Places to Visit in Heidelberg

Heidelberg is a city that truly has it all, renowned not only for hosting Germany’s oldest university and Europe’s longest pedestrian zone but also for the picturesque Neckar River winding through it, and the majestic Heidelberg Castle standing sentinel above. For anyone visiting this gem in Baden-Württemberg, a trip to the Königstuhl for its breathtaking view is a must.

1. Heidelberg Castle: The City’s Icon

Remarkably, Heidelberg Castle is more a grand ruin than a standing fortress, having been reduced to rubble by French troops in 1689 and again in 1693. Later, lightning struck its weakened walls, igniting a fire that sealed its fate. It was never fully rebuilt. Today, it looms over Heidelberg, offering visitors spectacular views of the old town.

The castle is accessible by foot or cable car, enriching the visitor experience.

Heidelberg Castle: Visiting Details

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., admission is nine euros per person, covering the castle courtyard, barrel cellar, arbor, a cable car ride, and entrance to the German Pharmacy Museum within the castle, which is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Guided tours of the castle’s other interiors are available, lasting 60 minutes and occurring several times daily.

Castle Festival: Summer Open-Air Theatre

Every summer, for six weeks from June to mid-August, the castle transforms into an open-air theater. The Heidelberg Theater and Orchestra utilize the Schlosshof, Dicker Turm, and Englischer Bau as stages for their performances, ranging from comedic sketches to grand concerts. The festival’s schedule is typically released in late winter.

“Castle of Flames” Dates

Annually, on select dates in June and September, the castle is bathed in a radiant red glow, accompanied by fireworks that paint the night in vibrant colors. In 2024, “Castle in Flames” will be celebrated on June 1st and September 7th.

2. Gateway to the Old Town: Old Bridge Heidelberg

The Old Bridge arcs over the Neckar, providing direct access to Heidelberg’s old town. An enchanting sight, especially at sunset with the castle illuminated, is best enjoyed from the Ziegelhäuser Landstrasse. Crossing the bridge brings you to the old town side of the Neckar, where the Heidelberg Bridge Monkey, a symbol of the city, awaits.

3. Jesuit Church: Elegantly Simple

The Jesuit church, both magnificent and unassuming, stands as a testament to the slow re-Catholicization of Heidelberg starting in 1712. Today, it is a modern, welcoming space, even streaming services and concerts on YouTube. A unique feature is the choir’s location, positioned not in the east but the south.

4. Prinzhorn Collection: A Unique Art Exhibition

The Prinzhorn Collection in Heidelberg is unparalleled, showcasing artworks created by psychiatric patients as part of their therapy. This unique exhibition is located in a former lecture hall of the Heidelberg Psychiatric University Hospital.

Prinzhorn Collection: Visitor Information

Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and extended hours on Wednesday until 8 p.m., admission is eight euros per person.

5. Philosopher’s Trail: A Serene Escape

For those seeking a break from the city’s buzz, the Philosopher’s Path offers a peaceful retreat. This trail winds up from the Old Bridge along a steep slope, perfect for a leisurely walk, hike, or moment of tranquility amidst nature. The path grants stunning panoramic views of Heidelberg and the Neckar.

The Philosopher’s Path stretches for about two kilometers, making it an ideal route for a leisurely stroll.

6. Kornmarkt: The Old Town’s Backdrop Featuring Heidelberg’s Main Attraction

The Kornmarkt, located behind the town hall, is the most frequently photographed site in the old town. Its popularity is due to the square providing an ideal backdrop, highlighted by a prominent Madonna statue at its center, surrounded by historical and picturesque houses, with Heidelberg Castle prominently positioned in the background.

7. Enjoyable Summer Evenings at Neckarwiese in Heidelberg

The Neckar, a significant tributary of the Rhine, flows through much of Heidelberg, passing by the old town. The riverbank opposite is exceptionally scenic. Starting from the Heidelberg University Hospital towards Alte Brücke, the Neckarwiese (Neckar Meadow) is a welcoming space for spending relaxing summer evenings with friends and pets. The views of the Neckar and the opposite bank are outstanding, with many walkers and joggers frequenting the area during the day.

8. S-Printing Horse: Contemporary Art at Heidelberg Central Station

Upon arrival in Heidelberg by train, visitors are met with the world’s largest horse sculpture situated directly opposite the main train station. This 13-meter-tall metal horse, facing the station, represents the printing process, hence its name, “S-Printing Horse.” Its sides mimic the movement of a printing press, and a stylized reader figure is suspended beneath its tail. Designed by Jürgen Goertz, the sculpture has been an iconic feature of Bahnhofsplatz since 2000.

9. Heidelberg University: The Oldest University in Germany

Established in 1386 as Ruperto Carola, Heidelberg University is the oldest university in Germany, with over 30,000 students currently enrolled. It possesses several buildings in the old town, including the old and new university buildings, the library, and the stables. A notable attraction and highlight in Heidelberg is the “Studentenkarzer,” a former jail for students, now a museum providing intriguing insights into the city’s history.

10. The Longest Pedestrian Zone in Europe: The Center of Heidelberg

Heidelberg’s pedestrian zone, stretching from Karlstor to Bismarckplatz, runs through a significant portion of the old town. At nearly two kilometers in length, it is recognized as the longest pedestrian zone in Europe. Before the establishment of Heidelberg as a city, the main street, now part of the pedestrian zone, served as a crucial traffic and trade route. Nowadays, the area is lined with charming cafés, boutiques, and restaurants. Historic and magnificent buildings, such as the “Haus zum Riesen,” the Holy Spirit Church, and the town hall, adorn the pedestrian zone.

11. Heidelberg’s Most Beautiful Sights: The Church of the Holy Spirit

The market square in the old town, alongside Kornplatz, is lined with numerous shops and quaint cafés, making it one of the most attractive areas in the center. However, the Church of the Holy Spirit stands out as the city’s largest church. Constructed from Neckar Valley sandstone between 1398 and 1515, it was originally intended as a burial site for the Electors of the Palatinate. Today, it hosts regular church services, concerts, and other cultural events.

12. The Most Stunning Panorama in the City: Königstuhl Heidelberg

Königstuhl, Heidelberg’s local mountain, is an esteemed landmark. At 568 meters, it is the highest peak in the Little Odenwald, offering spectacular views over the city and the Neckar River below.

Accessing Königstuhl in Heidelberg is facilitated through various means: visitors can take the mountain railway from the castle to Kaiserstuhl. For the adventurous, there is the “ladder to heaven,” a path comprising 1,200 sandstone steps from the castle to Königstuhl, demanding good physical fitness. Alternatively, bus services are available, and parking is provided for those arriving by car.

13. Heidelberg Mountain Railway: A Traditional Means of Transport

For those heading to Heidelberg Castle or Königstuhl without the inclination for hiking, the cable car is an excellent choice. It operates on two levels: the lower level, which is ultra-modern, begins at Kornmarkt in the old town and ascends through the castle to Molkenkur. The upper level, one of the oldest electrically operated mountain railways, continues from Molkenkur to Königstuhl.

The journey offers mesmerizing views of the surroundings, making the cable car an attraction in itself.

Heidelberg Cable Car Fares: The mountain railway offers different tickets:

  • Panorama ticket (Kornmarkt-Castle-Molkenkur-Königstuhl): 14 euros (round trip)
  • Königstuhl ticket (Molkenkur-Königstuhl): 6 euros (round trip)
  • Castle ticket (Kornmarkt-Castle-Molkenkur):9 euros (round trip)

Tickets to the castle include access to the castle courtyard and the “German Pharmacy Museum.”

14. St. Stephen’s Monastery in Heidelberg: Ruins with a Scenic View

The St. Stephen’s Monastery, established in the 11th century by the Benedictine monk Arnold on Heiligenberg, served as the second offshoot of the Lorsch Monastery. Presently, only remnants of its foundations exist, yet this historical site remains a noteworthy destination. It offers an exceptional vista of the city and the neighboring forest provides an inviting setting for extensive walks.

15. Attractions Near Heidelberg: The Idyllic Neckar Valley

Heidelberg serves as a perfect base for hiking and day excursions into the nearby Neckar Valley. Here, you’ll encounter romantic towns and magnificent castles along the Neckar River. In medieval times, the valley was home to numerous celebrated minstrels, among them Bligger II von Steinach, believed by scholars to be the author of the Nibelungenlied. The area’s knightly romanticism is still palpable today.

A standout feature is the Dilsberg Castle Fortress, perched majestically above the river. It draws numerous visitors with its striking presence and rewards them with a stunning panoramic view of the Neckar Valley.

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