The baroque ensemble that constitutes the eighteenth century summer residence has remained to this day the heart of Schwetzingen. After the destruction of the previous building during the Thirty years War and the War of the Grand Alliance, Prince Elector Johann Wilhelm saw to the rebuilding of the baroque palace. Its heyday came when it became the summer residence of the art loving Prince Elector Carl Theodor (1724-99), who further extended the palace from 1748 onward and added the quarter-circle pavilions and the wide-ranging gardens.
The palace courtyard and palace building mark the entrance to the magnificent gardens, which are a unique example of the late baroque art of the garden in original or authentically restored form. Extending along the central baroque axis is a roughly 200 acre circular French parterre garden, which is adjoined by rococo bosquets and sections in the English landscape style. The gardens were laid out in 1748 according to the plans of the garden designers Johann Ludwig Petri, Nicolas de Pigage and Friedrich Ludwig Sckell.
The castle gardens abound with buildings, including a garden mosque (I), the bathhouse (II), the Temple of Apollo with an open-air hedge theatre (III), and the orangery (IV). In addition, the gardens boast four museums: the “garden documentation centre” in the southern circle provides information on the individual sections of the world famous garden park (V). Fascinating information on historical gardening can be found in the orangery, while the lapidarium presents a large proportion of the original garden sculptures from the eighteenth century (IV). Finally, a museum for historical garden tools housed in the former storehouse next door completes the overview of the gardens’ history (VI).
Beginning in 1752, court architect Alessandro Galli da Bibiena created the Market Square (Marktplatz, later renamed Schlossplatz or Palace Square) and with that forged a link between the palace and the ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ districts of Schwetzingen. The southern boundary was demarcated by artillery major L’Angé when he built the barracks for the Electoral Horse Guards. After 1778, the complex was divided into five residential buildings. Since 2016, the square with its host of cafés and restaurants has further been enriched by Peter Lenk’s sculpture Lucky Pig.
Carl-Theodorstraße / Palatinate Axis
Prince Elector Johann Wilhelm had a straight avenue built from the palace courtyard to Heidelberg in 1748. Under Prince Elector Carl Theodor, the road lined with mulberries became the key element in the new baroque design of the summer residence and the “New Town”. It runs directly from Königstuhl, a hill in Heidelberg, via Schwetzingen palace garden - in part as a sight line - to the Kalmit, the highest elevation in the Palatinate Forest. This axis served as the base line (Basis Palatina) for court astronomer Christian Mayer when he surveyed the Electoral Palatinate.
In 1755, the court architect Franz Wilhelm Rabaliatti built this baroque town palace for his personal use. It was then acquired in 1782 by Imperial Count von Bretzenheim, and in 1802 passed into the ownership of the electoral courtier Theodor Zeller. After the Electorate on the right bank of the Rhine was ceded to Baden in 1803, the palace became a “bailiff’s house” and seat of the Baden District Office of Schwetzingen. Since 1931 it has been privately owned.
This town palace was built in 1748/49 on the newly completed Market Square and occupied by the Jesuit priest Seedorf, tutor and confessor to the young Prince Elector Carl Theodor. Subsequently the palace was owned by two ministers of state, first Baron von Zettwitz and then Count Christian Reichsgraf von Oberndorff. In 1818 it came into private ownership and served as a hostelry named the “Golden Hind”. Today it is a public building used for official occasions.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Electoral Palatinate, Prince Friederich of Pfalz-Zweibrücken, had the royal stables built in 1750/52. The complex of buildings was bought in 1759 by Prince Elector Carl Theodor, who had it extended. From 1803, after the Electoral Palatinate was disestablished and the territories right of the Rhine ceded to the Grand Duchy of Baden, the stables served the Baden Life Dragoons as barracks (today they are in private and commercial use). Particularly noteworthy is the magnificent electoral coat of arms above the central passage.
Old Malt-house of the Schwan Brewery
Built around 1755, the building was until 1895 the headquarters of the Schwanenbrauerei Kleinschmitt AG (1731–1978), and home to its tap house and the “White Swan” brewery. After the brewing and administrative activities moved to Neuer Messplatz, a malt-house was built next to the hostelry (Carl-Theodor-Straße 9), as ably demonstrated by the listed building with its malt kiln and tall chimneys.
The neoclassical railway station was constructed as part of the Rheinbahn railway line, which opened in 1870 and connected Mannheim and Karlsruhe. After its partial destruction in World War 2, the station was rebuilt in simplified form, and now is privately owned. The platform roof dates from 1898. Circling the station forecourt are a number of prestigious town houses from the Gründerzeit.
In 1821 the town hall was rebuilt in the classicist style after the plans of Jacob Friedrich Dyckerhoff, a pupil of the Baden architect Friedrich Weinbrenner. Its clearly proportioned facade is dominated by a central tympanum with Diocletian window. Although an administration building, it has also a picture gallery featuring Schwetzingen artists and the internationally renowned photographer Horst Hamann.
St Pancras’s Church
The town’s oldest house of worship was given its late baroque / early classicist facade in the last third of the eighteenth century by the court architects Sigismund Zeller, Franz Wilhelm Rabaliatti and Nicolas de Pigage. The splendour and diversity of the interior is set off by its baroque high altar, the sculptures (including those of court sculptor Paul Egell), and a fine array of paintings.
Protestant Parish Church
The Protestant parish church was built in 1760 as a Reformed church. In 1884-88 it was extended and refurbished. The interior was also refashioned in the years 1912-13, most notably by the inclusion of a Jugenstil stained glass window in the chancel, and neo-Renaissance style side windows portraying the Reformers Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon.
Xylon Museum / Disabled Soldiers’ Barracks
After the old electoral barracks were torn down in 1766, the Foot Guards received their new premises in 1774 in the electoral construction works depot. When the court moved to Munich in 1778, the building retained its function under the Grand Duchy of Baden. Today it is home to the municipal library and above all the XYLON - Museum + Studios (www.xylon-museum.de).
Not only is the colour blue rich in meanings and associations, it is also the municipal colour of Schwetzingen and adorns the coat of arms of the House of Wittelsbach, to whom the electors of the Electoral Palatinate belonged. Since July 2017 the Blue Museum (run by the society Blau e.V.) has become the first place of its kind to showcase the fascinating history of the colour in art and cultural life (www.museumblau.de).
The building for the municipal elementary school was erected in 1900, but not it was until 1912 that it received the name Hildaschule, in honour of Grand Duchess Hilda von Baden. Two additional wings were built on in 1914.
The school was evacuated during World War 2 to make space for a reserve military hospital. With the end of the war the building became a municipal secondary school and has solely served educational purposes.
Hebel Square / Place of Friendship
The tomb of the Allemanic poet and prelate Johann Peter Hebel, who died in 1826, is a relict from a cemetery that was decommissioned in 1870. His portrait can be seen on a mural painted by Heinz Friedrich on an adjacent building. Motif benches and planted trees point to Schwetzingen’s twin towns, and define the location as a place of friendship.
Zum Rothen Haus, a listed building that has served for over 200 years as an inn, is where Mozart’s family stayed in 1763. On 15 July, the seven-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart gave a concert at the electoral court, together with his older sister Nannerl. His father, Leopold Mozart, reported in one of his famous letters that the children had “set the whole of Schwetzingen astir.”
The Welde Brewery was founded in 1752 as a small in-house brewery in the Grünes Laub tavern at Mannheimer Straße 2. The company expanded and in 1934/35 built a several storey brewhouse on Herzogstraße that is a good 36 m tall. Today the building is privately owned and one of the few examples of the Bauhaus aesthetic in Schwetzingen.
The foundation stone for the Großherzoglich Badische Realschule was laid in 1909 and a year later the magnificent Jugendstil building was ready for use. In the years 1944/45 a field hospital was installed in the school building for the German military. After the German surrender on 8 May 1945, the building was occupied by the US forces. Subsequent to their departure, the school was returned to its original use.
Drais’s Forestry Institute
The present Forestry Commission Office was built in 1760. Living and working here was among others the head forester, Baron Friedrich Heinrich Georg von Drais (1803-07), who in 1804 created together with garden director Johann Michael Zeyher an arboretum in the palace gardens. At the same time he ran a private forestry school, where his nephew, the inventor Baron Karl von Drais, taught from 1805 to 1907. On 12 June 1817 Karl set out on his celebrated velocipede from Mannheim Palace to the palace in Schwetzingen. The journey ended earlier than planned at a coaching inn.
Ysenburg Palais was built in 1760 to the plans of court architect Franz Wilhelm Rabaliatti and occupied by members of the court household (chief head gardener von Wynder and the Prince of Ysenburg). Extensions were built in 1775 and again in the late nineteenth century. Gustav Bassermann and his wife Clementine, who throughout her life worked for the common good, occupied the entire complex from 1864 onward.
The present District Court was built in 1725 as the Prinzenhaus (princes’ house). In 1753 it became the envoys’ house, and from 1766 on it served as the residence of the director of the palatinate works and gardens, Nicolas de Pigage, and of his successors, Friedrich Ludwig Sckell (from 1796) and Johann Michael Zeyher (from 1804). The Alemannic poet Johann Peter Hebel died here on 22 September 1826.
The upper waterworks (today the tax office) was installed in 1774 to run the fountains in the eastern palace grounds. It was fitted with two water tanks on the top storey, and two undershot waterwheels driven by a system of hydraulics which, even in the nineteenth century, was acclaimed as a technical marvel.
The lower waterworks, which also drove a mill for making bone meal, may be visited on special guided tours (www.schloss-schwetzingen.de).
Gallery Gleis 1
Galerie Gleis 1 focuses on the the visual arts with the aim of enabling “history and culture to be experienced” in public space. With eleven reproductions of paintings, and a collection of photographs and prints, it presents artists of the twentieth and twenty-first century who come from or are closely linked to Schwetzingen.
HörBar - a Paradise for Music Lovers
The HörBar info-station lets music lovers experience the festival town of Schwetzingen and its special musical history from the perspective of its court music. Using QR codes, visitors can listen to recordings of works by the composers of the "Mannheim School”.