The Heidelberg Castle and the hill forts overlooking the Rhine River rank among the most romantic destinations for outings in the region.
Heidelberg Castle is the quintessence of German Romanticism. This famous ruin is perched above 70 meters above the Neckar River and Old Town. A good way to learn about the history of the 700-year-old landmark is to go on a tour. Its wine cellar contains one the world’s largest wine barrels, known as the Heidelberg Tun. A cobblestone path leads up to the castle, but you can also ride the funicular.
Each year between late June and early August, the castle serves as the venue for a series of musical and theatrical performances called the Schlossfestspiele. Heidelberg also has many beautiful streets and buildings and Germany’s oldest university.
The university town of Marburg is located 90 km north of Frankfurt. Narrow lanes wind through its Old Town, above which the Marburg Castle, building in 1235-1283, looms. The best-known building is St. Elizabeth’s Church, which was erected in 1235-1300, becoming Germany’s first purely Gothic church.
First a Celtic settlement, then a Roman trading town, and from 1294 to 1779 a free city of the Holy Roman Empire: Speyer has a long history. This is also reflected in the city’s layout and buildings. Its hallmark is the Speyer Cathedral (officially the Imperial Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption and St. Stephen) with its two red towers and copper-covered octangular dome. In 1925, Pope Pius XI raised it to the rank of a minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church, and it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981.
The other interesting sights include Maximilianstrasse, the Old Gate, the Jewish Courtyard, the Trinity Church, and the Speyer Transportation Museum.
Limburg enchants visitors with its medieval charm. It is characterized by a large number of well-preserved, picturesque half-timbered houses. On the so-called Domberg Hill, the imposing seven-towered Limburg Cathedral overlooks the Old Town against the backdrop of Limburg Castle.
This town’s history has been marked by destruction and reconstruction. The famous Mouse Tower was built for Prince Elector Siegfried II in 1218 and later served as a customs collection tower for goods transported along the Rhine River. From the top of Klopp Castle, which was rebuilt several times, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the “Bingen Hole” that was blasted centuries ago in a quartz reef that was hindering maritime traffic on the river.
Rüdesheim is located in the lovely Rhine Gorge. It is an old winemaking town with a medieval core. The lively Drosselgasse holds numerous shops, cafés, and traditional taverns. A gondola lift takes visitors up to the Niederwalddenkmal monument to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Rhine. From there, hiking trails lead to the ruins of Ehrenfels Castle and the Jagdschloss, a former hunting lodge. There are many more romantic castles and hill forts further downriver:
- Sooneck Castle, originally built in the 13th century, was destroyed in the 17th century and then rebuilt by the Hohenzollern family.
- Rheinfels Castle, which was damaged by French Revolutionary Army troops in 1797 and subsequently repaired. Today it holds a luxury hotel and restaurant.
- Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, a former toll castle on Falkenau Island in the Rhine near Kaub. Construction of it began in 1326, but later additions were heavily influenced by the Baroque style of the 17th and 18th centuries. It can only be reached by ferry from Rüdesheim.
- Stolzenfels Castle. The existing structure was built in 1833 upon the ruins of an older palace, parts of which were preserved and integrated. Its spectacular grounds feature waterfalls, ponds, and grottos.
A bit further west along the Mosel River are Eltz Castle and the Ehrenburg, which is the ruin of a spur castle.