Heidelberg is often referred to as one of the most romantic towns in Germany. It’s colorful streets and alleyways, university atmosphere and prime location on the river all contribute to it’s charm. Like most first time visitors we made it a point to tour the Old Town below and venture up to Heidelberg Castle.
The Best Things to Do in Heidelberg
Heidelberg is located in southwest Germany, on the Neckar River. It’s well-known for Heidelberg University, an esteemed 14th century institution that dominates local town life. Because of it’s scenic position on the river, pastel-colored buildings and castle ruins, the city is frequently proclaimed as one of the most romantic cities in Germany.
Tour Heidelberg Castle
We woke up early to visit Schloss Heidelberg, which sits high above Heidelberg Old Town. We were taken by bus up the winding lane to the castle – still not sure how the driver made some of those twists and turns to get to the top. Another option to get to the top is via the mountain cable car from Königstuhl, the king’s seat. A visit to Heidelberg Castle provides some incredible views over the town and is where I took lots of my photos!
It was a cold and drippy (rainy) day. With everyone from our tours and other tours crowded around either under roof or under umbrellas, it was difficult to really see much of the castle ruins, which is pretty much all it is today. Heidelberg Castle would make a great trip for history buffs!
We took a guided tour of the castle grounds, which included a visit to the Heidelberg castle wine barrel (the world’s largest!) but we missed the museum of pharmacy, which explores the history of apothecaries.
Explore Heidelberg Alstadt (Old Town)
Following our visit to Heidelberg Castle we explored the Hauptstrasse, or main street, in the Altstadt (Old Town). The main street is the world’s longest continuous shopping street and you’ll find tons of chain stores, boutiques, restaurants, galleries and cafes along this stretch (this is where I found the Lamy Flagship store). Parallel to the large shopping street is the river. I would like to revisit during November and December so we could check out Heidelberg’s Christmas markets.
Don’t miss a visit to the Rathaus, or Town Hall; the Marktplatz to spot the Hercules fountain where petty criminals were chained during medieval times; or the University Prison, where unruly students were locked on campus.
Walk the River Neckar & Alte Brucke
If we had the time it would have been nice to stroll along the river. This would be a pleasant way to see some of city’s side streets. While the main shopping street is one of Heidelberg’s most famous point of attraction, I would have found the small alleyways just as interesting to explore. This walk would have permitted us to walk the old bridge and explore the striped medieval gate.
The Philosophenweg, or Philosopher’s Walk
Another adventure we did not have enough time for was the Philosopher’s Walk. This pathway on the north side of the Neckar river runs along Saints Mountain and got it’s name due to the university philosophers who once pondered life’s meaning along this road. Today, university students enjoy sunshine by having a picnic on this stretch! First timer’s visiting Heidelberg will want to cross the bridge to Philosopher’s Walk for it’s excellent views of Old Town.
Heidelberg actually enjoys a much warmer climate than the rest of Germany and you can spot some exotic Japanese plants on this scenic hill.