Visitors in front of the Ottheinrich’s Wing

Construction period: a proud 300 yearsHistory of design

Almost every prince-elector added a structure of a different style to Heidelberg Castle. In the 16th century, the medieval castle was expanded into a representative Renaissance castle. These structures are some of the best examples of German Renaissance architecture. A reconstruction was attempted in the 19th century.

Model hall in the Ruprecht’s Wing at Heidelberg Castle

Ribbed vault in the Ruprecht’s Wing.


Secular Gothic structures generally demonstrate their stateliness through monumentality and defensibility, contrary to the delicate Gothic church structures. This is also the case with the Ruprecht’s Wing, the oldest residential castle at Heidelberg Castle. Only its interior, with ribbed vaults and keystones, gives any indication of its status as a castle. A graceful oriel in the library hints at the elegance of Heidelberg's court life in the Late Middle Ages.

Arcades along the Hall of Glass at Heidelberg Castle

Arcades along the Hall of Glass.


The arcades along the 1549 Hall of Glass are typical of Early Renaissance palace structures in southern Germany. The Ottheinrich’s Wing, on which construction began in 1556, is a famous Renaissance masterpiece and is considered an ideal German Renaissance palace. The facade is stunningly decorated. Pediments, pillars and sculptures of figures from antiquity demonstrate that the architect was familiar with the great Italian archetypes, while also incorporating the current Dutch decorative fashions. The elaborate decor was a reference to the sophisticated builder, Prince-Elector Ottheinrich.

Prince-Elector Friedrich IV, head of a sandstone sculpture, Sebastian Götz, circa 1650

Renaissance sandstone sculpture.

Late Renaissance

The Friedrich’s Wing was constructed between 1601 and 1607 under Prince-Elector Friedrich IV. Decorative figures and adornments are typical of this period and more opulent and vivid than on the Ottheinrich’s Wing. In 1612, Prince-Elector Friedrich V began construction on the last palace structure: the English Wing. The clean design is based on work by the Italian architect, Andrea Palladio. The front of the English Wing is oriented toward the town. 

The English Building at Heidelberg Castle
The Friedrich’s Wing at Heidelberg Castle

The English Wing, with its austere, unadorned design, next to the more sculpturally decorated Friedrich’s Wing .

Room in the Friedrich’s Wing at Heidelberg Castle

Historic room in the Friedrich’s Wing.


Historic preservation began in the late 19th century, protecting and preserving ruins. As of the mid-19th century, however, Historicism also entered the scene. Structures were built in a historic style: rebuilt ruins or invented entire structures based on old designs. Both of these are present at Heidelberg Castle. The Friedrich’s Wing is a prominent example. Reconstructed in 1900 in a style imagined to be true to the original. Its interior was decorated in the Renaissance Revival style, with elaborate wooden door jambs, precious scagliola floors, fanciful stucco, and frescoes.

Which architectural style is used today? When visiting Heidelberg Castle, visitors enter through the new visitor center, which opened in 2012. See for yourself how contemporary architecture was blended with the dignified palace complex. 

The Visitor Center

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Stylistic eras

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