Situated at the southern end of Germany's famed Bergstraße, Heidelberg is a town that attracts nearly three million visitors each year. Heidelberg's status as a major tourist site in Germany is deeply rooted in its cultural past. During the 19th century Heidelberg became the heart of Germany's Romantic movement, whereby a surge of literary, artistic and intellectual simplicity and naturalness influenced its scholars and citizens. This epoch of German history is embodied in Heidelberg's long and narrow Altstadt, where Germany's oldest academic institution, the Ruprecht Karls University, sits 250 feet below the ruins of a massive Renaissance fortress. One out of five people living in Heidelberg today is a student, which gives the city a youthful, modern, and cosmopolitan flair.
Located at the confluence of the Rhine and Neckar rivers, Mannheim is the largest city in the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region with a population of 325,000. Mannheim is unique among European cities because it was laid out in a grid pattern in the 1600s, and today the city is known as the City of Squares (Quadratestadt). The landmark of Mannheim is the 60-meter tall Romanesque water tower, which once provided drinking water for the city, but today is best known for its intricate staircases and sculptures. Mannheim has a long history of manufacturing; Friedrich Engelhorn founded the Baden Aniline and Soda Factory (later BASF) here in 1865, while Karl Benz patented the world's first motorized car from his workshop in Mannheim in 1886. Today, Mannheim still maintains its strong business sector, with large multinational companies such as ABB, Alstom, Bilfinge, Bombardier, John Deere, Siemens, and Daimler. Mannheim is also well known as a youthful city, with about 28,000 students enrolled at different universities and other institutions of higher learning.
Located on the banks of the Rhine river across from Mannheim, Ludwigshafen is known primarily as an industrial city. BASF, the largest chemical company in the world, has both its headquarters and largest production site in Ludwigshafen. A total of 36,000 people are employed at the 10 km² production and research site, making BASF the largest employer in the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region.
Numerous other chemical and industrial companies are based in and around Ludwigshafen, including BK Giulini, DyStar, Benckiser, Raschig, Abb- Vie and Abbott. With a population of 168,000, Ludwigshafen is the second largest city in both the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region. Ludwigshafen is well known for having a vibrant cultural scene.The German State Philharmonic Orchestra of Rhineland-Palatinate is one of the most popular German concert orchestras and plays more than 90 concerts a year. And the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum is the most important modern art museum in Rhineland-Palatinate.