Historically the best fortresses & castles have always been built on a steep slope for military purposes. This made it difficult for the enemy to approach, and easier for the castle to defend itself (horror-stories of pouring molten-hot tar on the enemy, etc,,,) Heidelberg Castle is no exception.
There are 3 ways of getting to the castle:
a) take the "Burgweg" (=castle path). A steep cobbled path starting at the Kornmarkt (my favourite way to walk)
b) take the stairs (over 300 steps)
c) take the Funicular (for the lazy ones amongst you :-)
WALKING is of course the healthiest, cheapest & most traditional option... and just when you think you're about to collapse, imagine ascending this steep path every day in full knight's armour! Wear comfortable shoes and enjoy the sense of achievement when you've reached the top :-)
The FUNICULAR railway line is 489 metres long & at its steepest point has a 43% gradient. The 2 split-level cars each carry 50 people & travels at about 4 metres per second.
--> In 2007 the railway line celebrates its 100th birthday!
PRICES (year 2007):
> Historic rail: return ticket from Kornmarkt to Castle starts at 3 EURO.
Children (6yrs - 14 yrs) pay 2 EURO.
> A round-trip rail ticket (Kornmarkt to Koenigsstuhl and back) costs 8 EURO.
Children (6yrs - 14yrs) pay 6 EURO.
(Children younger than 5yrs ride for free.)
> Groups: for groups larger than 30 people there are special ticket offers.
Check their WEBSITE for more details (also in English).
The new main station was one of the first new train stations in the young German federal republic and therefore has large dimensions & the charming architectural characteristics of the 1950s. Nowadays, it is listed as a protected historical building.
Throughout the decades renovations & new shops have changed the building, but on the main wall with its large clock you can still see the original mosaic from 1955 (see photo)
The new main station ("Hauptbahnhof") celebrated its 50th birthday on May 5th 2005. The opening ceremony in 1955 was held by the federal president of Germany at the time, Mr Theodor Heuss, who had also lived here for a number of years.
Per day approx. 42,000 travellers pass through the station; quite impressive numbers for a city of this relatively moderate size.
Lockers for luggage (or shopping bags ;-) are available in two sizes and cost between 2 - 4 EUROS. They are located along the hallway where all stairs to the various tracks branch-off. Upon payment you receive a small receipt with a number code, which you will need to later unlock your compartment. Usage is possible for up to 72 hours.
In the train station you will find:
> Travel Agency of the Deutsche Bahn
> Bakery & Snack Bar
> Kiosk (cigarettes, drinks, magazines, int'l newspapers, etc.)
> An Italian Restaurant with smoking section
> "Ihr Platz" supermarket
> Public toilets (0.50 Euro cents per person)
> Public telephones (pay-card or coins)
Travel & Info Office: Opening Hours: Mon- Fri 09:00am-06:30pm.
Saturdays from 09:00am-01:00pm.
Willy-Brandt-Platz 5 / 69115 Heidelberg Hbf.
--> From Frankfurt airport take the ICE, change trains in Mannheim & into Heidelberg. Ticket per adult is 24.- EUROS (price in 2007).
Outside you will also find a Tourist Information Centre. (check my General tips)
From the main station you are excellently connected to the entire city by bus or tram.
NOTE:All tickets must be purchased BEFORE boarding the train, tram or bus.
Most people only take the furnicular up to the first stop, the castle. A few years ago, the trains were modernized and can now hold up to 130 people.
If you want to take the furnicular all the way up to the top of the mountain, the Königstuhl, you have to change trains at the Molkenkur stop.
From there, it's still the old train, which only holds up to 40 people. So you may to wait a while at the Molkenkur.If you're in a hurry, ask before you buy your ticket, as it can take as long as one hour, depending on how many people are waiting in line. There is nothing to do while waiting, you just stand stand in line.
But it's worth the wait! This is a really old train, climbing up the very steep mountain. If you're sitting in the last car, turn back and enjoy the view across Heidelberg and the Neckar.
Traveling by car was quite easy. Pasquale lives in Konstanz and driving was our best option for the short amount of time we would be spending exploring the town.
The drive was about 2 hours and 45 minutes along well paved highways and some really nice scenary.
We were able to spend enough time exploring this town, castle and the market without worrying about train schedules.
Old Heidelberg is an easy walkable town but can be a bit tricky because of its cobblestone streets. If you are adventurous, you can walk to the top of the castle via the steps or the path from Kornmarkt.
I love walking and for me there really isn't a better way to explore a town, especially one like Heidelberg than by walking. I enjoy being able to stop at my leisure along the way to any of the hidden little treasures that you can find when you just set out to explore by foot.
Pasquale and I walked up the steps to the top of the castle to get some magnificint views. We waked around the castle ruins and walked back down to the Christmas Market.
It was really nice walking along the Christmas stalls and checking out all the wonderful Christmas items.
The ugly building in this photo was built in 2004/2005 and is the new lower station (Kornmarkt) of the Heidelberg funicular railways.
The building also includes a hotel and a huge parking garage for automobiles, so motorists can avoid getting even the slightest bit of exercise on their visit to Heidelberg. (The nearest hospital is several blocks away, however.)
From this station you can catch the lower funicular railway, which they say is "the most modern funicular railway in Germany." They forgot to mention that it is also the least interesting one, since it goes through a tunnel to get up to the castle.
Apparently it leaves the tunnel after that, but I have only taken it up to the castle, and the only reason I even took it was that I had an opera ticket for a performance in the castle courtyard, and a ride up on the funicular was included in the ticket price.
After the castle, the lower funicular goes on to a station called Molkenkur, where you can change to the upper funicular, which they say is the oldest funicular railway in Germany, having gone into operation in 1907.
The walk from the central station to the old town is not terribly interesting, so after you have gone over and seen the S-Printing Horse you would be best off taking the tram to Bismarckplatz, which is where the main street begins.
For this short journey you only need a "City-Ticket", which used to cost only one Euro but has now gone up to 1.10 (still a bargain!) as of 2010.
The tram in the photo is going in the opposite direction, I must admit, but it was the only one that happened to be there when I wanted to take the picture. (The photo looks rather fuzzy in its reduced form, by the way. I don't know why that is, but if you click on it to enlarge it it's perfectly all right. Maybe someone can tell me why this occurs.)
Lots of people travel by bicycle in Heidelberg, as is obvious from this massive collection of bicycles parked in front of the Central Station in 2004.
For a long time Heidelberg did not have a bicycle parking garage at the station, but after years of lobbying by the Heidelberg chapter of the ADFC (the General German Bicycle Club) a new bicycle station was opened in July 2008 right next to track 1b, near the Ibis Hotel.
I haven't tried them yet, but they say they repair, wash and rent bicycles, as well as storing them.
Also there are now lots of new bicycle stands at the main station, so bicycle parking now (as of 2010) looks quite orderly compared to the chaos of 2004.
To get up to the Philisophenweg, you can walk along the affluent residential area on the same side, higher and higher, but also quite a detour. The more direct route from the Old Town is to use the Schlangenweg, or "Snakes Road" up the hill from just across the Old Bridge. We did this after a heavy rainfall and it turned out to be quite an experience as wet cobbles are always...eh...interesting. Not for people with trouble walking as, apart from the cobbles, it is quite a steep gradient and here and there you have to negotiate stairs. We kept sending our daughter ahead as a scout as the road twisted and turned in a serpentine manner all along and the high stone walls revealed nothing of what lay ahead. Luckily, there were some viewpoints in the wall here and there, where you could sit down and enjoy the Castle.
The funicular railway transports you from the old town to the castle in just a few short minutes.
It was granted permission to be built in 1888 and was completed in 1890.
It was closed for reconstruction in 2003 and reopened with new cars in March 2005.
It is an easy option to avoid the walk up.
Ingrid and I did it the other way round of course. We walked up and took the funicular down.
You can either walk up to the castle on a very steep path, take the stairs or then you can take the funicular railway up in 2 minutes time. The train runs every ten minutes and a one way ticket from the old town to the castle costs 3 EUR (The return trip costs €5).
The train doesn't only go to the castle, you can also go up to the next stop Molkenkur if you feel like a day in the hills. This part of the funicular has recently been renovated, which makes it the most modern funicular in German. It even got a glass roof as well as a fancy new entrance area. There's a third stop at the top of the hill (Königstuhl) and this part is the oldest electric funicular in Germany.
The funicular railway project was first presented in 1873 and finally built in 1888. Back then a water box with a capacity of 8 cubic metres was fitted in the two cars. To move them the upper car was filled with water until it was heavy enough to lift the lower car. A funny idea isn't it?
Heidelberg is along a frequent IC Hamburg/Cologne to Stuttgart line so there are no problems getting here. Even if you are on the international Copenhagen-Cologne-Basel trains or something else, it is easy to get here by for instance changing in Mannheim which is only 20 minutes away by local S-train (see second website). The Hauptbahnhof (central station) in Heidelberg is not that near the Old Town so I recommend a taxi from it for less stress as the trams don't really take you to the "hotel end" of it.
A TRAIN TO HEIDELBERG was definitely the way to go. Jess and Bernd bought group tickets for up to five persons for only Euro 27,00. It worked out to Euro 5,50 per person and that was return fare, including the bus in Heidelberg to the castle. We were to meet at the Karlsruhe train station for 1:10 p.m. and the train trip took about 45 minutes. When we arrived in Heidelberg at the main train station " Hauptbohnhof" on Willy-Brand-Platz 5, we waited for a bus marked "Bismarckplatz", in the front of the station, to take us to Old Town and the Castle.
As the walk up to the Castle was a very steep climb, most of us took the HEIDELBERG FUNICULAR. For groups of ten or more the cost was Euro 2,00 one way. The trip up only took a few minutes. After our tour of the Castle, we all walked down the steep walkway which was cobbled and hard to walk on. Gerry, thanks for your strong helping hand down the walkway - you're the best!
The pedestrian route to the castle is lovely as you can see, but it can be strenuous as it is all uphill and cobbled. Therefore, there is a Bergbahn (see second picture) which has the Castle as its first stop on the way further up the mountains to the Molkenkur restaurant and then you have to change trains to get all the way up to the Kaiserstuhl. If all you want to do is get to the castle, it is quite expensive to catch the Bergbahn though, so if you are fit and have time you might as well walk. Otherwise, there are various daycards if you want to combine several of the mountain destinations. See the link below for current information. Oh, and don't be alarmed when one of you can get through the ticket barrier whilst the rest of you cannot. This just means that they have sold out the next departure and you will all have to wait for the barrier lights to go green again once that train has actually left the platform.