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What to Do in Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg is the prettiest European city you've never been to. It's a somewhat hidden gem that you need to add to your list. I can’t believe that I call Heidelberg home. I could be biased, but it’s one of the most gorgeous cities I’ve ever seen. Rolling mountains, with a sandstone castle overlooking the Neckar river. The city is situated below the mountains and flanks the river, with shops, pretty architecture, and cafes.

What to do in Heidelberg Germany - your full guide on everything to see, do, eat, and explore!

Here’s a guide to everything to see and do in Heidelberg, Germany.

While Heidelberg is a tourist's dream, it's easy to sneak away from the crowds on a cobble stone street or tuck away in a cafe. And because there are so many people from all over the world coming here, many people speak English. Although it's always nice to have some German phrases handy, even if the German language is a bit tough! Below you can find a map of all the places discussed in this post:

[powr-map id=37a0ffdf_1511252147]

How to Get to Heidelberg

Despite being a relatively small city, it is busting with locals and tourists. I should know, it’s been incredibly hard trying to find an apartment to lease. The properties go so quickly, especially when you’re looking for a garden (since we have dogs.) I can see why people want to live here. There is great public transportation, and you’re only an hour away from the largest airport in Europe, Frankfurt.

helene_heidelberg_castle_840

If you arrive in Frankfurt, or the other nearby airport or train station in Stuttgart, you can take a short train ride that will drop you at Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof. From here, you can get to your hotel or AirBnB by hopping on to the public trams or buses that will take you virtually anywhere in the city. Heidelberg is very near some popular places in the Rhine valley, a 3-hour drive from Munich,  a 2-hour drive to Basel, Switzerland, very near the picturesque town of Baden-Baden and the Black Forest, and it's neighboring town, Mannheim is full of shops and modern architecture. But our focus is on the beautiful Baroque Heidelberg. You'll find the city looking just like it did in the 16th and 17th century thanks to careful preservation and the fact that it wasn't bombed in WWII.

hauptstrasseheidelberg

Where to explore in Heidelberg

My favorite part of town is the Altstadt, or Old Town. The best way for me to compare this area is something like Paris or Madrid. Here, you’ll find the Hauptstraße. This is the longest pedestrian walkway in Europe and expands over a mile east and west, parallel to the Neckar river. This area is always busy with lots of shops like H&M, Lush, TK Maxx (not a typo, they call it TK, not TJ!), Fossil, and many coffee and gelato shops. Heidelberg is declared a UNESCO city of literature. So you'll be sure to find bookshops and libraries around every corner. Because of the university, Heidelberg is alive with students, fun bars, and there's always something to see and do.

heidelberg_hauptstrasse

I suggest starting at the Hauptstraße, specifically Bizmarkplatz, and head towards the castle. I suggest sunset to take in the old city and get a glimpse of the beautiful church steeples and the lush rolling hills covered in green trees.  You’ll get great views of the city, castle, and river.
helene_heidelberg_bridge_840

Where to Eat

Since you’re in Germany, why not get some traditional German food? We have yet to explore all the places in town, but three of our favorites so far have been out of this world. First up is Vetter’s. This is located off the Hauptstrasse on Steingasse.  It’s a dark, candlelit restaurant where you sit tightly packed and order beers and brewer’s pan. It’s made with blood and liver sausage with fried potatoes. I know this might sound scary but I’m telling you, for someone who doesn’t like weird food, this is awesome. My mouth is salivating just typing this out.

Vetter's Restaurant Heidelberg

There is also Kulturbrauerei  that has a beautiful brass beer tap. It is richly decorated with different black and white pictures of Heidelberg on the walls. I had delicious “traditional” chicken francese along with vegetables drenched in butter. Michael had short ribs and he almost took the bone home, the flavor was so good.
We took our friend to Schnitzelbank where they serve… you guessed it Schnitzel. They serve many kinds but my favorite is the authentic wienerschnitzel. This is a tiny restaurant off the Hauptstraße, on Bauamtsgasse, with only a few tables. You’re sure to find your fill of great German food.

schnitzelbank

You can also eat at many of the Doner Kebab places around town, they serve huge potions and excellent fries and dressings. This is also a good spot for late night food, especially if everything is closed!
On almost every corner you'll find either a bakery, chocolate shop, or gelato. So if you have a sweet tooth, you'll be in good company!
Chocolate Shop Heidelberg
There’s also a really funky American style diner called Mandy's. This stays open late night and they serve burgers (that are ginormous), shakes, and there is also a wings place, and other American style food that’s pretty tasty.

A great place to hang out and explore the bars is on Untere Strasse. Here you'll find cocktail bars, smoky pubs, and even a dance club! It gets very lively here every day because of the large student population so you'll never find a dull moment.

What to See

There really is so much to see and do in this quaint German town. If you’ve had your fill of the Hauptstraße, head over the Old Bridge and take in a view of the castle and the tourists taking pictures over the beautiful Neckar River. They also offer cruises along the river and it's a great way to take in the sites. The Neckar (and Heidelberg itself) is a place where Mark Twain spent a great deal of time. He most likely got inspiration for Huckleberry Finn after he himself floated down the river on a raft!
Heidelberg Old Bridge
Old Bridge Heidelberg Alstadt

Isn't this bridge just lovely? It's one of my favorite sites.

Old Bridge in the Alstadt Heidelberg

After you cross the Bridge, you can take the STEEP climb up to the Philosopher's Walk (Philisophenweg). This is a tough climb, but the views are worth it. It's called Philisophenweg because during the Romantic Period many professors and philosophers walked the path to clear their minds and get in a view of the town.
Philosopher's Walk Heidelberg
Once you're done walking, venture to any of the alleys off the and you’ll also see other beautiful buildings and about halfway down the Hauptstraße, towards the north you can cross the Old bridge to get a good view of the city and the castle. To the south, you can take the tram up to the castle and also see the library and infamous student jail. Aka Studentkarzer.
student-jail-heidelberg
The jail was used from 1823 to 1914, for students convicted of bad conduct, like letting out the local pigs or public drunkenness. I'm sure all of my friends, including myself, would have been incarcerated in this jail at some point if it was around when I went to school. It became infamous to serve time and you could still go to class during the week. The walls are covered with graffiti and it became kind of a rite of passage to have a stint in the jail.
Now that you've seen the castle from afar it's time to get up close and see inside! This castle is rich in history, dating back to the 1200s. It's called Schloss Heidelberg, since Schloss translates to Castle. When many people visit Germany, they often focus on the big cities or the castles like Neuschwanstein castle. And while it is lovely and interesting, I think Heidelebrg's is all the more elaborate. The legends and stories that are part of this grand castle go back for centuries.
Heidelberg Schloss Castle
The sandstone facade is beautifully set against the lush rolling green trees of the mountain. While some of the castle is in ruins, other buildings are kept up supremely well. I suggest taking a walking tour of the castle in order to hear more about the legends and tales that come from this incredible castle.

 castle_view_heidelberg But it's more that just a beautiful structure. Inside, you'll find a Apotheke museum, where you'll see how they used to practice medicine. You'll also find gardens, and my favorite part, a 220,000 liter wine barrel.

apothekemuseum-heidelberg
Don't get confused, when you walk in, the first wine barrel is not the gargantuan one. Keep going and you'll see the massive barrel. Pictured below, is NOT the wine barrel. It's so large, I couldn't even get a good picture of it!
wine_barrel_heidelberg
One of the best stories is of Perkeo, the unofficial mascot of Heidelberg. Perkeo was a dwarf and he allegedly adopted the nickname “Perkeo” for his drinking habits, as he famously replied “perché no?” AKA “why not?” another glass of wine in Italian. Clearly, Perkeo is after my own heart.
Perkeo was also given the responsibility of looking after the castle’s wine, which was the main drink in the castle – but he himself, despite being a dwarf, drank 5-8 gallons a day. His statue is seen outside the wine barrel, always there to guard it. Legend has it that he died after drinking a glass of water.
perkeo_heidelberg
There is restaurant Perkeo located on the Hauptstrasse and it's delicious as well.
After you've seen the sites and learned some history, spend some time strolling around Neuenheim (the area I live!). It's just across the bridge and there is a great park, restaurants, and you can just sit and enjoy the scenery.

Where to stay in Heidelberg?

I suggest staying in the heart of the city, near the Hauptstrasse. Some of the best are Hotel Heidelberger for a classic and well located 4-star hotel, Hotel Europaischer for a luxury 5-start hotel, or Hotel B&B which is budget friendly and a short tram ride away from the heart of the city.
pinkhouseheidelberg
I hope this guide to Heidelberg has convinced you to come visit this city. My pictures just do it justice. It's quaint yet lively and adventurous yet easy to manage.
So… when are you coming to visit?
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Comments

Planning to stay a little longer in Heidelberg? I am sure these places will make you fall in love with the city all over again!
https://panthastha-awayfarer.blogspot.in/2016/07/10-places-in-and-around-heidelberg-to.html

We are travelling to Heidelberg tomorrow and I am already excited! Would you mind spending some time with us? 🙂

Finally heading to Heidelberg this summer and now I have a full to do list!!

Yay Yay! This is so so so helpful we are coming the third week of August and planning on staying here for 4 days! I’m so excited! Thank you so much for this post total time and lifesaver for me!

We used your guide and it was very helpful! Vetters was a WONDERFUL food recommendation!

[…] the best thing I learned? Understand the customs of the community. Where I live in Germany, it’s normal to just outright say you are ready to sign a contract, even if others are standing […]

Great article, very informative! Makes me want to go back to Germany, I miss it!

Audrey, http://frenchallure.ca/

This looks GORG! I’m going to Germany next year on a Viking River Cruise but I’m not sure if we stop in Heidelberg – I’ll have to check!!

We are doing 10 – 12 days in Europe next year and are for sure staying in/ around Inverness, Scotland and for the second half of the trip we want to go somewhere in Germany. I think we’ll definitely add Heidelberg to the list of possibilities, it seems so rich in history and not too “mainstream” which is just what we’re looking for!

What is the best time of year to visit? And, when we show up, should we call you to meet for drinks? 😉

WEll I’ve only been here a month, but I’d say right now because the weather is awesome! and christmas time for the Christmas Markets and GIRL hit me up!!!

Oh my goodness it looks so incredibly beautiful! I would love to visit Germany and of course make a stop in Heidelberg!

It seriously is incredible!

Gorgeous!

Germany was never my first go to choice when planning my ideal European trip, but you are changing my mind with all your photos!

Of Bees and Bonnets

Honestly, me either. I never thought much of it. I can tell you… no way, Germany is awesome!!!!!

Ok ok ok ok, I’ll come.
And based on my level of alcohol consumption in college, they would have just had to make that jail my dormroom. lols!! And i really can’t deal with TK Maxx. I’m feeling upset by this, like my whole life has been a lie.

hahaha tk maxx is where it’s at!!!

Amazing photos 🙂 Have been following you on Snapchat for a while now an I’m so happy you guys have finally found a place to live! Can’t wait to see the inside and how you’ll decorate it 🙂

Thank you so so much! we are sooo thrilled about that!!

Oh Helene, these pictures are beeeeeeautiful!!! Can’t believe how picturesque and charming Heidelberg is – you have me convinced to go visit you 🙂 For real – just gotta figure out the ‘when’ and not the ‘if’!!

Thank you so so much! Come visit me…. not even kidding. seriously…

I think I need to take a trip to Heidelberg! My husband and I wanted to go last year, but were too far away – now we’re only 3 hours! It looks like such a cute town – I love how they always have flower boxes in the windows here, it makes everything so cozy. And also… TK Maxx is awesome… they have a lot of American brands for great prices. Last time I was there I got a $100 sweater for 10 euros. Crazy!

Annessa
http://www.seekingsunshine.com

You do!! it is so pretty! Wait… what?? that price is awesome!!

When I look at all the beautiful places in Europe, I just can’t help but think how ugly America looks in comparison. We are doing it wrong with our strip malls, super walmarts, and fast food on every corner.

Girl I am with you, but we do have natural beauty down pay! I was just talking to a girl about that same thing!

I love that they call it TK Maxx. Like why change it? haha

There is a popular retailer called TJ Hughes in the UK, so when TJ Maxx expanded there, they used TK Maxx to avoid confusion – and used the modified name throughout Europe!

I think it is a little bit different. Also the way they say J isn’t j it’s “Yot” so maybe that’s why??

You’re already getting to know your new home so well! I can’t imagine what kind of guide you’ll be able to write like this in a year!

Hopefully a really really good one haha!

I love Heidelberg so much and am so glad you get to live there! I loved the Philosopher’s Walk-so many stunning views! You make me want to go again! 🙂

it is seriously such a gorgeous place, way more beautiful than I ever expected.

Your new hometown is so gorgeous! One of these days I need to make it over there. I have only been to Berlin but really need to experience more of Germany!

PLEASE PLEASE COME! There really is so much to do here and outside of Heidelberg!

This looks awesome! My husband travels to germany alot but the more basic places such as Neurenburg, or Berlin. He talks about flying over the country is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen and we are saving to take our next vacation here!

Girl you must go, it’s beyond any expectations I ever had!!

What a lovely look at your new hometown! I’ve been once to Heidelberg, but it was raining. I can’t wait to come back and try all these places places you mention! Sorry we missed each other this weekend. Hope you enjoyed what my new hometown had to offer.

I am so sad we missed each other! I LOVED Ludwigsburg, so beautiful. We will have to reconnect soon, we are so close!

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