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Panorama of Heidelberg showing the "Old Bridge" and the Castle in daylight

Things to do in  Heidelberg

Romance on the River Neckar

With a red-roofed old town and medieval bridges that span the River Neckar, Heidelberg is a place that serves up German romance straight out of a storybook. Poets, philosophers, and dreamers have long been drawn here, singing the praises of the little town on the river with its stately Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss). In addition to exploring the castle’s ruins and garden, visitors will find no shortage of things to do in Heidelberg. Home to Germany’s oldest university, the city is a lively place that appeals to students, tourists, and locals alike.

Top 4 attractions in Heidelberg

Old Heidelberg University (Alte Universitat)

The Old Heidelberg University, Germany's oldest university, was build in the early 1700s. It now holds the Rector's Office, the Old Assembly Hall, and the University Museum. The museum shows the history of the university beginning with its foundation in 1386 through today. Exhibits, portraits, and documents explain this history in three different sections. There's one about the Palatinate electors, one about the Baden era, and one about the twentieth century. In addition to the permanent exhibits, every few months there is a new special exhibit opens.In the square in front of the building is a fountain of a lion, called Löwenbrunnen. The lion was the symbol of the Palatinate. At the back of the Old University, visitors can see the student prison, which was in use until 1914 and is now one of the most popular attractions in the city. Students could be put in the prison from two days to four weeks depending on the offense, although life there was quite comfortable.More

Karl-Theodor-Bridge (Alte Brucke)

The Karl-Theodor-Bridge (Alte Brucke) in Heidelberg is a sandstone pedestrian bridge that goes across the Neckar River linking the old town on one side with the Neuenheim district on the other. It was built in 1786, and even though there were several other bridges before it in this location, it was the first one made of stone. On the city side of the bridge, there are two towers that once formed part of the city walls. They contain old dungeons which were used to hold criminals. Between the towers, you can see a plaque honoring the Austrian troops who helped defend the bridge against an attack from the French in 1799.Another feature visitors will notice is a statue of a monkey holding a mirror. The monkey represents the idea that neither those who lived within the city walls nor those who lived outside the city were any better than the other, and that they should look over their shoulder as the cross the bridge to remember this. Other sculptures on the bridge include a monument to Prince Elector Carl Theodor, who had the bridge built, and one devoted to the Roman goddess Minerva.More

Market Square (Marktplatz)

Marktplatz, or the Market Square, is in the heart of Heidelberg's old town and is often full of activities. It is located between the Church of the Holy Ghost and the Town Hall building. In the Middle Ages, this square was used for public proceedings which included burning witches and heretics at the stake, and putting people charged with petty crimes into cages so the public could torment them. The square was, and continues to be, used for markets where fruits, vegetables, meats, cheese, flowers, crafts, and other food and goods are sold. Today the markets take place twice a week.At the center of the square stands a fountain and statue of Hercules that was built in the early 1700s. The statue you see today is only a replica though; the original is kept safe in the Kurpfälzisches Museum. During warm months, the cafes located along the edges of the square have outdoor seating for patrons to enjoy the view and the nice weather.More

SEA LIFE® Speyer

SEA LIFE®Speyer, on the banks of the Rhine River, is an aquarium offering an interactive, educational glimpse of life under the sea. Here you'll find thousands of creatures across hundreds of species, including colorful tropical fish, all living in recreated habitats.More
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All about Heidelberg

When to visit

One of the best times to visit Heidelberg is in the summer, when the weather is warm, rarely too hot, and rainy days are less common. There are fewer students around in the summer months, too, although they’re replaced by tourists who flock here, particularly in July and August. If you want to avoid the crowds, the winter months are mild, and there are events like the Heidelberg Christmas Market and an open-air ice rink. Both are open in the Altstadt (Old Town) district from the end of November.

Getting around

If you plan to base yourself in the Altstadt, you’ll find most Heidelberg sights within walking distance. If you want to use public transport, the city’s trams and trains are easy to figure out and use, although if hiking is high on your list of things to do, it’s worthwhile renting a car. With your own wheels, you can easily access routes like Heidelberg’s famous Philosophers’ Walk, a trek loved for its views over the River Neckar.

Traveler tips

Most travelers will have the Karl-Theodor Bridge and Heidelberg Castle high on their must-see lists, but there’s another attraction worthy of a photo in town. Don’t miss the quirky Heidelberg Tun, which is said to be the world’s largest wine barrel, and is tucked away inside the castle ruins. Mark Twain famously remarked that “an empty cask the size of a cathedral could excite but little emotion in me”—but judging by the lines for photos, many disagree with him.

People Also Ask

Is Heidelberg worth visiting?

Yes, if you want to experience a historic German town with pretty castle ruins, Heidelberg is worth visiting. Keep in mind that it’s not a big city, but it’s a place that works well as a weekend or day trip destination if you’re exploring Frankfurt, the Romantic Road, or even the Rhine Valley.

What is Heidelberg famous for?

Heidelberg has been on the tourist trail since the days of Mark Twain (and probably even before that). Having been spared the World War II bombing campaigns, the city is famous for its intact medieval buildings and bridges, and for its prestigious Heidelberg University—all of which still charm visitors today.

How do I spend a day in Heidelberg?

After coffee and shopping in Heidelberg’s Altstadt district, head up the hill to Heidelberg Castle to soak up views of the town and River Neckar. The grounds make a perfect panoramic picnic spot. Later, pose for a photo against the Karl-Theodor Bridge, then follow the locals to the lawns of Neckarwiese (Neckar Park) as the sun sets.

What makes Heidelberg so attractive to tourists?

Surrounded by nature and castle ruins, Heidelberg has always held romantic appeal. Beyond the Altstadt’s well-documented good looks, the landscapes nearby offer a variety of things to do, with hikers drawn to routes like the Philosophers’ Walk and Königstuhl hill. Heidelberg is also a UNESCO-designated City of Literature, with the likes of Max Weber, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Mark Twain having spent time here.

Is Heidelberg a cheap city?

No, popular with an international crowd, Heidelberg is one of the more expensive cities in Germany to visit. Hotels and restaurants in and around the Altstadt are priced higher than many might expect, especially in the popular months of July and August.

Is Heidelberg near the Black Forest?

Yes, Heidelberg is roughly an hour in the car from the northern stretches of the Black Forest. If you rent a car, take the Black Forest High Road (Schwarzwaldhochestrasse, or B500) south. Popular destinations around here include the spa town of Baden-Baden and Lake Mummelsee.


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