Heidelberg is a charming university town in Baden-Württemberg, in southwestern Germany. This picturesque city is somewhat of a hidden gem, with a more small-town feel. Heidelberg is an easy day trip from Stuttgart or Frankfurt. Here are my highlights of Heidelberg, that all fit into one afternoon!
Heidelberg is home to Heidelberg University, founded in the 14th century, as well as European Molecular Biology Laboratory and other research facilities.
Theodore Heuss Brücke, commonly called Old Bridge, is an 18th century bridge crossing the Neckar River. This bridge offers beautiful views of the river and the Palace above. The bridge is iconic of Heidelberg, often featured in pictures depicting the town.
Old Bridge actually dates back to the Middle Ages! The original structure was made of wood and destroyed in a fire. The bridge is pedestrian and bicycle-accessible only, offering a beautiful view in all directions!
Look for the Heidelberg Bridge Monkey on the Old Town side of the Old Bridge. This monkey was installed in the 70s, however there was another monkey on the opposite end of the bridge back in the 15th century! It disappeared during the Palatinian War of Succession in the late 1600s. If you touch the fingers of the new Bridge Monkey it’s supposed to ensure your return to Heidelberg. You can also touch the mirror for wealth or touch the mice for fertility.
Altstadt | Old Town
Altstadt, or Old Town, is the perfect place to stroll and window shop. This area features the Hauptstraße, or Main Street, the longest pedestrian street in Europe!
Hauptstraße runs parallel to the Neckar River, stretching from Bizmarckplatz (pictured below) to just below Schloss Heidelberg. This is where all the shops are, from smaller boutiques to large retail stores like H&M. You will also note many bookstores! Heidelberg is designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Literature.
Following east along Hauptstraße, you will run into Marktplatz. In the middle of the plaza sits Heiliggeistkirche, Church of the Holy Christ. Also in Marktplatz is the Hercules fountain, where petty criminals were chained up in medieval times. The plaza is bustling with shoppers and outdoor dining.
The red sandstone ruins of Schloss Heidelberg contrasts the surrounding rolling green mountains. The ruins contain striking Renaissance architecture. The castle has a rich history, dating back to the Thirteenth Century. It was destroyed in the 17th and 18th centuries, and since has been partially rebuilt.
There is a funicular that connects from Kornmarkt, off of Haupstrasse, up the hill to Königstuhl. You can take a walking tour of the castle ruins or just explore the grounds by foot! The Deutches Apotheken Museum inside the castle provides insight to the history of medicine. There are also the surrounding gardens and stunning views over the river and Old Town.
Don’t miss the world’s largest wine barrel – Großes Fass, the Heidelberg Tun. This crazy barrel holds 58,124 gallons (220,000 liters) of wine! Heidelberg has apparently had four barrels of this size in history, but the current barrel was built in 1751.
The Großes Fass (Heidelberg Tun) stands at 7 meters high (over 22 feet)! Stairs take you up to the small dance floor built atop the barrel. For reference, I took a photo with a much smaller barrel in the cellar – pictured to the right.
What’s your favorite lesser-known town that you have visited!? Share below.