Once a grand royal residence overlooking the city of Heidelberg, Heidelberg Castle now lies mostly in ruins. Yet, it has retained its magnificence, and you only need to walk among the ruins to imagine what it must have been like.
The castle has links to several royal women. For example, Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate (Liselotte), later Duchess of Orléans, was born in the castle in 1652. Until 1658, she lived under the care of her aunt Sophia of the Palatinate, who then married Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Elisabeth Charlotte later wrote, “I am not flattering enough. Flattery is a difficult art, and one that one does not learn on the Heidelberg hill. To be an adept in it, one must have been born in Prance or Italy.”1
Elisabeth Charlotte’s mother, Landgravine Charlotte of Hesse-Kassel, married Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine, at the castle in 1650, but it was an unhappy marriage. Despite this, she refused a divorce and lived in a wing of the castle. She eventually left in 1663 and only returned when her son succeeded his father in 1680. She died in the castle in 1686.
The Winter Queen, Elizabeth Stuart, lived at Heidelberg during her marriage to Frederick V, Elector Palatine and the Elizabeth Gate, built for her birthday in just one night, still stands. Two sons and her daughter Elisabeth were born at Heidelberg Castle. In 1619, the couple was briefly King and Queen of Bohemia and were afterwards exiled to the Netherlands.
The castle ruins are now open to the public. You can reach it by taking the funicular railway, which also sells combination tickets for the castle itself.
The inside of some of the buildings can be visited, though, at the time of my visit, these tours were not being offered due to COVID-19 restrictions. Despite this, I really enjoyed my visit, and the different building styles are just amazing to see. There was also a little shop, which did not appear to sell anything in the way of information about the castle (books, for example). Souvenirs were also rather lacking, and they seemed to focus more on Christmas (I visited in December). Hopefully, this will be different during the actual tourist season as I was rather disappointed.