Dr. Eckart Würzner: Heidelberg – Tradition meets modernity

The city of science with a unique quality of life. Heidelberg is a lively, international and cosmopolitan city of science and culture. Thanks to its stunning land­­scape, pleasant climate, outstanding infra­­structure and urban flair, it offers its ci­­ti­zens a very high level of quality of life. As a pioneering location for science and education, as a business location with strong development, and as a cultural centre, Heidelberg plays a central role in the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region.

Heidelberg – the city of science. Edu­ca­tion has a long tradition in Heidelberg. As a city of science, it brings together many educational institutions and is home to Germany’s oldest university, the Rup­­recht-Karls-Universität, which was named an elite university once again in June 2012. This award from the excellence initiative run by the federal and state governments is proof of Heidelberg’s top position as a city of science. The many other universities and academic and re­­search institutions also based in Heidel­­berg have played their part in this as well. Around 35,000 students are regis­­tered at the four universities in Heidel­berg, 29,000 of them at the University of Heidelberg itself. Heidelberg is also home to many internationally renowned research institutions, such as the Euro­­­pean Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) and the four Max Planck Insti­­tutes for Astronomy, Comparative Public Law and International Law, Nuclear Phys­­ics and Medical Research.


Business location Heidelberg. Heidelberg is also an attractive city for both em­­ploy­­ers and employees. More than 55,000 commuters flood into the city every day. Aca­­demics from all over the world come to Heidelberg to teach and research. Heidel­­berg stands for science and scientific companies, as well as for a health eco­­­nomy with many small and medium-sized companies.

Healthy mix of business sectors. The city administration is strengthening Heidel­­berg as a business location in a targeted way and campaigning for new companies to settle here. With over 7,600 companies, of which over 90 per cent are service com­­panies, Heidelberg harbours a healthy mix of sectors with many small and me­­dium-sized companies. The largest em­­ployer is the university hospital and uni­­­ver­­­sity. Around 60 per cent of jobs sub­­ject to social security payments in Heidel­­berg can be attributed to knowledge-in­­ten­sive services and industrial high tech­­­no­logy. Together with the university hos­­pital, the university is Heidelberg’s largest em­­ployer, with more than 14,000 full-­­time em­­­ployees. The very high proportion of aca­­­demics in Heidelberg’s population – 20.9 per cent – is reflected here (average for Baden-Württemberg: 11.4 per cent).


Unique opportunities for the future. The release of the American military areas, the further development of Heidelberg as a science city and the good development of Bahnstadt with its innovative mixture of science, living and culture are future issues in town planning, which, as a whole, offer Heidelberg the opportunity of the century. The goal is to make sustainable development possible for current and future generations. In doing so, Heidel­­berg is relying on an open culture of discus­­­sion and dialogue with its guidelines for civic participation. The idea is that citizens’ views on large-scale future projects are listened to early and regularly.

Bahnstadt – one of the world’s largest passive house quarters. The new Bahn­­stadt quarter – the world’s largest passive house settlement – gives Heidel­berg new space for living and working right in the centre of the city. The unique mix of residential and commercial properties, culture, leisure and science has already impressed large numbers of new inhabitants and users. Soon, 5,000 people will live and 7,000 work here, predominantly in research and science-based com­­panies. A total of around two billion euros will be pumped into the quarter, located on the site of the former goods station.

Bahnstadt is one of the largest city devel­­op­­­ment projects in all of Germany and has matured into a showcase project for the entire world. Along with a good social infrastructure, Bahnstadt offers ideal trans­­port connections thanks to its central location.

Conversion offers unique prospects for city planning. The areas vacated by the US Army are also opening up unique pro­­spects for city planning. Almost 200 hec­­tares will become available for civilian use over the next few years, offering an outstanding opportunity for the city. The conversion and re-use of the sites is to be developed in cooperation with the citizens. The goal is to create vibrant and extremely mixed quarters with a high quality of life and attractive areas for sci­­­e­nce and business.


“Wissen schafft Stadt” – Internationale Bauausstellung for Heidelberg. With its tradition as a city of science, Heidel­­berg is hoping to develop further as a Euro­pean model city in the knowledge-based society of the 21st century. This is happening as part of the Interna­tio­nale Bauausstellung (IBA). The IBA is a German format for con­­struction culture and city development with over 100 years of tradition. Each IBA has a particular theme. In Heidelberg, it is being held under the heading “Wissen-schafft-Stadt” (know­­ledge makes a city). For ten years, it will be a laboratory of city development in the know­­ledge-based society in lively exchan­ge with the city’s inhabitants. The IBA will end in 2022 with a large international closing presentation.

A city with a high quality of life. Heidel­­berg is not only a city of research and work, but it is also an attractive place to live and enjoy life, as well as being a popular tourist des­­ti­­­nation. It is a lively and creative city with a varied cultural scene. It offers an extensive range of child­­care, leisure and educational services for all age groups. The historic old town, the traditional, evolved suburbs or the new urban quarters, such as Bahnstadt or the vacated American military bases, are all great places to live for both families and single people.

Heidelberg – one of the most creative cities. Heidelberg is one of the most creat­­ive cities in Germany. The city is promo­­t­ing the cultural and creative economy in a targeted way. It is hoped that creat­ive minds and artists of all kinds can find good conditions for their work in Heidelberg. This includes establishing and expanding Heidelberg as a city of literature, strengthening architecture and design and promoting new foundations in the cultural and creative industries.


A lively and varied cultural scene. Almost no other city of comparable size in Ger­­many has such a varied cultural scene as Heidelberg. Large festivals such as “Hei­­­­delberger Frühling” international music festival, the “Heidelberger Stückemarkt”, “enjoy jazz” and the “International Film­­Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg” radiate far beyond the region. The latest highlight to make waves across the entire city was the reopening of the city’s theatre.

A family-friendly city. As well as the econ­­omy, science and culture, the excellent range of services offered for families and children is also very attractive for young people and families. Heidelberg is a family-­­friendly city: at 47 per cent, Heidelberg boasts the highest number of children under three years in childcare facilities in western Germany. In addition, over one hundred per cent provision for three to six-­­year-olds and citywide after-school care for primary school children provide good opportunities for combining work with family life. For young families of academics in particular, these are important criteria when deciding where to set up home.

Strong when it comes to education. Heidel­­berg actively encourages life-long learning with a wide range of offers – from early childhood to seniors. According to the Lern­­atlas published by the Bertelsmann Foundation, Heidelberg is number one in Germany for school-based learning. There are 44 state and private schools – from primary schools to vocational colleges. Between 2007 and 2014, the city is investing 150 million euros in renovating school buildings. From pre-school to aca­­demic education, the next generation has the best opportunities in Heidelberg.

A popular city with three million guests every year. Last but not least, Heidel­berg is also a popular city for tourism and for national and international conferences. Three million guests visit the city on the Neckar river every year. The number of overnight stays is well over a million each year; two thirds of overnight guests are business travellers and those attending conferences and congresses.

Heidelberg is a young city with a unique quality of life. It has no trouble in combining things which seem to be complete op­­­posites: a pulsating city of science and yet still a worldwide symbol of romanticism; an environment close to nature and a lively cultural scene; a tourist highlight yet still a family-friendly and socially balanced place to live.

OB-Wuerzner_offiziell_farbe_KLEIN-KopieThe author has been mayor of the City of Heidelberg since 14 December 2006 and is actively involved in climate and environmental protection. For example, he is chair of the Centre of Environ­men­tal Expertise Heidelberg Rhine-Neckar e.V. and president of the European city net­­work “Energy-Cities”.