Heidelberg and the Heidelberg sightseeing is often on top of the list of the most beautiful cities for tourists visiting Germany. Heidelberg on the Neckar is often mentioned in the same breath as Neuschwanstein Castle or Oktoberfest Munich and thus the Heidelberg sightseeing is one of the most photographed sights in Germany. A small college town nestled between mountains, it’s perfect for a weekend getaway in Germany.
For me personally, Heidelberg was never really on my route through Germany. Most of the time I can be found in Munich, Berlin, Hamburg or Frankfurt. However, many of my American friends kept asking me about Heidelberg. Because Heidelberg was important as a base for the Americans for a long time, there are many connections and memories here. But also for many Japanese, Heidelberg and the Heidelberg sightseeing is a must visit when in Germany. I was absolutely curious to see how I would like the city.
First impression of Heidelberg sightseeing
I arrived at the main train station (which I almost imagined to be a bit bigger) and walked as explained via email in advance coming from the tracks out to the right to the little house of Heidelberg Tourism. There, by the way, you can also get tickets for the long-distance bus, so I was fascinated to see how fluently people here switch back and forth between German, English and French. The impression of a small international city came up.
Super friendly, they explained the city and the way to my hotel. I could directly use a station with the train or bus. Since I used the Heidelberg Card from now on, the public transport is already included in addition to the trip to the castle as a must-see Heidelberg sightseeing. A perfect start and so after my check-in at the hotel, I also went straight back on my way. Heidelberg totally reminds me of Salzburg!
I really wanted to see the castle and the view of Heidelberg sightseeing in the evening. Of course, I took the bus, the 33, and knew I was at the Bergbahn station when the announcement on the bus was recited in German, English and Japanese. I admit that I was very excited to see what would await me at the top of the station of the steep mountain railroad and at the castle.
At the latest with the view of the Heidelberg sightseeing, you understand why Heidelberg is so popular. I could have watched the lights from above for hours if it hadn’t just been winter and thus icy cold. Now I was even more excited for my city tour the next morning, but for today, a little visit to the Christmas market was going to be my end of the day.
Explore by yourself or book a city guide?
I saw quite a few tourists in Heidelberg with a guidebook in hand. During my travel time, the city was not overrun with tourists as I first suspected. Enough space and quiet to be able to experience the city. I was lucky and got a city guide for the Heidelberg sightseeing on short notice, who took time to show me “his” city.
I enjoyed getting to know Heidelberg and the Heidelberg sightseeing this way. I was able to get rid of all my questions about the city and got honest and explanatory answers. It’s great to get a feel for the city and the local people in such a short time. Even though it was extremely cold and windy that day, I got to see quite a bit of Heidelberg and want to tell you more about it.
24 hours Heidelberg – Top 10 Heidelberg sightseeing attractions
There are some Heidelberg sightseeing that you have to see. I created a little itinerary that you can go if you want to see my travel tips for Heidelberg. There are a few “insider tips”, but also some traditional sightseeing.
On the warmest slope of Heidelberg, you have a beautiful view of Heidelberg sightseeing, the Neckar River and Heidelberg Castle. A small serpentine path leads from the old bridge up the hill past small cottages and houses that may not be structurally altered. Many poets, thinkers and artists have found their inspiration on this slope. On this slope you can find many unusual plants and animal species. You can also reach the hill on the Heiligenberg from the Theodor Heuss Bridge.
Alte Brücke – Old bridge (Obere Neckarstraße 2)
The old bridge is not missing on any perfect cityscape of Heidelberg. With the pretty bridge gate, the bridge looks really photogenic. On the other bank is the love stone for placing love locks. On the bank at the bridge gate is the monkey with the mice, which was the meeting point during my city tour.
Mensa in the Marstall (Marstallhof 3)
Marstall used to be the Old Armory under Elector Ludwig V. Today, 135 meters along the Neckar River, it houses the university canteen. If you like to mingle with young “locals” you can have a really good meal here even if you are not a student. In summer you can dine in the inner courtyard, which is very pleasant.
Peterskirche – St. Peter’s Church
Heidelberg’s oldest church directly opposite the university library. The square with church and library each kept in red looks very original. The windows of the church are strikingly special.
Heidelberg University Library (Plöck)
A mixture of different epochs seem “pretty” to the normal visitor – but for connoisseurs it is a daring mixture. In the library you can warm up in winter and even visit changing exhibitions. In the neighborhood is the building of the “University of Heidelberg Central Student Advisory Service”, which was once also a mental hospital.
Jesuitenkirche – Jesuit Church
Church in baroque style, built over 150 years from 1720. A plain white church that looks impressive. At Christmas time you can find a nativity scene with special puppet figures.
Studentenkarzer – Student Carcass (Augustinergasse 2)
A glimpse into the history of the university cells. Students were “brought to their senses” in these cells. Numerous inscriptions on the walls show the creativity of the “inmates”. Soon the prison became a lucrative source of income, because visitors liked to watch themselves there. Today it is a museum where you can buy nice Heidelberg sweatshirts.
Friedrich Ebert Birthplace (Pfaffengasse 18)
The old birthplace of the first president of the Weimar Republic. Insights into an original house as a museum. In summer you can sit here nicely in the inner courtyard and be served by the restaurant next door.
Heidelberg Student Kiss (Haspelgasse 16)
As a souvenir and perfect for those with a sweet tooth. The Heidelberg Mozartkugel is called “Stundentenkuß” and tasted really good to me. Traditionally, you go to Café Knösel with the oldest chocolaterie since 1863.
Heiliggeistkirche – Holy Spirit Church Heidelberg
The church is also the burial place of the electors. It is located in the extension of the “Alte Brücke”. Passing the town hall, the former specialty market Kornmarkt and the Palais Prinz Carl, which was a Grand Hotel until 1915.
Schloss – Heidelberg Castle
Last remains the mountain railway station for a quick ascent to the castle. Of course, you can also climb the mountain on foot and get to the castle via the castle garden. I enjoyed the train ride though. One can go even higher to the transfer station to take the original train even higher to the Königstuhl. I enjoyed the castle and the old walls, as well as the view. You can also visit the castle and the pharmacy museum from the inside.
24 hours in Heidelberg – my insider tips
Of course, there are many little tips outside of the normal sightseeing that you always give to friends when traveling. Restaurants, for example, there are several, which are distributed throughout the old town. The “Weiße Bock” is considered to be really noble and also some of the original specialty stores are always popular. For those who like it a bit simpler, there are many modern pubs, restaurants and stores on the main street.
There are many different museums to visit, depending on your interests and time. A special museum, which you don’t find everywhere, is for example the packaging museum. If you are a bit older, you will quickly feel reminded of your childhood here, as you will encounter many old packages.
Fun Facts Heidelberg
- Heidelberg was spared in the Second World War and is therefore still so original
- Heidelberg is mentioned in various poems, books and songs, such as Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich Heine and Mark Twain
- In the castle cellar you can find the largest wine barrel in the world – it holds 220,000 liters.
- Heidelberg is home to Germany’s oldest university (since 1386).
- Every fifth inhabitant of Heidelberg is a student
- Helmut Kohl was a student in Heidelberg
- Karl Drais developed the bicycle as a final project at the university
- Next to the castle a building in need of renovation behind trees became a small eyesore as an optical new building, where literally over night the protecting/view-obstructing trees suddenly disappeared
Christmas and Christmas market in Heidelberg
Germany is especially popular with tourists at Christmas time – Heidelberg is absolutely one of the typical Christmas markets here. All over the city you can find the various Christmas markets and stalls along the main street. Similar to Cologne or even Vienna, you quickly get into the Christmas spirit here.
From Bismarckplatz, it is best to stroll to the Anatomiegarten, where you can find pretty cups and wood carvings. Continue on to Universitätsplatz and Marktplatz, where you can marvel at a large Christmas pyramid. More modern and colorful is the Kornmarkt, for ice skating you go to Karlsplatz.
Personally, I found the Heidelberg Christmas market very beautiful and enjoyed walking past the many Christmas decorated shop windows (especially the bakeries). My personal moment was my break in front of the Palais Prinz Carl with “Kinderpunsch” and Pulled-Pork – plus the castle view – perfect!
However, if you are in Heidelberg at the wrong time of year, you will also find what you are looking for. At Käthe Wohlfahrt you can buy pretty Christmas decorations all year round.
Conclusion – Top sightseeing in Heidelberg
Heidelberg is not huge, so you can experience the city or old town well on foot. I can now understand a little more why the city of Heidelberg is so popular with tourists. This is how you imagine a pretty, small, German city. River, mountains, castle, old town – perfect!
I look forward to reporting more from Baden-Württemberg in the future and will certainly be back in Heidelberg again soon. It’s a fascinating city – maybe we’ll meet at Philosophenweg?