Heidelberg is an absolutely gorgeous town built on the banks of the Neckar River. Surrounded by dense forests and rolling hills, this charming city was lucky enough to avoid severe damage during WWI and WWII and much of it remains the same as it was hundreds of years ago.
Heidelberg is host to the oldest university in Germany, the longest pedestrian street in Europe and home to a world famous castle. With so much to see and do visiting this city should be on everyones must see list.
Only 1 hour from Frankfurt and 1:30 hrs from Stuttgart make Heidelberg the perfect day trip destination.
Must do List for Heidelberg
Take a Tour of Heidelberg Castle
First mentioned in 1225, the red sandstone castle became one of the grandest palaces of the Renaissance. For five hundred years it was home to the Prince Electors of the Palatinate, until it was ultimately destroyed beyond repair by war and fire in the mid 18th century. Today, you can wander through the freestanding walls and the beautiful gardens left behind from this once mighty castle. Only a small interior section of the castle has been restored to its earlier splendor and is also open to guided tours.
How to get there
There are 2 recommended ways to get to the castle. Either take a ride on the funicular or hike. The funicular will cost you 9 euro, but your entrance to the schloss grounds is included. We didn’t realize that the funicular ticket included the entrance to the castle grounds and chose to walk. Next time, I’m taking the funicular!
Funicular: Walk to the Kornmarkt, or take either bus 11 or 33 to the Kornmarkt/Bergbahn stop. From there, take the Bergbahn up to the first stop, which is the castle.
Walk: Next to the Rathaus and Kornmarkt is the Burgweg, which is the path that leads up to the castle. The path splits in two – the short route (with lots of steps), and the scenic route (no steps, stroller friendly). After picking a direction, just follow the signs up to the castle.
Be aware, that there are two different tickets, the “Schloss” ticket and the “Guided Tour” ticket.
The Schloss Ticket: Includes the Court Yard, the Great Terrace, the Apothecary Museum, the Tum which is the world’s largest wine barrel and a round trip ride on the Funicular. With this ticket you are able to wander around the grounds without a guide at your own pace. Don’t miss the palace garden, which is at the far end of the property, before you walk through the gate leading to the court yard.
Cost: Adult, €9, Children €6
Guided Tour Ticket: To view the beautiful interior rooms of the castle you need to purchase the “Schloss” ticket AND the “Guided Tour” ticket. Check days/times for English tours HERE. If you aren’t able to make an English tour, audio guides are available for 5 euro.
Cost: (additional) Adult €6, Children €3 or Family €15
Walk through the Altstadt
Dating back the the 1200s, Heidelberg’s Altstadt is a lovely walk into the past. The winding cobblestone streets are lined with colorful stucco and half timber-framed houses, each more charming than the next. Take a walk down the Hauptstrasse (Main street) the longest pedestrian street in Europe, stretching for almost a mile from Bismarckplatz to Marktplatz and lined with unique shops, restaurants and cafes. Make sure not to miss the Corn Market (the perfect spot to snap a great picture of the castle), the Heidelberger Marketplatz, the Church of the Holy Spirit, the Jesuit Church with it’s bright white interior and the picturesque Old Heidelberg Bridge.
Behind the Old Heidelberg University building you’ll find the narrow passageway that leads to the Student Karzer (Student’s prison). From 1778 until 1914, students who broke the rules of the University were sentenced from 3 days to 4 weeks in prison. The most common offenses were disturbances of peace, especially after excessive drinking at night, insulting official authorities or playing jokes at them as well as participating in duels. Students were allowed to attend lectures, but had to return to the prison when classes were done for the day. To fend off boredom, many of the young prisoners graffitied the walls. A tour of this place is really neat!
Location: Augustinergasse 2
Cost: Adults €3, Children €2.50. Discounted admission with the Heidelberg Card
Other info: Check opening days/times on their web page HERE
Walk along the Philosophenweg
To get a different view of Heidelberg, hike the Philosopher’s Walk on the north side of the Neckar River. The path was named after the many professors and philosophers of Heidelberg who enjoyed the path for its solitude, beauty, and great views of the town.
How to get there
On the opposite side of the Neckar River from Heidelberg Castle. Cross the river at the Alte Brücke (Old Heidelberg Bridge) and take the path called the “Schlangenweg” (Snake Path) which will lead directly to the beginning of the trail.
Distance & Difficulty: The Philosophers Way is 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) and runs parallel to the river in-between the Alte Brücke and the Theodor Heuss Brücke. I would classify the hike as easy to moderate, with some uphill slopes and stairs.
Thingstätte (Open air Theater)
The Thingstätte is located fairly high up on the the hill above the Philosophenweg. A Thingspiel, was an outdoor amphitheater which had a brief period of popularity in pre-war Nazi Germany. As the Nazi’s came into power the Thingstättes gained further endorsement by Hitler. Appoximently 400 were planned, but only about 40 were ever built between 1933 and 1939.
The Heidelberg Thingstätte was built during the first part of the Nazi Era and was used as a stage for speeches, dances and performances. The amphitheater was completed in June 1935 and on the 22nd of that month approximately 20,000 people attended the dedication to hear Joseph Goebbels speak.
How to get there
By Car: Use the free Wanderparkplatz-Heiligenberg parking lot and it’s a short 5 – 10 min walk to the Thingstätte.
Hiking: A moderate to difficult, 4.5 km hike round trip. Starting from the Old Heidelberg Bridge, follow the Schlangenweg up the hill. Pass the start of the Philosophenweg and keep following the trail all the way until you reach the Thingstätte.
Note: If you keep climbing about 500 meters past the Thingstatte you’ll find the ruins of St. Michael’s Monastery from 1023.
How to get to Heidelberg
Heidelberg is about 82 km away from the Frankfurt airport and 122 km from Stuttgart
Travel times: Frankfurt (1 hr), Stuttgart (1 hr 30 min)
There are direct trains from Frankfurt-am-Main (~55 min) and Stuttgart (~50mins) to the Hauptbahnhof in Heidelberg.
Note: the HBF is about a 20 min walk to the beginning of the Altstadt. If you prefer not to walk take bus #20 or #33 to Bismarckplatz, which is the start of the Altstadt, or to Neckarmünzplatz, which is at the far end of the Altstadt below the Castle. (You can also get off at any of the 7 stops in-between, this is the main section of the Altstadt).
Check the RMV website or mobile app for more options and to book your tickets online.
Travel Planning Resources
Planning a trip? These are some of my favourite travel planning and booking resources!
- Tourist Information: Marktplatz 10 and Obere Neckarstraße 31 – 33
- Hotels.com: The best place to book hotels and hostels
- Tripadvisor: One of my favorites for booking day tours and tickets!
- Germany travel books: – My favorite are the DK Eyewitness travel guides
- Omio: Find time tables and buy tickets all from your phone. Available in English as a website or App
- Rentalcars.com: Free cancellations on most bookings, world’s biggest car rental booking service, with over 60,000 locations worldwide
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