Top 10 Places to Visit and Things to Do in Heidelberg, Germany
Since we live in Darmstadt, Germany, which is approximately 55 km from Heidelberg, doing day trips to Heidelberg is easy. After having visited this lovely city multiple times, I have finally decided to jot down the 10 best experiences in Heidelberg.
Heidelberg is a lovely city in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg in Germany. It is best known for its castle, beautiful views of the river Neckar and Altstadt ( i,e the old city). Since we live close to Heidelberg, we have done multiple day trips. But if you stay far from Heidelberg or are visiting Germany as a tourist, I would highly recommend spending at least two days in this lovely city to see most of the important sites at a relaxed pace.
In this article, I shall first take you through the top 10 places to visit in Heidelberg, Germany. After that, I shall explain how you can plan a visit to Heidelberg, such that you use your time effectively to see all the places.
So, let us start.
Here are the Top 10 places to visit and things to do in Heidelberg, Germany:
- Visit Heidelberg Castle ( Heidelberger Schloss)
Heidelberg Castle is undoubtedly the most important landmark of Heidelberg. It is a 16th-century castle with Renaissance architecture. Located just 80 meters above ground level, this castle can be reached by a hike/car/bus or the funicular rail, which starts at Kornmarkt. Once you reach the castle, you can start by walking along its walls and enjoying the lovely views of the town and the river Neckar. After you enter the castle, you can walk around the vast courtyard. Later you can relax and enjoy food at a cafe inside the castle. You also get lovely views of the valley and river from the castle terrace.
The official website for Heidelberg Caste is https://www.schloss-heidelberg.de/. Here, you can read more about the castle and check tour prices. However, you cannot buy the tickets for the castle visit online. They are readily available at the counter at the castle entrance. If you buy the Schlossticket, you can access the castle courtyard, the pharmacy museum and the big barrel ( described below).
- Visit the Deutsches Apotheken-Museum (Pharmacy Museum)
While in the castle, don’t miss visiting the Deutsches Apotheken-Museum (Pharmacy Museum). The pharmacy museum takes you on a fascinating journey into the history of medicine and treatments used in the middle ages. The exhibits are lovely, and access to the pharmacy lab is a unique experience in this place. A visit to the pharmacy museum is included in the Schlossticket.
You can even visit the herb garden if you wish to see the herbs that were used in treatments during the middle ages. However, access to the herb garden only is through a guided tour. You can find more details about the museum and guided tours on the official website of the pharmacy museum: https://www.deutsches-apotheken-museum.de/
- Visit the Großes Fass
Großes Fass means big barrel. This 18th-century wine barrel is another not-to-miss attraction in Heidelberg Castle. Access to the big barrel is also included in the Schlossticket. A climb down the ramp leads visitors to the castle basement that houses two barrels -one big and the other massive!
You can even climb a flight of steps to reach the top of the bigger barrel. The barrel is big and has a capacity of 60,000 gallons. The place also houses a small restaurant offering visitors a wine-tasting experience.
- Visit the Palace Gardens
When you have seen everything in the castle to your heart’s content, exit the castle and enter the lavish castle gardens. Access to the gardens is free. Here, you will find plenty of open green space. Here, you can walk along the walls, relax under the shade of a tree, enjoy a picnic or engage in outdoor games.
There are sculptures and modern structures, which you can see while in the gardens. The garden also offers lovely views of the castle, the valley and the river.
- Visit Königstuhl :
Königstuhl translates to Kings Chair. Located 568 meters high, Königstuhl is a hill that offers lovely views of the valley and Neckar River. You can either hike up to the top of the hill or reach there by bus, car or funicular. Apart from enjoying the lovely views, you can also walk in the adjoining forest, adding a nature experience to your visit. There is plenty of free parking space, access to public toilets, and cafes/restaurants at Königstuhl.
- Visit Tinnunculus Falknerei:
Tinnunculus Falknerei is a falconry located at Königstuhl. Here, they regularly conduct a 45 minutes flight display ( called Flugvorführungen). Please note that these displays are performed only twice a day. So, it would be a good idea to check their official website https://tinnunculus-heidelberg.de/, and reach Königstuhl accordingly so that you can add this to your experience.
- Visit Altstadt and Hauptstraße
A visit to Heidelberg is incomplete if you didn’t visit the Altstadt. Altstadt means old city. This place is known for its restaurants, cafes, ice cream bars and, most importantly, its lively atmosphere. The place is always buzzing with activity that boosts the energy of the city.
In Altstadt, walk around to see the lovely old houses, churches and buildings that stand out because of their beautiful architecture and unique facades. Also, take a table laid outside any restaurant and enjoy a local meal while you enjoy the sun and the cheerful atmosphere. Walk around, and click photos in the picturesque old town. You will surely find many lovely backdrops.
- Take a walk on Karl Theodor Bridge
The Karl Theodor Bridge, commonly known as Alte Brucke meaning Old Bridge, is an arch bridge that crosses the Neckar River. It connects the Old City (Altstadt) with the Neuenheim district of the city on the opposite bank. The walk on the bridge offers lovely views of the river.
There are many sculptures to be admired too. The most prominent one is the Affenturm, which is the statue of a monkey. Tourists can place their heads within the hollow monkey head and take fun pictures. Local legend has it that rubbing the mirror, that the monkey is holding, brings good luck; rubbing its fingers ensures a return to Heidelberg; and touching the little bronze-cast mice nearby brings fertility.
- Walk along the river and Take a river cruise on the Neckar
The stretch along the banks of the river is long. If you want to move away from the crowd to quieter places, walk along the bank and find a peaceful spot where you can enjoy the cool breeze and a more tranquil atmosphere.
You can also add a river cruise to your experience while you are in Heidelberg. Use Heidelberg Marketing’s official website to book a ship tour of your choice: https://www.heidelberg-marketing.de/planen/schifffahrt
- Visit Heidelberg Zoo and the neighbouring Botanical Garden
If you are in Heidelberg with small kids, you might want to add visiting the Heidelberg Zoo to your itinerary. The zoo is large. Visitors get to see tigers, Asian elephants, bears and many species of birds. Apart from that, if you visit in spring/early summer, you will also get an opportunity to spot many species of plants and flowers in full bloom. It is a delight indeed for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts. To plan your visit, you can check their official website: https://www.zoo-heidelberg.de/#. Please note that you can buy the tickets at the counter. Tickets are not sold online.
Before or after visiting the zoo, you can also visit the Botanical garden, which is just a few meters away and can be reached on foot. In the Botanical garden, you can spot many species of plants you can’t find commonly elsewhere.
There are many more places to visit in Heidelberg, but these are the ten best.
Let me now come to the part about planning your visit to Heidelberg.
Heidelberg is well-connected to major cities in Germany. You can book Deutsche Bahn’s official website to book tickets to reach Heidelberg by train.
Alternatively, you can also get there by car. If you have a driver’s licence but no car yet, you can consider booking a SIXT rental car for your trip on their official website. We have used SIXT on our trips and found their car quality excellent, service fantastic and prices reasonable.
Travelling within Heidelberg:
If you reach Heidelberg by train, you must use local buses and trams to reach all your desired destinations. Public transport is run by RNV (Rhein-Neckar-Verkehr GmbH) in Heidelberg. You can buy tickets for the desired destination from any ticket vending machine at Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof ( Heidelberg Central Station) or at the tram stop outside the station.
If you travel by car, you only have to worry about finding a parking spot. There are plenty of parking spots in the city, but finding it just by driving on the streets is difficult, especially during peak tourist season. Use the link below to find parking in the city: https://parken.heidelberg.de/
Planning your Heidelberg Visit:
As I mentioned earlier, you need at least two days to cover all the sites mentioned in my list. Here is how you can plan your visit.
Reach Altstadt. From the Funicular station at Kornmarkt, buy the Funicular ticket and reach Königstuhl. Spend your time enjoying the city views from the hilltop if you like hiking, head to the adjoining forest. Visit the Falconry at Königstuhl. Then come back to Altstadt for lunch.
After lunch, head to Heidelberg Castle. You can either take the funicular or hike up to the castle. Since it is not located very high up the hill, the hike is easy. You can even take the funicular. Buy the Schlossticket, which covers the funicular ride + the castle courtyard visit + the pharmacy museum and Großes Fass, at the ticketing counter at the castle entrance. If you want, you can add a guided tour to your experience. Ask for it at the ticket counter at the castle entrance.
After the castle visit, spend time in the Schlossgarten ( Castle Garden). You can plan a picnic, or play outdoor games or take a walk enjoying the sites and sounds and lovely views of the castle as well as the valley below.
After spending time in the garden, head back to the base, i.e. Altstadt. I would recommend walking down instead of taking the funicular. The walking path is lovely and runs through a path covered with lush greenery. Indeed a treat for the senses.
After returning to Altstadt, stop by for a coffee at any local restaurant. Then take a walk on the Old Bridge, admire the sculptures on the bridge, the lovely views of the Neckar River and the complete view of the castle.
You can call it a day after this or add a river cruise to the experience if you still have energy. There are night cruises too ( link shared above), which a perfect during the summer months.
Start your day by visiting the Botanic Garden. The garden is lovely. There is plenty of space to sit, relax, and hear the lovely sounds of birds and insects in the garden. After visiting the garden, walk along the Heidelberg University Road and get an outside view of the famous university.
Then head to Heidelberg Zoo. The zoo is huge, and if you plan to see everything and include lunch in between ( which you can have at the zoo itself), you will easily spend a little more than half a day here.
After the zoo visit, you can call it a day OR, if you didn’t do the river cruise the previous day, you could do it after the zoo visit.
Accomodation in Heidelberg:
Try to find a location near Altstadt (the old city). Since you will be spending a lot of time in that area, having a place to stay nearby will give you the choice of coming back and relaxing for a while in between if all the walking etc makes you tired. Also, if you stay in Altstadt, and say you have reached there by car, you can leave your car parked at your hotel/homestay. That way, you can save yourself the trouble of looking for parking and the additional expenses.
You can find accommodations in Heidelberg on Booking.com
Heidelberg is a lovely city and a must-visit when in Germany. Check out other lovely locations that we have visited as a family here.
Also, check out many more lovely pictures taken at various locations in Heidelberg in my photo gallery page.
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