Logo of the City of Heidelberg, Old Town Information, Photographs showing several sights of Heidelberg: Old Bridge and Castle, Town Hall, Bridge gate, Karl's Gate


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Over the course of centuries, the Castle and its grounds reflected the rise and fall of Heidelberg as a Prince Elector’s residence. In the early 19th century, it made Heidelberg a mecca of German romanticism. The Castle, the town and the surrounding landscape blended with university and student life to create the “Heidelberg legend”, while providing exciting new inspiration to composers, painters and poets.

A fort (castrum) in Heidelberg was first mentioned in 1225 in a document in which Duke Ludwig of Bavaria granted a fiefdom. The existence of two different forts since 1303 has been confirmed. The upper one was located where the Molkenkur is today, but was struck by lightning and burned down in 1537. Only a few remnants of its walls are left. Both were elevated forts typical of those built by the Staufers in southern Germany.

The lower fort, which later became the Castle, was built in two main phases. The first, in the late Middle Ages between about 1400 and 1544, saw the construction of fortifications and living quarters. During the second, attractive palace buildings in Renaissance style and the magnificent Castle Gardens (Hortus Palatinus) were gradually added up until Heidelberg’s sacking and destruction in 1689 and 1693.

The single most important individual who contributed to the Castle was Ludwig V. He extended and strengthened the fort to withstand attacks by soldiers with firearms, the use of which was spreading at that time. The only parts that are even older are the Ruprechtsbau (erected around 1400) and portions of the eastern ramparts. The later construction periods were typified by constant changes and additions to individual structures by successive Prince Electors, although they always made sure to preserve the overall complex. As a result, today the Castle boasts a rich diversity of different styles, which enhances further the picturesque, romantic aura of the ruins.



The medieval fort grows into a castle complex.

During the second main phase, the transition from Gothic to Renaissance styles is quite evident.


Completion of the glazed hall.


Construction of the Ottheinrichbau, probably the most beautiful Renaissance palace north of the Alps.


Construction of the Friedrichsbau.

The famous Castle Gardens and the English Building are built under Prince Elector Friedrich V.

French troops occupy Heidelberg during the Palatinian War of Succession. Parts of the town are destroyed.


The French occupy Heidelberg again and destroy much of the town. The Castle fortifications are blasted apart.

After 1742

Reconstruction of the palace building under Prince Elector Karl Theodor. The Big Barrel, with a capacity of 221,726 liters, replaces an older one that held about 195,000 liters.

Lightning destroys large parts of the Castle. Work on it is halted.

The French emigrant Charles Graf von Graimberg undertakes to preserve the Castle ruin as his life’s work. He starts by putting together a collection of found items from the Castle.

Around 1900
Restoration and extension of the Castle to preserve its architectural history.