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A sprawling hillside castle, a medieval old town and a romantic cityscape in Heidelberg.

Nestled in a thickly forested area and bisected by the Neckar River, Heidelberg has long drawn visitors to its romantic cityscape. This was the heart of the German Romanticism movement, which helped to define the city's architecture, including the gently arched old stone bridge, red-roofed buildings and the imposing castle keeping watch from a hillside.

Home of Heidelberg University, founded in 1386, Heidelberg is also a historic literary hub. Here you can stroll among the same cobblestones as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Joseph von Eichendorff. To get a feel for the city’s history, we can arrange a walking tour, where you’ll see the past come to life through the stories told by your guide.

Heidelberg is located about one hour south of Frankfurt, in the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region and makes a good base for trips to the spa town of Baden-Baden or for a Rhine Valley tour.

What to see and do in Heidelberg

Heidelberg Castle

Elisabeth Gate, Heidelberg Castle

While visiting Heidelberg, it’s impossible to miss the old castle, keeping diligent watch over the town from high on a hillside. The sprawling fortress is accessible by a funicular that will drop you off right at the castle. Partially in ruins, the castle features varied architecture, and you’ll see some sections featuring a more detailed Renaissance style and others a straightforward medieval look.

You can explore the exterior of the building as part of the Heidelberg walking tour we can arrange, or we can schedule a separate privately guided tour of the interior, where you’ll find the world’s largest wine barrel, capable of holding the equivalent of more than 200,000 bottles of wine.

Philosopher’s Walk

You'll stroll the same path as some of the greatest minds of the German Romantic era when you meander along the Philosopher’s Walk. Originally just a rough path through vineyards, it now features informational plaques, manicured gardens and benches where you can stop to enjoy the view.

The path stretches along the Heiligenberg hillside on the northern side of the Neckar River, and offers sweeping views of the river, old town, Heidelberg castle and the old bridge.

Old town

The heart of Heidelberg is still its old town, where you’ll find winding alleys, vibrant squares and pastel-painted buildings. The main street of Hauptstrasse is a mile-long pedestrian-only street that runs the length of the old town, and is lined with shops, restaurants, museums, cathedrals and cafés.

We can arrange for you to take a walking tour of the old town, where your guide will bring the town to life while regaling you with tales of years gone by.

Student prison

Heidelberg has been a university town since the late 1300s, and, in the 15th century, locals started complaining about the antics of the students. To combat this, the university opened the Studentenkarzer, or student prison. Students displaying rowdy or poor manners could be sent to the Studentenkarzer for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, though still able to leave to attend classes.

Staying in the Studentenkarzer couldn’t have been too unpleasant, though, as students came to consider it a rite of passage. The building, closed in 1914, remains much how it was back when it was used. You can explore the building and take in the graffiti covering the rooms from floor to ceiling, mostly students’ own names scrawled on the walls or silhouette portraits of people unknown.

Jesuit Quarter

The anchor of the Jesuit Quarter is the Jesuit Church, which boasts a flat, stone façade and stark white arches and dark pews in its pillar hall interior. Construction began on the church in 1712 and was completed with the addition of the bell tower from 1866 through 1872. The church also includes the Museum of Ecclesiastical Arts, which is home to sculptures, liturgical garments, paintings, books, goblets and other clerical items.

Neckar River

Banks of the Rhine

A major tributary of the Rhine, the Neckar River has long been the life vein of Heidelberg. You can walk along the paved, tree-shrouded pedestrian paths beside the river, or pack a picnic lunch and sit out on the wide-open lawn on the opposite bank.

We can also arrange for you to see the Neckar from the river on a solar-powered boat. You’ll glide gently on the water as you pass the romantic cityscape, and the boat itself has two bistros on board.

Church of the Holy Spirit

Heiliggeistkirche, or the Church of the Holy Spirit, towers over Heidelberg’s market square, its spire rising high above the rooftops and dominating the skyline. The Gothic church was first mentioned as far back as 1239, though it took more than 150 years to complete the gargantuan building.

The rear section of the church faces an open, cobbled market square where you’ll find outdoor cafés where you can sit and enjoy a bite while taking in the stone façade, partially blackened by time. We can arrange a walking tour of the city that will take you past Heiliggeistkirche so you can fully appreciate the massive size of the building.

Best time to visit Heidelberg

We recommend visiting in either June or July when the university is not in session and the nightlife is quieter and less crowded. September is also a nice time to visit, while the weather is still mild. We wouldn’t suggest visiting in August, as it’s the busiest, rainiest and hottest month in Heidelberg.

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Audley Travel Country Specialist Taylor

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Suggested itineraries featuring Heidelberg

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Heidelberg, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Heidelberg

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    Places near Heidelberg

    Accommodation choices for Heidelberg

    We've selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Heidelberg. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    Ideas for experiencing Heidelberg

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Heidelberg, and which use the best local guides.

    • Rhine Valley, Rüdesheim and castle boat tour
      Castle along the Rhine river

      Rhine Valley, Rüdesheim and castle boat tour

      Rhine Valley, Rüdesheim and castle boat tour

      Explore the Rhine Valley on foot, in the car and by water. Drive past vineyards with your driver-guide, walk around the village of Rüdesheim and cruise past castles on the waters of the Rhine during this half-day activity.

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