It is no secret that Heidelberg is a jewel among German travel destinations. Heidelberg is located in the Neckar river valley right where the dark Odenwald (Forest of Odes) opens up towards the plains of the Rhine Valley. Heidelberg is home to the oldest university in Germany (est. 1386). With 28,000 students, the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität (or Ruperto Carola, as the university is called in Latin) is one of Germany's larger academic institutions and boasts the full spectrum of an ancient academy, from Egyptian Studies to Computer Linguistics. The faculties for Medicine, Law and Natural Sciences are considered to be among the best in Germany. The university fostered the settlement of several other world class research institutions such as the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the European Molecular Biological Laboratory (EMBL), Center for Molecular Biology (ZMBH), Max-Planck-Institutes for Medicine, Astronomy, Nuclear Physics and others. In a nutshell, Heidelberg is an academic city with a rich history and shows many similarities to cities like Cambridge or Oxford (Heidelberg and Cambridge, UK are twinned).
During WWII, the city was almost completely spared by allied bombings which destroyed most of Germany's larger inner cities. As a result, Heidelberg has retained its baroque charm of narrow streets, picturesque houses and of course the world-famous Schloss (castle). After the war, the United States Armed Forces built large barracks on the southern end of the city. Therefore, Heidelberg's 130,000 inhabitants include not only the 28,000 students of the university, but also nearly 30,000 American citizens, almost all soldiers and their families. Together with the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors, Heidelberg is truly an internationally and culturally diverse destination, despite its small size.
Over the years, Heidelberg has attracted numerous artists, intellectuals and academics from all over Europe and has sometimes been called a secret intellectual capital of Germany. People who have lived and worked in the city include the poets Joseph von Eichendorff, Jean Paul and Goethe, scientists such as Bunsen and Kirchhoff, philosophers such as the founder of the "Illuminati" order von-Knigge, atheist Ludwig Feuerbach, existentialist Karl Jaspers, political theorist Hannah Arendt and many more. Mark Twain wrote in A Tramp Abroad:
...Out of a billowy upheaval of vivid green foliage ...rises the huge ruin of Heidelberg Castle, with empty window arches, ivy-mailed battlements, moldering towers—the Lear of inanimate nature—deserted, discrowned, beaten by the storms, but royal still, and beautiful.
Stuttgart - nice for European 'EU-domestic' flights.
ICE Train from Frankfurt or Stuttgart Airport to Heidelberg
Your first chance to ride Germany's fastest train running at 300 km/h (180 mph) .
Both Airports have train stations inside the terminal - Frankfurt-Airport even is a major ICE-train stop.
Reservation is not necessary, just buy your ticket at the counter or machine after you landed, credit cards are accepted, staff speaks english. It might be necessary to change trains (only once) at Mannheim, Stuttgart or Frankfurt Central Station, but still it is likely to be faster than the bus. One way prices: Frankfurt €24.50 (ICE), Stuttgart €26 (IC) €38 (ICE). Taking slow trains will be much cheaper espacially if you have a five persons group ticket "Schönes Wochenende" for €37 total.
Lufthansa Shuttle Bus
If you don't like trains, but prefer to see the German Autobahn, Lufthansa provides a shuttle bus from Frankfurt to Heidelberg for €22 one way and €40 round trip. If you have a Lufthansa Ticket, you get €2 discount.
Frankfurt-Hahn - A hillbilly airport in the middle of nowhere (excuse me, the beautyful green mountains of Hunsrück) served by Ryanair. If you get there really cheap, this is an option, but the bus might cost as much as your airline ticket.
Mannheim Next airport (just 20km), but only for small turboprop planes
The main train station Heidelberg Hbf is located in the western part of the city, from there you can take a tram to any place downtown e.g. Bismarckplatz. Check for connections to "Heidelberg Bismarckplatz" on this site! (Taxis are not recommended as they are far more expensive than trams!!!)
German Railway Website offering schedules for ANY public transport in Europe (from local buses in Heidelberg to trains to Moscow...)
The A5 connects Heidelberg directly to Frankfurt and Karlsruhe. It's easy to reach from any direction.
The city runs a small rather effective system of trams and busses. The two most important nodal points are the main station and Bismarckplatz. Bus #32 and #33 connect the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) with the old city area; detailed maps, schedules and routes can be found online. A mountain railway runs between four stations (including the castle), linking the old city on the level of the river with the summit of the Königstuhl Mountain, about 400 m (1312 feet) above the city.
The "Heidelberg Card", a tourist pass which includes public transportation, many museums and the mountain railway, can be bought at the tourist information.
Castle at Heidelberg
The Altstadt (historical city center) and Hauptstrasse (main street)
The Castle: an audio guide tour of the castle and its grounds is available for a fee near the entrance. It is available in several languages, including English. There is also a statue to the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the castle gardens.
The Philosophenweg which can be found on the northern side of the city. It provides a wonderful view across the oldest part of the city. Here you can find the site of the famous Merian Stich (engraving) which is a popular illustration of Heidelberg.
The Heiligenberg mountain which boasts a wonderful view over the old town
The Thingstätte on top of Heiligenberg (an open-air theatre built by the Nazi regime in 1934 to host propaganda events)
Also on the Heiligenberg the remnants of a wall ancient Celts built to keep Germanic tribes out, the Heidenloch, a deep well with unknown origins, and the ruins of a 10th century cloister.
The Kurpfälzisches Museum on the Hauptstrasse contains interesting exhibits of items from Heidelberg's pre-history to modern times.
The old university on Universitätsplatz in the old city and the adjacent old armory which is now a student cafeteria (but also open to the public).
Jesuitenkirche has 1712 Baroque construction with modern touches inside.
The Heiliggeistkirche church is only one of many large and small churches, but definitely the one with the most interesting history. During the dark ages, it was the shelter of the Bibliotheka Palatina, Germany's oldest library. The Bibliotheka was stolen and brought to Rome but eventually returned in pieces. Today, parts of it can be visited in the University Library (also the oldest and probably the most valuable of its kind in Germany), which is situated close to the old university.
View of cathedral from Heidelberg Castle
You can get a great view of the Heiliggeistkirche, Old Town, and the Neckar river bridge from the castle (Schloss Heidelberg).
The city boasts more than twelve cinemas, over eight theaters, including
Stadttheater the large state-run theater, and
Zimmertheater on Hauptstrasse, Germany's oldest private theater
There are also many progressive culture centers, including the famous Karlstorbahnhof in the east-end of the old city.
Königstuhl-Mountain, 568 m (1560 ft) high, 450 m (1480 ft) above Heidelberg, is a nice option to escape the hustle and buslte of Heidelberg downtown. The mountain top of Königstuhl offers a nice view over Heidelberg and the rhine valley. In good wheather conditions you can see the Northern Black Forest. You maybe already took the funicular railway up to the castle - continue up to the mountain top! You will have to change trains once - the final one to the top is a historical wooden funicular train. On the top you can have a look at the more-than-100-year-old engine that just pulled you up (No worries... Made in Germany!)
If you feel like you should do some sport, instead you take the Himmelsleiter (Heaven's Ladder or Sky Ladder) - a stairway of 1200 steps winding up 270 meters (890 ft) up to Königstuhl. It ends 10 meters east of the mountain top funicular station. The lower end of stairs is just above the castle, but a bit hidden - ask locals or look it up on this map.
Don't miss out the exquisitely stocked but quite expensive record shop Vinyl Only on the university square.
For books in English, try The English Bookstore at Plöck 93 (tel: 06221-183001).
Go by the Cathedral during the day for small markets selling souvenirs
BBQ & Beer - On sunny summer days the "Neckarwiese" ('Neckar meadow', northern bank of Neckar river, just west of Bismarckplatz) is full of people relaxing in the sun, having a Barbecue or a beer... This place also offers a nice view to the castle. You will have to bring your own grill, beer and steaks. Cheap grills to use once are availible at the "Bauhaus" do-it-youself store at Kurfürsten-Anlage 11, just 200m south of Bismarckplatz. Nice way to mix with locals.
Snacks: Along the Hauptstrasse, which runs through the center of town, you will find several bakeries that serve local specialities including “Brezeln” (pretzels). Department stores have a nice selection of delicatessen stalls called “Markthallen” where you can eat everything on the spot.
Many of the cafes in Heidelberg set up outside tables when the weather is fair, and these are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. A popular destination for summer cafe beer sipping and lounging is the Marktplatz, which is adjacent to the Heiliggeistkirche.
Meals: The Haupstrasse is plentiful with an amazing variety of restaurants. Dishes tend to be served in large portions, relatively inexpensive and of good quality. You can find something for almost every taste including Japanese, Indian, Italian, Chinese, German and Bavarian. American fast food and "Döner" restaurants cater to the budget conscious and late-night crowds.
Mensa im Marstallhof Maybe the most beautiful University Canteen in Germany, offering food and beer at low prices in a historic buildling and a Beer Garden!. Everybody is welcome, Open till late...
Supan's Thai Bistro, on the Hauptstraße right at the Universitätsplatz next to the "Vinyl Only" record shop. An excellent, reasonably priced, Thai restaurant, with great service.
Korean/Sushi restaurant, Heiliggeiststraße 3, close to the Marktplatz, next to the Hotel zum Rathaus, a seemingly little-known, but great sushi place (also serves Korean food).
More than 300 bars, pubs, clubs, discotheques and the like, from Bavarian style tourist restaurants with deer antlers on the walls to extremely left-wing student bars which reserve the right to refuse police officers entry to the bar. You name it. Find your place and enjoy yourself. Heidelberg knows no curfew. Most bars close at 1am, but especially the students bars are often open until the early morning. Although the locals -- even the police officers -- are used to drunk tourists as well as to drunk students, please be calm on your way home and do not riot. As a remnant of the student revolts, Heidelberg has the largest ratio of policemen per capita and you may find yourself in the arms of an officer much faster than you think.
If you are a young person and happen to discover one of the student parties (which are quite numerous but advertised mostly by word-of-mouth), you scored the jackpot. Get inside, get a (dirt cheap) beer and have fun. But try and avoid being recognised as a tourist. No party ends before 3am and many run until 6 or 7am. Either Untere Straße or the Zieglers (Heidelbergs oldest students' bar) are frequently crowded with students.
Wines are produced around Heidelberg (e.g. Schriesheim, Wiesloch), but it might be difficult to get hold of them - unless you simply go to a vineyard... When you buy wine, always a safe bet is a Riesling from Pfalz or some white wine from Baden instead, or try any of the numerous wines from other German wine regions.
Vineyards Vineyards are usually located in the middle of small towns along Bergstraße (Highway B3). Fruit farmers sell wine right on their farm e.i. vineyard - make sure you also ask for Apple Wine (Hesse specialty) and New Wine (wine still in process of fermentation - sold from the barrel, bring a canister!) which you can sometimes drink in some 'wine-beergarden' right on site. Take a tram (5/5R) northbound to any place between Schriesheim and Lützelsachsen or a local train (S3/S4) southbound to Wiesloch - or (even better, if you have the time) S1 or S2 to Neustadt, where you will find yourself in an endless landscape of vine stocks.
Next to the Old Bridge, there are two small breweries: The Kulturbrauerei in the Leyergasse and Vetter's Brauhaus in the Steingasse. Vetter's is famous for having one of the strongest beers in world (Vetter 33).
Mensa im Marstallhof Maybe the most beautiful University Canteen in Germany and maybe also Heidelberg's cheapest Beer Garden. Serving Welde-Beer (the Beer with screwed bottle necks and answering on any question... ) Everybody is welcome, Open till late...
If you want to mix with the locals, try the Untere Strasse, which runs between the Hauptstrasse and the river, parallel to both. It is packed with the student bars, including the crowded:
Großer Mohr. Small but highly recommended. Tuesday night the odds are high to find the Mohr besieged by medical students.
Sonderbar. The latter boasts a huge collection of absinthe, whiskeys and whiskys, as well as a very distinctive atmosphere.
Destille. There is a tree in in the center of the establishment.
Trinidad. This cocktail bar at the edge of the Old Town is small, but famous for its drinks and continuously receives praise in local restaurant guides.
O'Reillys, . An Irish pub north of the river, just over the bridge from Bisi (Bismarckplatz).
Dubliner A good Irish pub at the center of Heidelberg Mainstreet (Downtown)
Ham Ham's A great place to chill, drink, and smoke.
Nektar A very relaxed and chill place to enjoy a drink and party
B.J.Z. Bar Great place to party in Emmertsgrund, its a B.Y.O.A. (Bring your own alcohol) and you can crash anywhere in the house
The Brass Monkey Friendly bar on Haspelgasse, just opposite the old bridge. Good crowd and all staff also speak fluent English.
If you are looking for coffee rather than alcohol, Star Coffee has two branches, one off Bismarckplatz and the other on the Hauptstrasse, serving a variety of coffees and offering free WiFi access. Fewer computers but more style are found in the two Moro Cafes, directly at the Alte Brücke and one on the Hauptstraße.
Recently, most pubs close much earlier in the night, even on the weekends at around 2am. Just move to one of the numerous clubs, which usually have no entrance fee this late at night.
Heidelberg is an extremely safe city (even by German standards). However, women walking alone at night should take the usual precautions they would do anywhere else. Walking along the northern Neckar banks at night would not be advised, except in groups, particularly by the Studentenwohnheime (dorms). The shrubs are thick and it is very dark.
Usually there won't be any problem. If you are a bit 'paranoid' you can take a Taxi. If you are from New York, you might think they are cheap - if you are from East-Europe or Asia you will feel like they are ripping you off... use as needed. There are also "Frauentickets" available for women, you can buy these coupons for 8€ and they will cover the fare for anywhere in the city.
Don't walk on bicycle lanes! - Really don't! (they are often painted in red, but always separated from the pedestrian lanes by a white line): Heidelberg has more cyclists than motorists, and many of them have a rather cavalier way of riding. The southern parallel street to Hauptstrasse (called Plöck) is the main traffic channel for student cyclists between Bismarkplatz and University Square. During the day it can be such a buzz, it's already a sight worth visiting. But watch out: Many cyclists feel safe from the tourists there and lose all their good manners.
Steffi's Hostel Heidelberg, Alte Eppelheimer Str. 50 (Just walk straight out of the station and cross the big street and the tram rails in front of you. On the other side there's a modern building, where you enter a shopping arcade (Kurfürstenpassage – Jack Wolfskin / Backpacker Store). Again you walk straight ahead through the passage and leave it on the opposite side. From the exit you can already see a big brick stone building in front of you. Here on the third floor above the Lidl supermarket, Steffis Hostel Heidelberg is situated.), ☎ +49 (0)6221/7782772 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 10am - 1pm and 5pm - 8pm; checkout: until 12. Dorms from 20 Euro, everything included.
Youth Hostel Heidelberg, Tiergartenstrasse 5, ☎ 06221/65119-0, . (Jugendherberge Heildelberg) Large well maintained hostel, located on the eastern bank of the Neckar River, 25 min walk away from the central rail station. Public transportation: take bus 32 from central rail station towards north (Sportzentrum Nord), get off at Jugendherberge stop. Dorms from 28,30 EUR including breakfast and linen, various concession apply. Towels can be rented from the reception for additional 2 EUR.
Hotel ISG, . Hotel ISG is located in the suburb of Boxberg is about a 15 minute taxi ride from central Heidelberg. Fitted out in the Bauhaus style the rooms are comfortable enough (and the bathrooms are excellent) but there is nothing to do in Boxberg.
Hotel Restaurant Scheid. Hotel Restaurant Scheid is a nice, quiet, reasonably priced hotel in the suburb of Schriesheim, a short tram ride north of Heidelberg. Schriesheim is built on a hill so if you are hitting the clubs, don't forget about the late 30 min. night walk up the hill from the tram stop (Schriesheim Bahnhof) to Hotel Scheid. Phone +49 (0)6203 6050.
The Ritter, Hauptstrasse 178, (email@example.com). The Ritter is the oldest building (1592) in Heidelberg that has outlasted all fires and wars that have haunted the city over the times. It can get a little noisy considering its location directly at the heart of the Altstadt. Japanese tourists seem to love taking photos of this picturesque renaissance establishment and have been seen in droves doing just that.
Hip Hotel, Hauptstrasse 115, . This was revamped in 2005 as a boutique hotel. Each room is modeled after a famous city, the most interesting room being the Zermatt (for Heidi and skiing fans).
Hotel Neu Heidelberg, . Hotel Neu Heidelberg is located in the west of Heidelberg's center. Recommendable 3 star hotel with lovely restaurant, nice breakfast buffet, terrace, garden, wlan, bicycles for guests, free parking, various int. tv channels, etc. Easily reachable by car and public transportation.
NH Hotel Heidelberg, . Located about 1km west of the edge of the Altstadt, situated in an old brewery. However its been totally renovated and fitted out in a modernist decor, all glass, wood floors and exposed metal. Some of the rooms are very pleasant, though the ones overlooking the main road can be noisy. Food in the bar is disappointing.
Crowne Plaza, . A fairly standard anonymous business hotel is located just off Bismarckplatz. Rooms near the lifts can be extremely noisy, so are best avoided.
Holiday Inn Heidelberg, Pliekartsfoerster Strasse 101, (toll free: 0800181 6068), . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Standard hotel that's about 5 kilometers outside of the center of Heidelberg. Amenities include a sauna and gym. Internet access comes at a hefty minimum price of €10 for 60 minutes or €17 for 24 hours if travelers are only looking to browse. For business users, it's even more expensive. €198 +.
Hotel Holländer Hof Heidelberg, Neckarstaden 66, Tel: +49/6221/60 500. The hotel has a unique view of the Neckar River and the Philosopher´s Walk. It is located in the middle of the historical old city centre, just opposite the Old Bridge. The famous Heidelberg castle, as well as all sights of Heidelberg can be reached within a few walking minutes. The Restaurants and the pedestrian area are located around the corner. All rooms are equipped with private facilities, telephone, TV set, minibar, safety-deposit-box, hair dryer and analogue WLan Internet-access. And some with air-conditioning.
Der Europäischer Hof, . Located just on the edge of the Altstadt Der Europäischer Hof a classic privately owned five star hotel. Pleasant atmosphere and attentive staff. Most of the rooms look out over the courtyard and are therefore admirably quiet.
Hirschgasse Heidelberg, Hirschgasse 3 - 69120 Heidelberg, ☎ +49 6221 4540, . checkin: 3 PM; checkout: 12 AM. The Hirschgasse is the oldest Hotel of Heidelberg and the oldest student dwelling house of Germany. It was first mentioned in a love story in 1472 and is nestled in a little side valley of a select residential area opposite the Heidelberg castle. An impressive walk along the River Neckar will take you to the Altstadt on the other side of the river. Mark Twain wrote about this in his book "A Tramp Abroad." The rooms are all unique and will delight Laura Ashley fans and the ones seeking a good shot of authentic romantic ambiance. It comes along with two restaurants: the historic Mensurstube with regional dishes and over 250 year old tables, even Count Otto von Bismarck carved his name into. The elegant Le Gourmet is a classic French restaurant with attentive but yet uncomplicated service and will delight your credit cards with a good value for a swipe. A vineyard only a stone's throw away from the hotel "Sunnyside upon the Bridge" provides a good local Riesling or Late Burgundy.from 125 to 335.
Bertha Benz Memorial Route - Follow the tracks of the world's first automobile journey (Mannheim - Pforzheim - Mannheim) back in 1888 , leading right through Heidelberg
Weinheim - A small city between Darmstadt and Heidelberg
Dilsberg / Neckarsteinach - has four small castles in a row. Dilsberg's castle has a well which is accesible by a tunnel. Neckarsteinach's railway station is 20 mins away taking the S1 or S2 train from Hauptbahnhof or Karlstorbahnhof. From there it is a 5 km walk on a forest trail to Dilsberg, a medieval village with a town wall. The Dilsberg youth hostel is in the old city gate.
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