A Quick Guide to Heidelberg, Germany
After living in the city for over two years I could rattle on for days about how I think it should be on the top of everyone’s travel bucket list. It’s SO beautiful, and with its cobbled streets, a magnificent castle, and cafe culture, it is the quintessential European town. Instead, I’ll hold my breath, and hope that you take my word for it by following this quick guide to exploring my favorite city.
Best time to visit: April – September and December (for Christmas Markets)
Areas of Reference: Altstadt (#1, below), meaning the ‘Old Town’ with its mile long Haupstrasse ending at the base of the castle. Neuenheim (#2), across the river from the Alstadt, a residential district with a large park called the Neckerweisen, which rests along the Neckar River. Bismarckplatz (#3) is the main platz (plaza) at the end of the Haupstrasse and a major hub for public transportation.
Where to stay: Hotel Ritter ($$$), Heidelberg Suites ($$$$), Qube ($$) or an Airbnb in the Altstadt
**Walk the Philisophenweg – a long, fairly steep stroll provides rewarding views of the city and river below. A favorite path of famous Heidelberg University philosophers throughout the ages, it’s a must for any visitor.
Tour the Castle – while I’m no history buff, Heidelberg’s mighty castle is a huge draw for tourists worldwide. The indoor tour is pleasant enough, but make some time to wander the castle gardens (including the massive moat) and enjoy the breathtaking overlooks.
Visit Klosterhof Abbey & Brewery – although transportation is necessary (hop on the 34 bus from Bismarktplatz), a visit to the nearby abbey to sample their local ‘Klosterhof’ brew is definitely a fun experience. The restaurant also offers German fare and has a beer garden ambiance.
Shop/stroll the Hauptstrasse – the longest pedestrian-only street in Europe offers all the European standards, with H&M, Mango, and Butlers being my typical go-to’s. Unfortunately, boutique-shopping isn’t the same as it in the US and can be expensive and dated. Start at Bismarkplatz, walk to the Marktplatz, and turn left and to cross the beautiful Alte Brucke.
Paddle the Neckar River – paddle boats are available for rent across the river from Bismarkplatz. Rentals cost 10E for 30 minutes, which is enough to get to/from the Alte Brucke.
Sweeping views of the City – after visiting the castle, head to the far end of the Castle Gardens. From here, visitors can take a picture perfect shot of the old town with Heidelberg Castle in the foreground.
**River Café – picture perfect sidewalk seating and tasty breakfast, my favorite plate is the ‘English breakfast’ (Neuenheim)
Rossi – fantastic Sunday brunch buffet with beautiful high ceilings and a great beer garden (Bismarckplatz)
Café Extra Blatt – daily brunch buffet with reasonable prices (located on the Haupstrasse, Alstadt)
**Yufka’s – the best doner kebab in the city (Marktplatz, Alstadt)
Bar Centrale – a local favorite with outdoor seating in the adorable Neuenheimer platz, reasonably priced and delicious. My favorite is the Bar Centrale Sandwich (grilled chicken and avocado), 6E with a small salad. (Neuenheim)
Falafel – delicious and cheap eat-in or take away falafel wraps (just off the Haupstrasse, Alstadt)
**Schnitzelbank – the most delicious German cuisine in the city. Dan loves their Cordon Bleu, I’m a fan of the garlic schnitzel, but the kasespatzle (think: mac and cheese) may be the best in Germany. Seating is cozy, so call for a reservation and/or arrive early (Altstadt)
Restaurant Kurpfalzisches Museum – seating in a beautiful garden with great standard Italian menu (Haupstrasse, Altstadt)
Red – fresh vegetarian cuisine served in a weighted buffet (not far from Bismarckplatz, but not exactly convenient to the Altstadt)
Bier Brezel – charming indoor seating as well as sidewalk tables, large reasonably priced menu (Hauptstrasse, Altstadt)
**Vetter – awesome brewery and beer hall, try the Dunkelweizen (dark wheat beer) (located just down the street from the pedestrian bridge, near the Alte Brucke in the Altstadt)
**Kulturbrauerei – brewery and restaurant in the Alstadt, but away from the hustle, beautiful courtyard and gorgeous high-ceilinged beer hall with very traditional German menu, we love the Weisswurst appetizer with pretzel (Altstadt)
Bar d’Aix en Provence – the charming watering hole near our apartment, cozy French bar with exposed brick and good drink menu (Dan’s favorite Pils- Hopfner, from nearby Karlsruhe) but minimal food options (Neuenheim)
Café Grano – reasonably priced wine bar located on a pretty square at the base of the castle, just get local wine and you’ll be pleased (Altstadt)
Cappuccino Grand Cafe – with it’s high ceilings and beautiful interior design, great spot for a late night drink or cup of joe (Bismarckplatz)
**Coffee Nerd – a clean and cozy coffee house with great local roasts and snacks (Adenauerplatz, near Bismarckplatz)
Florian Steiner – Bustling neighborhood cafe with fantastic locally roasted coffee and lively street scene, especially on weekends. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) no wifi. (Neuenheim)
Cafe Moro – Two locations in the city, good place to stop and recharge for a cuppa. No wifi. (Neuenheim and Altstadt)