Ah Heidelberg, the place I could never get tired of visiting, even if I tried. Everybody has that one special place that lies close to their heart, often for a good reason. For no good particular reason at all Heidelberg has become my special German place. Spending this year within 30 minutes of the beautiful medieval town has meant that I have seen it through all seasons and I think it is long due a blog post. So, here is my unofficial list of top things to do in Heidelberg…
1. Stroll through the main street (Hauptstraße)
If you start your journey off at Bismarkplatz, you should make your way through the main high street. Before you do this you’ll see an East German traffic light man (Ampelmännchen), which I have conducted nerdy research into as Heidelberg is undoubtedly in West Germany. (For those that care, it is firstly a form of nostalgia, and secondly because the government department of Heidelberg thought that people responded better to the East German traffic light signals. However no more are going to be installed, sad times.)
BIG TANGENT THERE OOPS. The main street stretches over 1.6km, making it the longest pedestrian zone in Europe! Enjoy walking through and visit the shops! You are also bound to see one of the following: street musicians, food stalls, some form of student organised protest.
2. Go to the Old Bridge and put your head in the monkey!
The bridge over the Neckar river provides the best views and is a definite MUST! You will probably see tourists taking a photo of their head in a monkey, the apparent landmark of the town. I’ve heard so many stories about this so you may have to make your own call, some say it gives good luck and some thing it had more historical significance in relation to those who wanted to cross the bridge. Either way, just be a kid and do it!
Also the bridge itself is a beautiful photo spot, try and get the castle in. 🙂
3. Explore the beauty of the Old Town (Altstadt)
As you walk further into the Main Street from Bismarkplatz you will start to noticing that the buildings begin to change, and in my opinion become more beautiful! Heidelberg escaped bombing in WWII as for some reason US troops chose not to bomb it, presumably so that it could be because they wanted to use it as a garrison base. WHICH MEANS the buildings, unlike other many German towns, are genuinely old. I highly recommend just going down a random narrow street and seeing where it finds you, but aim to end up in the Market Square for a lovely view of the castle (Schloss).
4. Put a lock on the Heidelberg love stone (Heidelberger Liebesstein)
If you’re with your loved one during a visit to Heidelberg, be sure to bring a lock with your initials on. Mike and I were sad enough to do this but very unprepared. We got a strange man to carve a dodgy J&M onto a lock, it still worked though so hey ho.
5. Visit the quirky shops
If you see an mighty-fine shop you like the look of, just go in! Among my favourites are the open all-year-round Christmas shop Käthe Wohlfahrt, a really funky book shop that I can’t remember the name of and the gummy bear shop (before any vegans flip out they offer vegan gummy bears). Oh and I stupidly always let myself go to the Lindt shop which is always a mistake but it just tastes so goooooood.
6. Buy yourself a real German beer
You’re a fool not to get a beer in Heidelberg as there are a gazillion options to choose from. My personal favourite can be bought in Bierbretzel (beer-pretzel), where you can drink beer from a horn and not be seen as strange. However, you do get a slight taste of horn so watch out…
7. Philosophers walk (Philosophenweg)
Apparently this walk up a hillside path gets its name from the romantic period, when philosophers wanted to go on a walk to take a break. I did a tour once and the tour guide may have said something about that being complete rubbish but I can’t remember the actual reason so just believe that… If you do it you will be greeted with wonderful views of Heidelberg!
8. The Castle (Schloss) and beyond
I felt too lazy to go up to the castle on my first visit to Heidelberg and this was a big mistake as it is amazing. A funicular railway (Bergbahn) takes you up and you can see the remains and take a few photos. I felt that it had a GOT vibe going on. If it’s a nice day, pay a bit more to go all the way to the top of the railway and the sights are simple WUNDERBAR.
So that’s all of my tips, go and enjoy Heidelberg and all it has to offer!