Here Are Some Great Things To Do In Heidelberg, Germany!
If you want to check out more stunning places in Germany, then you absolutely need to see Heidelberg. This romantic city is packed with history and loads of great things to do – both free and paid – even when it rains!
We say that because when we travelled to Heidelberg to check it out it rained almost the whole time. That said, we still LOVED the city.
With great sights like the famous Heidelberg Castle to exploring the Old Town and taking the cable car to the top of the King’s Throne, we can see why it’s enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.
So, in this post, we’ll tell you exactly what there is to do, where we ate, how we got around, and share with you a few more tips on discovering Heidelberg, Germany like a pro. Let’s get going!
We write a lot about Germany (obviously) – so check out these other helpful Germany posts!
- 13 Tips for First-Time Germany Travellers
- Discover Germany With Our Detailed Germany Itineraries
- Check out other cities like Mannheim, Würzburg, and Wiesbaden
- Explore Berlin’s Top Attractions!
Table of Contents
Things To Know When Visiting Heidelberg, Germany
Before you leave to explore Heidelberg, there are a bunch of details you might want to know about. Planning ahead always makes travelling easier, right? Below, we cover a few topics like how to get to Heidelberg, how to use public transit, where you might want to stay, and more!
General Information About Heidelberg
Heidelberg is a romantic and historic city with a long history (like many other cities in Germany). Having been founded around the late 12th or early 13th century, the city is known for its climate (it’s really warm compared to other parts of Germany), its architecture (it wasn’t bombed in WWII), and its unique location in the Rhine Rift Valley.
The University of Heidelberg is Germany’s oldest university (founded in 1386) and has played a significant role in shaping the history of the city (and Europe), too.
More recently, Heidelberg was dubbed a “City of Literature” by UNESCO for its contributions to the arts – particularly written works. Considering the Heidelberg Library was founded in 1421 (and still exists today as the oldest in Germany), that helps with the whole “literature” argument!
How To Get To Heidelberg
Heidelberg is located in the state Baden-Württemberg – which is located in the southwest of Germany. The Neckar River – a branch of the Rhine – runs through the city. It’s only about 15 minutes by S-train from Mannheim, but the next largest centre is Frankfurt.
If you are arriving from farther away by train, you’ll end up at Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) which is located in the city centre, but not right in the Old Town. Check out the official Deutsche Bahn Website for schedules and to buy tickets.
It’s easy to take the train around Germany but if you are driving and/or have a rental car, you can also get to Heidelberg this way. There are plenty of parking lots (there’s one at the Bergbahn Station) for easy access to the car!
Getting Around In Heidelberg
Once you are in Heidelberg, it’s super easy to get around. The central train station isn’t close to the Old Town, but you can walk there or take public transit (the trams).
More in the middle of the city (near the River), there’s a main square – Bismarckplatz – where the buses and trams meet. It’s a busy little outdoor transit hub where you can buy tickets at machines. From there you can easily walk into the Old Town.
We used the trams a lot to get to and from our hotel to the Old Town – and then to the Hauptbahnhof (central train station). It was easy to get on and navigate – just be sure to validate your ticket ON THE TRAM in the little machine!
Having said all of that, the city is very flat around the Old Town with a few hills that slope to the river. If you decide to walk up to the Castle (or on the other side along the Philosophers’ Walk), that’s a different story! You can find more info on the Heidelberg transit here.
If you plan on spending a little bit of time in Heidelberg, you might consider getting the HeidelbergCard. This pass is good for a flexible amount of days. It’s your transit pass and covers your Heidelberg Castle admission ticket (and cable car ride there) as well.
You also get a handy tourist attraction map and some other discounts on attractions (like the Studentenkarzer)! We didn’t use it but we can certainly see the value if you’re exploring the city for a few days! — Check out the HeidelbergCard here.
Where To Stay In Heidelberg
If you end up staying overnight in Heidelberg, you’re going to be looking for a place to stay. In this case, there are plenty of great hotels all over Heidelberg to choose from.
We stayed in NinetyNine Heidelberg City and it was AWESOME. We actually really, really liked it. The bed was comfy and the staff was great. The thing that sets it apart (and what Eric especially loved) was the decor. It’s done up as a cool, modern hotel with a jungle theme – and animals everywhere!
Seriously, there’s fish in the bathroom, parrots in the halls on the room numbers, a painting of a cute monkey sleeping over the beds, and one fun monkey holding the light hanging in the rooms.
Decor aside, the rooms were also functional with shelves, hanging space, and plugs at the bedside. We didn’t eat or drink at the bar/restaurant but it looked like a great breakfast people were having.
The only downside was that it’s not right in the Old Town – but there’s a tram stop right outside the hotel and you can be there in 10 minutes so it was really convenient. You can also walk to NinetyNine from the central train station which was nice. Overall, we’d absolutely recommend it.
**Friendly Disclosure: We were not told to stay here and we paid for our stay ourselves. This is not a “sponsored stay” but our legitimate review.
If you’re looking for a hotel in the Old Town of Heidelberg, then you do have quite a few to choose from.
You might want to have a look at Hotel Holländer Hof which is located right on the River directly across from the Old Bridge (seen in the photo above). This is a classic hotel with a great breakfast – and you’re only steps from all the best attractions with river views!
If you want to stay in the middle of the Old Town (and we mean middle), then you should have a look at Hotel Zum Ritter St.Georg. Located right on Marktplatz, the historic hotel/restaurant (built back in 1592) is directly facing the Church of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t get any more central than this.
Top Things To Do In Heidelberg
Alright, so now that we have covered some of the details on visiting Heidelberg, let’s dive into the things to do and see. Of course, there are a handful more things but this is what we know about – and we covered most (if not all) the top attractions in Heidelberg!
Wander The Old Town
Of course, no visit to a historic German city is complete without a wander through its Old Town. Heidelberg is definitely no exception! Having seen quite a few German cities by now, Heidelberg is easily one of the prettiest, most romantic old towns we’ve ever seen.
To start your wander, you’ll head down Hauptstraße (the main pedestrian/shopping way). This long street splits the Old Town area lengthwise from Bismarckplatz (where you catch the trams/bus) all the way to basically the end of the Old Town at the Castle.
If you follow the street, you’ll end up at Marktplatz where you’ll see the Rathaus (shown above) and Heiliggeistkirche (listed later). The square is beautiful and lined with colourful buildings. This is also where the Christmas Market takes place, and where you can get those important souvenirs.
Near there, there’s a small square called Kornmarkt and you get amazing views of the Castle above (see the photo above). If you come back to Marktplatz and head behind the church (Heiliggeistkirche) towards the river, you’ll end up on Steingasse (shown below) which takes you right to the Old Bridge.
Aside from that, we just wandered down alleys/streets we thought were pretty to see what we could find. Be sure to get off the main street and you’ll find beautiful streets, cafes, and more all to yourself.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all there is to see in the Old Town, you can hop on a guided history tour of Heidelberg Old Town. This way, you get all the best local knowledge in one shot!
Address of Marktplatz: Marktplatz, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Discover Heidelberg Palace
Also known as Heidelberg Castle, or Schloss Heidelberg, this castle (technically mostly ruins) made of red sandstone is an absolute must-see. First built atop the hill in the early 1200s, the Castle grew and fortified over the centuries.
Heidelberg Castle is a super important example of a bunch of architectural styles – namely Renaissance – and was demolished in wars starting in the 17th century. Today, the Castle grounds are divided up into many parts from the Gardens and Visitor Centre to the interior attractions.
To get to the Castle, you can walk up the paths OR take the Bergbahn (hillside tram). Note: there are TWO trams in Heidelberg – the first takes you to the Castle and the Molkenkur station – and the second continues from Molkenkur all the way to the top of the hill.
Important: Your Castle admission ticket includes a ride up and down on this first tram ONLY but you CAN buy a ticket that includes all tram rides. We did this at a machine at the Kornmarkt station you see in the photo above.
The first tram is more modern and runs more frequently than the next cable car (about every 10 minutes up and down because there are two). Case and point: it’s fast to get to the Castle and back down quickly if that’s as far as you’re going!
Once you’re at the Castle, you can enter the beautiful Gardens at the back and access the front terrace with city views for free. The paid admission is through a middle gate to the Castle interior – and there’s a ticket checker person.
That said, there are a few attractions that are inside the Castle – which are included in your Castle admission ticket. It can be confusing but now that we have experienced it (and you’re reading this guide), it’ll make much more sense. The following attractions (including paid tours) are inside the Castle through the paid ticket checker person:
German Apothecary Museum
Also known as the “Deutsches Apotheken-Museum”, the German Pharmacy Museum (as it is also called) is basically a whole exhibit on the history of pharmacology in Germany/Europe.
The displays are well done – they even have numerous apothecary shops from different ages set up in different rooms to show the evolution of the pharmacist’s work quarters.
Because it actually held our attention (Eric also studied health in school), we wandered through the whole thing for almost two hours. Almost all the information pieces are in German and English which is nice. You can learn more about visiting the Museum here.
If you like wine, you need to go and see the Great Tun! Simply put, there’s a giant wine barrel in the cellar of the Castle. Built in 1751, the one you can see (and use stairs to climb up on) holds over 220,000 LITRES of wine! It’s absolutely massive and worth checking out for sure.
If you feel overwhelmed with all there is to see, you might want to visit the castle with a private guide to get as much as you can out of the massive complex of ruins and history! We’d suggest a visit when you’re in Heidelberg because it is fascinating to check out. You can learn more about visiting the Castle here.
Address for Castle: Schlosshof 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Ride the Bergbahn to Königstuhl
As mentioned above, the cable car continues after the stop at the Heidelberg castle. That’s why it is also known as the Mountain Cable Car to the “King’s Throne” and it takes you up the mountain for amazing views of the landscape below!
To do this, simply ride the first cable car PAST the Castle station to Molkenkur station. Assuming you bought a ticket for the whole way at the bottom station, you then just walk a few feet, go through the next gates, and transfer to the vintage red cable car! This car runs about every 20 minutes so it’s easy to get up and down relatively frequently.
Once on the second car, it begins the crawl up the hill. It’s certainly more rickety than the first car but it adds to the experience. You get to see the town fade away and get smaller and it’s honestly pretty awesome (even on a rainy day which we had).
At the top, we got out and got a break in the rain to have wonderful views of the world below. It’s windy up there so bring a sweater just in case. There’s a small cafe outside the station and a small museum where you can see the mechanisms working when the cars head up and down the mountain (pretty cool).
Up there, you can also connect to numerous walking trails around the mountain and there’s also something called Märchenparadies which is an outdoor park for kids that is fairytale themed! Overall, we’d suggest a trip right to the top – it’s worth it for the fresh air and the experience alone!
Address of Bergbahn: Zwingerstraße 20, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Walk the Old Bridge
Also known as the Alte Brücke Heidelberg or technically called The Karl Theodor Bridge, the “Old Bridge” is exactly that: an old arch bridge in the city of Heidelberg! Originally built in 1788, this version of the bridge is also built in that classic red sandstone you see all over the city centre!
The bridge itself is functional because it crosses the Neckar to the north to connect the area of Neuenheim to the Old Town. That said, it’s also lined with statues of famous figures throughout German history.
Another feature on the Old Town end of the bridge is the Heidelberg Bridge Monkey. This bronze statue was placed there in 1979 and is a popular photo spot for visitors! There are a bunch of legends about rubbing different parts of the statue (the mirror, the mice, or its fingers) for luck or fertility but we just had a look!
Another prominent feature of the bridge that you don’t notice until you are on the bridge is the Brückentor which is an old city gate. The gate is beautiful, originally from the Middle Ages, and really adds to the overall romantic feel of the city and bridge!
Address: Am Hackteufel, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Church of the Holy Spirit + Tower Climb
Also called Heiliggeistkirche in German, this iconic red church is a highlight in the Old Town. Visiting the Protestant church was likely one of our favourite things to do in Heidelberg – because it included climbing the tower for amazing views!
Let’s start off with the church itself. Located right in Marktplatz, it’s free to enter. Inside you can check out the red and white decor and read different pieces of information. Interestingly for us, they were tuning an organ when we visited so it was noisy (in a good way).
After we went inside, we knew you could climb the tower but didn’t know how much or where to start. Luckily, we noticed a sign and went to speak to the woman at the desk. It was 2 Euro per person (general admission) and it’s 1 Euro for students. We then climbed the spiral stairs near the entrance desk.
After a number of stairs and hallways, you follow the arrows and enter the final tower for a spiral staircase climb. The stairs get pretty tight so be sure no one’s coming down because there’s no room to pass.
Once at the top, you can walk around the tower for views of the Old Town in all directions. Only two other people came up there in the time we spend up there – so we enjoyed every moment of our views above the city centre. We’d definitely recommend the climb if you are able to – it’s among our top memories from Heidelberg.
Address: Marktplatz, 69115 Heidelberg, Germany
Explore the Studentenkarzer + University Museum
Of course, no list is complete without acknowledging the University of Heidelberg and it’s significant history. As we mentioned in the intro, the University was founded back in 1386, making it the oldest university in Germany!
As such, there’s a rich history about it – some good and some a little darker. So, this might be a good time to bring up a top Heidelberg attraction: the “Studentenkarzer” or basically “students’ prison”. Yup, it’s exactly what you’re thinking.
From 1778 through to 1914, the University had the legal power to lock up misbehaving students! Staying for a few days or weeks on end (they still went to lecture), students passed the time by writing on the walls – and the graffiti can still be seen today. To learn more about visiting the prison, you can visit this website.
Another thing you can do to discover the University’s rich history is to check out the University Museum (Universitätsmuseum). This small but interesting museum goes back to the 1300s and dives into the history of the establishment – through changes, war, and more. They even have audio guides available. You can learn more about visiting here.
Address of Studentenkarzer: Augustinergasse 2, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Check Out the Jesuitenkirche
The Jesuitenkirche is also known as the Jesuits Church in English. Don’t let the red sandstone fool you for how the inside looks. With free admission, we headed inside for a peek – and it was super elegant. Elegant feels like the right word.
The interior is more simple and mainly white – which was actually kind of refreshing having seen some pretty elaborate church interiors in recent weeks.
The church was completed in the mid-1700s and is located close to the University in the Old Town so it’s easy to get to and check out if you are passing by. There’s also a small museum inside called The Museum for Sacred Art and Liturgy (which was closed when we visited).
Address: Schulgasse 4, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Visit the Kurpfälzisches Museum
Called the “Museum of the Palatinate” in English, this museum just off the main shopping street (Hauptstraße) is dedicated to learning about the history of the city and the region.
Through the archway (in the photo), you’ll be able to check out lots and lots of different exhibits that are loaded with different things to see like artifacts, furniture, and paintings.
There’s even a restaurant inside the inner courtyard – but be sure to check the prices before you sit. If you want to learn more, you can check out the website here (in German).
Address: Hauptstraße 97, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Wander the Neckar River + Neckarwiese
Of course, no visit to Heidelberg is complete without acknowledging the beautiful river that shapes the city – the Neckar. Officially a river that flows into the mighty Rhine, the Neckar snakes through the region before ending up in Heidelberg.
One of the best ways to see the landscape and the city from the river is via boat cruise. When we visited, we actually saw a number of boats docked along the bank of the Old Town near the Old Bridge. You can learn more about boat trips here.
Another way you can enjoy the river is by exploring the green space that bears the same name – Neckarwiese. Literally meaning “Neckar Meadow”, this popular patch of long and slim green space is great for walking the river or just hanging out in the sunshine. It’ll get busy on nice days!
Address of Neckarwiese: Uferstraße 17, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
Walk the Philosophers’ Walk
Speaking about the other side of the Neckar River, there’s plenty to check out on that side, too! One of the top things to do is called the Philosophers’ Walk (Philosophenweg). It’s said that these green pathways that hug the lower hillside were used by academics back in the day – hence the name.
These days, you can walk the paths for great views of the city on the other side of the river. The paths also have a number of features interesting features – like plants you usually see in warmer climates (lemon trees and palm trees) and a nice green space called the Philosopher’s Garden (Philosophengaertchen).
There’s also some history and vantage points you can check out along the way. If you want to experience the route a little differently, you can actually do a Phlisophers’ Walk segway tour!
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to walk the Philosophers’ way during this trip since the rain was just too bad most of the time. However, we know that we’ll be back one day (Heidelberg is just too beautiful to not return) and do it then!
Address: On Heiligenberg Hill
Head Up Heiligenberg
Towering high above the city and the river – from the other side of the Neckar – is the mighty Heiligenberg. This 440-metre high hill actually has quite a few features to check out (in addition to the Philosophers’ Walk)
Two of the most known things up there are the amphitheatre and the Monastery Ruins! The Heidelberg Amphitheatre, or “Heiligenberg Thingstätte” as it’s also known as is a massive outdoor theatre that was originally built by the Third Reich for celebratory/performance purposes.
In the decades following the war, it has been used for different events such as the Walpurgis Night, but these days it’s kind of just sitting in ruins.
The other thing to check out up there is the Monastery of St. Michael ruins or “Klosterruine St. Michael”. You can wander these outdoor ruins that make up the footprint of the old church that was built way back in 1023!
It’s also good to know that while you can hike up (check out the “Snake Path”, too), there is also a road up and a car park up there near the top!
Bonus: Discover Schwetizgen Castle
If you’re looking for one more top-rated thing to check out in Heidelberg, you’ll want to head in the opposite direction of the Old Town and the Heidelberg Castle to Schweitzgen Castle.
Although this is technically not an attraction that is located right in Heidelberg, it is located close by and a popular place to visit. That’s why we decided to include it as a bonus in this article!
While the original grounds held a castle in the 1300s, the current shape and size are roughly from 1700s-era. It served as a summer house for the Electors (between Mannheim and Heidelberg), and is most known for the beautifully decorated Palace itself, the massive (and stunning) gardens, a grand theatre, and a mosque.
These days, you can visit the grounds which continue to draw visitors year after year. If you want to visit, you can check out the website here.
Address: Schloß Mittelbau, 68723 Schwetzingen, Germany
Where To Eat In Heidelberg: Our Tips
While we were in Heidelberg, we went out to eat a handful of times. Funny enough, we didn’t go to any traditional “German” places for dinner (since we have done that a lot recently and Lisa was not really in the mood for typical German food). That said, you can find classic “brew houses” like Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg or Vetter’s Alt Heidelberger Brauhaus in the Old Town!
Wiener Feinbäckerei Hederer
If you are looking to have a quick German-style breakfast (meat/cheese on bread or a piece of cake and coffee), then check out Wiener Feinbäckerei. Yeah, it’s a chain (and usually we eat more locally) but it did the trick for us in Heidelberg.
It’s a typical bakery – a big display of takeaway sweet and savoury items with a sit-down breakfast you can order as well. The coffee was good and the quick breakfast hit the spot. You can always find another bakery if you don’t like the selection.
Also, they don’t accept cards (but most bakeries don’t in Germany) so know that before you go. If you are ever unsure, just ask before ordering!
Address: Hauptstraße 24, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
It was not the best weather when we visited Heidelberg so after coming down from the King’s Hill, we decided to have warm soup/noodles for lunch. Luckily, this Korean place is directly across from the Bergbhan Station!
Soban was perfect – it was busy but we still got a seat easily. The server was super friendly, the meals were huge (and filling), and we got tea to go with it. Sure, you can find a fast food place you might be used to – but if you are more adventurous, check out Soban!
Address: Zwingerstraße 21, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Another great restaurant we found was Mahmoud’s. We actually walked by another location the day before (in Bergheim) but there’s also a small location in the Old Town (near the Jesuitenkirche).
Inside, you’ll find this small restaurant that specializes in Middle Eastern dishes like falafel, kofta, and fresh pita and hummus. Lisa had a vegetarian plate with a bunch of classics (like halloumi cheese and falafel) while Eric has a grill plate with kofta (minced meat) and rice.
Both meals were super filling, came with great sauces, and were freshly made. You can even sit outside when the weather is nice and you get a free cup of black tea with a meal.
We’d highly recommend – so you can check out their website and menu here.
Address: Merianstraße 3, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
And there you have it – some of the best things to do in Heidelberg, Germany! Of course, there are a handful of more things to check out, but if you stick to this list you’d see the top attractions and then some! We really loved Heidelberg – so let us know what you think!
As always, Happy Heidelberg Waddlin’,
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