Just 58 mi/94 km south of Frankfurt and set among lovely tree-covered hills along the Neckar River, Heidelberg is one of Germany's most romantic cities.

It was the political center of the Lower Palatinate, but in the late 17th century the French King Louis XIV sacked it two times. The town was rebuilt in the baroque style that you see today.

During World War II, Heidelberg was not significantly damaged by Allied bombing, one reason it became the headquarters of the American forces in Europe. Several military installations remain.

Many poets and composers have praised Heidelberg and even Mark Twain succumbed to its charm. William Turner painted some of his stunning sunset views there.

But be warned: Heidelberg draws fleets of tour buses in the summer. To avoid them, plan to spend the night there and explore the city in the early morning, before the crowds arrive.

However, Heidelberg isn't just an overrun tourist town. Students of its renowned university make up 20% of its population, and at night they fill the lively pubs of the Altstadt (Old Town).

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