Heidelberg Travel Guide
Heidelberg is a dream travel destination for many Germans. Set amidst a river valley, surrounded by mountains, and graced with castle ruins – it’s not hard to see why. It’s also home to Germany’s oldest university. Given the livability of this place, you’ll wish you went to school here by the end of your visit.
If there’s one attraction you shouldn’t miss in this area, it’s Schloss Heidelberg. This famous set of ruins was a formidable castle in the 13th century. But it wasn’t a foreign army that spelt the end of its reign – in 1537, lightning ignited a fire.
Its royal court made partial repairs, but geopolitical issues ensured the castle’s ultimate demise. When you arrive here, take the guided tour. This way, you’ll hear all the stories you’d never care to uncover yourself. On your excursion, you’ll also get to go inside the castle’s vault, which contains the world’s largest wine barrel.
That’s not the only attraction on the palace’s grounds, however. While there, also make time to check out the German Pharmacy Museum. In this institution, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about how eras of practitioners have shaped the field over 2,000 years.
In this aesthetic space, you’ll walk amidst 20,000 artifacts, which include centuries-old glass flasks. There is one important caveat, though – most displays are exclusively in German. Bring a German guide with you, or prepare to use Google Translate a lot.
After your time at Schloss Heidelberg is complete, drop by Heiliggeistkirche next. This church, whose name translates to Church of the Holy Spirit, has switched between Catholicism and Protestantism numerous times over the years. As recently as 1936, church officials accommodated both populations by building a partition down the building’s middle. That way, both congregations could attend mass at the same time.
Before leaving Heidelberg, pay a visit to Thingstätte. Despite what you may think, this isn’t a Roman Theatre. Rather, the Nazis built this amphitheatre in the 1930s to entertain locals. After the war, locals have continued to use it for holding outdoor concerts.
Students misbehaving in class – it’s a tale as old as time. At worst, you’d get sent to the principal’s office or to detention. But jail? That’s what used to happen to university students in Heidelberg. That’s right – you can visit Studentenkarzer – or Student Jail – during your time in Heidelberg.
Problem is – students started to misbehave on purpose. That’s because, after a while, these spartan quarters developed a party-like atmosphere. Inside these cells, you’ll find graffiti – many of which are quite elaborate.
Nature lovers and photographers will want to go on a hike up Konigstuhl during their Heidelberg visit. At more than 1,870 feet above sea level, this hill affords stunning views over the city and surrounding valley.
Take the funicular up from town. At the top station, walking and cycling trails will give the active numerous options. But even if you aren’t, the views alone are worth the wait to get to the summit.
Not into mountain excursions, but still want to get in a nature walk? No problem – take a hike along the Philosopher’s Walk. Locals named this path for the students and faculty from its university that used this place as an escape.
Situated a short way up the benchland opposite the River Neckar, the views of the Old Town of Heidelberg are especially stunning. All along the way, there are benches with amazing vantage points – don’t forget your camera!
Want to people-watch while in Heidelberg? Plan on spending plenty of time in the Marktplatz. Located at the centre of the Old Town, this place is where locals celebrate festivals, or just to relax. Along its edges, you’ll find many outstanding cafes. Get a coffee, and watch locals live their lives against the backdrop of an 18th-century fountain.
What To Eat
Heidelberg is in the mountains. That means the weather can turn chilly fast, even in summer. If you need to warm up at lunch, find a place that serves Kartoffelsuppe. This dish is a savoury potato-based soup that also contains celery, onions, and lots of milk and butter.
At dinner, carb load after a strenuous day of hiking by ordering a plate of Käsespätzle. Chefs cook this pasta, which resembles little buttons, in a sauce that comprise multiple local cheeses. Topped with grated cheese and onions, it is a decadent treat that will do your waistline no favours.
After a meal like that, you’ll likely want to have a light dessert. Wibele, a small sugar cookie, fits the bill perfectly. Flavoured with vanilla extract, you can find these heavenly figure-eight shaped treats in bakeries throughout Heidelberg.