Are you planning a city trip to Heidelberg in the near future? Then I’ll show you what you can do here and which sights you can explore on foot in Heidelberg’s old town. For me, Heidelberg is one of the most beautiful travel destinations in Germany, and in this article, I will show you why.
Heidelberg is the oldest university city in Germany and, for me, is one of the most beautiful cities in Baden-Württemberg (and in all of Germany). Many of my school friends studied here and stayed forever. It’s no wonder that I often visit here because Heidelberg can be reached in less than an hour from my hometown of Heilbronn. I like it here mainly in the low season when there are not so many tourists in the baroque old town. The Christmas market is one of the most beautiful in Germany.
If you want to explore the most beautiful Heidelberg sights such as the Heidelberg Castle, Old Bridge, or the Philosopher‘s Walk, then you’ve come to the right place. Heidelberg is an ideal destination in the north of Baden-Württemberg that you can explore in one day.
Due to the beautiful location on the Neckar, you can even arrive by Neckar boat trip. The railway tracks also lead along beautiful nature, along the Neckar, past castles, palaces, and panoramas that I have to keep reminding myself how beautiful our federal state is.
You can easily explore the most important sights in Heidelberg in one day. My tips for the old town of Heidelberg, the Heidelberg Castle as well as ideas for visiting with children and for fans of street art follow here.
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Top 10 Sights in Heidelberg
Most of Heidelberg’s top sights are in the manageable old town, whose streets you can easily explore on foot. A day trip is sufficient for this. If you want to get to know more about Heidelberg or the beautiful surroundings, I advise you to plan a whole weekend for the city and the surrounding area.
- Heidelberger Castle
- philosopher’s path
- Old bridge over the Neckar
- Holy Spirit Church
- Hauptstrasse – longest shopping street in Europe
- Heidelberg University Library
- student detention
- Kornmarkt, the most beautiful square in town
- German Pharmacy Museum
- royal chair
Sights in The Old Town
The highlights and landmarks in Heidelberg can be explored stress-free in one day. It is best to start your exploration at the main station. This is where most arrive. Then head towards the market square, where you can get information from the tourist information if you need it.
Just let yourself drift through the alleys in the old town. This is how you get a great first impression. I prefer to be here when it is not the main tourist season. Then it’s really comfortable.
You can use the longest pedestrian zone in Europe (1.6 km) for an extensive shopping spree. To be honest, it used to be more idyllic and individual. Because today you will only find individual shops off the mainstream in the side streets.
In the old town, you have to keep your eyes open for pubs, restaurants, and beer gardens. Back then, when absinthe was really trendy, the special Heidelberg bar had a special cult following. You can find more tips for pubs, cafés, and restaurants below.
The market square is in the center of the city center and corresponds to the old town. In the center is the Hercules Fountain. The place where criminals were pilloried in the Middle Ages. The market square is particularly beautiful in December. Because the market square is one of the five places where the stalls of the Christmas market are located. A real highlight in the city on the Neckar.
Kornmarkt, the Most Beautiful Square in Town
Next to the castle, the most photographed object by tourists is the Kornmarkt. Not the city’s central market square, but the nicer and more popular one. This is of course because you have a particularly great view of the castle and the castle hill.
The town hall, Palais Graimberg, and the Prince Carl building are located on the Kornmarkt. The facades of the small (expensive) residential buildings are also worth a closer look. The cable car that takes you up to the castle is very close by.
An eye-catcher on the square is the Mother of God fountain, also known as the Kornmarkt-Madonna, which Elector Karl Philipp had built in 1718 as a symbol of the Counter-Reformation.
Good to know: In the middle of the Kornmarkt, on the paving stones, are the outlines of the Heilig-Geist-Spital, which was demolished in 1557 to make way for the Kornmarkt. look down
Are you in Heidelberg in December? Then you must know that there is a beautiful Christmas market at the Kornmarkt.
Tip for photography: The sun is ideal in the late afternoon. In the morning you take a frontal photo of the sun.
One of the most beautiful and well-known sights in Baden-Württemberg and Germany is Heidelberg Castle and the castle ruins. It is best to climb the mountain on foot via the Burgweg. You can reach the entrance in just 10 minutes. Alternatively, the cable car will take you up from the Kornmarkt.
The castle courtyard is freely accessible, you only have to pay for the interior of the castle ruins. I can particularly recommend a guided tour (only in summer) through the gloomy vaulted passages – casemates. The castle’s secret passages, hidden from the outside, date from the 16th century.
Heidelberg Castle was built on the Königsstuhl mountain. The residential building towers over Heidelberg with a magnificent view of the old town and the Neckar.
Tip for the most beautiful photo and the best view of Heidelberg Castle:
From the viewing platform on the Schlangenweg (path to the Philosophenweg), you have one of the best views of the old town and Heidelberg Castle. And thus one of the most beautiful vantage points and the most important attractions of Heidelberg in view.
Another attraction is the German Pharmacy Museum. Admission to the museum is included in the castle ticket.
Information about visiting the castle
- Opening times: daily: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; last admission: 4.30 p.m
- Admission: Adults: 9 euros, concessions: 4.50 euros ( The castle ticket includes the return trip on the mountain railway, entry to the castle courtyard, visit to the large barrel and entry to the German Pharmacy Museum )
- Ticket for the mountain railway: 4.50 euros (uniform)
- The courtyard and castle garden are freely accessible
- Audio guide available in several languages for 5 euros
- official website
- Address: Schlosshof 1
For an even better view, you can drive all the way to the top of the Königstuhl (568 m) or walk over the Himmelsleiter. The view of Heidelberg and the Neckar on nice days is really great. The great thing about this trip is that the original carriages from 1970 still operate here. The mountain railway line is one of the oldest and longest in Germany.
Incidentally, the ascent to the Königsstuhl via the Himmelsleiter marks the first stage of the multi-day hike on the Neckarsteig. The beautiful natural landscape also invites you to take shorter hikes. The state observatory and the fairytale paradise for families are also located on the summit.
Information about the journey with the Heidelberg mountain railway:
- Ticket from the Kornmarkt valley station is 9 euros including entry to the castle courtyard, barrel cellar, and the German Pharmacy Museum
- Panorama ticket up to the Königsstuhl costs 9 euros one way, return trip 14 euros
- Information on the website bergbahn-heidelberg.de
- Admission and information for the fairytale paradise here. Info: With the HeidelbergCARD, you and your children receive a 1 euro discount per person.
German Pharmacy Museum
Inside the Heidelberg Castle is the German Pharmacy Museum. It is included in the admission to the castle and you should not miss it. The museum was founded in Bamberg in 1937 but only came to Heidelberg in 1957.
It shows pharmacies, pharmacists, workplaces and accessories from the Renaissance, Baroque and Biedermeier periods. The history of pharmacy is really interesting and an attraction in itself for me. Where else could this museum be? Because Heidelberg is primarily known for medical students and is a real institution. The collection is pretty impressive.
A special highlight for children is the children’s pharmacy, where the little ones can mix tea from herbs and leaves.
Old bridge Over the Neckar
The Karl Theodor Bridge, which no one calls that, is colloquially simply the “Old Bridge”. It connects the old town with the Neuenheim district, where there are magnificent villas. Above all, the bridge gate from the Middle Ages is worth seeing.
The flair is at its most beautiful at sunset and in the evening. Then you can take great pictures of the illuminated castle here. The banks of the Neckar (“Neckarwiesen”) are also a popular meeting place for having a beer with friends in the evening. Pretty relaxed here in nature away from the hustle and bustle of the city, you are guaranteed a great view here.
Bridge Gate to the Old Town
One of the most beautiful photo motifs is the bridge gate of the Old Bridge. Here you will find the love locks in Heidelberg, street musicians often play their little songs and give the city a touch of French flair.
It’s teeming with tourists here because the route to Heidelberg’s old town is popular and a sight in itself.
Popular Photo Motif: The Monkey at the Bridge Gate
No visitor passes by without taking a photo of this attraction. We are talking about the brass sculpture of a monkey holding a mirror. You can find it next to the bridge gate (Alte Brücke) to the old town. The sculpture dates from 1979 and replaces the original, which was destroyed in 1689 during the Palatinate War of Succession.
Incidentally, the monkey is a symbol of the ugly, shameless, and vain, it reflects us, humans, so to speak. Tip for you: Touch the mirror, it is said to bring prosperity…
Go up the Philosophenweg and enjoy the most beautiful view of the old town, Neckar, and the Schoss. Start the hike at the Old Bridge and get to the Philosophenweg via the Schlangenweg. Up on the Heiligenberg to the Thingstätte, the sunny slope of the city, you will often stop to enjoy the unique views.
The path is quite steep at the beginning, but only half a kilometer long. After each curve, there is a brick seating area. Here you can relax for a moment and look down.
The classic circular route from the old town of Heidelberg along the main street over the Old Bridge and the Schlangenweg to the Philosophenweg is about four kilometers long. Here you really have the most beautiful views of Heidelberg.
If you want to hike further, you should go to the Thingstätte. This place is an open-air theater that was once built by the Nazis based on the Greek model. Traditionally, the people of Heidelberg meet here on the eve of May 1st and celebrate together on the holiday.
If you don’t feel like walking here, you can park at the Heiligenberg hiking car park. There is a beer garden up here, opposite the Stephanskloster and the ruins of the monastery of St. Michael with a tower, which you can reach up a few stairs.
The ruins of the Stephanskloster were built in 1090 by the Benedictine monk St. Stephan. In 1885 an observation tower, the Heiligenbergturm, was built from the stones of the ruins. I don’t think the view from here is that good though.
A what? You’re reading student prisons correctly. The student prison of the well-known Ruprecht Karls University was established in the 1780s and was in use until 1914. Today it is one of the most popular sights in Heidelberg.
Because at that time the university had its own court, the (smaller) sentences were served in the prison. These were crimes such as disturbing the peace at night or other offenses against public order. Today the former student prison serves as a museum of the history of the university. During your visit, you can still see the names of the students who have immortalized themselves on the brightly painted walls.
Information about the museum
- Address: Augustinerstrasse 24
- Opening times: April – October 10 am – 6 pm; November – March 10 am – 4 pm (except Sunday
- Combined ticket museum, old auditorium, and student prison: 3 euros for adults, 2.50 euros reduced
- view website
Holy Spirit Church
You cannot miss the Heiliggeistkirche in the middle of the old town. The 14th-century church is unmissable as it towers over all the buildings in the center.
You can climb the 208 steps of the church tower. From the viewing platform, you have a great view of the Neckar valley, the old town, and the castle.
Street Art in Heidelberg
If you arrive by train, you will be greeted directly by a fairly new piece of art in the station building. The street art scene is constantly growing here and in the surrounding area. Ever since the street art festival METROPOLINK took place on the former US Army site in 2015, more and more artists from Germany and all over the world have been coming to Heidelberg to immortalize their art on the wall.
If you don’t feel like exploring the street art on your own and learning about the background, you can book a tour with Metropolink .
University of Heidelberg
Heidelberg University is the oldest university in Germany, making Heidelberg the oldest university town in Germany. The Ruprecht-Karls University of Heidelberg was founded as early as 1386.
Well-known people such as Hegel, von Eichendorff, Habermas, Helmholtz, and Helmut Kohl studied or taught here. The best-known institutions of the University of Heidelberg are the university library and the above-mentioned student prison.
Did you know that the university already had a comprehensive collection of writings in 1386, but that today’s university library was only opened in 1905? You should take a look at this because it is considered one of the most beautiful library buildings in Germany. The building is a mixture of Renaissance and Art Nouveau, a building worth seeing from an architectural point of view. A highlight inside is the Codex Manesse, a medieval song collection that was even digitized by Corona.
S Printing Horse
At 13 meters high and 15 meters long, the S-Printing Horse is the largest horse sculpture in the world. You can find them in the forecourt of the Print Media Academy, a building of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. The sculpture has been here since 2000 and since then I have associated it with Heidelberg because it is the first thing you see when you drive into the city.
Heidelberg Botanical Garden
The botanical garden in Heidelberg is one of the oldest botanical gardens of all. It was founded in 1593 and is a place for research and the protection of endangered plant species.
The garden is a great place of rest and really nicely done. In recent years, I have discovered my fascination with botanical gardens while traveling.
Information about the visit
- Opening hours: Monday – Thursday: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Friday: 9 a.m. – 2.30 p.m. Saturday closed. On Sundays and public holidays: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (summer); 9 am – 4 pm (winter)
- Admission is free
The Heidelberg Zoo is one of the most beautiful zoos in Baden-Württemberg. Especially for children, the place is not too big and cozy (in contrast to the huge Wilhelma in Stuttgart).
- Opening hours: April – September 9 am – 7 pm, November – February 9 am – 5 pm and March – October 9 am – 6 pm
- Tickets: adults 11.80 euros (high season), children (3 – 18 years) 5.90 euros.
- Address: Heidelberg Zoo; Tiergartenstr. 3, 69120 Heidelberg
- Information on tickets on the zoo’s official website
Eating & Drinking
As a student city, Heidelberg has great nightlife. Especially the live concerts and parties in the swimming pool club are legendary. If you are staying in Heidelberg, you should check the website if well-known bands are performing in the small swimming pool club.
- Breakfast: Nomad, Coffee Nerd,
- Kulturbrauerei: The Heidelberg brewery with its beer garden is a place I like to visit, especially in summer. There is house beer as well as regional dishes to eat.
- Joe Molese: Super Burger in the middle of the old town on the way to the Old Bridge
- Mandy’s Railway Diner: We often went to Mandy’s Railway Dinner, especially in the years after graduation. American food in an old train car was particularly popular at the time, as many US Army GIs were still stationed in Heidelberg. The food was always great, but I haven’t been here for a long time.
- The cow that laughs: good burgers
- Mahoud’s: Delicious falafel and shawarma (there are several places in town)
- Vetter’s Alt Heidelberger Brauhaus: well-known brewery with good home cooking ( tip: beer to go and off to the Neckarwiese)
- Urban kitchen: breakfast, pizza, and burgers
- Rossi: breakfast and lunch
- Ice cream parlors: The best (and also vegan) ice cream in Heidelberg can be found in the old town at That’s Gelato, Gelato Go (both old town), and ok kool (Wieblingen)
- Macaronnerie Heidelberg: If you love macarons, you have to come and shop here!
Special institution: Heidelberg sugar shop
A really special rarity is the sugar shop. We used to call him “confectioner”. Because here you can really find any candy you can imagine. In all versions. From lollipops, gummy bears, and chocolate to cakes for special occasions, the sugar shop makes all dreams come true.
I have to look for pictures but we had a candy cake made for a friend’s wedding years ago. With a treasure chest and kangaroos and koalas as gummy bears, because it should go to Australia. We used to have gifts given here regularly.
- Address: Plöck 52 in the old town
- Opening hours: Monday to Friday 12 pm – 7 pm, Saturday 11 am – 5 pm
More travel tips & information
Tours & Activities
Popular tours in the city include guided tours of the old town. You can book these at Heidelberg Marketing or in advance online at Get Your Guide. So your ticket is secured. There are tours to the castle, on the Neckar, hikes to the Königsstuhl, or trips to the outskirts of the city in Baden-Württemberg.
Also popular are trips on the Neckar ship (only three times a year from Bad Wimpfen to Heidelberg) and the solar ship, which silently brings the city closer in 50 minutes from a view of the Neckar. There is also background information from a knowledgeable guide.
You can rent small boats right on the banks of the Neckar to cruise around on the Neckar. There is also this 2-hour kayak tour on the Neckar.
By bike on the Neckar Valley Cycle Path to Heidelberg
Heidelberg is on the Neckar Valley Cycle Path. I love this route along the Neckar. For example, if you start in Heilbronn, it is usually slightly downhill.
Since parking spaces in the city center are numerous but often full (there are many multi-story car parks), I advise you to travel to Heidelberg by train. Then you can really enjoy the panoramic trip along the Neckar. There is also a great street art painting in the main train station, which is visible immediately upon arrival.
The main train station is located in the center of the old town.
Where to stay: hotel tips
Since Heidelberg is quite popular, finding a free bed is not a problem. There are numerous hotels in good locations for exploring the city. Only in summer and at Christmas time (the Christmas market is great) should you book a hotel longer in advance.
Because the Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg is worth a visit anyway, you should consider checking in directly at the Kulturbrauerei in the heart of Heidelberg.
The fairly new Qube Hotel Bergheim is also great. The main train station is only 800 meters away and the roof terrace offers great views!
Save money with the Heidelberg Card
For sightseeing, you should buy the Heidelberg Card before you travel. Because in this attraction ticket many attractions and tours are included for free. You can use public transport to do this.
Included is, among other things, the Heidelberg Castle Ticket with a return journey for the mountain railway. There is also a Heidelberg Guide with a city map and free travel on public transport.
- Card available for 1, 2, or 4 days. The family card is worthwhile for families.
- The longer you are here, the more you can save
- If you order the Heidelberg Card online before you travel, it is usually cheaper than on-site (also available at the tourist information office)
Order the Heidelberg Card online here
Shopping in Heidelberg
The pedestrian zone in Heidelberg is another attraction. At 1.6 kilometers, it is the longest pedestrian zone in Europe. As in any big city, you will find shops from well-known brands here. I prefer the small shops in the streets of Heidelberg’s old town or other parts of the city. The most beautiful streets are the Märzgasse (turns off the main street), the Plöck (runs parallel to the main street), and the Untere Straße, where you will find one pub next to the other.
Examples of great little shops are:
- Holgersons: home accessories mostly from Danish designers (Märzgasse 16 and Sofienstraße 19)
- L’EPICERIE: spices, oil, and vinegar
Have you ever been to Heidelberg? What do you think are the most beautiful sights in Heidelberg?
Leave us a comment if we forgot an attraction! We are curious about your highlights and top sights in Heidelberg, the beautiful city on the Neckar, and look forward to your feedback.