Evocative and enchanting, Heidelberg is one of Germany’s most popular tourist destinations. Harmonious red roofs cascade out across the old town, leading the eyes on a merry dance before leaving them transfixed by a half-ruined hilltop castle. Encased within the medieval cobblestone streets is Germany’s oldest university, boasting an atmosphere that has inspired poets and painters for generations. While many visitors head straight to the castle on a half-day trip from nearby Frankfurt or Stuttgart, spend a few days in Heidelberg, and there’s always a new treasure to uncover. The city is located in the south-west of Germany, close to the French border.
The historical city centre survived World War II without damage and featured an early 18th century style. Packed with cobblestone and intrigue, Heidelberg is almost completely pedestrianised. There’s hardly a building out of place, and the harmony is part of the attraction.Enter through the buildings’ narrow wooden doors to find traditional taverns, galleries, and odes to Heidelberg’s literary history. For a wonderful panorama over the rooftops, wander up the 1,200 steps to Heiligenberg Mountain, or ascend along Philosophenweg street. The castle is visited by over 10 million people a year and also provides exceptional vistas. Head through interiors untouched by time then out into cultivated gardens that feature a Goethe statue. Old university buildings can be visited at Universitaetsplatz while Heiliggeistkirche is just one of many charming churches.
Getting around the main sights in Heidelberg typically involves a combination of walking and the mountain railway. The city starts from the river and fills the valley with medieval charm and is best seen on foot, as there’s always a new gem to find along the streets. The railway line ascends to the castle and Konigstuhl Mountain, which saves the legs from thousands of steps. Heidelberg is on the ICE high-speed railway, and this provides expedited travel to Frankfurt International Airport, Frankfurt am Main, Stuttgart, and other destinations across the region. From Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof, it’s easy to take a tram into the old city centre.
Heidelberg is the city of Goethe and William Turner, as well as being the 2014 UNESCO City of Literature and the place where Mark Twain started his European adventure. Most of the Heidelberg visitor experience takes place in the historic city centre and the forested slopes that rise above it. A funicular railway takes visitors to the Konigstuhl Mountain, where the northern Black Forest starts