What’s Heidelberg like?
Heidelberg is a pretty city that actually reminded us of Salzburg (Austria): about the same size and population, a large castle with great views overlooking a river spanned by several bridges, lots of pretty churches. It really seemed a bit of a déjà vu, with the exception that buildings in Salzburg were mostly white with black roofs versus the ones in Heidelberg which have reddish roofs.
Our highlight was the Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s way), a path on the hills on the northern side of the city. The path is lush with greenery and gardens and has great views over the Old Town and the castle. We walked it on our first day and thought Heidelberg was one of the prettiest places we’ve ever seen.
The next day we walked the old city and visited the castle (Schloss Heidelberg). Everything is fairy-tale pretty. But there is a downside to Heidelberg. But I’ll get to that in a second.
Below: Photos of Heidelberg castle
Related: Castles and Fortresses that you may have never heard of
We’ve fallen in love with Germany, it might be our favorite European country. The problem with Heidelberg is that its beauty has brought with it a plague of tourists; the city is crawling with tourists and is just busting at the seams with tourist shops and tourist restaurants. For us, it lacks the “Germaness” that attracted us so much to places like Bacharach or Regensberg. A Frenchman I once worked with had once told me that he loved Heidelberg, that it was “much better than anywhere else in Germany”. I had found that strange because he didn’t like German food, didn’t drink beer, and he wasn’t interested in German culture. But now I can understand it. You could almost be anywhere in Europe in Heidelberg; it has everything to cater to anyone, including a Frenchman who loves his Perrier, wine, and non-German cuisine. Which is great I guess. Don’t get me wrong – Heidelberg is a very pretty place and is worth a visit. But with all the tourism it gets it just doesn’t feel very German to me.
Summary: A visually lovely city that is absolutely worth a visit. But prepare yourself for a lot of tourists.
– Accommodation. We stayed in the Hotel Bayrischer Hof which was excellent and very well located.
– Tours. I recommend this inexpensive 1.5 hour walking tour of Heidelberg. If you’re in Frankfurt, you can take this 6 hour tour of Heidelberg which includes all the highlights including the castle.
– Getting Out. The primary reason we finished our trip in Heidelberg was logistics. Lufthansa has a shuttle service from the Crown Plaza in Heidelberg directly to Frankfurt airport (code FRA) starting at 5:30 am. It got us to the airport in an hour and a half. From there we flew direct to Montreal on Air Canada.
Have you been to Heidelberg? What did you think of it?
Related: Guide on Bacharach (our favorite German town)
Related: 24 hours in Munich
Related: Why you should Visit the beautiful Bavarian city of Regensburg
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I’ve been to Heidelberg many times and my wife and I agree that it has a special spirit created by a lot of history and new energy mixed with Heidelberg University found right along the main shopping street. I have found mostly locals habiting the area and sure, there are tourists, but not to the extent that they are getting in your way. I never felt that way at all. Of course, if you stay away from some of the cruises (on a summer weekend) and the castle, you can better accomplish this. The authors are correct about the restaurants, however. Not the best since they don’t have to be. Drive a little out of town to Schwetzingen or elsewhere to find some great German fare (Kaffeehaus is highly recommended).
Thanks for the feedback Paul. It’s been a long time since we went and I remember at the time it being busy. But I can’t remember if it was a summer weekend – though there is a good chance it was!
Always love Germany though and planning to go back for a month next spring.
Heidelberg is truly an amazing German city with lots of interesting and historical landmarks. You may also want to visit the Black Forest and visit the German Clock Museum and the Black Forest Open Air Museum.
Hi Frank, first, thanks for sharing your travel tips and I found this one is very useful for me to book my trip to Heidelberg for this coming September. I wonder if you recommend to visit Marktplatz and the church of the Holy Spirit which mentioned in this itinerary, If they are good, I will add them in my must-go places. Thanks.
Thank you Shila. For sure they are worth a visit! Enjoy Heidelberg 🙂
Been there last year. Such a very nice city.Regretful I could not extend my leave longer, feel like to come again.
I’ve never been to Heidelberg but from what I see is a nice place. Worth a visit. 🙂
I am German but have never actually been to Heidelberg. The pictures are great. I guess I should go sometime soon.
We’ve been to Heidelberg on a day trip while staying elsewhere nearby. It’s a very pretty city, but visiting as a day trip was enough for me. We also got lucky to visit during the week and not have too many tourists while we were there.
I was in Heidelberg several years ago and a special cuckoo clock in a shop on Hauptstrasse conquered my heart (but it was 12.000 euro so…) 😀
heidelberg was easily one of my favourite places in germany 🙂 of course, it didn’t hurt that i have a good friend living there
Thanks Steve! I checked out your post and glad to see you agree that it is very touristy. Always helps when you have a friend there, sure you got to check out some of the cool university bars! Happy to hear you enjoyed Heidelberg.
Towns like that always take me back to my nerdier rpg playing days, haha.
Can easily see why you’ve fallen in love with Germany. Wow!
I only saw around the train station in Heidelberg while changing trains on my way to see friends in Schwäbisch Hall. But looking around from the station platforms, it seemed like a pretty city, so I’m not surprised you said that. It had a very different look than where I was living in Germany and kinda wanted to explore a bit.
Thanks Meg – oh yes, definitely a pretty city. Thanks for the comment!