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The “Zum Roten Ochsen” inn is one of the oldest and most traditional student bars in Heidelberg. Built in 1703, the Red Ox in Heidelberg has been owned continuously for over 185 years by the Spengel family. The inn looks back on a long history with many well-known guests, which is recorded here.



The “Zum Roten Ochsen” inn (built in 1703) has been owned by the Spengel family for over one hundred and eighty years. The Spengel house was purchased on September 7, 1839 by Albrecht Spengel, a butcher and innkeeper, for the price of 11,300 guilders. The “Red Ochsen” reflects the history, culture and economic life of the city of Heidelberg like no other inn.


The house was safely led by Albrecht Spengel through the turbulent times of the 1848 revolution until 1865. Back in those days, Albrecht Spengel introduced beer coins to make daily settlements easier, four different examples of which are known today. The beer coins were used in the “Red Ochsen” until 1965.



Papa Spengel

The “Red Ox” owes its popularity to Albrecht Spengel’s son Karl, which continues to this day. He earned the honorary title “Papa Spengel” from many German and foreign students because of his great understanding of the joys and hardships of “his boys”. He was also the one who announced several times in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung that he was in Switzerland again and inviting all his Swiss friends for a drink. The famous Ochsenwirt - in the Kurpfälzer yearbook from 1926 you can find him in the gallery of the original Heidelbergers - also had a talent for poetry:

Logo Zum Roten Ochsen

Im roten Ochsen zu Heidelberg sagt Papa Spengel Dir:
„Mein Sohn, mehr als die Philosophie gibt Dir bestimmt mein Bier.“
Im roten Ochsen zu Heidelberg da geht es allen gut.
Die Medizin hat’s schon gemerkt und macht aus Bier dort Blut.
Im roten Ochsen zu Heidelberg trinkt auch der Theolog,
Weil er schon oft den Weisheitsschluß dort aus dem Bierdunst sog.
Im roten Ochsen zu Heidelberg ist’s Bier bestimmt nicht schlecht,
Drum säuft sich der Jurist dort voll bis er vergißt sein Recht.
Der rote Ochsen zu Heidelberg und dann der Schurmanbau;
Zum zweiten kommt man leider nicht weil man im ersten blau.

Gästebuch - Zum Roten Ochsen



His encounter with Bismarck in Kissingen in 1892 was unforgettable for “Papa Spengel”. After the famous Chancellor had handed him his right hand as a greeting, “Papa Spengel” hurried from bar to bar and held his hand under the noses of the bourgeois with the words: “I won't wash my hand for eight days, it's mine today.” the Bismarck gewe!” - A letter from Bismarck to “Papa Spengel” still adorns the rooms of the “Red Ochsen” in memory of this hour.

In addition to the drinking horns, the original beer mugs and the countless other trophies, the diverse pictures and lithographs on the walls provide a vivid depiction of that time. Together with the numerous guest books from those days, now numbering more than 25, the days and nights in the “Red Ochsen” can be traced almost chronologically up to the end of the Second World War.


"Zum Roten Ochsen" and the

It was primarily the students of the “Free Swiss Association”, the “Frankonia” fraternity, the “Rupertia” association and the “Hamburg Society” who made guest appearances at the “Red Ochsen” or, like the Hamburg and Swiss students, even made their permanent home there had. Among others, the famous Hamburg neurologist Max Nonne, who was called to Lenin's bedside several times, and the later Swiss Federal Councilor Joseph Motta spent many hours of their Heidelberg studies in the “Red Ochsen”. A student's saying reflects the atmosphere of those days: "If you want to recover from the ox, get on your feet as an ox!"


Even today, numerous “old gentlemen” and their descendants come to the “Red Ochsen” to chat about the old days or to get an impression of the romance of student life in Old Heidelberg.

Zum Roten Ochsen



Friedrich Spengel

On April 1, 1907, Friedrich Spengel came to the “Roter Ochsen”. He was in the restaurant business for over 65 years. After his apprenticeship at the “Viktoria Hotel” in Wiesbaden, he gained experience abroad for over four years. His paths took him primarily to Switzerland, France and England, which he always pointed out with pride. Friedrich Spengel led the “Red Ox” through the 1930s, which were plagued by many crises, and also knew how to “further expand the reputation of his well-kept house in collaboration with his equally well-educated family”.


It is thanks to Friedrich Spengel's awareness of tradition that many important documents and nice anecdotes have been preserved to this day. The period up to the end of the Second World War was also a time of privation for the “Red Ox”. The loss of his only son Fritz was painful for his parents Friedrich and Auguste but also especially for his young wife Gertrud. The only thing that kept her at the “Ochsen” was the thought of one day handing over the entrusted business to her son Werner.


War and post-war years

Thanks to their self-sacrificing commitment and thanks to the agricultural products of their Wiesloch relatives, the guests of those days were able to enjoy filled glasses and filling portions. Even after the end of the war, Gertrud Frankenberger, who was married to Kurt Frankenberger for the second time, headed the “Ochsen” together with her husband for many years. 

In the course of the currency reform in 1948 and the subsequent “economic miracle”, the “Red Ochsen” also set off for new shores. The gates of Heidelberg began to open to the big, wide world, so that an international confusion of languages spread around the carved tables in the “Red Ochsen”. Together with the hard-working waitresses Ella, Emma, Ida and Lina, who have been part of the inventory for over 50 years, the Spengels were able to welcome many famous personalities from science, art and politics to the “Red Ochsen”. The guest books of those days read like a “who’s who?” of the time.

Im "Roten Ochsen" trifft sich die Welt
00:00 / 01:18
Werner Spengel



In 1965, Werner Spengel and his wife Ute took over the “Red Ochsen”. Werner Spengel's gastronomic foresight has made a decisive contribution to consolidating the good reputation of the “Red Ochsen” far beyond Germany's borders. He felt closely connected to his hometown of Heidelberg and actively supported it in numerous activities, including the presentation of the “Heidelberger Studentenliebe” and the “Heidelberg Autumn” with the “Ochs am Spit”. The saying coined by Werner Spengel “the Ochsen is a very special restaurant” does not misunderstand the pride in heading the family business “Roter Ochsen”.

After the death of her husband, Ute Spengel slipped into the role of "landlady". She ran and shaped the "Roter Ochsen" for over 60 years and passed away in the summer of 2022, before passing the Roter Ochsen on to the next generation, the son Philipp Spengel.

Current generation

The Current Generation


Philipp and Anne 

The Red Ox has been owned by the Spengel family for over 180 years. Now in their 6th generation, Philipp and Anne Spengel now run the historic student restaurant in the heart of Heidelberg's old town. In addition to graduating as hotel management graduates from the well-known Heidelberg Hotel Management School, both of them can look back on some notable stations in their professional careers.

Familie Spengel 2014

Picture from 2014


Our professional stations

Anne Spengel

Philipp Spengel

  • Education: Europäischer Hof, Heidelberg

  • Bristol Hotel Kempinksi, Berlin

  • Bayerischer Hof, Munich 

  • Cathedral Hotel, Cologne

  • Mövenpick Marché, Mannheim

  • Attendance at the Heidelberg Hotel Management School
    Degree in hotel business administration

Famous guests

Famous guests

Zum Roten Ochsen


Celebrity guests in
the "Roter Ochsen"

In the more than 185 years of family ownership of the Red Ochsen, we have been able to welcome some prominent guests. Because it is mentioned in many national and international books, travel guides and, in some cases, historical works, the Red Ox is known far beyond Heidelberg's borders. Our guests include not only Heidelberg residents, but also tourists and “trace seekers” who walk along the historical paths. All in all, the archives now contain over 30 guest books in which national and international guests have registered.

Among others, these were...

Theodor Heuss, Hermann Löns, Bischof Robert Zollitsch, Mark Twain, John Wayne, Marylin Monroe, Mamie Eisenhower, John Forster Dulles, Rudolf Carraciola, Olivia de Havilland, Vico Torriani, Kardinal Spellmann, Nelson Piquet, Jean Alesi, Dieter Kürten, Handballweltmeister-Mannschaft 1978, Heinrich George, Berta Drews, Götz George, Peter Frankenfeld, Lonny Kellner, Kurt Masur, Karel Gott, Bernhard Grzymek, Franka Potente, Thomas Fritsch, Heiko Deutschmann, Dieter Pfaff, H-J Bäumler, Marika Kilius, Joachim Fuchsberger, Günter Wewel, Hansi Vogt, Lea Linster, Martin Wuttke…

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