Are you planning a trip to Germany and asking yourself, “Is Heidelberg worth visiting?”.
With towering castles, unique history, and beautiful views, this is easily one of my favorite cities in Germany. This town is certainly worth your visit!
This post will cover some of the best things to do during your visit and why Heidelberg is such a great location.
Is Heidelberg Worth Visiting In 2024?
In short terms, yes, Heidelberg is absolutely worth visiting!
Heidelberg is a small city in southwestern Germany, about an hour south of Frankfurt.
It’s home to the oldest university in Germany and has many historical buildings and castles to enjoy. In fact, it’s ranked as one of the country’s most beautiful cities, thanks to all of the unique architecture that calls Heidelberg home.
From the Heidelberg Castle peering over the hill, the cobblestone streets of Old Town, the university’s unique history, and bridges, visitors love the feel this beautiful city gives off.
It can be tough to decide what cities to add to your list when planning to visit Europe, but it is worth noting that Heidelberg is most definitely worth the visit.
What Makes Heidelberg So Attractive to Tourists?
Heidelberg is a beautiful German city and a popular tourist destination for those traveling to Europe. Because of its picturesque landscape and architecture, tourists have been drawn to the town for years.
The most popular attraction is the castle, which draws most people to Heidelberg. It has a great location perched high above the city, overlooking the river Neckar. All it takes is one look at the views you get from the Heidelberg Schloss, and then you will understand why so many tourists enjoy visiting.
Visitors also love the historical architecture found all over the city, from the Church of the Holy Spirit to the cobblestone streets of Altstadt.
9 Reasons Heidelberg is Worth Visiting
1. Heidelberg Castle
As previously mentioned, the castle is the most famous reason people visit the gorgeous town of Heidelberg, Germany. It is located on Königstuhl hill, overlooking the city and the river Neckar. You’ll see this magnificent castle from the city of Heidelberg, and even just this view will showcase why this European city is worth the visit!
In German, it’s known as the Heidelberg Schloss, which means “Heidelberg Castle.” Construction for the castle started over 700 years ago, in the 13th century.
Today, millions of visitors tour the castle each year. During open hours, you can book a guided tour of the castle’s interior, the only way to see the inside. There is even the world’s most large-scale wine barrel, the Heidelberg Tun, within the castle, which you cannot miss!
2. Altstadt (Old Town)
Located just below Heidelberg Castle sits the oldest part of the city, known as Altstadt. Hauptstraße is the main road that winds through the Old Town, and you can find many shops and restaurants along it. It’s known as one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe, making it the perfect place to stroll and spend the day exploring.
The street stretches along the river Neckar for about 1.8 kilometers, from one end of Old Town to the other. Walking along, you’ll see beautiful historic buildings like the Church of the Holy Spirit.
You can also find a traditional Christmas Market in Altstadt and an ice rink at Karlsplatz during the holiday season.
➡️Check out this excellent Heidelberg Old Town Tour!
3. Philosophenweg (Philosophers’ Walk)
Another reason why Heidelberg is worth visiting is the Philisophenweg (Philosopher’s Walk). It sits on the Heiligenberg hill across the Neckar river. This nearly 2-kilometer-long walking path has some of the most beautiful views in the city, overlooking the castle, the river, and the Old Town.
Being home to the warmest part of Germany, this area is full of vegetation, such as lemon and pomegranate trees, which usually can’t survive in the colder parts of the country.
The Philosopher’s Garden is along the Philosophenweg and offers benches for visitors to rest on and enjoy the views of the exotic plants.
It’s said that the name of this walking path perhaps came from the idea that professors and philosophers at Heidelberg University walked in the forest to gain inspiration for their teachings and studies.
4. Church of the Holy Spirit
Found right in the heart of Old Town, the Church of the Holy Spirit was officially founded in 1398. It’s assumed that the church located here before this date was destroyed in a fire, so the date given for the founding year was 1398.
The church is located right on Hauptstraße in the middle of Old Town, so you can visit and do multiple activities simultaneously.
The church was almost destroyed in another fire during the Palatine War of Succession in 1633 (Nine Years’ War). During this, the fire destroyed all but one of the graves of the Palatine electoral rulers. Following the fire, the church was later reconstructed, and it still looks the same today as it did then.
During your visit to the church, be sure to climb the steeple, which provides you with beautiful panoramic views of the city. Keep in mind that it requires over 200 steps to reach the top. Despite the mini workout, the views are worth visiting while in Heidelberg.
5. Karl Theodor Bridge
Frequently called the Old Bridge of Heidelberg, the Karl-Theodor Bridge is a staple of this small German city. It connects the Altstadt of Heidelberg and the Neuenheim District across the Neckar River.
The bridge was constructed years ago, in 1788, after the first eight bridges, made of wood, and built to connect the two sides of the river, were destroyed in fires, floods, or other natural disasters. After these bridges were all destroyed, elector Karl Theodor decided to build one made of stone to withstand the elements better.
The bridge is made of red sandstone and has several arches underneath it, making it a picturesque location. The Old Bridge has been restored several times to ensure its structural integrity because the sandstone wasn’t water resistant.
There are a few sculptures on the bridge, one of Karl Theodor and the other of the Roman Goddess Minerva. A medieval bridge gate is also on the city side of the bridge. Today, visitors enjoy strolling across the pedestrian bridge and admiring the city’s views.
👉TRAVEL TIP: A monkey statue is at the end of the bridge nearest to the town. There is a Heidelberg legend that if you rub the monkey’s mirror, you will be gifted with good fortune. On the other hand, rubbing the fingers means that you will return to Heidelberg.
6. Studentenkarzer (Student Prison)
One of the more unique things to do in Heidelberg is to visit the Studentenkarzer, or the Student Prison, within the University of Heidelberg. The University of Heidelberg is the oldest in Germany and was founded over 600 years ago, in 1386.
The Student Prison operated from the 1780s until 1914 and acted as a place to incarcerate students misbehaving on campus. The University’s jurisdiction over its students allowed to punish them for unruly behavior by imprisoning them at the Studentenkarzer. Students would serve sentences anywhere from 24 hours to 4 weeks!
Students were incarcerated for many different offenses, including acts such as drinking alcohol and causing noise disruptions. Today, visitors can head into the Studentenkarzer and see what it would have been like in the student prison. Graffiti from the students is still on the walls to this day.
7. Kurpfälzisches Museum
Since its reopening in 1908, the Kurpfälzisches Museum has sat in the center of Old Town and has been home to Heidelberg’s cultural and art history. Before officially reopening in 1908 and moving to its current location, the museum has a history dating back to the early 1800s.
In the museum, visitors will find many paintings and sculptures. You can also find archeological displays within the museum. Other exhibits include the baroque Palais Morass, a few rooms filled with valuable furniture, porcelain, and more.
8. Neckar River Boat Ride
If you’re looking for an excellent way to see what makes Heidelberg worth visiting, then booking one of these river cruises is the perfect way to see why. The Neckar River winds its way through Heidelberg, separating two sides of the city and acting as one of the most beautiful sights to see during a visit.
Although the river is beautiful, as seen from above, it’s even better when you can get onto the water and see the views from below! You’ll see views of the Heidelberg Castle from the boats, sitting high above the city.
Views of where the Philosophenweg runs along the river’s shore are also there. You’ll slowly cruise along the water and have the chance to fully enjoy the experience of seeing Heidelberg, Germany.
9. The View At Königstuhl
If you’re hunting for a beautiful view, look no further than the viewpoint from Königstuhl. Otherwise known as The King’s Seat, this viewpoint sits 568 meters high and allows visitors to look over the city of Heidelberg.
To get here, you can climb a steep staircase from Heidelberg Castle to Königstuhl. Another option is to take the funicular railway, one of the oldest electrically operated railways. Once at the top, you can enjoy the view, walk on the nature trails, or see the Falconry.
You may enjoy wandering through Märchenparadies, a Fairly Tale Theme Park, if you have little ones. You’ll find rides, climbing castles, and plenty of space for the youth to run around.
How Many Days Do You Need in Heidelberg?
If you want to get to know the city in depth and explore without feeling rushed, then the perfect amount of time in Heidelberg is 2 to 3 days.
During this time, you can explore top attractions, such as Altstadt, Heidelberg Castle, and Studentenkarzer. Then you’ll also be able to spend some extra time wandering around the museums, taking tours, and eating delicious food.
You can get by with fewer days and see the main sights, but those extra days will give you time to relax and wander the city.
Is One Day Enough in Heidelberg?
As mentioned above, the ideal amount of time spent in Heidelberg is 2 to 3 days. However, you can get by in just one day if you don’t have that much time.
Whether you’re short on time during your trip to Germany or want to visit Heidelberg on a day trip, you can make great use of a single day.
In one day, you should plan to visit the top attractions. This includes the Heidelberg Castle, Studentenkarzer, Alstadt, and the Church of the Holy Spirit.
These activities will likely fill your entire day. However, if you have extra time, consider adding some of the other activities, such as walking the Philosophenweg.
Frankfurt to Heidelberg
Frankfurt is the closest major city to Heidelberg, just over an hour’s drive away, or 90 kilometers. If you’re flying, it’s best to land at the Frankfurt Airport and then drive or take the train to Heidelberg.
Because of these two cities’ proximity, it’s easy to take a day trip from Frankfurt and visit Heidelberg.
There are a few ways to travel between the two cities, including by car, train, or bus. One of the most popular ways to get around Europe is through public transportation on the train. There are multiple trains navigating from Frankfurt to Heidelberg on a daily basis. The train can be a reasonably inexpensive way to travel.
Another option is to travel by car, a convenient choice for those with larger groups or a lot of luggage. The short distance makes this option easy, and you’ll be traveling on the Autobahn 5 for most of the drive. Discover Cars is an excellent way to book rental cars and compare multiple company rates to aid your decision!
Here is where I book rental cars
Lastly, you can consider taking a bus, which is the most affordable option in many cases. Flixbus makes a few daily trips using this route, and the tickets typically don’t cost more than €9.
Where to Stay in Heidelberg
Even though Heidelberg is a small town, there are still many accommodations to choose from.
Here are the most popular areas near the center:
The Old Town is the perfect place to stay for first-time visitors and those without a lot of time in the city. The top tourist attractions, restaurants, and shopping will be very close.
Luxury Hotel➡️ Hotel Europäischer Hof Heidelberg
With an excellent rating, this 5-star hotel provides guests with wonderful views of Heidelberg Castle. Additionally, this hotel has a spa and indoor swimming pool.
Mid-Range Hotel ➡️ Hotel Villa Marstall
A charming hotel with a great location for guests to capture wonderful views. The hotel is in an ideal location and has spacious rooms and a very good breakfast.
This neighborhood is to the west of the Alstadt. Laying along the river gives the area great views and plenty of restaurants to visit nearby.
Mid-Range Hotel ➡️ Qube Hotel Bergheim
A 4-star hotel within walking distance of the city center. The hotel includes a great restaurant and bar as well.
Mid-Range Hotel ➡️ Hotel Bergheim41
A contemporary hotel located in Bergheim provides great views. The hotel serves breakfast and has spacious rooms as well as parking accommodations.
Located across the river from the Old Town, Neunheim is a residential side of Heidelberg. There are several parks along the river and plenty of entertainment options. The location is not a far walk from the Old Town.
Luxury Hotel ➡️ House of Hütter – Heidelberg Suites & Spa
This charming boutique hotel has amazing views of the Old Town. The hotel also has breakfast, a spa, and a fitness center.
Mid-Range Hotel ➡️ BS Boutique Hotel
A boutique hotel with a fantastic location that offers modern, stylish rooms. In addition to serving breakfast, it is near many restaurants and bars.
To Sum Up: Is Heidelberg Worth Visiting?
Now, it’s time to ask ourselves again, is Heidelberg worth visiting?
The answer to this question is easy, YES! When we look at all the great activities there are to do, including visiting the Heidelberg Castle and the Old Bridge, there is no denying it.
This famous German city has fantastic views, historic architecture, and museums to explore.
If you’re considering which cities to go to in Germany, stop in Heidelberg during your next trip! It deserves the same consideration as popular cities like Berlin or Munich!