Europe, Travel features

Luxury breaks used to be the preserve of the rich and famous, but this is no longer the case. The old jet set and beautiful people are being hounded to ever remoter Caribbean hideaways like Mustique, taking their egos and paranoia with them and leaving that much more room for the rest of us to have a great break in formerly exclusive locations like the Rhine Valley and Switzerland. Cheap flights to gorgeous destinations open up the world for those looking for freedom, flexibility and stimulation, and leave more spare cash to have a fabulous time once you get there.

If you’re looking for a big dollop of culture and high living then Germany is recommended for the uniformly elevated quality of service and wide choice of fine cuisine and wines on offer. The Germans are famous for being extremely correct and welcoming hosts, and a short luxury break in a city like Heidelberg is guaranteed to be a stimulating and efficient one. There’s no time for things like siestas in Germany, but lunch is definitely not for wimps and the Germans certainly know how to eat and drink in style. The fine dining in Heidelberg combines with some glorious historic architecture and rich cultural attractions to create the perfect setting for a posh holiday.

A beautiful German town

Heidelberg is generally reckoned to be one of the most beautiful towns in a country hardly short on them. It has a lovely location on the River Neckar and has been a great cultural centre for donkeys’ years, with for example Germany’s first university established here in 1386. Despite the old enemy France invading the town and smashing up the historic medieval centre in the late 17th century, it was all soon rebuilt in an even more imposing and gorgeous 18th century Baroque style.

Heidelberg Castle

The main sight of modern Heidelberg is the great castle which towers over the town. Now for the most part in ruins, it forms a superb backdrop to a romantic visit here. Romance was certainly in the air for Friedrich V, who built the Englischer Bau castle complex for his wife Elizabeth Stuart in the 17th century.

The castle was repeatedly modified and added to between the 13th and 17th centuries as the seat of the ultra-rich, powerful and decadent House of Wittelsbach palatinates, until it became one of the most beautiful Renaissance residences on the continent. Unfortunately it was along with much else in Germany swept away in the violence of the Thirty Years’ War with neighbouring France, leaving the attractive ruin we see today.

There are many boutique suites and serviced apartments available along the banks of the Neckar that will put the finishing touches to a luxury break in this charming town. As well as visiting the Friedrichsbau Palace and Ottheinrichsbau Renaissance Museum, enjoy lunch in an old half-timbered inn before taking a slow cruise boat up the river to see the stunning scenery of Baden-Wurttemberg at your leisure.

This part of Germany fairly drips culture and charm and has history coming out of its ears, so the ambience in towns like Heidelberg and neighbouring Karlsruhe and Maulbronn is like a rich sauce liberally poured over the exquisitely charming architectural gems and natural delights of the region.