Heidelberg, the town that has been the center of the movement of German romance, is until today a popular tourist destination, since it uniquely combines baroque and Renaissance architecture, which you can see in the old town. There famous people, such as the well-known writer Goethe, and American writer Mark Twain, who lived there for several years, found inspiration. A key factor to the beauty of the town is that, unlike many other German cities, it was not bombed during World War II, since it was considered too beautiful to be destroyed. Heidelberg has the oldest university in Germany, the third oldest in Europe, which makes it a lively town with many students. That’s where I did my Erasmus exchange, and I’ll recommend to you the most beautiful places I visited during these months.
How to get to Heidelberg
Getting to Heidelberg is a little adventure! Unfortunately, the town has no airport, so you have to take a flight to some nearby city (Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Baden Baden) and from there you can take a flixbus, which will take you directly to your destination. Another option is to take two, sometimes three, different trains, which may prove more difficult than it sounds, and that is why I would not recommend it. The prices of the ticket are usually not expensive, with the flight tickets to be around 70 euros, back and forth, and the train/bus tickets to be around 30 euros.
Where to stay
The most frequent accommodation option is Lotte Hostel, a beautiful neoclassical building, with a view of the castle, which is located in the center of the town, next to the Church of the Holy Spirit, and a small distance from the main pedestrian street where shops, restaurants, and bars are located. Another very good choice is the Meininger Hotel, located close to the train station, which makes it easy for you to catch any bus and go wherever you want.
Where to eat
You will be satisfied whichever restaurant you choose since the town is famous for its good food. A famous choice is Vetter’s Alt Heidelberger Brauhaus, a restaurant that combines good food and an excellent home-brewed beer. Another option is Palmbräu Gasse where you can have the complete German experience with local food, beer, and atmosphere. However, a favorite choice, not only of the students but of everyone, is the cafeteria of the university (Zeughaus Mensa) located in Marstallstraße, where you can find a variety of quality food at low prices. Another unforgettable experience is to take your brunch in the castle while enjoying the amazing view. Finally, an excellent sweet choice is the Chocolaterie Yilliy, a cozy café in the city center, where evenings with classical music are often arranged. There is also an interesting tradition around chocolate, that has existed in Heidelberg since 1863 when Fridolin Knösel created the “Student Kiss“, a chocolate offered by boys to girls to express their love interest. You can find these chocolates today, in one of the most famous cafes, the Cafe Knösel.
Where to go in Heidelberg
If you visit Heidelberg while the weather is good, you will see that a favorite destination is Neckarwiese, the shore of the Neckar River, which runs through the city.
Also, in Heidelberg, there is Europe’s longest pedestrian street, Hauptstraße, which is more than 1.5 km long, where you can find many cafes, restaurants, and shops.
Untere Straße is the street with most of the pubs of the town and the perfect choice for every night, with my personal favorites: Destille and Sonder Bar. Keep in mind that Germans go out earlier than most, so don’t be surprised if you go out at 12am and don’t find a place to sit. If you’re in an Irish mood or the mood for karaoke, the O’Reilly’s Irish Pub in Brückenkopfstraße is the place for you. If you feel like dancing, there are many parties during the week in the clubs of Heidelberg, with many different themes, like the ’80s, ’90s, techno, etc. One of the best choices is Halle_02, located close to the train station, which has three different areas and offers many kinds of musical experiences at the same time.
Attractions in Heidelberg
1) The Palace of Heidelberg: Heidelberg has a beautiful castle, which is one of the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. There, you can enjoy the beautiful view of the town, the gardens, and the destroyed part of the castle. In the old cellar, which is now operating as a restaurant, you can enjoy another “peculiar” sightseeing, the world’s largest barrel. You can go to the castle by foot, or by taking the ski lift from the city center. After visiting the castle, you should go further up to Königstuhl (King’s Throne), which offers an even better view.
2) The philosophers’ walk: Accessible at any time of the day without a ticket, the philosophers’ walk is one of the most famous sights of Heidelberg. A beautiful route through parks and forests, done by the philosophers who visited the town during the romantic period, offers the most beautiful view of the town. It is said that there was where the famous German poets Joseph von Eichendorff and Friedrich Hölderlin inspired their works. A pleasant uphill route that you can start from the Theodor-Heuss Bridge or Karl-Theodor bridge.
3) The Karl – Theodor Bridge: Theodor Bridge, aka Alte Brücke (old bridge) is Heidelberg’s most beautiful and oldest bridge. The one that exists today is the ninth bridge that was reconstructed on the pre-existing foundations of 1200 and is 200 meters long. In its seventh and eighth pillars, two sculptures depict Karl Theodor and the Roman goddess Minerva. Also, in the north tower of the bridge is the bronze statue of a monkey. For the first time, a similar statue was placed there in the 15th century, in order to mock those who came from the other side of the river by showing them its buttocks. Although, today it symbolizes the self-criticism that each of us must do and a reminder that we are no better than those around us. It is also said to bring luck, since according to legend if you rub the mirror it holds you will somehow get money, while if you rub his hands you will, one day, return to Heidelberg.
4) The student prison: The 18th-century building of the Old University is located at the Universitätsplatz. In the back of the building, you can find the Student Prison. This is where students who disturbed the quiet of the city, or were punished for prodigals, were imprisoned, with sentences ranging from three days to one month. Today, you can see the thoughts, slogans, and portraits of the students on the walls of the building.
5) Heidelberg fireworks: Heidelberg fireworks are a world-famous celebration. It’s a 400-year-old custom, which began when Prince Friedrich V organized this celebration in 1613 to welcome his wife in Heidelberg. In this incredible event, the castle is bathed in a red light, a representation of the fires that destroyed it over the years. Then, fireworks begin, firstly from the inside of the castle, and then from the old bridge, creating an unforgettable spectacle. It is a fantastic experience that you can enjoy three times a year in June, July and September.
6) Christmas market: Another excellent time to visit Heidelberg is Christmas. Since the beginning of December, the Hauptstraße Christmas market has been set up, and this large pedestrian street is transformed into a Christmas village. There you can shop, enjoy typical German drinks and food, and enjoy the Christmas atmosphere while watching the castle.