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The Marktplatz, also called Rathausplatz, is one of the central squares in Heidelberg’s old town. Directly adjacent to it is the town hall to the east – hence its second name – and the 15th century Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit) to the west. Otherwise, it is surrounded by houses in which, among other things, many nice shops, cafés and cozy old town pubs are located.

Central focal point since the Middle Ages

The market place as a centre can be traced back to the 13th century on the basis of old ground plans of the city of Heidelberg. At that time, it served as a venue for public trials of alleged heretics and mischievous robbers. At the same time it was already at that time the official market place for the trade with goods of all kinds. It still has this function today.

All year round, mainly regional and seasonal products are offered here on the weekly market and the visitor can expect an almost Mediterranean flair, especially in the warm season. The range of goods leaves almost nothing to be desired and after shopping, the surrounding cafés with their outdoor seating offer cosy opportunities to linger and observe.

This was not always the case, because until the 1970s, when the adjacent main street was still open to motor traffic, the market square also served as a car park. It was not until the traffic calming of Heidelberg’s old town, combined with the construction of numerous nearby multi-storey car parks, that the market square became an inner-city idyll.

Between the Hercules Fountain and the Christmas Market

In the centre of Heidelberg’s market square is the Hercules Fountain. It takes its name from the towering figure of Hercules. With the figure of Hercules and the fountain itself, the population of Heidelberg, which had shrunk to a minimum after the end of the War of the Palatinate Succession, wanted to set up a memorial. This symbolised above all the lack of water in the city at that time. Today, the Hercules Fountain is a popular photo motif, especially in spring and summer, for tourists from all over the world who visit Heidelberg’s old town in such large numbers.

In winter, the market square is the site of the Christmas market spread throughout the city centre. A large Christmas pyramid with its figures bears witness to Heidelberg’s eventful history. At this part of the Christmas market, however, visitors will not only find all kinds of culinary delights, but can also find out about social and community projects in the “Bürgerhütte” or the “Haus des Weihnachtsmanns”.

All in all, Heidelberg’s marketplace is a witness to living history and nowadays a popular place to visit at any time of the year.