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Visit Heidelberg, Germany

Updated on May 2, 2012

Heidelberg

Heidelberg, located on the banks of the Neckar River, is one of the most picturesque cities in the world. Around every corner is a scene worthy of a picture postcard.

While a member of the U.S. military, I lived near the city for a little over two and a half years. Since then, I have visited most of the major cities in Europe, but Heidelberg remains my favorite.

All of the photos are from my photo albums.

How to Get There

Most Americans travel to Heidelberg via the Frankfurt Airport, a distance of approximately 50 miles. For many travelers the most economical way to get to Heidelberg from Frankfurt is by train. A train station (bahnhof) is located at the airport. You will probably have to change trains at Mannheim. This might be a problem if you are carrying a lot of baggage.

If you are unfamiliar with the German transportation system and don't want to go through the small learning curve, while possibly feeling the affects of jet lag, a shuttle service could be best bet. Depending on the number of members in your party, this might even make economic sense. Check out some of my links for businesses who provide this service.

After arriving at the Heidelberg train station, the easiest way to get to your hotel is by taxi. Certainly, public transportation is available, but, especially if there are several travelers in your party, taxi fare to Old Town (Altstadt), where your hotel should be, isn't going to cost much.

Where To Stay in Heidelberg

To get the most from your stay in Heidelberg, it is best to book a hotel near Old Town, but not necessarily on Main Street (Hauptstrasse). Most visitors will spend the majority of their time near the one-mile long Haupstrasse, so any suitable hotel within walking distance will be sufficient. The Haupstrasse is a a pedestrian street (closed to traffic), and it is crowded from morning until the cafes and bars close at night. Many of the hotels near main street are charming, but aren't sound proof. If sleeping late in the morning is on the agenda, a hotel off Main Street might be advisable.

Personally, I like staying in one of the older, smaller hotels near the castle. Many of these hotels are owner operated, so the people behind the check-in desk are often the owners. These smaller hotels are usually cheaper than the chains.

Transportation Once You Are in Heidelberg

Germany, like most of Europe, has a web of very reliable transportation, consisting of trains, buses, and trams (streetcars). There is no need to rent a car, and actually a car might be a hindrance, because of the traffic and parking.

You can see most of Heidelberg by walking. Trams run the length of the Hauptstrasse, but since you will be checking out all of the things from one side to the other, you probably won't need it.

Ask at your hotel about purchasing transporation tickets to get you to neigboring cities and outlying areas. They will point you in the right direction.

Dining in Heidelberg

Finding a good restaurant in Heidelberg is easy. In fact, I have dined in dozens of restaurants in the city and have never been disappointed. The city is a nice mix of locals, university students, tourists, and even members of the U.S. military. Pleasing customers of all types is a necessity.

Tipping is not expected in Germany. It is customary to round the ticket out to the next Euro.

Don't worry about being understood. All restaurants are accustomed to having English speaking customers.

Many of the hotels have restaurants on the premises, and most of those serve complementary breakfasts - some of them, especially the chains, serve an American style breakfast in addition to the standard "Continental."

Nowadays, American fast food is easy to find in Heidelberg. That's a good thing and a bad thing. It's nice to have something familiar, but it would also be nice to have a few places in the world where the "golden arches" hasn't found a warm welcome. That wouldn't be Heidelberg. I was living near Heidelberg when the first McDonald's opened, and it was overrun with customers on the first day of business. Still is.

A nice alternative to fast food if you want a good, quick reasonably priced meal is Nordsee, a chain of German seafood shops. One is located on the Hauptstrasse.

Another alternative is Weinerwald, a chain of restaurants specializing in chicken. I am not 100% sure that the Weinerwald in Heidelberg is still in business; the chain expanded a little too quickly and was forced to close a lot of their locations. It certainly wasn't because of the quality of the food. The fried chicken was among the best that I have ever eaten.

The Castle

The castle (Heidelberger Schloss) is the main attraction in Heidelberg. Largely in ruins today, the earliest records of the castle's construction date back to 1214 A.D. Castle construction took place over a period of centuries - that along with numerous fires and wars has given the castle an "unbalanced" look. Once one sees the castle, it never lives the memory. Most want to see it again.

Visiting the castle grounds is free, but nominal fees are charged for some sections within the castle. Most who pay to see the inside of the castle are impressed with the wooden barrel, which is supposedly the history's largest wooden barrel to have once held wine.

The castle is lit at night and the grounds remain open. Try to make at one visit to the castle at night. Looking down from the castle terrace, the city lights are beautiful.

The Old Bridge (Alte Brucke)

Located very close to the castle, and crossing the Neckar River, is the Old Bridge (Alte Brucke). It was built from 1786 to 1788 with red sandstone. Johann von Goethe in a diary entry dated August 26, 1797: "This bridge is as beautiful as no other bridge all over the world."

Capturing the bridge and the castle in the same photo is very popular with tourists.

Heidelberg Zoo

If you have children with you, a visit to the zoo would be nice. If you are looking for a big zoo, Frankfurt or Karlsruhe are the nearest ones. But for small children, the Heidelberg Zoo is fine. My daughter was only five when she visited Heidelberg with us. She enjoyed the monkeys in the zoo as much as anything else in Heidelberg.

Heidelberger Bergbahn

The Heidelberger Bergbahn is a two-section incline railway that leaves from the Kornmarket (near the bottom of the castle walkway) and takes you to the the summit of Kunigstuhl Mountain (1,860 ft). You can use this incline to get to the to the castle grounds or go all the way up to the top of the mountain.

I recommend going all the way to the top and staying awhile. The views of Heidelberg and the river are spectacular.

Our kids were with us on our last trip. They found a small amusement park at the summit and had a great time.

The River

If you are visiting Heidelberg during the warm weather months, a riverboat cruise is a very good way to see more of the German countryside. The scenery is beautiful and the ride is relaxing. Castles and other interesting structures can be sighted on the banks on a short trip to Neckarsteinach, ten miles downriver. You can get off the boat in Neckarsteinach, have lunch and take a later boat back to Heidelberg. There are four castles in Neckarsteinach and quite a few nice restaurants.

Fisherman on the Necker

Castle & Homes on Necker River

Nearby Cities Worth Visiting

Heidelberg is a good base point for day trips to neighboring cities. Here are just a few of many:

Schwetzingen (approximately 8 miles from Heidelberg). The Schwetzingen Castle and Gardens are well worth the trip.

Speyer(approximately 28 mils from Heidelberg). The most visited attraction is the Speyer Cathedral.

Mannheim (approximately 13 miles from Heidelberg). Mannheim is a large city popular with shoppers.

Karlsruhe (approximately 37 miles from Heidelberg. Several world class museums are located in Karlsruhe.

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