No matter where you approach Heidenheim from, Hellenstein Castle on its 70-metre high rock catches the eye of every visitor.
At over 600 metres, the landmark on the castle hill top overlooks the city like a guardian. The original Staufer fort was erected between 1130 and 1145. After being nearly completely destroyed in a great fire in 1530, only the ruined remains of the so-called Knights' Hall are left and are nowadays used as the atmospheric location of the annual Opera Festival.
Herzog Friedrich I. von Württemberg built a Renaissance Castle from this medieval complex of buildings with mighty round towers and bastions. The castle complex crumbled increasingly until extensive renovation work started on 1837, which are still in progress today.
The Fruchtkasten (granary) of Hellenstein Castle nowadays houses the Museum of Coaches, Carriages and Carts, which displays the impressive history of road transport in south-west Germany on four flours. 80 vehicles from simple handcarts to splendid baroque sleighs offer an insight into road transport from the 18th to the 20th century. A special object on display is the oldest taxi of Germany, constructed in 1898.
Hellenstein Castle Museum is to be found on the castle grounds, too. Its first division exhibits the Prehistory and Early Middle Ages in the district of Heidenheim, followed by the second division, displaying Heidenheim's municipal history from the 19th to the 20th century. In addition to these divisions, special exhibitions show "Historical Toys", Alfred Meebold's "Indian Collection" and the "Thea Voith's Collection".
Hellenstein Castle is always worth a visit, even if you are not particularly interested in history, for the picturesque view over the city and its surroundings is as scenic as breathtaking.
The castle grounds can be reached by walking several ascents from the city centre of Heidenheim or by car. Hellenstein Castle is surrounded by a generous park with gentle hills and an old tree population. A 30 hectare large wildlife park joins the castle grounds: a restful spot of forest, quite in the heart of the city.