06 Feb One Day in Heidelberg Germany
Heidelberg is a historic, university city located within the Baden-Württemberg region of Germany. It’s often listed as one of the most romantic cities in Germany but we enjoyed a day trip to Heidelberg as a family.
Getting to Heidelberg
We had changed our minds so many times about where to go first in Germany from Paris. Heidelberg was one of the first places we looked at but I wrote it off as being a bit too difficult to travel onto Nuremberg. We booked train tickets from Paris to Frankfurt but I ended up not being able to forget Heidelberg, so we got off a stop early. Instead of staying in Heidelberg itself we booked an Airbnb in Mannheim for easier transport, doing Heidelberg as a day trip.
From Mannheim Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) to Heidelberg Central Station it is a 14-16 minute ride on the s-line. We booked a day pass via the DB Navigator app.
The Neckar River runs through Heidelberg and then flows on to the Rhine River. This makes it a popular river cruise spot. We walked from Heidelberg Central Station down to the river and then followed it along the path. The houses along the river were such a fascinating mix of different styles.
Alte Brücke Heidelberg / Old Bridge Heidelberg
Following the river lead us to Alte Brücke or Old Bridge Heidelberg. Built with Neckar Valley stone by Prince Karl Theodore, the bridge opened in 1788. Part of the old city wall now stands as the bridge gate. Before approaching the bridge gate you will come across the Heidelberg Bridge Monkey, a symbol dating back to the 15th century. The current bronze version has been in place since 1979. The Heidelberg Bridge Monkey is said to symbolize that neither those living in the city or those living outside of it are better than the other. It does this by holding a mirror to remind people to look over their shoulder as they cross the bridge.
Heidelberg Castle – Schloss Heidelberg
The ruins of Heidelberg Castle sit high up on a hill and can be seen from the area around the Old Bridge. The first Schloss Heidelberg structure was built in 1214 and expanded to two castles in 1294. Over time it was damaged by war, fires and lightning and rebuilt. In 1890 work was done to preserve the main building rather than restore it.
How to get up to Heidelberg Castle
At the bottom of the hill, we saw signs for walking up but were unsure of how far it was and the start was already very steep. There is an easier way up and it was an attraction in itself for the kids, a funicular ride. A ticket includes a return ride, exterior palace and gardens, Great Tun and Apothecary Museum. Viewing the castle interior is only possible by guided tour.
After buying our tickets we had to wait a short time for the next cable car. It’s a quick steep ride up the hill to the first stop at the castle. It then goes further up to the peak.
Heidelberg Castle exterior
Castle ruins have always been one of my favourite things, I think it’s because they have been through a lot but are still standing and hold a lot of history. I also love seeing nature begin to take over. At Heidelberg Castle, you can stand and look over crumbled walls and towers.
Other buildings of Heidelberg Castle
As well as the main building there are several others available to view and enter. We admired the statues on the outside of the Friedrich building, the only part that was restored.
The German Apothecary Museum is included in the entry ticket. Our four-year-old declared it too boring so stayed outside with Tim. The seven-year-old and I did a fairly quick walkthrough. A lot of the displays only had descriptions in German, we read some information boards in English.
The entrance ticket also allows you to view the Great Tun which is an enormous wine barrel. The barrel was replaced twice and made larger. The current barrel once held 220,000 litres of wine. A staircase leads up to a platform on top of the barrel, believed to have been used as a dance floor.
View from Heidelberg Castle
The castle’s hilltop location gives it a wonderful view of the town below. On the other side of the Friedrich building is a stone deck where you can look out over rooftops and along the river. You also get a great view of the arched Old Bridge.
Heidelberg Old Town
Heidelberg’s Old Town or Altstadt is the area below the castle and the oldest part of the city. We passed through the Marktplatz (Market Square) after visiting the Old Bridge. In Market Square, you will find the Town Hall and the Church of the Holy Ghost. Hauptstraße is the main road of the Old town and is filled with a mix of old buildings and new stores. A standout building with excellent detailing is Hotel Ritter, built in 1592.
Walking along the street, we decided to have lunch at Safari, a busy Lebanese restaurant. We ate our delicious shawarma wraps on the outdoor table. A friendly dog came to say hello and his owner told us it’s one of his favourite places because people often drop food on the ground and I’m sure it got a good feed under our kids’ seats.
We walked all the way along the road on our way back to the station. There are a number of chain stores such as Lush, Starbucks and H&M. Heidelberg also seems to have a great cafe scene with a number of little coffee and cake shops both on the main road and down the side streets.
Heidelberg in October
After looking up the weather forecast for the day in late October, we were surprised to find it was going to be 22°C. Much warmer than the weather we had in London and Paris. None of us took our jackets and just wore light layers. It was freezing! There was low fog around and the wind cut straight through our inadequate clothing. We thought it might warm up later but the entire time we were there it was very overcast and cold. So, bring a jacket!
Is one day in Heidelberg worth it?
After changing our plans several times and finally deciding on a day trip, was Heidelberg worth visiting? We think it was! It’s a university town which I think is what gives it a great vibe. It has lots of new stores and cafes while still maintaining an old-world charm. I think you could spend a few days here and be happy. For one day in Heidelberg, you can see all the historic attractions and get a feel for the vibrant city. It’s one of those places that really is as beautiful as it looks in pictures.