Welcome to Heidelberg

Heidelberg University

The International Max Planck Research School for Astronomy and Cosmic Physics at the University of Heidelberg (IMPRS-HD) is a collaborative effort between the Max Planck Society and the University of Heidelberg.
Founded 1385 the University of Heidelberg is the oldest university of present-day Germany. 15 % of Heidelberg's 27,000 students come from outside Germany, over 2,400 of them from Europe and 890 from Asia (in total from 128 countries). Regularly ranked as one of the best German universities, Heidelberg University successfully brings together old tradition and modern conceptions.

Heidelberg University hosts part the world-famous university library, the Bibliotheca Palatina, which is a priceless collection of books compiled over a period of many centuries. Most of the library, was carried to the Vatican during the Thirty Years' War. However, the University still owns a rich treasure of invaluable incunabula and manuscripts, the most famous among them being the Codex Manesse manuscript collection, the finest and most comprehensive collection of Middle High German lyric poetry in existence.

The greatest impact of Heidelberg University outside Germany itself was probably its contributions to the natural sciences and medical research. Bunsen, Helmholtz and Kirchhoff made Heidelberg into a major centre of scientific research in Germany and these names have lost none of their relevance for modern-day student generations the world over. Helmholtz investigated the mechanics of sight and sound while Kirchhoff and Bunsen discovered spectral analysis. Czerny's "Institute of Experimental Cancer Research" established the great tradition of groundbreaking cancer research that Heidelberg still stands for today. And still, the immense scope of top-level innovative research being done in Heidelberg's various medical departments is world-famous. It might be mentioned that over the years, the natural sciences at the University of Heidelberg contributed eight Nobel prize winners.

The various divisions of the humanities and the natural sciences that grew out of the 19th century Philosophical Faculty almost all have a superb reputation. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that the level of achievement across the entire range of classical university disciplines represented here could hardly be higher.

Today, the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Heidelberg is the largest in Germany concerning the number of graduates per year.

The City of Heidelberg
The City of Heidelberg is located where the Neckar river enters the wide valley of the Rhine river. The Neckar valley is steep and the many houses in Heidelberg are glued to the steep walls of the valley. On the other hand the forested mountains along the valley provide a cosy 400 m high green curtain around the Old Town of Heidelberg.
Read what Mark Twain says about Heidelberg: "Heidelberg lies at the mouth of a narrow gorge — a gorge the shape of a shepherd's crook; if one looks up it he perceives that it is about straight, for a mile and a half, then makes a sharp curve to the right and disappears. This gorge — along whose bottom pours the swift Neckar — is confined between (or cloven through) a couple of long, steep ridges, a thousand feet high and densely wooded clear to their summits, with the exception of one section which has been shaved and put under cultivation. These ridges are chopped off at the mouth of the gorge and form two bold and conspicuous headlands, with Heidelberg nestling between them; from their bases spreads away the vast dim expanse of the Rhine valley, and into this expanse the Neckar goes wandering in shining curves and is presently lost to view."
"I have never enjoyed a view which had such a serene and satisfying charm about it as this one gives." (copied from www.mark-twain-in-heidelberg.de)

Due to its low altitude and the influence from the Rhine valley the climate in Heidelberg is moderate. However, it is remarkable that even if you have a foggy or rainy autumn day in downtown Heidelberg (where e.g. the ITA or the ARI is located), the top of the Koenigstuhl mountain (where you find the MPIA and the LSW) is above the clouds and enjoys beautiful bright sunshine.

Heidelberg provides best shopping facilities for all goods and at all price levels. Unfortunately, the latter is not true concerning the student accommodation, in particular downtown. The cheapest way to live is to share an apartment with other students. A room in such a "Wohngemeinschaft" costs about 300 Euro / month. The public transportation system is of best European standard and allows you to reach downtown Heidelberg from its suburbs in general in about 10-20 min. Bicycling is the usual way of student transportation, but (because of that) it could be sometimes hard to find a parking lot for your bike ...

Heidelberg is an old town with a history going back to 1155 when the oldest castle and the settlement came into the possession of the Hohenstaufens under Palgrave Konrad. The name "Heidelberch" is mentioned in a document for the first time in 1196.
In 1622 the imperial general Tilly conquers the town and palace in Heidelberg. In 1623 the imperial forces carry off the famous "Palatinate Library" (Biblioteca Palatina, today at the Vatican) as war-booty. The Palatinate looses three-quarters of its population in the war. In 1688/89 the French troops take Heidelberg in the course of the War of Palatinate Succession and destroy the Palace, the town and villages and towns in the Rhine valley before retreating.

The present mayor hall was built 1701. The first railway connection in the State of Baden is inaugurated 1840 and connects Heidelberg with Mannheim (20km).
Heidelberg is the home town of Friedrich Ebert, the first "Reichspraesident" of the democratic "Deutsches Reich" (born 1871, burried 1925 at the Bergfriedhof).
From 1925-1929 the Neckar River has been canalized, and 1935 the "Autobahn" Frankfurt-Mannheim-Heidelberg was opened.
Fortunately, the city of Heidelberg survived the second world war undamaged when 1945 the city has been turned over to American military leaders.
A complete rehabilitation of downtown Heidelberg begun in 1972. The car-free pedestrian zone in the Old Town has been completed 1979.
More recent celebrations have been the 600-year anniversary of the University of Heidelberg 1986 and the 800-year anniversary of the City of Heidelberg.

The Heidelberg Castle
The Castle of Heidelberg is one of most well-known cultural monuments in the world, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. It has been constructed as a residence of the Palatinate electors from the 13th to the 18th century. A long and eventful history brought periods of expansion and devastation. The castle buildings with the greatest artistic importance were built during the Renaissance period.
The existence of two castles was first mentioned in 1303. In 1537 the upper castle has been destroyed by a lightning bolt. The Renaissance palace built 1556-59 by the Elector Otto Heinrich is considered as one of the most beautiful from that period north of the Alps. The castle gardens (Hortus Palatinus), the "Englischer Bau" (English Building) and the "Elisabethentor" (Elisabethan Gate), were erected 1610 by Elector Friedrich V. In 1622 the imperial general Tilly conquers the town and palace in Heidelberg. In 1720 the residence of the Elector has been moved to Mannheim.

The great vat with a volume of 221 726 liters was built 1751. Another lightning affected the castle 1764, this time destroying other buildings during reconstruction work. As a consequence the rebuilding has been discontinued. The ruins were preserved from 1810 by von Graimberg and turned in to a historical monument. For the interior part this was continued since about 1900. Since 1987, the Administration of the State-Owned Palaces and Gardens of Baden-Wu"rttemberg is responsible for Heidelberg Palace.
(The summary of the above events has been mostly taken from the castle time line of the "Schloesser Magazin".)
Among the many touristic events connected to the castle as regular and special guided tours "Schloss Festspiele" by the Theater of Heidelberg.

Around Heidelberg
In the unlikely case that you get bored by Heidelberg itself, or, in the more likely case that you find it too difficult to find your way through other tourists who are interested in the famous city, you will find a lot of interesting destinations in relatively short distance from Heidelberg.
If you follow the deep valley of the river of Neckar upstream (by boat, bicycle or car) you find a chain of little Romanesque castles (e.g. in Hirschhorn, Dillsberg, Neckarsteinach (4 castles)).
A 20 km trip brings you to village of Mauer where 1907 human jaw-bones were found which later proved to be the earliest reference of human being in Europe - the 600000 years old Homo heidelbergensis.
Concerning cultural-historical interests, one must further mention the Palace of Mannheim (about 20 km), the Palace and Gardens of Schwetzingen (about 20 km), or the famous 850-year-old Monastery of Maulbronn (60 km), which is often cited as the best-preserved medieval monastery complex north of the Alps.

Heidelberg is also not far from other fascinating places of German history. A visit to the City of Trier will bring you close to the very early German history, when Germany still has been "Germania" and the Romans ruled the area west of the Rhine river. Trier has been claimed to be the "Oldest City in Germany". In the City of Speyer you will find one of the greatest German treasures of Romanesque architecture - the imprial Speyer Cathedral ("Dom zu Speyer") which has been built in the years 1030-1061. The City of Mainz is most known for her son Johannes Gutenberg who is the inventor of movable type printing. Karlsruhe is known for its beautiful palace and gardens

Last not least, the location of Heidelberg provides the possibility that, if you like to escape from Germany or its inhabitants for a little while, you will reach the French border within a less-than one-hour car ride.
France or e.g. the famous City of Strasbourg might let you take part in the French way of life and offer you cuisine Francaise with vin rouge and, of course, many more serious treasures of the French culture.

Heidelberg Online
Here we supply an incomplete list of links to electronic information on Heidelberg.
City of Heidelberg official site University of Heidelberg site Electronic travel guide of Heidelberg
Interactive map of downtown Heidelberg. Heidelberg tourism web site. Map of downtown Heidelberg

IMPRS Heidelberg thanks the Heidelberg Convention and Visitors Bureau for providing us with most of the pictures shown above.