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City of books

Heidelberg is UNESCO City of Literature

UNESCO City of Literature

Hardly a day goes by without a literary event, no summer without the Heidelberg International Literature Festival feeLit, no year without literary award winners. A look at the lively author, translator, and theater scene shows the high literary productivity in the Neckar city. Heidelberg is also doing everything it can to strengthen literature for the future. Since December 1, 2014, the city has been an official member of the "UNESCO Creative Cities Network" as a "UNESCO City of Literature.


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


Heidelberg becomes a centre of Calvinism. The "Heidelberg Catechism" is written.


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


The War of the Palatinate Succession takes place, as a result of which the towers and walls of Heidelberg Castle are blown up by French troops.


The castle burns down again after two lightning strikes and from then on - for the time being still unnoticed - characterizes the townscape as a ruin.


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


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


Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim arrive in Heidelberg. The Romantics adopt 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 medieval panel paintings.


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


In his poem "Alte Brücke," Gottfried Keller links 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 today's image of Heidelberg as a city of Romanticism more than Joseph von Eichendorff with his work of old: looking back, idealizing the city from a distance in time and space, Eichendorff evokes the feeling of days gone by in the opening and closing stanzas of his narrative poem "Robert and Guiscard" in 1855. Heidelberg is elevated to a fairy-tale 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 uses the material in his play "Alt Heidelberg," a bittersweet romance set in Heidelberg's student milieu, which premieres in Berlin in November 1901.


From this year on, Heidelberg is Stefan George's most important place of activity. His intellectual presence reaches far beyond the city and lives on in his "Disciples" for generations to come.


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


During the Weimar Republic, Heidelberg University is considered a stronghold of cosmopolitan liberal thought and an intellectual magnet for scholars and young students, thanks in part to professors such as Karl Jaspers, Gustav Radbruch and Alfred Weber.


The operetta version of "The Student Prince" by Sigmund Romberg becomes a resoundingly successful Broadway musical and still enjoys great popularity today. The "myth of Old Heidelberg" was thus invented - despite great suspicions of kitsch, it too is a facet of Heidelberg's literary history.


The Heidelberg Castle Festival is launched.


The rapid introduction of uniformity into the university after the National Socialists take power soon earns it the reputation of a "brown university". Numerous lecturers and students are expelled because of their political stance or their Jewish origins. In Heidelberg, too, books are burned without hesitation on the University Square on May 17, 1933. A memorial plaque at the site of the event serves as a reminder.


Hans-Georg Gadamer is appointed to Heidelberg as the successor to Karl Jaspers.


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


The left-wing alternative scene within the Heidelberg student movement sees in the literary-creative the potential for social awakening. With free, independent alternative culture, the players wanted to create a "counter-public" to the established bourgeoisie.


The Heidelberg hip hop group Advanced Chemistry releases its first CD.


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


The writer Hilde Domin is made an honorary citizen.


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


The Literaturherbst Heidelberg is an innovative literature festival that has become a milestone in the regional literary landscape since 2015 and lives the idea of the UNESCO City of Literature both programmatically and structurally “in nuce”. Four festival days, around 30 events at venues throughout the city, around 1,500 visitors, cooperation with numerous regional literary and cultural actors, encounters with over 70 authors and artists from the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region, from Germany and from all over the world.


"Expedition Poetry"

The cooperation format developed in 2015 by the poet Hans Thill for the UNESCO City of Literature Heidelberg celebrated its launch in 2016 with poets from the UNESCO City of Literature Prague and continued in 2018 in cooperation with the UNESCO City of Literature Granada. The aim is to strengthen cooperation between the member cities in the growing global network of UNESCO Cities of Literature.



"Poetry on the road"

In December 2017, the year-round campaign "Poetry on the Road" launched for the first time. Since then, poems and thoughts by Heidelberg authors have increasingly and literally been on the road in the UNESCO City of Literature every year, whether in trams of the Rhein-Neckar-Verkehr GmbH (rnv) as posters on the side windows or in the form of postcards in the displays in bars and institutions.



Ginkgo-Biloba Translator Prize for Poetry

In 2018, the 'Freundeskreis Literaturhaus Heidelberg e.V.' established the annual 'Ginkgo-Biloba Translator Prize for Poetry'. It is intended to honour poetry translators for their previous work or for an outstanding individual translation into German. The prize is endowed with 5,000 euros.




Online campaign with Heidelberg authors in the "Corona Winter" 2020. Under the hashtag #prinziphoffnung, a text message by a Heidelberg author on the theme of "Principle of Hope" will be presented on Facebook and Instagram of the City of Literature Heidelberg on each of 16 days between the first weekend of Advent 2020 and the end of January 2021.




On the occasion of the International Day of the Environment on 5 June 2022, Heidelberg, as a UNESCO City of Literature is actively participating in a publication from the UNESCO Cities of Literature network: Under the motto THE HEAT IS ON, the UNESCO City of Literature Dunedin (New Zealand) called on young authors from all 42 cities of literature to contribute a literary text on climate change. All submitted texts were published in original language and English translation in an online anthology.



The Heidelberg Literature Days become the feeLit International Literature Festival.

© 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.

feeLit. Heidelberg International Literature Festival

The undisputed highlight of the literary events calendar is the feeLit International Literature Festival. For five days, exciting stars of the literary scene invite you to Heidelberg. You can expect exclusive readings, exciting debates, concerts and plenty of time for exchange.
Since 2015, the City of Literature Heidelberg has also considered itself fortunate to present the diversity of the regional literary scene to authors and publishers, as well as schoolchildren, theater groups, tour guides, and many more each year at the Heidelberg Autumn of Literature.


"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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