Okay, so I officially think Heidelberg is my favourite German city! Knowing what to do and see in this romantic medieval town can be a little tricky, as a lot of the information online is fairly outdated for the modern savvy traveller.
I found many of the places suggested had changed a lot since the articles I had read with some places even being closed! So I give you, the newest and best, guide to the picturesque Heidelberg city!
Located in Germany’s south west, Heidelberg city is propped up on the banks of the Neckar River, in the valley of the Odenwald Hills. Although rebuilt and destroyed again many times, the cities original architecture is still a sight to see, with the sandstone Schloss Heidelberger (Heidelberg Castle) the main focus. The city is also divided by the Neckar, with the two sides offering very contrasting atmospheres. The right bank (side of the castle) had a medieval charm, with rustic buildings, chic restaurants and the old town. On the left, you will find the residential area- with the University village, parks and the Zoo.
The best option for all transport throughout Germany (and all over Europe) is the Flixbus. By far the comfiest and cleanest coaches I have ever been on, the Flixbus is SO CHEAP! They are super reliable, run every day of the year and to almost every city, town and village in Germany- Winning. Mine was just 20 euro RETURN and only 4 hours, you won’t get much better for a return trip across country.
See the Bus Schedules & Bus Stops
WHAT TO SEE:
Schloss Heidelberger, Heidelberg Castle
Definitely the favourite stop for every tourist in town, the ruins of a once mighty castle sit overlooking the Neckar and Altstadt below. The castle is divided into several areas and takes a good hour to explore, with quirky wine cellars and a museum inside the main fort. There are two ways to reach the castle, by foot, car or Funicular. The hikes (more on it below) are very popular here, but the funnest and easiest way is the FUNicular (get it). Entry tickets to the castle are included for the Funicular price, but can be purchases at the office located adjacent from the ruins. The prices are low and well worth the visit, it has some breathtaking views out over the town and many photo opportunities! Rain, hail or shine- purely romantic! Adult tickets are just 7 euro and include the return funicular ride (to only the castle station) but more information can be found here.
Heidelberg University is another major attraction and one of the reasons the town is so well known. The town in packed with student’s year round and offers one of the best educations in the world. Sights include the Library (pictures below) and the student jail! One street off the main Altstadt strip, it is a really easily accessible area and only takes a few minutes to see!
The Old Town area is one of the best in Germany. Most cities have an Altstadt of their own, but none have gorgeous views of castles like this! With a 1.6 kilometer long shopping district, the city is always bustling. You can buy literally everything here and prices (I found) are much lower than cities like Berlin, Munich and Dusseldorf. The street is called the Hauptstrasse and can be accessed from almost all points of the area- it is a very easy to navigate city as everything is in a grid like pattern. During Christmas you will find several markets pop up in every Platz (square) on the street!
The Old Town is also home to the University, great galleries and restaurants. Definitely the most happening area in the city, so make sure you spend at least half a day roaming around it’s cobbled streets. NOTE: although the main bus station is technically the Hauptbahnof (HBF), it is essential to note that the most used and closest to the action is the Bismarkplatz– found at the very end of the Hauptstrasse. If you want to do the whole strip- I would suggest starting here and ending at the Kornplatz- where the funicular up to the castle begins!
Old Bridge & Lucky Bridge Monkey
Adjoining the two halves of the city is the mighty (700+ year old) bridge- the Alte Bruecke. Take a short stroll across, grab a photo of the beautiful Neckar and Castle from below or even do some people watching. Tip: For great photos of the bridge and castle, head to Neuenheimer Landstrasse side and pop down the staircase to the river banks.
The Lucky Bridge Monkey (Brückenaffe) is located on the old town side, just after the gates. It is believed that if you touch the fingers of the Monkey it would ensure you will return to Heidelberg one day. If you touch the mirror, you will have big wealth and by touching the little mouse you will gain fertility!
Even if your wealth, fertility and return don’t turn out- you can still get a cute photo with him! Another notable aspect of the bridge is the beautiful city gates; enter here for access to the old town center!
WHAT TO DO:
Hiking: Philosophenweg, Philosophers Walk
My favourite view of the city was definitely from the Philosophenweg! Named after the famous Philosophers who supposedly hiked up the mountain to calm their busy minds, gain strength and be with their thoughts- the lengthy but relaxing walk is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. Start at either the Bergstrasse entrance or the fairytale-esc Old Bridge entry. This would be the most romantic walk in all of Heidelberg so lovers, eat your hearts out!
You will not be disappointed (once the uphill part is over) with sweeping views, perfect picnic spots and play areas for kids. Take your hike one step further and explore the park above the main walk, tracks lead off in several areas and you can easily navigate them. I highly suggest starting at the Bergstrasse entrance as the hill is less strenuous (and not as adorable as the other way) which is a really nice way to start the walk. The flight down then winds and whips it’s way with magical cobbled and moss covered stonework and ends at the bridge- ideal!
Heidelberg offers a great funicular experience that departs from Kornplatz in Altstadt. There are a few options here, as there are three stops up to the summit of Konigstuhl. For a quick trip to the castle and back you can easily get a return ticket, but for a better experience I would recommend paying for all three stops. I chose to go one way up, then walk down the hike path- but you can do it any way you like- or change your mind at any point. There are ticket stations at all stops and they run every 5-10 minutes. The shuttle is really easy to use and the views from the little cabins are adorable! The best of all three is the last run, after transferring to an older, rickety funicular at the middle station- you take a slower and longer journey to the top where you get the best view in Heidelberg. Don’t be silly and miss this!!!
Hiking: Konigstuhl, Kings Chair
This INCREDIBLY difficult hike is not for the lazy bums in town! A 6km hike- up one of the steepest slopes- with only a rock pathway.. yep you guessed it- torture! BUT it is an incredibly beautiful trek and I would highly recommend doing it down- not up! Catch the funicular to the top, where you will find a cute little cafe and even a Falconry (bird lovers rejoice!) then follow the Naturea path down. It will take about 1 hour and you will be aching. WARNING: DO NOT DO THIS IN WET WEATHER OR SNOW. The trail is covered with leaves, moss and is rather slippery- not good!
Walk along the Neckar (Neckar Park)
A great little family area- perfect for morning strolls or a picnic. on the quieter side of town, the park offers lush green lawns, duckies and tranquility! It is located around the bend from where the Philosophenweg begins so you should add this to your itinerary as a nice little photo spot.
WHAT TO AVOID:
I don’t usually like to add the DO NOT’s in, as everyone has different opinions… but this was just plain bad. The enclosures are MUCH too small and it is really badly looked after- I didn’t stay longer than an hour and the only good thing was my favourite animal-the sloth- which was kept in bad conditions.. not happy. Not worth 8 euro!
Again, terribly looked after and run down- not worth the trip as it is rather far out of town (next to the zoo). Don’t waste precious time here!
Suggested 2 Day Itinerary:
Neckar Parks and walkways- coffee break- walk Philosophenweg (starting at Bergstrasse entrance)- exit down at the Old Bridge- Old Bridge- Univeristy- Altstadt strip (whole way!)
Funicular up to Castle- Funicular to top (Konigstuhl)- Lunch- Hike the Naturea Path down (Ouch!) – Rest those legs – Dinner in Altstadt