Let’s discover the best places in Heidelberg, most beautiful landmarks and attractions. Heidelberg, a charming city in Germany, has long been known as one of the most romantic and popular tourist destinations in the country.
Its numerous postcard-worthy landmarks and attractions have attracted countless visitors from all over the world. From the iconic Heidelberg Castle, which symbolizes German Romanticism, to the scenic old town and the Philosophenweg to the majestic Königstuhl, there is no shortage of fascinating sights to explore in Heidelberg.
The Heidelberg Castle, one of the most famous landmarks in the city, is a must-visit attraction. Built in the 14th century, this majestic castle offers a stunning view of the city and the Neckar River. It was once home to the Palatinate princes, and now it houses a museum with a collection of historical artifacts.
Another major highlight of Heidelberg is the picturesque old town, which features stunning architecture from various historical periods, such as Gothic and Renaissance. Its narrow streets and alleys are filled with charming shops, restaurants, and cafes, making it a perfect place to explore and enjoy a leisurely stroll.
For nature lovers, the Philosophenweg, or “Philosopher’s Way,” is a must-see destination. This scenic walkway offers breathtaking views of the city and the Neckar River, and is a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike. It is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
The Königstuhl, or “King’s Chair,” is a majestic mountain located just outside of Heidelberg. It offers stunning views of the city and the surrounding countryside, and is a popular destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts.
With so many amazing sights and attractions, Heidelberg is truly a city that should be on every traveler’s itinerary. So join me on a journey through this beautiful city, and discover all the best places that Heidelberg has to offer.
1. Heidelberg Castle
The Heidelberg Castle, located in the picturesque city of Heidelberg, is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist attractions in Germany. This historical monument has a rich and varied history that has made it an important symbol of German Romanticism, attracting visitors from all over the world.
The castle ruins are a remarkable representation of the castle’s long history, which dates back to the 13th century. The Heidelberg Palace was once the residence of the Electors Palatinate for more than five centuries, and each Elector had a unique vision of how the palace should look.
This resulted in numerous structural changes and additions to the castle over time, combining elements of Gothic, Renaissance, and Classical architecture.
Despite its stunning appearance, the Heidelberg Castle has not escaped destruction. In fact, it has been devastated and demolished three times in just 75 years – twice by French troops and once by a lightning strike. This is the reason why the castle is more of a ruin today.
Despite the fact that the Heidelberg Castle is a ruin, it still fascinates visitors from all over the world with its historical and cultural significance. The castle’s charm is enhanced by its mystical appearance, as it towers over the roofs of Heidelberg, almost like a dreamlike apparition.
The castle is particularly known for the romantic sentimentality it evokes, which is associated with the German Romanticism movement. This is because the most important representatives of this literary genre, Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano, often stayed in Heidelberg. Their works were heavily influenced by the castle, and as a result, it became a symbol of German Romanticism.
When visiting the Heidelberg Castle, the gazebo is the highlight of the tour. From here, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the beautiful Neckar Valley, which is breathtaking. The gazebo also offers an opportunity to see the castle’s greatest curiosity, the knight’s jump. According to legend, a knight caught in the act with a lady-in-waiting jumped from the window in desperation, leaving a footprint behind.
Tip: Similar to Cinderella and her shoe, the person whose footprint “fits” should have a happy life. Try it too.
Today, the Heidelberg Castle ruins are a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Germany. They are among the most popular tourist attractions in the country, attracting millions of visitors each year. The castle ruins, with their historical significance and romantic appeal, are truly a gem that has captured the hearts of tourists from all over the world.
After the Heidelberg Castle, the Kornmarkt is the second most popular photo spot for tourists visiting Heidelberg. This charming square may not be the city’s main marketplace, but it is certainly the more popular one among visitors. The reason for this popularity is not hard to understand, as the Kornmarkt is located at the foot of the castle, offering an excellent view of the castle from the square.
The Kornmarkt has a picturesque appearance that is sure to enchant visitors. The square is surrounded by impressive buildings such as the town hall, the Palais Graimberg, and the Prince Carl building, as well as charming residential buildings, making it one of the most idyllic sights in Heidelberg.
One interesting fact about the Kornmarkt is that it was built on the site of the demolished Heilig-Geist-Spital in 1557. Today, the outlines of this former hospital are marked on the pavement in the middle of the square, serving as a reminder of the city’s rich history.
The most notable attraction on the Kornmarkt is the Mother of God fountain, also known as the Kornmarkt-Madonna. This fountain was erected in 1718 by the Catholic Elector Karl Philipp as a symbol of the Counter-Reformation, which aimed to re-establish Catholicism in areas that had become predominantly Protestant. The imagery depicted in the fountain shows Mary with the baby Jesus as a kind of victor, which was typical of the Counter-Reformation period.
Over time, the fountain has been redesigned several times. The figure of Mary with the baby Jesus was moved further into the center of the square, and the base was redesigned to enhance its appearance. Today, a replica of the fountain stands in the square, while the original fountain can be found in the Kurpfälzisches Museum.
Besides being a popular tourist attraction, the Kornmarkt is also home to the Heidelberg Christmas market, which is a must-visit event for anyone visiting the city during the holiday season. Here, visitors can enjoy the festive atmosphere, indulge in some delicious treats, and purchase unique gifts for their loved ones.
In summary, the Kornmarkt is a charming square in Heidelberg that is popular among tourists for its picturesque appearance and its proximity to the Heidelberg Castle. Its rich history, the Mother of God fountain, and the annual Christmas market are just some of the reasons why it is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Heidelberg.
3. Old Bridge
The Old Bridge is a beloved landmark of Heidelberg, known for its picturesque setting and unique features. It is considered one of the most beautifully situated bridges in all of Germany, and has been a fixture of the city for centuries. In fact, the bridge has connected the old town of Heidelberg with the banks of the Neckar on the other side since its inception.
The Old Bridge has a rich history that spans centuries. When the eighth bridge at this point was destroyed by flooding in 1784, Elector Karl-Theodor decided to have a new bridge built in 1786, this time made of stone. The Old Bridge has always been an important part of Heidelberg’s transportation infrastructure, and has played a significant role in the city’s development.
Despite being blown up by the Wehrmacht in 1945 during the final days of the war, the Old Bridge was rebuilt just two years later and is now a pure pedestrian and bicycle bridge. It is one of the few remaining stone bridges and is admired for its sturdiness and enduring beauty.
The Old Bridge is not only a practical way to cross the Neckar, but it is also home to many of Heidelberg’s most interesting sights. The bridge gate, which dates back to the Middle Ages, stands on the old town side and is an imposing reminder of the city’s rich history. In addition, the second and seventh pillars of the bridge are adorned with statues of Elector Karl-Theodor and the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva. These statues are both significant to the bridge’s history and to the self-image of Karl-Theodor.
However, the most unique feature of the Old Bridge is undoubtedly the bridge monkey. This bronze statue, resembling a baboon, sits on the balustrade and holds a mirror in his left hand while his right hand wards off the evil eye. The bridge monkey is the symbol of vanity and mockery and literally holds up a mirror to the viewer. It is a fascinating and unusual sight that draws tourists from all over the world.
The original bridge monkey was replaced in 1979, but it is still possible to touch the statue’s right hand and return to Heidelberg, according to local lore. Other traditions hold that touching the mirror will bring happiness and that stroking the mice next to the monkey will bring many children. These superstitions have added to the charm and intrigue of the Old Bridge, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Heidelberg.
4. Philosopher’s Walk
Heidelberg, a city renowned for its rich history, culture and architecture, has many attractions that draw tourists from all over the world. However, one of its most unique and stunning natural beauty is the Philosophenweg. This pathway, which runs for about two kilometers, offers an enchanting view of the city, the Neckar River, and the famous Heidelberg Castle. It is a combination of both natural and urban beauty, which makes it a must-visit location for anyone visiting the city.
The Philosophenweg begins in the Neuenheim district, on the other side of the Neckar River, and leads along the riverbank to the southern slope of the Heilgenberg. This pathway offers visitors a picturesque view of the city, the Neckar, and the Königstuhl hill. As one strolls through the Philosophenweg, the breathtaking view and the natural beauty of the area will leave one mesmerized.
While the Philosophenweg may start unassumingly in a residential area, the pathway becomes more interesting as one moves closer to the Heiligenberg slope. Along the Philosopher’s Garden, visitors can enjoy the beauty of various plants and flowers while also taking in numerous reminiscences of romantic poets such as Hölderlin or Eichendorff. The path to the Heiligenberg slope is paved and flanked by trees and bushes. It provides a serene and relaxing environment, where visitors can unwind and enjoy the view.
Visitors can access the Philosophenweg using different paths. One of the most popular is the snake path, which connects the old bridge with the philosopher’s path. Another way to access the pathway is by taking a short walk from the Old Bridge. Visitors who find the snake path too narrow or steep can use benches available along the path to rest.
One unique feature of the Philosophenweg is its location, which gives it special climatic conditions. The temperature on the path is usually about 1.5 degrees higher than in the city. This enables plants and shrubs to thrive on the pathway, creating a Tuscan-like environment. The path is lined with various trees, including pine trees, lemon trees, cypresses and even palm trees.
The Philosophenweg is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful attractions in Heidelberg. It provides a unique perspective of the city and offers visitors an opportunity to connect with nature in a serene environment.
A visit to Heidelberg would be incomplete without taking a stroll along the Philosophenweg. Along with the Schlangenweg, the Old Bridge, the Old Town, and Heidelberg Castle, it is one of the classic sights to see on any Heidelberg tour. With the city being relatively small, visitors can visit all of these sights in a day.
5. University of Heidelberg
Heidelberg University, located in the city of Heidelberg, Germany, is a prestigious institution of higher education and holds the distinction of being the oldest university in Germany. The history of this renowned institution dates back to 1386, when it was founded by Elector Ruprecht I, making it the third-oldest university north of the Alps and the oldest in Germany.
The university is named after its two major benefactors, Ruprecht I and Margrave Karl Friedrich, who reorganized and supported the institution generously in the 19th century.
The University of Heidelberg has produced numerous renowned scholars, scientists, philosophers, and politicians, including Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Hermann von Helmholtz, Joseph von Eichendorff, Jürgen Habermas, and Helmut Kohl, among others. With such an impressive roster of alumni, the university has played a pivotal role in shaping not only Germany’s but also Europe’s intellectual and political history.
The university has many landmarks that showcase its rich history and cultural significance. One of its most famous landmarks is the university library, which is considered one of the most beautiful library buildings in Germany.
Although the university has had a significant collection of writings since its founding, the current university library building was only opened in 1905. It is a stylistic blend of Renaissance or Mannerism and Art Nouveau, which makes it architecturally unique. Inside, visitors can admire busts of numerous scholars and changing exhibitions. The Codex Manesse, a collection of songs from the Middle Ages, is also an outstanding feature of the library.
The student prison, another iconic landmark of Heidelberg University, is a historic building that offers a glimpse into the university’s disciplinary measures in the past. Students were incarcerated in this prison, which derived its name from the Latin word for dungeon, for minor offenses or trivial offenses.
The university had its own court from 1178 to 1914, which could impose sentences ranging from a few days to a few weeks. The incarcerated students used the time to immortalize themselves on the prison wall with all sorts of pictures, caricatures, and doodles, which visitors can still see today. The student prison is a unique journey through time and is one of the top sights in Heidelberg.
Another attraction located on the university campus is the Prinzhorn Collection. The Prinzhorn Collection is an art collection that is unique in the world, containing around 5,000 works created by patients in psychiatric hospitals in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The doctor and art historian Hans Prinzhorn assembled the collection in the early 20th century.
The paintings and drawings were mostly created by patients with a schizophrenic personality disorder, and they reflect different levels of human emotions, showing extremes and giving insights into the world of psychotic states. The artwork also portrays the emotions the inmates experienced while they were institutionalized. The Prinzhorn Collection is located in the Clinic for General Psychiatry of the University Hospital Heidelberg.
The University of Heidelberg is a prestigious institution with a rich history and cultural significance. Its famous landmarks, including the university library and the student prison, offer visitors a glimpse into the university’s past, while the Prinzhorn Collection provides an insight into the world of art and psychiatry.
6. Old Town
Heidelberg’s old town is a stunning and picturesque location that attracts many visitors each year. As one of the most popular tourist spots in the city, the old town is home to a plethora of beautiful and historic landmarks that provide a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Heidelberg.
One of the reasons why Heidelberg’s old town is so popular is its remarkable state of preservation. Almost unchanged since the 17th century, the old town boasts an enchanting atmosphere that is characterized by baroque residential buildings, narrow streets, and the imposing castle that looms above. All of these elements come together to create a unique and idyllic location that is perfect for a sightseeing tour.
The old town is also renowned for its famous landmarks, each of which adds to the charm of the area. One of the most iconic locations is the market square, which sits at the heart of the old town. Here, visitors can admire the Heiliggeistkirche, the town hall, and the main street, all while enjoying the stunning views of the Hercules Fountain, which serves as a tribute to the reconstruction of Heidelberg following the Palatinate War of Succession.
Another popular spot in Heidelberg’s old town is Bismarckplatz, located on the western side of the main street. This bustling plaza is a favorite among locals and serves as one of the city’s main transportation hubs. From here, visitors can easily navigate their way down the main street to explore the rest of the old town, which spans over 1.4 kilometers in length, making it the longest pedestrian zone in Europe. The main street is also a shopper’s paradise, featuring a range of traditional Heidelberg shops, cafes, and restaurants, as well as a few hidden gems tucked away in the side streets.
For those interested in Heidelberg’s rich academic history, a visit to University Square is a must. Situated at the foot of Heidelberg University, this square is where the Augustinian monastery once stood. The site was significant in the Reformation era, as it was where Martin Luther worked. Today, University Square is mostly frequented by students and tourists alike, and provides easy access to the city’s other must-see locations.
In summary, Heidelberg’s old town is a treasure trove of history and culture that captivates visitors with its stunning architecture, charming streets, and iconic landmarks. A visit to this idyllic location is a must for anyone looking to explore the rich cultural heritage of Heidelberg.
7. Königstuhl Mountain
Heidelberg’s Königstuhl is one of the most breathtaking sights in the region, known for its beautiful natural landscape and stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area.
While it is not particularly high at around 568 meters, it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful mountains in the area. This majestic mountain is an integral part of Heidelberg’s old town and offers visitors a range of exciting activities and attractions to explore.
One of the most notable attractions on the Königstuhl is the state observatory, which is located at the summit of the mountain. Here, visitors can explore the mysteries of the universe and observe the stars and planets using state-of-the-art telescopes and equipment. This is a fantastic experience for astronomy enthusiasts of all ages and is a must-see attraction in Heidelberg.
Another popular attraction on the Königstuhl is the Fairy Tale Paradise, an amusement park that is especially popular with families with young children. This charming park features a variety of rides, playgrounds, and other fun activities, all inspired by well-known and beloved fairy tale characters. Children and adults alike will be enchanted by the magical atmosphere and whimsical attractions of the Fairy Tale Paradise.
To reach the summit of the Königstuhl, visitors have two options. The first is to take the cable car, which offers a comfortable and scenic journey to the top of the mountain.
Alternatively, visitors can climb the 1,600 steps of the famous Ladder to Heaven, which leads from the Kornmarkt to the summit of the mountain. This is an excellent opportunity for hikers and those who enjoy a good workout to challenge themselves and experience the natural beauty of the region up close.
With its stunning natural scenery, exciting attractions, and rich history, the Königstuhl is one of the top 10 must-see sights in Heidelberg. Whether you’re a nature lover, a science enthusiast, or just looking for a fun day out with your family, the Königstuhl has something for everyone. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this breathtaking mountain and experience the magic of Heidelberg’s old town.
8. Holy Spirit Church
The Heiliggeistkirche, also known as the Church of the Holy Spirit, is not only the largest but also the most significant church in Heidelberg. Situated in the heart of the old town, it is one of the most iconic buildings that help to define the city’s character along with the castle.
Its history dates back to the 14th century when the construction of the Gothic building first began. Since then, it has undergone several extensions and renovations, with the most notable being in 1398.
The church is of great importance to the religious and scientific history of Heidelberg. For instance, its nave served as the home of Bibliotheca Palatina, one of the most significant libraries of the Renaissance period.
Over the years, the church has witnessed numerous changes in religious affiliations, with services alternating between Lutheran or Reformed and Catholic denominations. At some point, both denominations used the church, with a wall separating their services.
Today, the Heiliggeistkirche is exclusively Protestant, and it continues to play a vital role in the religious life of the people of Heidelberg. The church’s architecture is a unique blend of Gothic and Baroque styles, characterized by its unadorned appearance, albeit monumental. The façade is particularly notable for the small shops located at the foot of the church, where visitors can buy various souvenirs and knick-knacks.
Stepping inside the Heiliggeistkirche, visitors will appreciate the restrained interior decor. However, this was not always the case. Before the Reformation, the church was elaborately adorned, but during the iconoclasm, much of the decoration was removed. The only surviving relic from its past glory is the pulpit.
For those who want to experience the Heiliggeistkirche’s height and enjoy a bird’s eye view of Heidelberg’s landmarks and the surrounding area, there is an opportunity to climb the church tower. Climbing the 208 steps to the top requires a small donation. The view from the viewing platform at a height of 38 meters is breathtaking, and it is definitely worth the climb.
The Heiliggeistkirche’s historical significance, unique architecture, and religious importance make it a must-see attraction in Heidelberg for both locals and visitors.
9. German Pharmacy Museum
The German Pharmacy Museum is a unique museum that showcases the history of pharmacy in Germany. Located within the impressive walls of Heidelberg Castle, the museum was founded in 1937 and later moved to its current location in Heidelberg in 1957.
Its unique collection offers visitors a glimpse into the past and allows them to explore the development of pharmacy over the centuries.
The museum houses a vast collection of pharmaceutical artifacts from various eras, including the Renaissance, Baroque, and Biedermeier periods. One of the highlights of the museum is the display of a pharmacist’s workplace or dispensary from the 1930s.
Visitors can view various instruments and equipment used by pharmacists during that time, as well as the various medicinal ingredients they used to create their remedies.
The museum also features a laboratory, which showcases the instruments and equipment used by pharmacists from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The laboratory also provides visitors with insight into the various methods used to create medicines during that time.
One of the most impressive parts of the museum is the collection of medical vessels. The collection consists of beautifully crafted vessels used to store and transport medicine. Visitors can appreciate the artistic craftsmanship and marvel at the intricacy of these vessels.
The German Pharmacy Museum is not just a place for adults to visit. The museum has a dedicated children’s pharmacy, where kids can mix tea and smell herbs and leaves. This interactive exhibit allows children to learn about the different medicinal properties of various herbs and plants in a fun and engaging way.
The museum is considered one of the top attractions in Heidelberg, especially for families with children, and is a great place to visit in the winter months. Whether you’re interested in the history of medicine, the artistry of medical vessels, or simply curious about the development of pharmacy over the centuries, the German Pharmacy Museum is definitely worth a visit.
10. Schwetzingen Castle
Schwetzingen Castle is a renowned tourist attraction in the Heidelberg area, particularly renowned for its baroque palace and sprawling gardens. What many people do not know, however, is that it was originally a castle dating back to the 15th century before being transformed into a magnificent palace during the 18th century.
The palace is widely famous for its well-manicured baroque garden, which underwent several modifications and extensions under the electors Karl Philipp and Karl Theodor.
Karl Philipp expanded the central part of the palace with its two wings and commissioned the construction of a symmetrical baroque facade. He also ordered the construction of the baroque palace gardens, which are now an iconic feature of the palace.
Karl Theodor also contributed to the palace’s expansion by commissioning the construction of the circular buildings, which today house the well-known Schlosstheater Schwetzingen. This theater is not only the oldest tiered theater in the world, but also the oldest theater in Baden-Württemberg.
The interior of the palace has been restored to its old baroque glory, and visitors can marvel at the palace’s opulence. Some rooms still maintain their Biedermeier appearance, providing insight into the private use of the rooms during the early 19th century.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the palace is its impressive baroque garden. The symmetrical and elaborately designed flower beds, along with the carefully trimmed hedges, fountains, and strict geometric shapes, make the palace garden a sight to behold. It is no wonder why it is considered one of the top sights near Heidelberg.
Adjacent to the baroque garden is the English Garden. It is one of the first landscape gardens in Germany, based on the English model, and its informal nature clearly distinguishes it from the baroque garden. The garden features numerous garden architectures, such as several ancient temples and a mosque, which reflect the philosophical views of the Enlightenment. The allegorical sculptures that are scattered throughout the garden are intended to please the eye.
Interestingly, the palace garden was one of the first gardens in Germany to be open to the public. Even today, visitors can explore this stunning palace and its grounds, which have been preserved to perfection, making a visit to Schwetzingen Castle a worthwhile experience.
Heidelberg is a city with a rich history, beautiful places to visit and a variety of fascinating landmarks and attractions. From the stunning Heidelberg Castle to the romantic old town, from the Philosophenweg to the Königstuhl, there is something for everyone in this charming German city. Whether you’re interested in culture, history, or just want to take a leisurely stroll through picturesque streets, Heidelberg is definitely worth a visit. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable trip to one of Germany’s most beautiful cities!