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Heidelberg History and Background

From: Heidelberg, Germany


ABOVE: The Brückentor, or Bridge Gate, once protected the city against invaders from the northern side of the Neckar River.


According to the Heidelberg tourist office's "History and Facts" page, the city's history (or prehistory) goes back approximately 600,000 years to the "Heidelberg Man," the earliest human fossil in Europe. The Celts built a fortress in the area around 500 B.C., and the Romans showed up shortly after the time of Christ.

photoThe name "Heidelberg" was first mentioned in 1196 A.D., and by 1386, the city had become important enough to merit its own university. Like many European cities, Heidelberg had its share of wars was ruled by a succession of counts, princes, and kings over the centuries. One of the most notable conflicts was the so-called "War of Succession," when French soldiers tried to blow up the Schloss, or castle, and succeeded in knocking over one of the towers (see inset photo) with a massive explosion.

For more about the history of Heidelberg, seeWikipedia's article about Heidelberg and Karl Kolmel's illustrated timeline of Heidelberg and its castle.

Heidelberg today

Since World War II, Heidelberg has grown into a modern university, technology, and business city of 140,000 people, many of them living and working in new districts outside the historic Altstadt or Old Town. As a tourist, you'll be interested mostly in the Altstadt, the castle hill, and the Philosopher's Walk in the suburb of Neuenheim across the river from the Brückentor (see photo at top of page).

Next page: Sightseeing and tours

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