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Heidelberg Castle and the World’s Largest Wine Barrel

Heidelberg Castle rising above the town of Heidelberg

We managed to pack a lot into our whirlwind trip around the Stuttgart area. We spent a spooky night at Burg Frankenstein, slept in a car themed hotel, ogled fast cars at the Porsche museum, and ate all things pumpkin at the world’s largest pumpkin festival. We had just one afternoon to visit Heidelberg Castle.

Beer at Bier Brezel in Heidelberg

Hungry travelers always make for cranky travelers and so our first order of business arriving in Heidelberg was to find food. We spotted Bier Brezel conveniently located right in the center of Heidelberg and close to the funicular to take us up to the castle once we grabbed a quick bite. We shared one of the big, wooden communal tables with another couple and were glad to see that they received their food fairly quickly after ordering. Eying their delicious looking wood fired flat breads and pommes (french fries), we copied their order. Steaming french fries and a frosty mug of beer arrived within minutes, but unfortunately we were still waiting for our flat breads nearly an hour later. After watching other tables that had arrived long after we did receive their order, we started complaining about the wait to the waitress and our flat breads finally arrived. My Brauerfladen Vier Jahreszeiten was thick and perfectly wood fired with plenty of cheese and toppings of turkey, spicy salami, onion, and mushroom. It was delicious (though I’m not sure worth the wait) but Tim’s Brauerfladen Heidelberg (a simple flat bread with cheese and spicy salami) was overcooked, really thin, and had just a few pieces of spicy salami on it. He was less than thrilled. Plus the hour and a half spent there, mostly waiting for our food, had cut into our time we had planned to spend at the castle.

The funicular finally whooshed us up the ruined castle rising up on the rocky cliff high above Heidelberg. The castle is actually a combination of several buildings surrounding  a central courtyard; the various building represent a different period of German architecture.

The first parts of the castle were constructed around 1300. It was plundered and burned by the French Army in 1689 and then struck by lightning around 100 years later in 1764. In 1800 Count Charles de Graimberg began the process to conserve the Heidelberg Castle ruins, but around the same time citizens of Heidelberg had started using the red bricks to build homes in the town below. Heidelberg Castle never regained its Gothic glory but the ruins are lovely nonetheless.

The interior of the castle can only be visited on a guided tour, which we unfortunately didn’t have time for after our long lunch. But the gardens, built on several terraces, offered us amazing views over Heidelberg and the Neckar River below. Mark Twain even visited the castle and the beautiful Neckar river supposedly inspired a chapter in Huckleberry Finn.

World’s Largest Wine Barrel

Living in Italy has converted us to wine lovers and so we were really excited to visit the Heidelberg Tun, the world’s largest wine barrel. It was built in 1751 and stands seven meters high, is eight and a half meters wide, holds 220,000 liters (58,124 gallons) of wine, and has a dance floor built on top of it. A staircase allows visitors to climb atop the barrel for a quick dance!

Across from the wine museum, the Ottheinrichsbau building houses the Apothecary Museum. We wandered through the rooms including a complete pharmacists’ office and a laboratory with the scents of menthol in the air. The exhibition displays over 1000 raw drugs representing medicine from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Had we had more time, we would have liked to take the guided tour of the interior of the castle and walk back down along the Burgweg’s scenic route.

Know Before You Go

  • The Palace Courtyard and World’s Largest Wine Barrel are open daily 8am – 5:30pm; the Apothecary Museum is open 10am – 5:30pm
  • The castle interior can only be visited on a guided tour
  • Admission to the Castle Courtyard, Giant Barrel and Apothecary Museum are €3 for adults and €1.50 for children
  • Guided tours of the Palace are €4 for adults, € 2 for children, or €10 for a family ticket
  • There is an onsite Mövenpick Restaurant and café at the castle; eat here if you’re pressed for time!

Have you been to Heidelberg Castle? What was your favorite part of your visit?

Jennifer Dombrowski

Jennifer Dombrowski is a location independent globe trotter who is based in Prata di Pordenone, Italy. She works as a social media and communications strategist and is an award-winning travel writer. She is also a travel correspondent on Traveling on the American Forces Radio Network. Jdomb's Travels was named one of the top travel blogs to watch by the Huffington Post and has been featured by top publications such as CNN, Buzzfeed , and The Telegraph. Her iPhoneograpy has also been featured on publications such as USA Today and Travel + Leisure. Google+

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13 comments

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  1. D.J. - The World of Deej

    Beautiful pics and wow…that’s one big wine barrel!

    [Reply]

    Tim Reply:

    Isn’t it amazing, D.J.? There is another smaller wine barrel we saw first and thought was it. Then we saw the bigger one and it is nearly twice the size of the other wine barrel!

    [Reply]

  2. Cathy Sweeney

    We had such fun visiting Heidelberg Castle. Like you, we didn’t have much time, but saw as much as possible. The wine barrel is really quite impressive!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    I would have liked to take the guided tour on the interior, time just didn’t permit after our ridiculously long wait at the restaurant. Lesson learned!

    [Reply]

  3. Christina

    This is potentially the funkiest Weizen glass I have ever seen, and I’m from Upper Franconia (THE beer region of Germany)!

    [Reply]

    Tim Reply:

    Now that’s my kind of place Christina! I just discovered they have the highest density of breweries per capita in the world. I may need to pay it a visit next time I’m in Germany.

    [Reply]

  4. Ali

    Andy and I enjoyed Heidelberg when we visited in June. We were a little annoyed that the ticket machines at the bottom of the funicular sell you tickets for ONLY the funicular that are 1 euro more than the tickets at the window which get you on the funicular AND in the castle. At least they were understanding when we found out and complained. They told us to buy the normal ticket for the castle, and then they refunded our funicular ticket.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    I think they must have changed the machines. We used the machine to buy our tickets and got the funicular with castle entry. It’s a very neat castle to visit! I just wish we would have had time to take the guided tour of the interior.

    [Reply]

  5. memographer

    This is so entertaining. Love the entire post. The pics are telling the story too! The glass, the Castle, The Barrel… 220,000 liters (58,124 gallons) of wine!!! Man. I have to add this place to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Thanks! It’s a very cool castle to visit if you get the chance!

    [Reply]

  6. Frank

    Hi Jennifer!
    Nice post, pain in the butt about the slow service. We also went to Heidelberg and I have my own post about it. Pretty town, but found the place just too touristy for our liking: http://bbqboy.net/heidelberg-germany/
    What was your overall impression?
    Frank (bbqboy)

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    It was a bit touristy, but we visited during late fall so it actually wasn’t too busy at all.

    [Reply]

  7. Yemi

    A stunning place to visit, yes it can get busy but was interesting to see people from all over the spectrum in one place. The funicular railway, the wine barrel and the cobbled path leading to the castle were very interesting. Glad you guys had fun there.

    [Reply]

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