Ultimate Travel Guide to Heidelberg
Heidelberg Germany, a lovely town located in Southwestern Germany on the Neckar river, is a wonderful place to visit for a couple of days when traveling throughout Germany. Students, couples, and solo travelers alike will enjoy the many beautiful landmarks and destinations that Heidelberg has to offer.
Although the city is known for the infamous Heidelberg University, there are plenty of things to explore ranging from church tours to day trips to open markets. Check out our travel guide highlighting various points of interest to help make this trip one to remember!
This ultimate travel guide to Heidelberg will show you all the most beautiful places in Heidelberg, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Heidelberg and things to do in Heidelberg which will help you in planning a trip to Heidelberg.
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How to get to Heidelberg:
Depending on where you are travelling from, there are different options you can choose when planning how to arrive in Heidelberg.
If you are travelling locally and wanting to pick a few destinations to visit after your stay in Heidelberg, renting a car may be your best option. However, you do need to be able to drive stick shift.
For those flying internationally, the closest international airports are Frankfurt and Stuttgart. After landing at either of these locations, a train to Heidelberg will be necessary. train rides from the international airports require about an hour of travel time and may or may not require stops.
Finally, if travelling within Europe, the Baden-Airpak (FKP) Airport is your best bet. From there you have the option of taking a direct shuttle to Heidelberg.
What to expect in Heidelberg:
The unit of currency in Germany is the Euro. Currently, the Euro to Dollar exchange rate is about 1 : 1.1. The language in Heidelberg, of course, is German, but travelers won’t have a hard time finding English speakers as well.
Generally speaking, it is common to leave a 10% tip or even a 5% tip at meals, but not always expected. In many parts of Germany, service charges are included in the price, so rounding up to the nearest 10 euro is acceptable. If receiving great service, don’t be shy to leave a tip!
How to get around Heidelberg:
There are plenty of options for getting around Heidelberg. As already mentioned, train connections are frequent in and out of Heidelberg.
Train stops are both short-distance and long-distance, so using this as means of transportation can be very convenient. Other public transportation options in Heidelberg include the local bus and tram. The central hub for the buses and trams can be found at Bismarktplatz in the Altstadt.
Individual tickets as well as daily passes are available. For those looking for a more unique mode of transportation, check out the boat and gyrocopter tours—even though the city is small, these specific tours are often a great way to get to know the city from an interesting point of view. Finally, walking or calling a taxi are always great options when traveling about the city.
The best time to visit Heidelberg:
Because average temperatures greatly vary in Heidelberg, you’re going to want to plan your trip accordingly. The warmest months (ranging from 22 – 22.7 degrees Celsius as the high) are June, July, and August.
May and September are slightly cooler, but it tends to get very cold from November to February (average highs range from 9 to 4 degrees Celsius). As a University city, you will find the greatest number of students during the winter (October to March) and summer (April to September) months.
Things to do in Heidelberg:
Although Heidelberg is small, there are plenty of amazing things to occupy yourself with during your stay. First and foremost, you have to make time to visit the Heidelberg Castle.
Mark Twain famously described this unique landmark as “A ruin…that could not have been better placed”. This infamous castle was constructed with red Neckar sandstone in the 16th century and lies approximately 100 meters above the Heidelberg Old Town. Unfortunately, it was deconstructed by the French in the 17th century.
Nonetheless, the castle remains to be one of the most beautiful landmarks in Germany and is still home to many festivals which are held in the castles courtyard. Such festivals include theatre performances, concerts, and fire work displays. Also, the castle is home to beautiful gardens and the world’s largest wine barrel.
Furthermore, the castle grounds are home to the German Museum of Pharmacy. Displays in this one-of-a-kind museum include old instruments used for preparing medications and remedies, various elements that were included in these remedies, and interactive exhibits that show how pharmacies operated back in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Two wonderful parts of town to visit after your trip to the castle are Hauptstrasse and the Altstadt (Old Town). The main street in Hauptstrasse is very narrow, and the countless side stress are even narrower.
Tourists could spend years exploring all of the unique architecture, restaurants, bars, churches, galleries, cafes, and shops nestled within these old streets.
Some destinations worth highlighting are the 15th century Church of the Holy Ghost (Heiliggeistkirche), Haus zum Ritter (an old renaissance building dating back to the 1500s), the old court stables and University art collection at Marstall, and the landing stages for the many tourist boats and cruises (Stadthalle).
Another beautiful, historic destination in Heidelberg is the Karl Theodor Bridge which is also known as the Old Bridge. This bridge spans the Neckar river (one of the major tributaries of the Rhine river) and joins the two sides of Heidelberg.
This amazing bridge has been memorialized in many paintings, poems, and literary works, and truly attests to the romanticism that can be found throughout the Heidelberg.
The Old Bridge was constructed in the late 1700s and offers incredible views of the city’s architecture and landscape.
Travelling with a significant other? One of the most romantic things to do in Heidelberg is to take a stroll across Philosophers’ Way, also known as Phiosophenweg.
This landmark, too, lies along the Neckar, and runs from Saints’ Mountain. It is easy to understand why philosophers loved walking along this path while engaging in intellectual discussions—because the path runs alongside the river, there is a natural micro-climate where a unique array of plants can be found yet views of the Old Town remain in plain sight.
Finally, another wonderful free thing to do in Heidelberg is to hike up to the Heiligenberg. The Heiligenberg is a hill that sits 400 meters about the Neckar river. A winding path called the Schlangenweg that sits just about the Old Bridge can be used to reach the top.
Hikers will enjoy intermittent views of the city and will most definitely appreciate climbing through different forests and vineyards filled with flowers, birds, and treets.
Oddly enough, at the top of Heiligenberg sits the ruins of Michaelskloster, the Monastery of St. Michael. Constructed in the 11th century, the monastery was eventually abandoned in the 16th century.
Where to stay in Heidelberg:
There are plenty of options from 5-star, luxury hotels to local accommodations through AirBnB or Hostels. Two of the luxury hotels worth noting are the Der Europaishe Hof Hotel Europa and the Heidelberg Suites. In the former, you’ll find a unique, old-world Germany charm.
The Der Europaishe Hof Hotel Europa has been privately owned by the same family and was originally built in the 19th century. Rooms are equipped with everything you need—wifi, a jaquizzi, TV, room safe, ironing board, etc.
The Heidelberg Suites, on the other hand, is a boutique hotel with a flare of modern Italian design and German Romanticism. The hotel is right next to the old Bridge and filled with modern amenities as well.
In terms of hostels and AirBnbs, the choice is up to you! Some neighborhoods that I would recommend staying in are: Neuenheim (right across the river from Heidelberg), Weststadt, Altstadt, Bergheim, and Ziegelhausen.
AirBnBs can be booked for both solo travelers and groups alike—be sure to look for shared accommodations as well as private accommodations.
Hostel options are plentiful as well, a great place to check out is Steffi’s Hostel. Travelers can book either doubles or shared rooms. Steffi’s Hostel is located very close to the main train station and is perfect for those looking to meet new people in a homey environment.
Another great option is the Lotte Hostel. Note: this hostel only has eight guest rooms, so be sure to book ahead of time!
Lotte Hostel is a unique, renovated historic home walking distance from the city center, bars, restaurants, and shops.
On the first floor of this home are two dormitories: one for males and one for females. Additionally, guests will find a grandma-style kitchen and cozy living room.
What to eat in Heidelberg:
You really can’t go wrong when picking a restaurant in Heidelberg—you are bound to find locally owned cafes, restaurants, and bars scattered all throughout the city. However, there are a few foods that you most definitely need to try.
Although it does sound a bit gross, the most popular dish in the region, saumagen (German for ‘sow’s stomach’), is a must try.
This delicacy is pig’s stomach stuffed with pork, sausage, bacon, potatoes, and sometimes chestnuts. For those wanting something sweeter, try the studentenkuss, which is a mixture of waffle, nougat, and dark chocolate.
Also, if in season, don’t be afraid to try anything with white asparagus—one of Germany’s obsessions. Typically, a plate of in-season white asparagus is served with hollandaise sauce. Another must-try dish are the German dumplings.
Heidelberg is an amazing location to try some of the many forms of dumplings that can be ordered with soup, gravy, or with a side of potatoes and sauerkraut.
Finally, don’t forget about the quetschekuchen, Heidelberg’s regional take on the plum tart. This dessert is made with a sheet cake, fresh plums, cinnamon, sugar, and apricot jam. Interestingly, this sweet treat is commonly served with potato soup.
Tours in Heidelberg
If willing to travel a bit outside of the city, Schloss Schwetzingen is a wonderful place to check out. Located in the Rhine plain (about 12 kilometers west of the city), this palace is home to beautiful gardens and world-class architecture. Some of the styles to be admired are French, English, and Rococo.
Of course, tour guides are available for a small extra fee. Also, if travelling to Heidelberg between April and June, be sure to check out the annual festival which includes opera, symphonic, choral, and chamber concerts.
The Palatinate Museum also offers a great tour. This museum was founded in the late 19th century, and is famous for a collection that includes a cast of the lower jaw of the 500,000-year-old Heidelberg Man. The historical art section reaps a variety of local porcelain, medallions, coins, and glassware.
Boat tours are a wonderful way to see the city, learn something new, and to soak in the beautiful weather. My personal favorite, the Weisse Flotte Heidelberg, offers tours in German, English, and French, and even offers catering!
Day trips from Heidelberg
Two day trips that I would recommend are Dilsberg Fortress and Bad Wimpfen. Dilsberg Fortress is only about a 30-minute drive from Heidelberg.
This 12th century castle was long seen as indestructible but was eventually conquered during the Thirty Years War. Nonetheless, it was not destroyed but was ultimately abandoned later in the 19th century.
Fortunately, a large portion of the castle has been maintained. Specifically, the 46-meter-deep well is a popular sight for tourists. Additionally, for those more adventurous, there is a tunnel that travels under the castle’s courtyard that is perfect for a spooky exploration.
Bad Wimpfen, on the other hand, is an old spa town that has also been beautifully preserved.
This picturesque town, located no more than an hour outside of Heidelberg, is home to a palace, watch tower, and winding roads filled with colorful, German style houses.
If not wanting to drive to Bad Wimpfen, there is a hiking trail that connects the spa town directly to Heidelberg.
What to do next:
Book your flight, train, or bus ticket and head on over to Heidelberg! Appreciate the beautiful scenery, relax on a boat tour, experiment with the many different flavors, and learn about the city’s rich history.
No matter how you decide to go about your visit, you won’t be disappointed by all that Heidelberg has to offer!
Recommended tours in Heidelberg
- Molecular cuisine: cooking class
- Private Walking Tour of Old Town Heidelberg including Castle Visit
- Heidelberg old Town Tour
- The Green Heidelberg Tour
- Romantic 2-Day Heidelberg Overnight Package Including Heidelberg Card
- 3-Day Self-Drive Overnight Tour of Heidelberg, Schwetzingen and Maulbronn from Heidelberg