If you open any guidebook about visiting Germany, then usually the most recommended destinations are Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, or Cologne.

In my opinion, these definitely aren’t the best travel destinations in Germany. (except Hamburg, because it is awesome). How do I know? Well, I have been living in Germany for 5 years and I have traveled across most of the country.

Now you may argue with me and say that Munich is pretty awesome too. Well, the main city isn’t but Munich is an amazing gateway to explore Bavaria and see the best of Germany’s mountains. Guess what, Bavaria is expensive!

The Massive Heidelberg Castle over the city

In my opinion, if there’s one German destination that has it all, it is Heidelberg. No, it isn’t in Bavaria but there are little mountains in Heidelberg too.

I wasn’t prepared to like Heidelberg so much but for me, it was like a mini Prague. And, it was definitely affordable if compared to many other German destinations. 

So, is Heidelberg worth visiting? If you’re visiting Germany and are looking for ideas for where to go, then let me convince you to visit Heidelberg. Here’s why Heidelberg is going to be your favorite German destination:

FYI: This post isn’t a city guide but more of a list of things that I loved about Heidelberg. If you are looking for one, then check out my Heidelberg city guide post with a list of things to do, how to reach, where to stay, and more.

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Schloss Castle – via Pixabay

Germany’s famous for its castles. There’s the epic Burg Eltz which was an inspiration for Disney’s movie. There’s also Neuschwanstein Castle, which is an unbelievable sight. Heidelberg is no less in this respect. Heidelberg castle is called Heidelberg Palace and is massive.

Inside Heidelberger-Schloss via Pixabay

When you catch the first glimpse of Heidelberg castle, you will notice that it is built over the hills. It looks like it is a part of the hills as it emerges from the middle of green forested hills. The castle overlooks the old town of Heidelberg.

Entering Heidelberg Castle is not free. In case you’re visiting the city and are going to do some of the other activities then I highly recommend you get the HeidelbergCard. It includes not just the Heidelberg Castle entry but also public transport, cable rail to and back from the castle, and a discount on other attractions.

Click for the HeidelbergCard

This card is valid for 1 – 4 days so make sure you get it if you’re going to visit the castle and ride the cable train to it.

If you decide to go inside the castle, can admire the view from the Scheffel Tower. You will also see the romantic garden – Hortus Palatinus.

Ever heard of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? He was a famous poet and inside you will see his statue. The Heidelberg castle also has a massive wine barrel, it is called the Great Heidelberg Tun. You can taste the wines here, isn’t that awesome?

Old Town, Old Bridge

Karl Theodor Bridge in Heidelberg – aka, the Old Bridge

What’s the one common thing about some of the most beautiful European cities? Most of them have a bridge and an old town. Yes, Prague, Paris, Porto, Mostar, Lucerne – many cities all over Europe but hardly any in Germany. Except for Heidelberg!

Heidelberg’s bridge is often called “the Old Bridge” but another name is Karl Theodor Bridge. It kind of reminded me of Prague. If you walk over it, you can directly see the castle and enter the old town.

Walking on the Old Bridge in Heidelberg

The walk on the bridge is an experience in itself because of interesting things like arches, Brückenaffe (a bronze statue of a monkey), and Baroque tower helmets.

Heidelberg’s old town is prettier than most of the old towns in all over Germany. There are old buildings, and narrow streets with a distant hill in the background. Even the German tourism board names Heidelberg in the top 3 because of its stunning old town.

Heidelberg Altstadt (old town) is a place where you will spend most of your time. There are restaurants in Market Square, interesting shops on Hauptstrasse, and many old churches – all of them together in a little Old Town. Exploring the old town is quite possibly the most popular thing to do in Heidelberg.

Neckar River

Neckar River, Heidelberg, Germany

Most of the historical cities all over the world were built around major rivers. This is because major long-distance transport was over the water.

But on today’s date, we can enjoy the beauty of the river that goes through a lovely historical city and feast our eyes on the stunning landscapes that these rivers make. That’s the thing is Heidelberg too.

Family Kayaking on Neckar River, Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg’s Neckar River creates many stunning viewpoint opportunities. Moreover, as you hike along the river, you will notice many interesting sights like meadows, parks, and little hills. I also saw a family kayaking on the Necker River and I’m sure you can do a few other water sports like SUP, paddle boating, and more.

Odenwald Mountains

Odenwald Range around Heidelberg, Germany

You’ve got a castle, a river, a bridge, and an old town, so how can the landscape get even better? Add mountains & hills. Yes, I was truly delighted when I realized that as stunning as Heidelberg is, it is even better than I imagined it to be because of the little hills that surround the city.

The Odenwald range is bigger than the hills. In fact, they are a low mountain range that extends all the way to Bavaria. In Heidelberg, we see a part of Odenwald that’s along a part of Neckar river valley is very green.

We were able to enjoy the best of Odenwald’s greenery as we camped next to Neckar river in Heidelberg. This is because we traveled to Heidelberg with our camper van.

Camping in Heidelberg

Two interesting spots of Odenwald that you will enjoy while in Heidelberg are Königstuhl-Mountain (567.8m) and Heiligenberg (445m) which is a part of the Philosophenweg hike.

Heidelberg Viewpoints

Heidelberg view from the top – via Unsplash

Where there are hills, there are definitely viewpoints. The most known spectacular viewpoint of Heidelberg is from Königstuhl-Mountain, from where you can see the old town, Heidelberg Palace, and the river.

In order to reach Königstuhl-Mountain, you can climb the Himmelsleiter “Ladder to the Sky” with 1220 steps. Or, you can just take it easy and ride the Bergbahn funicular – the mountain cableway. This ride starts from “Kornmakt” in the Old Town to Heidelberg Castle and to the Königstuhl.

If you’re thinking of riding the cable rail and also entering Heidelberg Castle then we highly recommend you get the HeidelbergCard to save money.

Click for the HeidelbergCard

Apart from Königstuhl, there are many other viewpoint possibilities because of the hills and rivers. You can check out the view from Neckarwiese, for which you won’t have to climb at all.

Neckarwiese is actually a flat meadow by the south bank of the river Neckar. From here, you can see the river and the castle beyond it. On a nice summer day, you will see a lot of locals and students here.

Or you can also check out the view from Scheffel Terrace, which has an observation deck within the Heidelberg castle.

Hiking Trails

Philosophenweg – Philosopher’s walk in Heidelberg via Unsplash

I have a thing for nature & viewpoints and because of this, I love to hike. Heidelberg has many small hiking trains and the most famous one is called Philosophenweg, which means Philosopher’s Way. As the name suggests, this walk was started by Heidelberg university professors and philosophers.

Necker River and hiking trails – Heidelberg, Germany

The Philosopher’s Way hiking trail in Heidelberg goes along the Neckar river and is easy to do if the weather is nice. This hike leads to the Heiligenberg mountain of Odenwald from Neuenheim.

We actually did this walk with our baby in a stroller but had to pick it up manually at some spots. The total distance of this hike is around 2 kms.

Craft Beer

Explore the Beer Scene in Heidelberg

Heidelberg has some famous breweries and an amazing craft beer scene. Head to Vetter’s Alt Heidelberger Brauhaus, which is where I had one of the best-tasting beers. It is located right in the heart of the old town. Enjoy the beer with typical German food like Flammkuchen, Weißwurst, or Schnitzel.

There are surely many other places in Heidelberg where you can enjoy craft beer. Including the one I tried, here’s a list for you for your trip here:

  • Vetter’s Alt Heidelberger Brauhaus (tried and tested by me)
  • Kulturbrauerei,
  • Heidelberger Brauerei GmbH,
  • Hopfenkind Craftbrewing Co,
  • Brauerei zum Klosterhof GmbH

Let me know if you try them. Personally, I’d love to return to Heidelberg and visit them all one by one.

Small Town Feels

Heidelberg has small-town feels

Heidelberg is popular amongst tourists but I love the fact it has retained some small-town feel. This is one thing that I miss when I visit cities like Hamburg, Frankfurt, etc – but Heidelberg wins here.

You can explore most of Heidelberg on foot and I love that kind of freedom. In fact, we camped 2 KMs outside the old town but it was a nice walk along the river to Heidelberg’s old bridge and then further to the old town.

Lively Nightlife

Heidelberg is tiny but it has more than 300 bars and clubs! Since it is a student town, the nightlife scene here is amazing. Most of the bars stay open till 1 am and even much later for student bars.

Some locals say that if you are young and can be mistaken as a Heidelberg University student, you can also find out about student parties by asking around. If you find a party like that then you are guaranteed a good time since these parties go on till 6 or 7 am in the morning. Moreover, beer is much cheaper at these parties.

So, is Heidelberg worth visiting?

Having lived in Germany, I have seen many destinations all over the country and also on an island. For me, one of the best travel destinations in the country is Heidelberg because it has everything. Exactly for this reason, it will appeal to every kind of traveler – young, old, solo, family, adventurers, party animals, wine aficionados, history buffs, Potterheads, and more.

Heidelberg is charming, and historical, has amazing nature, hiking possibilities, a dreamy castle, an old town with a romantic bridge, and a super amazing party scene. Have you ever visited Heidelberg? Let me know in the comments.

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