For generations this lovely city by the Neckar river has been the heartbeat of industry, capitalism and most recently tourism. If Heidelberg is a town you have wanted to visit but haven’t had the time yet, I hope this article helps entice you to go. I have decided any time of the year is a pleasant time to visit!
Now having visited a couple of times this year (once this summer and once this fall), I can’t decide which season is my favorite. No matter what time of the year, the streets of the Altstadt (Old Town) are always very lively. The busy activity can be contributed to tourism as well as the highly competitive and superior Heidelberg University that is located right in the heart of the city.
The romantic town of Heidelberg is an international main attraction, including for the American military community. Along with Dresden, Münich, Bonn and Berlin, most Americans find Heidelberg as a major stop on their “Germany” 10-day whirlwind tours. Considered one of the top five cities in Germany to visit, Heidelberg attracts millions each year with its history, art and scenic beauty.
This past month I went with friends to investigate the historic city’s castle, Old Town area and of course enjoy some German food by the Neckar River.
It’s worth noting that while there we heard more English than German on the streets. And then occasionally store owners would asked me why I was speaking in Deutsch. But being a faithful student, “Ich muss praktisch.” (I must practice).
On this trip our first visit was to the Heidelberg Schloss or castle, which can be seen from quite a distance. We took the Funicular (cable car) up to the castle but walked the path down. If your legs can handle it, I would definitely recommend the hike. The views coming down are amazing.
The main castle has been reconstructed after being burned three times and under attack during the 30 Years War. The small castle models at the beginning of the tour show the majesty and grandeur of this once highly prominent Hapsburg dynasty castle and gardens.
It was €6 for a combo ticket which included castle entry and the round-trip ride up the mountain. However, the castle’s English tours cost an additional few euros. The English tours, which last about 50 minutes, are very interesting and are set according to demand.
Stroll Through Heidelberg
After our castle tour, we walked to the Altstadt (Old Town) and its famous bridge. The Carl Theodor Bridge of Heidelberg is one of pride and joy. As fascinating and formidable as the bridge is, we were told this is where tradesmen and boaters were stopped to pay taxes to use the river. From the towers that flank the bridge crossing, I would guess this was the same process if you were crossing the bridge by carriage as well.
We ate with the towers to our back at the Goldener Hecht Hotel. I had passed this restaurant a few times before this year and noticed that there was a line just to get a table. The smells just drew me in, so on this trip I needed to stop and try the food. The restaurant’s location is great and the food was superb.
Today we enjoyed Kurbisscreme (Pumpkin Cream) soup and a salad. We also tried the regionally renowned dessert Kaiserschmarrn.
This souffle-like cinnamon whipped concoction was hard for me to put my fork down.
You can also choose to finish your meal off with a Gelato or a “Schneeballen” (a Franconian dessert). Regardless, there are plenty of delicious options to select from while in this romantic city.
After eating we walked through the vibrant streets of Heidelberg to also burn off some of those calories.
There were no shortage of stores, including many tourist shops on the main streets; however, we stuck to the sides streets. These side streets are mostly dotted with artisan shops, small crafters, book stores and museums with a great foot traffic.
Other Things to See and Do
Because Heidelberg has so much to see and I am missing a lot, I would love to do a follow-up. Another nostalgic and memorable stop along our walk was the Jewish Synagogue Memorial.
This heart moving and sad World War II memorial was just one of the places along our river walk.
And if seeing Heidelberg by boat is your fancy, then you can do that too.
Another charming coincidence was the bells ringing through the city from the cathedral, the Church of the Holy Spirit on the Marketplatz.
I remembered the Christmas Market on the church square years ago. The Christmas Market in and near the square was one of my favorites.
Heidelberg is a nice day trip for military communities in Stuttgart, Kaiserslautern and Wiesbaden. Easily this town could take several day trips to discover! This historic city offers spectacular views as well as wonderful walks along the river.
How to Get There
Heidelberg is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes north of Stuttgart, just over 1 hour east of Kaiserslautern and over 1 hour south of Wiesbaden. Click on DB Bahn for train information.
Author’s Profile: Wendy Payne is a military spouse and lives with her family in Stuttgart, Germany. She is a freelance writer, blogger and photographer. She also enjoys gardening, hiking, yoga and sharing Europe with people.
Featured Image Photo Credit: © Princess