Heidelberg is a perfect getaway for poets and philosophers, romantics and historians. The city’s medieval treasures that once inspired the likes of Goethe, Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain survived both World Wars and continue to amaze visitors. Here’s our guide to spending 24 hours in Heidelberg.
A good breakfast is key for a jam-packed day of sightseeing. The menu of the old town Café Rossi leaves nothing to be desired. You can order one of the set platters or design your own, with options including bagels, eggs, bread rolls, croissants, an omelette, brioches, muesli and pancakes.
Invigorated by the sumptuous meal, make your way down Hauptstraße, Heidelberg’s main road with countless shops, cafés and restaurants. You’ll end up at the historic market square in front of the City Hall. If you’re visiting on the weekend, consider joining a 90-minute guided tour of Heidelberg’s old town. The guides take you past the most important sights and shed light on their history. English tours start at 10:30 am at the Marktplatz.
Whether you opt for the tour or decide to explore the city at your own pace, there are a handful of must-see sights. The Heiliggeistkirche, or Church of the Holy Spirit, is the obvious place to start. If you want, you can climb up the tower to a platform for panoramic views over the city. Stroll through the Jesuit Quarter and make sure to get a glimpse of the beautiful white and well-lit interior of the Jesuit Church.
Heidelberg University, founded in 1386, is the oldest in Germany. The historic red brick façade of the main building and the library are stunning from the outside, but wait until you get inside. The wood-panelled walls, frescoes, chandeliers and stained-glass windows look like something straight out of Hogwarts. Just around the corner is the Studentenkarzer, a former students’ prison for anyone who disturbed the peace at the university.
Joe Molese is an excellent spot to refuel on burgers, sandwiches and a cold drink before you take on Heidelberg’s most famous walking path, the Philosophers’ Way. Start your walk towards the Neckar River and stroll across the iconic Old Bridge, constructed back in 1788. A fairly steep set of stairs zigzags up the hill on the other side and takes you straight to the path that has drawn from renowned poets, writers and philosophers. You’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the castle and the old town below.
If you’re tired, jump on a bus or tram for the day’s highlight – Heidelberg Castle. Guided tours start hourly, but make sure to arrive before 4 pm. Dating back to 1214, Heidelberg Castle was expanded, destroyed and partially rebuilt. Today the ruins are considered to be among the most beautiful in Germany and a prime example of Renaissance architecture. The red sandstone castle ruins draw millions of tourists to Heidelberg each year. Take your time exploring the interior as well as the vast gardens.
To round off the day, treat yourself to some authentic German food. There are a few traditional gastropubs scattered across the old town. Zum Roten Ochsen looks back on a 315-year-long history, which has included welcoming Mark Twain and Marilyn Monroe in the past. Guests dine in a rustic and cosy atmosphere, and the menu lists bratwurst, spätzle, roast ox and sauerkraut.
Finish the evening with a couple of glasses of local beers or cocktails if you wish. Seppl, a historic students’ pub, has a particularly nostalgic and welcoming ambience. If you’re looking for a more upbeat location, follow the groups of today’s students who tend to celebrate the weekend at Jinx, Pinte or P11.