Best Things to Do and See in Heidelberg, Germany

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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.

In this article we show you the best things to do in Heidelberg and share important travel information that will help you plan your trip.

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.

We’ve been to Heidelberg many times over the years during all seasons and always wish we could stay just a little longer.

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.

Heidelberg church

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.

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.

Heidelberg map

Where Can I Find The Above Map?

It’s part of our Germany Travel Planner, and it’s your Germany travel planning BFF! Using our custom interactive planning map you’ll be able to quickly see the best sights, castles, hotels, day trips, and more – along with our photos and up-to-date insider tips. Seeing where these things are in relation to each other makes it much easier to plan your overall itinerary, as well as each day of your trip. If you don’t yet have it, click here to get access.

Heidelberg bridge

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 long weekend trips. Both options were enjoyable and satisfying.

view of Heidelberg

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 20-30 minute walk from the Old Town but there are buses, trams, 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:

  • TOP PICK! Hotel zum Ritter – The Hotel Zum Ritter is a lovely hotel in a beautiful old building. It’s in a terrific old town location, steps away from many important sites. This 3-star hotel has a buffet breakfast, free Wi-Fi, 24-hour front desk and a concierge service. Here’s what one of our clients said about their stay:
  • Hotel Holländer Hof – Located right on the Neckar River in the old town, the Hotel Holländer Hof is steps from the old bridge and other downtown attractions. This 3-star hotel has classical-style rooms and views of the scenic Philosophers’ Way across the river.
  • Hotel Europäischer Hof Heidelberg – A 5-star luxury hotel features elegant rooms and suites, a relaxing spa center, gym, restaurant, and a rooftop terrace with stunning castle views.
  • Hotel Zur Alten Brücke – The Hotel Zur Alten Brücke is set in the heart of the Old Town, directly at the Alte Brücke (old bridge) and close to the castle. Its cozy rooms and suites feature views of the river and bridge, the castle, the romantic courtyard or the roofs of the Old Town.
  • Leonardo Hotel Heidelberg City Center – Modern 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.
  • Guesthouse Heidelberg – We stayed here on our last visit because it was close to the Altstadt and had a kitchenette, which was perfect for making a healthy breakfast and keeping drinks cold. The updated rooms were comfortable, and we enjoyed our stay here.

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.

Tip: if you have our Germany Travel Planner you’ll find recommended hotels on our interactive planning map. Seeing where these hotels are in relation to the top sights makes it a lot easier to find the perfect place to stay. If you don’t yet have it, click here to get access.

map of Heidelberg sights

TIP: if you have our Germany Travel Planner be sure to check out the interactive planning map so you can see where the best sights are located. Seeing where these sights are on the map, along with our up-to-date photos and tips, makes planning your trip SO much easier. If you don’t yet have it, click here to get access.

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. If you’d prefer to take a tour of Heidelberg, scroll down for recommended tours!

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 (Schloss Heidelberg)

Another 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 (seriously, it’s gigantic).

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.

University of Heidelberg

Universität Heidelberg (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 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. Simply 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.

This is a great place to relax with a cup of coffee, a glass of local wine or a mug of beer and soak in the vibe of Heidelberg.

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.

Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit)

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

Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit Church)

The Jesuit Church is another important church in the Altstadt. 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.

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.

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. You can also sit in the wooden Königstuhl – the King’s Seat.

Königstuhl Bergbahn

The fastest and easiest way to reach Königstuhl is the Bergbahn (funicular). You can buy tickets and board in the Alstadt and go right to the top. Then you can either hike back down or take the Bergbahn to the castle. Tip: buy the Panorama ticket that includes admission to the castle and the funicular to both Königstuhl and the castle.

Kurpfälzisches Museu

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.

Heidelberg castle at night

View Heidelberg Castle at Night

Don’t miss seeing the beautiful Schloss Heidelberg lit up after dark! The best places to see the castle is from the Alte Brücke, Philosophenweg, and the market squares in the Altstadt.

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. 

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. 

walking to Heidelberg Altstadt

Best Tours In Heidelberg

If you’d like to maximize your time in Heidelberg or dive deeper into the history of the city, here are tours to book:

Next Steps For Planning Your Trip:

Where Can I Find The Above Map?

It’s part of our Germany Travel Planner, and it’s your Germany travel planning BFF! Using our custom interactive planning map you’ll be able to quickly see the best sights, castles, hotels, day trips, and more – along with our photos and up-to-date insider tips. Seeing where these things are in relation to each other makes it much easier to plan your overall itinerary, as well as each day of your trip. If you don’t yet have it, click here to get access.

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