© Heidelberg Marketing / Tobias Schwerdt / Pexels

City of books

Heidelberg is UNESCO City of Literature

UNESCO City of Literature

Hardly a day goes by without a literary event, not a summer without the literature festival Heidelberg Literature Days, not a year without literary award winners. A look at the lively author, translator and theater scene shows the high literary productivity in the city on the Neckar river. Heidelberg will continue to do everything in its power to strengthen literature in the future. Since December 1, 2014, the city has been an official member of the "UNESCO Creative Cities Network" as the "UNESCO City of Literature".



The humanist Peter Luder gives a Latin laudation on Heidelberg, which is now considered the oldest description of the city.


Heidelberg becomes a center of Calvinism. The "Heidelberg Catechism" is drawn up.


Martin Opitz dedicates a few sonnets to Heidelberg and writes the foreword to his "Buch von der deutschen Poeteray" (1624) - the first German poetics that pointed the way for the Baroque.


The Palatinate War of Succession broke out, as a result of which the towers and walls of Heidelberg Castle were blown up by French troops.


The castle burned down again after two lightning strikes and from then on - initially ignored - shaped the cityscape as a ruin.


Adolph Freiherr Knigge, one of the most important Enlightenment writers, lives as a theater critic in Heidelberg.


Friedrich Hölderlin's "Heidelberg Ode", a literary declaration of love for the city. With his eyes on city and landscape, he conjures up an artfully structured poetic space in which topography and inner world are in perfect harmony. The "Heidelberg Myth" reached its first poetic climax at this time of writing.


Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim arrive in Heidelberg. The Romantics took over Heidelberg as a city of literature in the universal sense.


Goethe visits Heidelberg at the invitation of the Boiserée brothers and studies their collection of old German and Dutch panel paintings from the Middle Ages.


Jean Paul visits Heidelberg and receives an honorary doctorate from the university.


In his poem "Alte Brücke (Old Bridge)" Gottfried Keller combines a painful personal experience with the visual impression of the old bridge.


Joseph Viktor von Scheffel (1826–1886) writes his poem "Alt-Heidelberg, Du feine"


Hardly any poet shaped the image of Heidelberg today as a city of romanticism more than Joseph von Eichendorff with his old work: Looking back, idealizing the city from the temporal and spatial distance, Eichendorff conjures up in the opening and closing stanzas of his narrative poem “Robert und Guiscard “the feeling of days gone by. Heidelberg is elevated to a magical, romantic place of longing for carefree youth.


Heidelberg is discovered as a tourist destination. Mark Twain's enthusiasm is reflected in his travelogue "A Tramp Abroad".


Wilhelm Meyer-Förster processes the material in his piece "Alt Heidelberg", a bittersweet romance in the Heidelberg student milieu, which premiered in November 1901 in Berlin.


Heidelberg is Stefan George's most important place of work from this year on. His spiritual presence extends far beyond the city and lives on in his "disciples" for generations.


The much-vaunted "Heidelberg spirit" is essentially connected to another intellectual central figure of these years: The cultural sociologist Max Weber and his wife, the women's rights activist Marianne Weber, invite from 1912 to the Sunday jour fixe, at which scientists, writers and artists come together for open discussions .


In the Weimar Republic, thanks to professors such as Karl Jaspers, Gustav Radbruch and Alfred Weber, Heidelberg University was a stronghold of cosmopolitan and liberal thinking and a spiritual magnet for scholars and young students.


The operetta version "The Student Prince" by Sigmund Romberg became a resoundingly successful Broadway musical and is still very popular today. The "myth of old Heidelberg" was thus invented - despite the great suspicion of kitsch, it is also a facet of Heidelberg's literary history.


The Heidelberg Castle Festival is brought into being.


The fact that the university was brought into line quickly after the National Socialists came to power soon earned it the reputation of a “brown university”. Numerous lecturers and students are expelled because of their political attitudes or their Jewish origins. In Heidelberg, too, books were burned on May 17, 1933 without hesitation on Universitätsplatz. A memorial plaque at the scene of the event reminds of this.


Hans-Georg Gadamer is appointed to Heidelberg to succeed Karl Jaspers.


The protest movement of the "68 generation" seems to be deconstructing the "Heidelberg myth".


The left-wing alternative scene within the Heidelberg student movement sees the potential for a social awakening in literary and creative people. With a free, independent alternative culture, the actors want to create a “counter-public” to the established bourgeoisie.


The Heidelberg hip hop group Advanced Chemistry is releasing their first CD.


The German-American Institute organizes the first poetry slam in Heidelberg.


The writer Hilde Domin is named an honorary citizen.


Since December 1, 2014, the city has been an official member of the "UNESCO Creative Cities Network" as the "UNESCO City of Literature".

© Heidelberg Marketing / Christoph Düpper

Heidelberg, the city of literature

Literature is omnipresent in Heidelberg. As you stroll through the city, you will find bookshops, second-hand bookshops, publishers and libraries on every corner.

Literature Days

The undisputed highlight of the literary event calendar are the Heidelberg Literature Days, which have been taking place every year since 1994 in Heidelberg's old town in the Spiegelzelt on Universitätsplatz. Since 2015, the literary city of Heidelberg has been happy to present the diversity of the regional literary scene to authors and publishers, but also to schoolchildren, theater groups, guest guides and many more in the Heidelberg Literature Autumn every year.


"I saw Heidelberg on a perfectly clear morning, with a pleasant air both cool and invigorating. The city, just so, with the totality of its ambiance is, one might say, something ideal."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Diary, 1797

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