10 Best Things to Do in Heidelberg

What is Heidelberg Most Famous For?

    Heidelberg is a college town of southwest Germany, reputed for its universities and romantic cityscape. Surrounded by forested hills, it sits on the banks of the Neckar River. The Old Town is filled with museums and historical buildings like the Church of the Holy Spirit, the Karl Theodor Bridge, and a castle that mixes Gothic and Renaissance styles.

    Besides its historical landmarks, Heidelberg is a lively place, thanks to the students that compose a quarter of its population. Shops and restaurants, as well as late-night bars, can be found throughout the town centre. Labelled a “Romantic Town”, Heidelberg is a very pleasant place to spend a holiday.

    What are the best things to do in Heidelberg?


    Start the day in the Market Square

    Take the pulse of Heidelberg in this lively square

    The Marktplatz (Market Square) is the heart of Heidelberg Old Town. Lined with restaurants and small shops, the square buzzes with activity, especially on the market days on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Bordered by the Church of the Holy Spirit on one side and by the Town Hall on the other, the Marktplatz is the perfect place to take the mood of the town before to starting to explore it. Just take a seat at one of the terraces, have a drink and watch life pass by.

    Location: Marktplatz, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

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    Must-See: Church of the Holy Spirit

    Get a sweeping view of the Old Town from the top of the steeple

    Known as Heiliggeistkirche in German, the Church of the Holy Spirit dominates Heidelberg Market Square. Built at the end of the 14th century on the site of a late-Romanesque basilica, this Gothic church is made of reddish sandstone and features tall arched columns and a ribbed ceiling. The highlights of the Church of the Holy Spirit are the tomb of King Rupert III and his wife Elisabeth, and the chance to climb to the top of the steeple. From up there, you’ll get a stunning view of the city.

    Location: Marktplatz, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

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    photo by Hermann Luyken (CC0 1.0) modified


    Explore the Old Town

    Walk around Heidelberg Altstadt

    Heidelberg Altstadt (Old Town) spreads around the Market Square and stretches along the Neckar River. Sat just below Heidelberg Schloss (castle) it hosts old and modern houses in a maze of narrow, cobblestoned streets. Boutiques and restaurants as well as attractions such as the Palatinate Museum and the Studentenkarzer (the students’ jail) give you many opportunities to stop, take photos, and learn more about Heidelberg.

    Location: Marktplatz, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

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    Shop on Hauptstrasse

    Heidelberg’s main shopping street

    Hauptstrasse is an almost 2 km pedestrianised street that crosses Heidelberg Old Town from west to east. The main road of the Altstadt, it’s also the city’s main shopping street. Shoes, cosmetics, lingerie, fashion, and more – you’ll find almost everything on Hauptstrasse. There’s even a booth where you can take books for free, dropping off your old ones for the next visitor. Take a break at the Hotel Ritter, a stunning historical building that faces the south side of the Church of the Holy Spirit.

    Location: Hauptstraße, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

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    Sample the Heidelberg wines

    Discover and enjoy local labels

    Even though it’s not on the famous German Wine Route, which passes slightly further west, some excellent local wines are produces in Heidelberg. Weingut Seeger and Weingut Clauer are the 2 main wineries in the area. Both are located in Leimen, just 5 km south of Heidelberg. They produce wines from first-class grape varieties, including Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer, just to name a few.

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    Cross Karl Theodor Bridge

    Place a love padlock to the railing and throw the key in the river

    Commonly called the Old Bridge, Karl Theodor Bridge crosses the Neckar River in the northern part of the Old Town. One of the most notable landmarks of Heidelberg, it’s a 180-metre-long arched bridge built in sandstone in 1788. This picture-perfect pedestrianised bridge offers great views and photo opportunities of the Old Town. It’s also a place where you can lock a love padlock on the railing and throw the key in the river before enjoying a romantic stroll in the evening.

    Location: Am Hackteufel, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

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    Must-See: Schloss Heidelberg

    Get a stunning view of Heidelberg

    Nestled on the northern Königstuhl hillside, 80 metres above Heidelberg Old Town, Schloss Heidelberg (Heidelberg Castle) was originally built in the early-13th century. History took its toll on the castle which, even partially ruined, is still one of the most popular attractions in the town. You’ll find an onsite restaurant and the very interesting German Apothecary Museum there. The views of the Old Town from the Dicker Turm (Thick Tower) are breathtaking. You can get there with the funicular that climbs to the top of Königstuhl Hill.

    Location: Schlosshof 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

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    Take a stroll on the Philosophenweg

    Take a breath a fresh air while you think big

    The Philosophenweg (the Philosophers’ Walk) is a trail named after the university philosophy professors that used to walk it while they philosophised. Overlooking the Neckar River and the Old Town, the path starts 200 metres after you crossed the Old Bridge. Stretching along the river for around 1.5 km, the 1st section of the trail is not too physically demanding, although it becomes pretty steep after that. A pair of trainers, a bottle of water, and a camera are all that you need to enjoy this nature walk.

    Location: Philosophenweg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany

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    Dine on genuine German cuisine at Schnitzelbank

    Sample local dishes and wines in the heart of Heidelberg

    Schnitzelbank is the right place to sample traditional German cuisine and local dishes in Heidelberg. This small rustic restaurant sits on a narrow lane off Hauptstraße, in the heart of the Old Town. Crispy roast pork knuckles, spätzle (soft egg noodle), sauerkraut (fermented finely cut cabbage) and, obviously, Schnitzel served in large portions will certainly make your meal. You can wash down these hearty dishes with a glass of Tannenzäpfle beer or, even better, with one of the many local wines at hand in this quaint venue.

    Location: Bauamtsgasse 7, 69117 Heidelberg , Neckar, Germany

    Open: Monday – Friday from 5pm to 1am, Saturday – Sunday from 11.30am to 1am

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    End the day bar-hopping in the Altstadt

    Enjoy yourself in lively nightspots

    Heidelberg Old Town hosts a lively nightlife. We’ve picked 3 popular venues at which you can enjoy a night cap (or 2). Among the best wine bars in town is Vinothek Restaurant Oskar on Haspelgasse. They have a broad range of Old and New World labels for you to taste. About 120 metres away, you can sample locally brewed beers at Vetter's Alt Heidelberger Brauhaus on Steingasse. It’s reputed for brewing one of the strongest beers in Germany – 33% ABV! Last but not least, for a rocking night, head to Eckstein on Fischmarkt. This cool and stylish pub is a very pleasant place to spend the evening, even if you’re not a metalhead.

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    Stephan Audiger | Compulsive Traveller

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