostilities ceased (they still have a military presence in and around the city today). Since the war, the city has developed rapidly, spreading out from the old centre, but it is the old town that everyone wants to see. It crouches along the river bank, beneath the not-to-be-missed castle (started in the 14th century, added to periodically until its if abandonment in the 17th century). Old Heidelberg has a Baroque charm all its own with narrow streets and picturesque houses. Look out for Karlstor, a triumphal gate completed in 1781, the fine Heiliggeistkirche (Cathedral) and very old Zum Ritter Sankt Georg (House ofthe Knight of St George). Since the 18th century, Heidelberg has enjoyed a cultural reputation as the centre of German Romanticism.
Across the river is Philosophers' Walk, where Heidelberg's thinkers and university lecturers once walked and talked, gazing at the romantic Schloss Heidelberg on Konigstuhl (King's Throne Hill) as they did so. Heidelberg's economy is now based on the university and tourism, the latter exploiting the city's rich heritage to attract millions of visitors each year. To support this activity, there are numerous festivals, frequent firework displays, musical performances and markets . . . even a half marathon.
WHEN TO GO:
For something different, tryDecember for a traditional GermanChristmas Market, held throughoutthe old town.
A grim reminder of Heidelberg's inglorious Nazi past - the Thingstatte amphitheatre built on the Heiligenberg Mountain for 55 rallies The small Vetter's Brewery near the The small Vetter's Brewery near the Old Bridge, said to brew one of the world's strongest beers. The apparently endless Hauptstrasse (High Street) - a shopper's paradise if ever there was one. A summer coffee at an open-air café table in the superb Marktplatz (Market Square
University Square (Universitatsplatz) to soak up the atmosphere of the medieval university (founded here in 1386).
The Kurpfalzisches Museum on Hauptstrasse, containing exhibits from the city's pre-history right up to modern times.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The earliest known European prehistoric man lived here 500,000 years ago - appropriately named Heidelberg Man fjawbone found nearby in 1907)