My personal highlights & must-see attractions in Heidelberg, Germany

As a German I show you some of the most beautiful sights in Heidelberg and places that you should definitely visit.

Planning a city break in Heidelberg in the near future? If so, let me show you all the things that you can do there and which sights you can explore on foot in Heidelberg's Old Town. I consider Heidelberg to be one of the most beautiful travel destinations in Germany. In this article, I'll show you why.

Heidelberg is the oldest university city in Germany and for me, it is one of the most beautiful cities in Baden-Württemberg (and in the whole of Germany). Many of my friends from school studied here and ended up staying permanently. So, it's no surprise that I come here often, as Heidelberg is located less than an hour's drive from my home in Heilbronn. I mostly come here during the low season, when there aren't as many tourists bustling around the baroque old town. The Christmas market is among the most beautiful in Germany.

If you fancy exploring the most beautiful sights in Heidelberg, such as Heidelberg Castle, the Old Bridge or the Philosophers' Walk, then you've come to the right place. Heidelberg is an excellent place for an excursion to the north of Baden-Württemberg, and you can explore it in one day.

Due to its attractive location on the Neckar, you can even travel there by boat. Moreover, the railway tracks run alongside a beautiful natural scenery, fllowing the Neckar, past castles, palaces and panoramic views, which always remind me of how beautiful our state is.

The most important sights in Heidelberg can easily be explored in a day. In the following you will find my tips for Heidelberg's Old Town, Heidelberg Castle and some ideas for visiting with children as well as for fans of street art.

Are you ready for one of the most beautiful cities in Germany? Then follow us for some unique adventures in Heidelberg.

Top 10 attractions in Heidelberg

The majority of Heidelberg's most popular sights are located in the relatively small Old Town, whose alleyways can easily be explored on foot. One day is enough for a visit. If you are eager to explore more of Heidelberg or the beautiful surrounding area, I recommend planning a whole weekend to visit the city and its outskirts.

Things you must do in Heidelberg

  1. Heidelberg Castle
  2. Philosophers' Walk
  3. Old bridge crossing the Neckar
  4. Church of the Holy Spirit
  5. Main Street - the longest shopping street in Europe
  6. Heidelberg University Library
  7. Student Karzer
  8. Kornmarkt, the city's most beautiful square
  9. German Pharmacy Museum
  10. Königsstuhl

How many days I suggest spending in Heidelberg?

You can discover all of the highlights mentioned above in one day. However, Two days are ideal, so you can also enjoy a hike to the Königsstuhl or an extended boat trip on the Neckar.

Attractions in the old town of Heidelberg

Heidelberg's highlights and landmarks can easily be explored in one day. The best place to start your tour is at the main train station. This is where most people arrive. Then make your way to the market square, where you will also be able to obtain more information from the tourist information centre if you need it.

Simply wander through the alleyways in the old town centre. This will give you a great first impression. My favourite time to be here is when the tourist season is not in full swing. That is when the place is particularly charming.

You can use the longest pedestrian zone in Europe (1.6 km) for extensive shopping. To be honest, it used to be more idyllic and individual. Because today you can only find individual shops away from the mainstream in the side streets.

In the old town you have to keep your eyes peeled for pubs, restaurants and beer gardens. The Sonderbar Heidelberg had a special cult here back then when absinthe was briefly hip. You can find more tips for pubs, cafés and restaurants below.

Market square

The market square is located in the city centre of the old town. In its very centre you will find the Hercules Fountain. This is where criminals were pilloried in the Middle Ages. The market square is particularly beautiful in December. This is because the market square is one of the five squares where the Christmas market stalls are located. It is a real highlight in this historic city on the Neckar.

Kornmarkt, the city's most beautiful square

Apart from the castle, the most frequently photographed spot by tourists is the Kornmarkt. It may not be the city's central market square, but it is the most beautiful and popular. The reason for this is, of course, that it offers a particularly great view of the castle and the Schlossberg.

Kornmarkt is home to the town hall, Palais Graimberg and the Prinz Carl building. The façades of the small (expensive) residential buildings are also well worth taking a closer look at. The cable car taking you up to the castle is very close by.

The fountain of Our Lady, also known as the Kornmarkt Madonna, which Elector Karl Philipp had built in 1718 as a symbol of the Counter-Reformation, is the centrepiece of the square.

Helpful information: The outline of the Heilig-Geist-Spital, which was demolished in 1557 in favour of the Kornmarkt, can be seen on the cobblestones in the middle of the Kornmarkt. Take a look below. Will you be visiting Heidelberg in December? Then you should be aware that there is a beautiful Christmas market on the Kornmarkt.

Tips for taking photos: In the late afternoon, the sun is in the ideal position. In the morning, take photos facing the sun.

Der schönste Platz in Heidelberg: Kornmarkt mit Schloss im Hintergrund
The most beautiful square and a popular photo motif in Heidelberg: Kornmarkt with Heidelberg Castle in the background

Heidelberg Castle

The Heidelberg Castle, or rather the ruins of the castle, is one of the most beautiful and well-known sights in Baden-Württemberg as well as Germany. The best way to climb the hill is on foot via the Burgweg. It only takes 10 minutes to reach the entrance of Heidelberg Castle. Alternatively, the mountain railway will take you up from Kornmarkt.

The castle courtyard can be visited free of charge, but you will have to pay an entrance fee to enter the castle ruins. I especially recommend a guided tour (only in summer) through the dark vaulted corridors - casemates. The secret passages of the castle, which are concealed from outside, date back to the 16th century.

Heidelberg Castle was built on the Königsstuhl hill. The residential building towers over Heidelberg and offers a magnificent view of the Old Town and the Neckar.

Tip for the best photos and the best view of Heidelberg Castle:

From the viewing platform on Schlangenweg (path to Philosophenweg), you will have one of the best views of the Old Town and Heidelberg Castle. It is one of the most beautiful vantage points and offers an excellent view of Heidelberg's most important attractions.

Another sight worth seeing is the German Pharmacy Museum. Admission to the museum is included in the castle ticket.

Information on visiting Heidelberg castle

  • Opening times: daily: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; last admission: 4.30 p.m.
  • Entrance fee: adults: 9 euros, concessions: 4.50 euros (the castle ticket includes the return journey on the mountain railway, admission to the castle courtyard, a visit to the Great Barrel and admission to the German Pharmacy Museum)
  • Ticket for the mountain railway: 4.50 euros (standard)
  • Inner courtyard and castle garden freely accessible
  • Audio guide available in several languages for 5 euros
  • Official website
  • Address: Schlosshof 1


For an even better view, you can head all the way to the top of the Königstuhl (568 metres) or walk up the ladder to heaven. On a nice day, the view of Heidelberg and the Neckar is truly marvellous. The great thing about this ride is that the original carriages from 1970 are still in use, making the mountain railway line one of the oldest and longest in Germany.

Besides, the ascent to the Königsstuhl via the Himmelsleiter marks the first section of the hike along the Neckarsteig trail, which lasts several days. The beautiful natural landscape here is also ideal for shorter hikes. Furthermore, the summit is home to the state observatory and a fairytale paradise for families.

Information about travelling with the Heidelberg mountain railway:

  • Ticket from Kornmarkt valley station 9 euros including admission to the castle courtyard, barrel cellar and the German Pharmacy Museum
  • Panoramic ticket up to the Königsstuhl costs just 9 euros, return journey 14 euros
  • Information on the website
  • View admission and information for the fairytale paradise here. Info: With the HeidelbergCARD, you and any of your children receive a discount of 1 euro per person.

German Pharmacy Museum

The German Pharmacy Museum can be found inside Heidelberg Castle. It is included in the admission to the castle and you should definitely not miss it. The museum was founded in Bamberg in 1937, but only moved to Heidelberg in 1957.

It displays pharmacies, pharmacists, workplaces, and accessories from the Renaissance, Baroque and Biedermeier periods. The history of pharmacy is fascinating and for me, it is an attraction in itself. After all, where else could this museum be located? Because Heidelberg is primarily known for medical students and has become a real institution. The collection is quite impressive.

A particular highlight for children is the children's pharmacy, where the little ones can mix tea from herbs and leaves.

Old bridge over the Neckar

The Karl Theodor Bridge, which nobody calls by that name, is simply known colloquially as the "Old Bridge". It connects the old town with the Neuenheim district, where magnificent villas are located. The bridge gate from the Middle Ages is especially worth seeing.

The atmosphere is most stunning at sunset and in the evening. At these times, you can take great pictures of the illuminated castle. The banks of the Neckar ("Neckarwiesen") are also a popular meeting place to enjoy a beer with friends in the evening. This is a pretty relaxed spot in the countryside away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and you're guaranteed some great views.

Must see in Heidelberg: Die Alte Brücke
Must-see and landmark in Heidelberg: The Old Bridge (Karl-Theodor-Brücke) over the Neckar, one of the best highlights for me

Bridge gate to the old town

One of the most beautiful places to take photos is the bridge gate of the Old Bridge. This is where you will find Heidelberg's love locks, and street musicians often play their songs here, adding a touch of French flair to the city.

It's teeming with tourists, as the route to Heidelberg's Old Town is popular and a sight in itself.

Brückentor zur Altstadt von der Alten Brücke in Heidelberg.
Bridge gate to the Old Town from the Old Bridge in Heidelberg. This is my favourite of all the sights in Heidelberg next to the Philosophenweg.

Favourite place to take a photo: the monkey at the bridge gate

No visitor passes by here without taking a photo of this attraction. We're talking about the brass sculpture of a monkey holding a mirror. You will find it next to the bridge gate (Old Bridge) to the Old Town. The sculpture dates back to 1979 and replaced the original, which was destroyed in 1689 during the Palatinate War of Succession.

Interestingly, the monkey symbolises ugliness, shamelessness, and vanity; in a way, it mirrors us humans. Here's a tip for you: If you touch the mirror, it is supposed to bring prosperity.

Affe mit Spiegel, Alte Brücke Heidelberg
The monkey with mirror at the bridge gate of the Old Bridge in Heidelberg is a tourist magnet and one of the sights in Heidelberg that would easily be overlooked if there weren't so many people bustling around


Walk up the Philosophenweg and enjoy the most beautiful view of the Old Town, Neckar and the castle. Begin the hike at the Old Bridge and follow the Schlangenweg to the Philosophenweg. As you ascend the Heiligenberg to the Thingstätte, the city's sunlit slope, you will often pause to enjoy the unique views.

The path is quite steep at the beginning, but only half a kilometre long. After every bend, there is a brick-built seating area. Here you can take a short break and glance down.

The classic circular route from Heidelberg's Old Town along the main road via the Old Bridge and the Schlangenweg to the Philosophenweg is around four kilometres long. This is where you really get the best views of Heidelberg.


If you want to hike even further, you should go to the Thingstätte. This site was once an open-air theatre built by the National Socialists based on the Greek model. Traditionally, the people of Heidelberg meet here on the eve of 1 May and celebrate the holiday together.

If you don't feel like walking here, you can park at the Heiligenberg hiking car park. There is a beer garden up here, opposite St Stephen's Monastery and the ruins of St Michael's Monastery with a tower, which can be reached by climbing a few steps.

The ruins of St Stephen's Monastery were built in 1090 by the Benedictine monk St Stephen. In 1885, a viewing tower, the Heiligenberg Tower, was built from the stones of the ruins. However, I don't think the view from here is that good.


A what? You read that right: Studentenkarzer. The student prison of the famous Ruprecht Karls University was established in the 1780s and was in operation until 1914. Today, it is one of Heidelberg's most popular sights.

Back then, the university had its own court and (minor) punishments were served in prison. These were offences such as disturbing the peace at night or other offences against public order. Today, the former student dungeon serves as a museum of the university's history. During your visit, you can still see the names of the students who have been immortalised here on the colourfully painted walls.

Info about the museum

  • Address: Augustinerstraße 24
  • Opening hours: April - October 10 am - 6 pm; November - March 10 am - 4 pm (except Sunday)
  • Combined ticket museum, old assembly hall and Studentenkarzer: 3 euros adults, 2.50 euros concessions
  • View website

Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit)

Don't miss the Church of the Holy Spirit in the centre of the old town. The 14th century church is impossible to miss as it rises above all the buildings in the centre.

For a donation, you can climb the 208 steps of the church tower. From the viewing platform, you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Neckar Valley, the Old Town and the castle.

Die Heiliggeistkirche in Heidelberg überragt alle Gebäude der Altstadt.
The "Heiliggeistkirche" (Church of the Holy Spirit) in Heidelberg towers over all the buildings in the old town and is one of Heidelberg's attractions

Street-Art in Heidelberg

If you arrive by train, you will be greeted by a fairly new work of art in the station building. The street art scene is constantly growing here and in the surrounding area. Since the METROPOLINK street art festival was held on the former US Army site in 2015, more and more artists from Germany and all over the world have been coming to Heidelberg to immortalise their art on the wall.

If you don't feel like exploring the street art on your own and learning about its history, you can book a tour with Metropolink.

Street Art Heidelberg Bahnhof
Street Art Heidelberg train station. My personal highlight: Heidelberg Central Station street art in the city

Heidelberg University

Heidelberg University is the oldest university in Germany, which means that Heidelberg is also the oldest university city in Germany. The Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg was founded in 1386.

Famous people such as Hegel, von Eichendorff, Habermas, Helmholtz and Helmut Kohl have studied or taught here. The best-known facilities at Heidelberg University are the university library and the aforementioned Studentenkarzer.

Did you know that the university already had an extensive collection of writings in 1386, but it wasn't until 1905 that the current university library was opened? You should take a look at it, as it is considered one of the most beautiful library buildings in Germany. The building blends Renaissance and Art Nouveau architecture and is well worth seeing. One of the highlights inside is the Codex Manesse, a medieval collection of songs that has even been digitised due to coronavirus.


At 13 metres high and 15 metres long, the S-Printing-Horse is the largest horse sculpture in the world. It can be found on the forecourt of the Print Media Academy, a building owned by Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. The sculpture has stood here since 2000 and I have associated it with Heidelberg ever since, as it is the first thing you see when you drive into the city.

Print Media Akademie, S-Printing Horse © Udo Filsinger

Heidelberg Botanical Garden

The botanical garden in Heidelberg is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. It was founded in 1593 and is a place for research and the protection of endangered plant species.

The garden is a great place to relax and has been beautifully designed. In recent years, I have discovered my fascination for botanical gardens while travelling.

Information about the visit

  • Opening hours: Monday - Thursday: 9 am - 4 pm, Friday: 9 am - 2.30 pm. Closed on Saturdays. On Sundays and public holidays: 10 am - 5 pm (summer); 9 am - 4 pm (winter)
  • Admission is free
Botanischer Garten in Heidelberg © Tobias Schwerdt
Often overlooked on a city trip: Botanical Garden in Heidelberg © Tobias Schwerdt

Heidelberger Zoo

Heidelberg Zoo is one of the most beautiful zoos in Baden-Württemberg. It's not too big and very cosy, especially for children (unlike the huge Wilhelma in Stuttgart).

  • Opening hours: April - September 9am - 7pm, November - February 9am - 5pm and March - October 9am - 6pm
  • Tickets: Adults 11.80 euros (high season), children (3 - 18 years) 5.90 euros.
  • Address: Heidelberg Zoo; Tiergartenstr. 3, 69120 Heidelberg
  • Information about tickets on the official website of the zoo

Food & drink and going out

As a student city, Heidelberg has a great nightlife. Check the event pages for Heidelberg and see if there's a good concert coming up during your stay.

Restaurants, ice cream parlours and cafés

  • Breakfast: Nomad, Coffee Nerd,
  • Kulturbrauerei: The Heidelberg brewery with its beer garden is a place I love to visit, especially in summer. They serve local beer as well as regional dishes to indulge in.
  • Joe Molese: Terrific burger in the centre of the old town on the way to the Old Bridge
  • Mandy's Railway Diner: We often went to Mandy's Railway Diner, especially after leaving school. At that time, American food in an old railway carriage was particularly popular, as many GIs from the US Army were still stationed in Heidelberg. The food was always great, but I haven't been back for a while.
  • Die Kuh, die Lacht: Good burgers
  • Mahoud's: Delicious falafel and shawarma (there are several places in the city)
  • Vetter's Alt Heidelberger Brauhaus: well-known brewery with good home cooking (tip: get your beer to go and head to the Neckarwiese)
  • Urban kitchen: Breakfast, pizza and burgers
  • Rossi: breakfast and lunch
  • Ice cream parlours: The best (and vegan) ice cream in Heidelberg can be found in the old town at That's Gelato, Gelato Go (both in the old town) and ok kool (Wieblingen)
  • Macaronnerie Heidelberg: If you love macarons, you absolutely have to come here and do some shopping!
  • Best ice cream in Heidelberg: That's Gelato die Eismacherei
  • Best ice cream in Heidelberg's Old Town: That's Gelato die Eismachacherei in the Old Town
Bestes Eis Heidelberg That's Gelato die Eismacherei
Bestes Eis in Heidelbergs Altstadt: That's Gelato die Eismacherei in der Altstadt

Special institution: Heidelberg Zuckerladen

The Zuckerladen is a truly special curiosity. We used to just call it the "Zuckerbäcker". Because here you will find every sweet you can possibly imagine. In all flavours. From lollies, gummy bears and chocolate to cakes for special occasions, the sugar shop fulfils every dream. I'll have to look for pictures, but years ago we had a cake made out of sweets for a friend's wedding. It included a treasure chest and kangaroos and koalas as gummy bears because we were travelling to Australia. We used to have presents made here regularly.

  • Address: Plöck 52 in the historic city centre
  • Opening hours: Monday to Friday 12 - 7 pm, Saturday 11 am - 5 pm
  • Website

Further travel tips & info

Tours & activities

Guided tours of the Old Town are popular in the city. You can book these locally with Heidelberg Marketing or in advance online with Get Your Guide. This ensures your ticket is secured. There are tours to the castle, on the Neckar, hikes to the Königsstuhl or excursions to the surrounding areas of the city in Baden-Württemberg.

Other popular tours include trips on the Neckar boat (from Bad Wimpfen to Heidelberg only three times a year) and the solar-powered boat, which silently brings you closer to the city from the Neckar in 50 minutes. A knowledgeable tour guide will provide some background information.

You can hire small boats directly on the banks of the Neckar to take you out on the river. There is also this 2-hour kayak tour on the Neckar.

Cycle along the Neckar Valley bike path (Neckertal-Radweg) to Heidelberg

Heidelberg is on the Neckar Valley cycle path. I love this route along the Neckar. If you start in Heilbronn, for example, the route is mostly slightly downhill. It's a great tour, which you can find here in my Komoot profile.

Getting there

As there are plenty of parking spaces in the city centre, but they are often packed (there are many multistory car parks), I recommend travelling to Heidelberg by train. That way, you can truly enjoy the panoramic journey along the Neckar. There is also a great street art painting visible directly on arrival at the main station.

The main station is located in the centre of the Old Town.

Recommendation: Best Heidelberg travel guidebook

Since I live in the Heidelberg region (Heilbronn is only an hour away), I own several travel guides for Heidelberg (in German). As a tourist, I recommend the Lonely Planet Germany, as there is no official book for visiting Heidelberg.

Where to stay?

As Heidelberg is quite popular, finding a free bed is not a problem. There are numerous hotels that are well located for exploring Heidelberg. Only in summer and during the Christmas season (the Christmas market is outstanding) should you book a hotel longer well in advance.

Since the Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg is worth a visit anyway, you should consider checking in directly at the Kulturbrauerei in the heart of Heidelberg.

You can view the rooms here

Another great option is the fairly new Qube Hotel Bergheim. The main train station is just 800 metres away and the rooftop terrace offers fantastic views! Book now.

Save money: the Heidelberg Card

For sightseeing, you should buy the Heidelberg Card before travelling. This sightseeing ticket includes many sights and tours free of charge. You can also use local public transport. Take a look at my Heidelberg Card review.

It includes the Heidelberg Castle Ticket with a return journey on the mountain railway. In addition, you will receive a Heidelberg Guide with a city map and free travel on public transport.

  • Card available for 1, 2 or 4 days. The family ticket is ideal for families.
  • The longer you are staying here, the more you can save
  • If you order the Heidelberg Card online before you travel, it is usually cheaper than buying it on site (also available at the tourist information centre)

Order the Heidelberg Card online here (GetYourGuide is a partner since many years).

Shopping in Heidelberg

The pedestrian zone in Heidelberg is another attraction. At 1.6 kilometres, it is the longest pedestrian zone in Europe. As in any big city, you will find shops of well-known brands here. I prefer the small shops in the alleyways of Heidelberg's Old Town or other parts of the city. The prettiest alleyways are Märzgasse (which turns off the main street), Plöck (which runs parallel to the main street) and Untere Straße, where you'll find one pub after another.

Some great little shops are, for example:

  • Holgersons: Home accessories mainly from Danish designers (Märzgasse 16 and Sofienstraße 19)
  • L'EPICERIE: spices, oils and vinegars (Hauptstraße 3),

Have you ever been to Heidelberg? What are your favourite things to do in Heidelberg?

Leave us a comment if we have forgotten to mention an attraction! We are curious about your highlights and top sights in Heidelberg, this beautiful city on the Neckar, and look forward to your feedback.

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Katrin Lehr, Gründerin Reiseblog und Reise-Expertin
Hi ich bin Katrin!

I'm Katrin, I travel a lot and am a real travel expert! I am eager to explore the whole world with a Camper van or backpack. Furthermore, I founded this travel blog to share my experiences with you!

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