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This article lists the best things to do in Heidelberg in 1 day.
Situated around the Neckar river in southwest Germany, Heidelberg is a university town and a very notable one. Here you can kayak in the river, get a panoramic view of the city from a castle, spend the whole afternoon sipping coffee in an outdoor cafe in the big and beautiful old city (Altstadt) and watch the sunset whilst sitting next to the river. Is one of our favorite places in Germany and through this Heidelberg travel guide I will show you why. In this article we will explore some of the best things to do in Heidelberg in a day, including hiking up to little-known viewpoints, and the places to visit in Heidelberg that can be covered in one day or even two.
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Can you Spend just 1 Day in Heidelberg?
The short answer is yes. You can easily spend one day in Heidelberg roaming around the old city, and seeing the beautiful attractions there. So if you’re considering taking a day trip to Heidelberg from Frankfurt or a nearby city then you can go ahead and do that with ease. That’s because you can cover the Heidelberg castle, the top attractions in the Heidelberg Altstadt and the famous old bridge in a day. However, if you want to see more of the city in-depth then I suggest spending at least two days in Heidelberg, Germany.
How to Reach Heidelberg Germany
Heidelberg is one of the best cities for sightseeing in Germany. That’s why you will easily find trains from all major cities to Heidelberg. To go from Stuttgart to Heidelberg, you can take the direct ICE from the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof (main train station) to the Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof which takes under an hour to reach its destination.
Frankfurt to Heidelberg takes just over an hour by car and even less if you’re taking a direct train!
If you’re coming from Munich then it takes about three hours 20 minutes to reach Heidelberg. You will have to change trains once at Stuttgart.
Hotels in Heidelberg
Because Heidelberg is one of the most popular places in Germany, a university town, and honestly simply beautiful, you will have no trouble finding hotels in Heidelberg.
Boutique Suites Heidelberg Alte Zigarrenmanufaktur ($$$) – If you’re looking for a boutique stay, top amenities and a modern but genteel vibe, then go ahead and book these suites in Heidelberg,
Hotel Europäischer Hof Heidelberg ($$) – A top-rated 5-star hotel with great amenities like a pool, indoor spa, a garden and multiple dining options. Not to mention its fantastic location in the Heidelberg Altstadt.
Heidelberg Marriott Hotel ($) – Located alongside the river Neckar, featuring an indoor pool, multiple restaurants and an amazing location in the Heidelberg Altstadt, the budget-friendly cost of this hotel is a win-win compared to the amenities and location they offer!
Hostels in Heidelberg
If you’re a student visiting Heidelberg or simply on a budget then you will find tons of great well rated hostels in Heidelberg Germany. Take a look at the top picks below.
Hemingway`s Hostel ($) – A really cool and hip hostel, offering free wifi and situated perfectly in the Heidelberg Altstadt, you cannot miss out on booking this budget-friendly hostel in Heidelberg!
Lotte – The Backpackers ($) – Another hostel situated in the Altstadt of Heidelberg Germany, this hostel offers a shared kitchen where you can prepare your meals to save costs, dorm rooms and private rooms at a cheap cost.
Map of Heidelberg Germany
Top Things to do in Heidelberg in 1 Day
1. Heidelberg Castle
The Heidelberg Castle or Schloss Heidelberg is a towering landmark in the city. Reaching the Heidelberg Castle from the Altstadt is a mere distance of 900 meter. Though it’s a small distance, the steep uphill walk can get pretty tiresome. However, once you reach the top, the rewarding panoramic views of Heidelberg from the Heidelberg Castle are worth the effort. The Heidelberg Castle grounds are great for a stroll or a summer picnic. There is a terrace/balcony of sorts at the leftmost end of the ground from where you will get a 180° view of the city. However, if you want an even better view, you’ll have to step inside the castle. The terrace which is inside the castle offers a better, 360° view of the Heidelberg Altstadt, Marktplatz and the old Heidelberg bridge. In September 2021, we paid €9 per adult for entry into the castle.
2. World’s Largest Wine Barrel – Heidelberg Tun
Built in 1751 with a capacity of 221,726 liters, the Heidelberg Tun is the largest wine barrel in the world. Germany has lots of weird and wacky sites like this! Did you know that the world’s largest cuckoo clock is also located in Germany? You’ll need to plan a long trip to this country to be able to discover all its hidden gems and offbeat spots.
Coming back to the popular attractions in Heidelberg, the height of the Heidelberg Tun barrel is 7 meters whereas its width is 8.5 meters. There’s even a staircase on the side for visitors to climb on a viewing platform on top of the barrel! You can visit his little-known Heidelberg attraction inside the Heidelberg castle after purchasing the ticket to go inside.
3. Altstadt Heidelberg (Old City)
If you follow me on Instagram (@thespicyjourney), you’ll know that I live in Germany and that I’ve been to one too many Altstädte (old cities). That being said, the Heidelberg Altstadt is one of the prettiest ones in Germany apart from being one of the unmissable places to visit in Heidelberg city. To reach here, just make your way down from the Heidelberg castle. There is a tram stop nearby too, if you’re coming from elsewhere. To get the best out of all the things to do in the Heidelberg Altstadt, I suggest starting at the Bismarckplatz tram stop and making your way to the Heidelberg Marktplatz. This way you can cover all the places to see in the Altstadt Heidelberg.
4. Kurpfälzisches Museum
The Kurpfälzisches Museum is located in the Heidelberg Altstadt and displays a collection of artwork, sculptures, and archeology. In the 1870s, the Heidelberg City purchased the artwork of the historian Charles de Graimberg after the Kurpfälzisches museum was established. Apart from archeological displays, the museum contains paintings from the 15th to 20th century including life size portraits of the King of Bohemia among others. There are also a number of handicraft items on display such as costumes, furniture and porcelain to help understand the lifestyle of the eighteenth-century. The museum opens from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m on all days except Monday and is worth a visit if you’re spending 1 day in Heidelberg.
Visiting the Studentenkarzer or the student prison is one of the most fascinating things to do in Heidelberg in one day. This particular cell served as a detention center for the students of the Ruprecht-Karls university in Heidelberg City. Because the practice of detaining unruly students was common in the 14th century, the Studentenkarzer was created and was being used as late as the the beginning of the 20th century. Although it sounds horrific, it was actually considered to be a matter of pride by the students to be “imprisoned” in one of these cells. In fact, you will even see a lot of graffiti and names of students proudly sketched onto the walls of the Studentenkarzer in Heidelberg.
The Studentenkarzer is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:30am to 4pm and is located close to the Heidelberg Marktplatz.
6. Marktplatz Heidelberg, Germany
The Heidelberg Marktplatz is located just a few steps away from the old bridge Heidelberg in the Heidelberg Altstadt. Apart from all the history, what makes this Marktplatz special is its location and the vibe. The church of the Holy Spirit on one side, the Neckar and the Heidelberg Altbrücke on another side, countless outdoor restaurants and shops, and the Heidelberg castle in the background create the perfect setup for an idyllic stroll and lunch in the Heidelberg Marktplatz.
7. Church of the Holy Spirit
The church of the Holy Spirit is the largest church in the city and one of the unmissable attractions to visit in Heidelberg in one day. The construction of the church began in 1398 and was fully finished in 1544. There has been a ton of restoration work done on the church since then. Today it is one of the landmarks of Heidelberg and is situated very close to the Old Bridge, right in the Heidelberg Marktplatz and you can enter it from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If you walk further South-East from the Heidelberger Marktplatz, you’ll arrive at the Kornmarkt which is a small but incredibly charming square. Apart from possibly the best view of the Heidelberg castle, there are tons of ice-cream and gelato stores here, some appealing cafes and the town hall building in the vicinity. There’s even a statue right in the center of the square which is a replica of the Muttergottes Brunnen (Madonna as Mother of God, crowned in glory and carrying the Christ child in her arms). You will find the original statue in the foyer of the Kurpfälzisches Museum, just a 10 minute walk away, in the Altstadt Heidelberg.
9. Hotel zum Ritter
Located conveniently in the old city, right next to the Marktplatz, the Hotel zum Ritter has a ton of history. Known as the ‘House of Knights’ in English, the building was built in 1592 by Carolus Belier in the Renaissance style. Because it is built using stone, it is the only townhouse to have survived the great fire of 1693. The ornate facade of this building is extremely gorgeous and adds even more character to the beautiful Heidelberg Marktplatz. Interestingly enough, this building functioned as an inn about 300 years ago and was only recently acquired to be converted into a hotel. Though you need to be a guest at the hotel to admire the inside of the building, you can still marvel at the exterior from the outside.
10. Gate of the Old Bridge in Heidelberg
As you walk towards the Old Bridge from the Altstadt side, which is one of the best things to see in Heidelberg, you will be greeted by a massive gate. Although it may seem like just an entrance door, the gate has lots of interesting details and even some secrets. Unknown to most, there is actually an apartment in one of the towers of the old bridge gate. The architect Rudolf Steinbach, who was in charge of rebuilding the bridge after WWII, lived in this apartment and held festivities inside the tower. After his death, a writer named Gert Kalow moved in with his wife who lived here until 2004. To the left of the gate, you will see a sculpture of a monkey, known as the bridge monkey. You can stick your head inside the monkey and take fun pictures.
11. Old Bridge Heidelberg (Karl Theodor Bridge)
Visiting the iconic Old Bridge (Karl Theodor Bridge) is one of the best things to do in Heidelberg. Built in 1788 by Elector Charles Theodore, the bridge is constructed using Neckar sandstone and has survived all manner of calamities including floods. Before the stone bridge was constructed, there were numerous wooden bridges in its place, all of which were destroyed due to floods or ice. Hence a stronger stone bridge was constructed that could withstand these disasters. Today the bridge is a landmark of the city, a major Heidelberg tourist attraction, and is even visible from the Heidelberg Castle. The Altbrücke (old bridge) is a very short walking distance from the Heidelberg market square.
You absolutely cannot miss visiting the Neckarwiese garden, which is one of the top things to do in Heidelberg in one day. Not only is the garden the perfect place to watch the sunset in Heidelberg, but it is also one of the best viewpoints to see the Heidelberg Castle and the Altstadt (old city). To reach the Neckarwiese garden you will have to cross the Old Bridge from the old city, and walk towards the north side. You’ll see the Neckarwiese on your left once you’ve crossed the bridge.
On a summer evening you can see swans paddling around in the river, people looking for sport and for fun and students having a picnic under the sun. Come here in the evening to relax after you’ve finished a full day of sightseeing in Heidelberg.
13. Philosopher’s Walk (Philosophenweg) – Bonus Thing to do in Heidelberg
If you’re into adventure and hiking, unlike me, then you must take the Philosopher’s walk (called Philosophenweg in German) in Heidelberg which is basically a trail that takes you up to one of the best viewpoints in Heidelberg. Now keep in mind that you need at least 2 days in Heidelberg in order to do this activity. This is because on your first day in Heidelberg, you will be visiting all the other places to visit in Heidelberg and most probably will not have enough time for the Philosopher’s walk. The trail begins at the North end of the Alte Brücke (old bridge or Karl Theodor bridge). It takes about 30 to 60 minutes to walk up the trail, depending on your speed and the number of breaks that you take. Keep in mind that you will be walking up a steep slope so wear appropriate clothing and shoes. Additionally, carry enough water and snacks with you. You will find more information about the Philosophenweg on the official tourism website of Heidelberg.
Heidelberg in Summer vs Heidelberg in Winter
There is no question about when to visit Heidelberg. That’s because you can only make the most out of your visit to Heidelberg city in the sunny weather when you can walk around in the Altstadt, marvel at the views from Heidelberg castle, and sit next to the river. There won’t be much for you to enjoy in Heidelberg in the winter when the temperatures can drop below zero. Although you will still be able to cover all the major things to do in Heidelberg in winter.
All that being said, I personally loved visiting Heidelberg just after summer when there was still plenty of sunshine, and we could explore the Altstadt with a gelato in our hands.
Day Trips from Heidelberg
Due to the great location of Heidelberg, there are a number of day trips you can take from Heidelberg. Alternatively, you can even do quite a few overnight getaways from here. The spa town of Baden-Baden is one of the best day trips from Heidelberg. It will take you 2 hours to reach Baden-Baden from Heidelberg by public transport whereas only over an hour by car. There are a number of spas here where you can relax and rewind. Now one thing to note here is that Germans usually enter the spas in their birth suits (aka wearing nothing). But it’s completely okay for you to put on something although it wouldn’t be the worst thing to embrace the German way of doing things.
The Black Forest town of Triberg, which is famous for the Triberg Waterfalls, is another great day trip from Heidelberg. there are many wonderful things to do in Triberg such as seeing the world’s largest cuckoo clock, shopping for the famous cuckoo clocks, eating an original Black Forest cake, visiting the famous Triberg waterfalls and more. It takes about 2 hours to reach Triberg from Heidelberg if you have or rent a car.Booking.com
Where to Eat in Heidelberg, Germany
The Heidelberg Altstadt and marketplace are crawling with a number of amazing restaurants, cafes and ice-cream places. Because we spent just one day in Heidelberg, unfortunately we didn’t get to check out many Heidelberg cafes. However we had lunch at an Indian restaurant near the Heidelberg Kornmarkt and it was one of the best Indian food I’ve had in Germany so far which means a lot since I am an Indian by birth. The Raja Rani restaurant had a huge selection of mouth watering Indian dishes on their menu at a budget friendly cost. Each main course item was served with a massive portion of rice or naan bread. I highly recommend visiting this restaurant in Heidelberg.
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