Things to see and do in Heidelberg, Germany
Just an hour south of Frankfurt, Germany—Europe’s de facto financial capital— lies the enchanting town of Heidelberg.
Nestled between the Königstuhl Mountain and Neckar River, Heidelberg is a haven of history, culture, architecture, and cuisine. With its captivating ambiance and heritage, Heidelberg embodies the very essence of a medieval, fairytale village.
Given its quaint and congenial nature, Heidelberg is a wondrous destination that you should add to your bucket list. Below are 6 unique things to see and do in Heidelberg, Germany!
1. The Altstadt (“Old Town”)
Characterized by its vibrant squares, narrow streets, and medieval buildings, the Old Town is the highlight of Heidelberg. This is the best location to book your accommodation and begin your Heidelberg experience.
Here, you’ll find pedestrian-friendly cobblestone paths that make you feel as if you’re walking back through time. Spectacular spots to explore include Kornmarkt (“Corn Market”), Marktplatz (“Market Square”), and Hauptstraße (“Main Street”), among numerous other sites.
The Old Town is also home to many shops and eateries that lend themselves to an authentic, local experience. When you look around, you’ll see a magical medieval atmosphere; when you look up, you’ll see the historic Heidelberg Castle.
2. Schloss Heidelberg (“Heidelberg Castle”)
Originally built in the 1200s, the Heidelberg Castle is a majestic mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Perched nearly 300 feet above the Old Town, this fortified castle is accessible by stairs or funicular.
Amid these ruins, you will discover gardens, museums, and the world’s largest wine barrel. You will also uncover a fascinating and turbulent history that spans several centuries.
The views overlooking the Heidelberg cityscape and Neckar River will inspire you and take your breath away. Although a victim of war and lightning strikes, this castle stands tall today in Heidelberg, Germany as a symbol of German Romanticism.
3. Königstuhl Mountain
Further up the funicular from Heidelberg Castle lies the highest vantage point in town, the Königstuhl Mountain. The King’s Throne, Königstuhl, is comprised of scenic hiking trails and natural terraces that overlook Heidelberg. Its woodsy paths are perfect for Nordic walkers and mountain bikers alike.
This mountain also contains a fairytale amusement park, charming cafe, and falconry. Königstuhl is a great place for enjoying the crisp fresh air while soaking in the breathtaking views of Heidelberg, Germany.
4. Neckar River Boat Cruise
Flowing through the scenic river valleys of southwestern Germany, the Neckar River is the focal point of Heidelberg.
Each day, you will see an array of river boats, catamarans, and ferries gliding up and down the Neckar. One of its most popular boat cruises is the Neckarsonne, the world’s largest solar-powered boat. The Neckarsonne offers an insightful 50-minute voyage through Heidelberg and its surroundings, serving refreshments and snacks along the way.
For a more extensive cruise that lasts up to 3 hours round-trip, it is worth checking out the Weisse Flotte. Their ferries offer castle cruises, as well as sightseeing tours of nearby towns. After hours of endless walking, consider hopping on a Neckar River cruise to rejuvenate while learning more about Heidelberg.
5. Heidelberg University
As a university town, Heidelberg has over 30,000 students, comprising roughly a quarter of the total population. Established in 1386, Heidelberg University is Germany’s oldest university—consistently ranked among the best higher-education institutions in Europe.
Its campus is split into two parts, with humanities and social sciences concentrated in the Old Town, while medical and science-related disciplines are taught across the river in Neuenheim. Interestingly, international students make up 20% of the total student body, thus underscoring the school’s commitment to diversity and global-mindedness.
Given that there are so many things to see and do in Heidelberg, Germany, I’m sure that’s a big draw for these students as well.
6. Philosophenweg (“Philosopher’s Walk”)
One of my fondest memories in Heidelberg was catching the sunset from Heidelberg’s Philosophenweg. Throughout the centuries, this hilltop path has been a source of inspiration for artists, intellectuals, and philosophers, hence its name.
After ascending to the top, this pleasant path offers magnificent views of Heidelberg’s Old Town, Castle, and Neckar River. When visiting Heidelberg, you should venture to Philosophenweg to ponder philosophical thoughts and admire the quaint town below! Though the climb to the top may seem daunting, the views make it worthwhile.
Planning your magical trip to Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg is the quintessential German town that will undoubtedly intrigue and inspire you! In order to fully experience Heidelberg and its nooks and crannies, I recommend visiting for more than just a day trip. I stayed at the Hotel Holländer Hof, which is situated where the Alte Brücke (“Old Bridge”) meets the Old Town. Given its central location and cheerful ambiance, this historic hotel is the perfect launch pad for exploring all that Heidelberg has to offer.
If you are planning to visit Heidelberg for 2+ days, I recommend getting a HeidelbergCard. This tourist pass includes public transportation access and museum entry. Additionally, this pass offers various discounts throughout the city. It is available for purchase at the Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof (“Main Train Station”), Tourist Information Center in the Old Town, and various hotels around town.
Things to see and do near Heidelberg, Germany
In addition to all the exciting attractions inside Heidelberg, Germany, there are many cool and interesting things to do nearby. If you have an extra day or two to spare in Heidelberg, consider checking out these unique day trip ideas:
- Bad Dürkheim: This small town lies along the Germany Wine Road (“Weinstraße”). Every September, this town holds a huge wine festival, Wurstmarkt, which many call the “Oktoberfest of Wine.” Bad Dürkheim is only an hour by train or 40-minute car ride from Heidelberg.
- Bad Wimpfen: A historic spa town that also lies on the Neckar River. The architecture is phenomenal, resembling the half-timbered houses that you’d expect to find in a fairytale village. The quickest train from Heidelberg takes just 42 minutes, You can also arrive here by car in a similar amount of time.
- Worms: This city straddles the River Rhine in southwestern Germany. It has a vast history dating back over a thousands years, which you’ll learn plenty about in its churches and museums. It’s under an hour by train or 40 minutes by car from Heidelberg.
- Wurzburg: A beautiful baroque city known for its architecture and wine. It’s just over a 2-hour commute by train or 1:45 by car from Heidelberg.
- Speyer: This is one of Germany’s oldest cities, dating back nearly 2,000 years. The Speyer Cathedral, which dominates the old town, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s just under an hour by train from Heidelberg.
Heidelberg, Germany: The quintessential German town
I hope this list of attractions serves you well in your journey to Heidelberg, Germany! I hope that your next trip to Heidelberg, like mine, will be an unforgettable one!
Schöne Reise and Happy Travels! -Jon
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