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Best Things to Do and See in Heidelberg, Germany

Are you looking for a beautiful, historic town with a castle to visit in southwest Germany? Add Heidelberg to the top of your list! This beautiful city is known for its rich cultural heritage, picturesque Altstadt (Old Town), and breathtaking natural beauty.

Heidelberg is located in the state of Baden-Württemberg about an hour south of Frankfurt. Its location makes for a the perfect first stop after flying into in Frankfurt if you’re on your way to the Black Forest, Munich or the Alps.


Is Heidelberg Worth Visiting?

Yes! Heidelberg, Germany is one of the best places to visit. It’s home to beautiful architecture and culturally significant monuments like the Heidelberg Castle, the Alte Brücke (old bridge), and the oldest university in Germany.

Aside from learning about the city’s past in the historic university town, you can really get a feel of the city and culture by exploring the charming cobblestone streets of the Altstadt (Old Town) where you’ll find market squares, shops and boutiques, and many cafes and restaurants.

The city is also surrounded by amazing natural landscapes with the Neckar river flowing through it and the Odenwald mountain range in the distance. You can go on a boat tour, take easy hikes in the nearby hills or go on peaceful strolls in the forests. Some of my favorite memories of Heidelberg are the walks I took on the Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s Way) with a friend who lived there. So peaceful and beautiful!

Heidelberg also hosts several events and festivals throughout the year like the Heidelberg Spring Music Festival (Heidelberger Frühling), the Castle Illuminations, and the Heidelberg Christmas Market.

These events offer visitors the chance to experience the city with a unique festive atmosphere. But whichever time of the year you go, Heidelberg is sure to be a worthwhile destination if you’re looking for a mix of history, culture, and natural landscapes.

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Where is Heidelberg Located?

Heidelberg is located in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg about an hour south of Frankfurt am Main and an hour north of Stuttgart.

Best Time to Visit Heidelberg

Heidelberg is beautiful year-round but the best time to visit would be during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) months when the temperatures are mild and the crowds are smaller.

That said, summer is a time great for attending outdoor events and festivals. Winter may bring the cold, rain, and maybe even snow, but it’s also the season for Christmas markets and holiday festivities.

How Much Time to Spend in Heidelberg

If you want to focus on the main attractions and get a feel for the city, a 1-2 day trip would be enough. Heidelberg is also a great day trip destination from Frankfurt am Main (1 hour), Mannheim (20 minutes) or Stuttgart (1 hour).

We’ve visited Heidelberg several times over the years, both on packed day trips and longer, mellower weekend trips. Both options were enjoyable and satisfying.

How to Get to Heidelberg

The best way to reach Heidelberg is by train or car. The main train station serves both regional towns and major cities, the nearest ones being Frankfurt and Stuttgart. To find the best train or route to take, check out the Deutsche Bahn website (German Rail).

Take note: Heidelberg’s main train station is a 20-minute walk from the Old Town but there are buses and taxis for those who don’t want to walk.

If you’re driving a rental car, take the Autobahn (motorway) A5 or A 656 (via Darmstadt, direction: Karlsruhe/Basel) and exit at Heidelberg motorway interchange or at “Heidelberg/Schwetzingen” which will take you to the city center.

If you don’t want to worry about transportation, consider booking a day tour! This guided tour from Frankfurt provides private bus transportation and brings you to the main tourist attractions of Heidelberg.

Where to Stay in Heidelberg

Finding accommodation in Heidelberg won’t be a problem. One of the most popular areas to stay in is the Altstadt (Old Town), which has many options from hostels to luxurious at various price points. From the Altstadt you can easily see all of Heidelberg’s sights on foot.

Here are some excellent options that come highly recommended:

  • Hotel Europäischer Hof Heidelberg – A 5-star luxury hotel features elegant rooms and suites, a relaxing spa center, and a rooftop terrace with stunning castle views.
  • Leonardo Hotel Heidelberg City Center – Reliable and centrally located hotel that’s a short walk away from many tourist attractions in Old Town. It has comfortable, spacious rooms with amenities like a fitness center and restaurant/bar on-site.
  • MEININGER Hotel Heidelberg – Budget-friendly option that’s in close proximity to the Heidelberg main train station. The modern rooms include other great shared features like laundry and kitchen facilities.

If you can’t stay in the Altstadt, there are also lots of hotels and hostels along the river in the neighboring district of Bergheim.

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What to Do and See in Heidelberg in 1 or 2 Days

You can easily see Heidelberg’s main sights in 1 long or 2 relaxed days. Here are the must-sees in this charming town.

Brigde and castle in heidelberg

Alte Brücke Heidelberg (Old Bridge of Heidelberg)

Officially known as the Karl Theodor Bridge, the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) is one of Heidelberg’s most recognizable architectural landmarks. This baroque bridge crosses the Neckar river and connects the old city with the eastern part of the Neuenheim district.

The bridge has a rich history. It was first made of wood in the 18th century but it repeatedly suffered damage because of war and floods so it was reconstructed with stone.

The bridge has several statues and monuments. The most prominent ones are the two towers at the southern end which used to be dungeons. Some of the statues include the Roman goddess Athena, the Prince Elector Carl Theodor and a large bronze sculpture of what’s known as the Bridge Monkey that’s a famous picture spot for tourists.

heidelberg castle

Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Heidelberg)

Another one of Heidelberg’s top attractions is the Heidelberg Castle. It dates back to the early 13th century and was originally used as a royal residence. It eventually expanded to become a fortress with different buildings and structures. However, at the end of the 17th century, it was destroyed during the Nine Years War and then struck by lightning, never to be fully restored again. 

But with the steady reconstruction during the 19th century, the castle ruins became a famous symbol of German Romanticism. It now houses interesting sites like the Deutsches Apotheken-museum (German Pharmacy Museum) and the Ottheinrich Building, featuring many of the castles’ ornate sculptures and original furnishings. It’s also home to the Heidelberg tun, the world’s largest wine barrel.

For more information, read our Heidelberg Castle guide!

We recommend booking a guided tour to better appreciate the castle’s history and beauty. This 1.5 hour tour is perfect for those who have a full day and have other planned activities. But if you have more time, this private tour is a great option, especially if you’re traveling with friends or family. If you’re looking to combine a full Heidelberg city bus tour with a castle tour, then this option is the most ideal.

Heidelberg University

The University of Heidelberg is Germany’s oldest university. The prestigious university is located in the heart of the city and features beautiful historic buildings, sprawling gardens, and charming courtyards.

One of the most important university buildings is the Old University. It houses the Great Hall, a magnificent auditorium used for academic ceremonies as well as the University Museum which offers an exciting tour and special exhibitions.

Another one of the top things to see here is the student prison located in the back of the Old University. This was an old detention center where university students were punished for small offenses in the past. In its current form, it’s been preserved to showcase the walls and ceiling with different drawings and poems made by the students.

Altstadt (Old Town of Heidelberg)

The Altstadt, the oldest part of the city, sits just below the Heidelberg Castle grounds and gardens. Siimply exploring the charming old town is one of the best ways to get to know the city.

As you make your way through the narrow streets, you’ll stumble upon lively market squares, historic buildings and beautiful churches. Don’t forget to stroll down Hauptstrasse, the main shopping street and a beautiful pedestrian zone filled with both international brands and traditional shops as well as restaurants and cafes.

Book this walking tour led by a qualified tour guide to discover all the must-sees and hidden gems of the romantic city of Heidelberg.

Heidelberg Marktplatz (Heidelberg Market Square)

The Marktplatz is a vibrant and bustling central square located in the heart of Old Town. Standing in the middle of the square is the Hercules Fountain, a Baroque fountain symbolizing the city’s fortitude and strength.

Another important tourist attraction in the square is the Rathaus (town hall), a Renaissance building dating back to the 18th century. On the other end, you’ll also find the Church of the Holy Spirit. During the holiday season, the market square is used for the city’s main Christmas market.

Church of the Holy Spirit

The Church of the Holy Spirit is an important church, having witnessed many of the city’s historic events since its completion in the early 16th century. It features very remarkable Gothic-style features, including its soaring spire which is visible from almost anywhere in the city. Visitors can actually climb up the tower to get amazing views of the Old Town and the Neckar river.

Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit Church)

The Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit Church) is another important church in the Old Town. It was built by the Jesuit order in the early 18th century following the style of Baroque architecture, featuring an ornate facade adorned with sculptures and intricate designs. Aside from being a church, it was used for many purposes over history such as a military hospital and a university library.  It is now also home to the Museum of Ecclesiastical Arts.

Neckar River

The Neckar River runs throughout the city and is the perfect place to get spectacular views of Heidelberg’s beautiful scenery. It’s a major tributary of the Rhine River and has its source from the Black Forest. The river is surrounded by picturesque landscape, forests, and vineyards.

One of the best things to do is to go on a boat trip and take everything in. Book this stunning 3-hour riverboat tour that takes you from Heidelberg to Neckarsteinach. You’ll get to experience sailing under one of the arches of the Old Bridge, admire the Heidelberg Castle from afar, and even spot some wildlife as you pass the Neckartal-Odenwald Nature Park.

The Philosopher’s Walk

Philosophenweg (The Philosopher’s Walk)

The Philosopher’s Walk is a popular walking trail named after the philosophers and scholars who enjoyed this path for its peace and solitude. The path is located in the northern banks of the Neckar River and goes for around 2 kilometers (1.2 miles).

The walking path is a simple and picturesque trail with landmarks like the Philosopher’s Garden, a small garden with exotic vegetation and flowerbeds, and incredible scenic views of Heidelberg.

Monastery of St. Michael

The Monastery of St. Michael is found at the top of hill Heiligenberg. The hill is home to many historic sites including a Celtic hill fort, the Heiligenberg Tower, and several monasteries. What remains of the Monastery of St. Michael are its ruins, which visitors can explore. The peaceful surroundings of the monastery provide a great place for a nice walk or a quiet picnic. 

Königstuhl (King’s Seat)

Königstuhl (King’s Seat) is a mountain situated in the Odenwald mountain range, located in the eastern edge of the Old Town. It’s easily accessible from Old Town since there’s a funicular railway (Heidelberger Bergbahn) which includes stops at the Heidelberg Castle and the mountain top.

At the summit, you’ll be welcomed by one of the best views of the city and the Neckar Valley. There’s also a variety of activities to enjoy like hiking, visiting the astronomical observatory and falconry, walking the different forest trails, or grabbing a bite in one of the kiosks and restaurants.

Heidelberg Zoo

Heidelberg Zoo is a popular destination for those visiting with children. The zoo is home to over 150 different animal species like red pandas, Asian elephants, Sumatran tigers and red Cuban flamingos. One of the zoo’s main focuses is conservation and experiential education. Because of this, there’s a wide range of interactive and educational events like workshops, lab tours, and exhibitions for all ages and interests. 

Kurpfälzisches Museum Heidelberg

The Kurpfälzisches Museum, also known as the Palatinate Museum, is a museum of art and archaeology. The museum houses a wide variety of collections from sculptures, paintings, archaeological artifacts, and applied arts like furnishings, jewelry, and coins. All of these showcase the history, art and rich cultural heritage of the region, from prehistoric times to the present day.

We’ve gathered some of our essential travel guides, websites, and other information to help you plan the best vacation! We use these resources ourselves and share them to save you money, time, and stress so you can focus on enjoying and making the most out of your time in Germany.

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TRAVEL CONSULT: If you feel like you need more help and guidance beyond these resources, book a travel consult with us! We offer personal live sessions where we’ll help you with things like planning your itinerary, showing you how to book train or skip-the-line tickets, and answer any other questions you have about traveling to Germany.