Heidelberg is a city I fell deep for on my first trip to Europe. There was just something about this city which left me inadvertently, completely in love. I shared this affection with some of my favorite travel friends. We talked about Heidelberg’s irresistible charm for years to come and spoke wishfully about returning. This is the type of affect Heidelberg has. There is no way not to fall in love with this German city. That’s why, when I was only a couple hours away in Strasbourg, I knew I had to take a quick detour to Heidelberg. On my first visit, we spent a few hours in Heidelberg, which was just enough time to visit the castle. However, that short trip left me wanting more. In order to fully appreciate this charming German city, I suggest spending one day in Heidelberg. One day will allow you to see the best places to visit in Heidelberg. Start your day early to do everything on this Heidelberg itinerary.
How to Spend One Day in Heidelberg
In order to make the most of your one day in Heidelberg, start your day early. The Heidelberg Castle opens at 8:00 a.m.. I suggest waking up early for breakfast so you can arrive to the Heidelberg Castle when it opens. This will allow you to fit everything into this Heidelberg itinerary.
Start your day off at Heidelberg Castle, Schloss Heidelberg. The castle is open from 8:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m., with last admission at 5:40 p.m.. I suggest starting your day here to ensure that the castle is open when you visit.
Heidelberg Castle is located 300 ft above the city, making the walk up no easy feet. There are 315 steps up to this ruined castle. While there are a lot of stairs, the climb is worth it for the castle and the views from the top.
Before heading inside the castle, stop in the garden to catch your breath and enjoy the view. The Stückgarten Schloss-Heidelberg offers amazing views of the city of Heidelberg and an up close look at the ruins. The grounds/park surrounding Heidelberg Castle are the perfect place to explore if you choose not to enter the castle itself.
While you can get up close views of the castle from the surrounding gardens, if you have an extra 7 Euro in your budget, you should visit the castle itself.
From the surrounding gardens, the castle seems more-or-less a beautiful pile of ruins. Yet, once you enter through the castle gates, Heidelberg Castle can be seen in all its’ glory as the you enter through the gates. Within the castle, you will have a chance to walk through this ruined castle, visit an apothecary museum and see the largest wine barrels in the world!
The best part about the Heidelberg Castle is the inner courtyard gardens. I spent most of my time on my first visit to Heidelberg in these gardens, enjoying the spectacular landscape design and impressive views of the Neckar River below. This is the perfect way to start your one day in Heidelberg.
Spend the afternoon walking around the Alstadt, or old town. This is the central area of Heidelberg where you will find all the hustle and bustle in this little city. Be sure to stroll down Hauptstraße, a mile long pedestrian street in the Alstadt. This is the longest pedestrian street in Europe and is full of popular shops and restaurants.
I spent a good amount of my time on Hauptstraße, stopping to indulge in many of the cafes. One of my favorite stops was Cafe Moro for its’ great outdoor seating and amazing cappuccinos!
Hauptstraße leads to the Market Square. Here you will find the Church of the Holy Spirit, a Protestant Church that is a focal point in Heidelberg. Surrounding the church are various souvenir stalls which adds excitement to the square.
A short walk from Market Square is Kornmarkt, which was a bustling grain market in the Middle Ages. Kornmarkt offers an amazing view of the Heidelberg Castle! From here, you can see the castle sitting perfectly above the city.
Alstadt is a relatively small area and easily navigable. Allow yourself to wander and you will be sure to find the must-see spots as well as some quaint corners of the city. I absolutely loved the quiet cobblestone streets lined with vine covered homes. Bikes lean against their owners houses and planters frame the doorways. When you turn off the main street, Hauptstraße, the city seems quieter, quainter and more undiscovered.
After thoroughly exploring the city, it’s time to check out the Neckar River. The Neckar River runs through Heidelberg and can be seen from the various vantage points throughout the city. However, I think it’s important to get an up close look at the river. There is a walkway along the river which allows you to easily stroll while taking in the riverside houses. One of the most iconic views along the Neckar River is the Karl Theodor Bridge, commonly known as the Old Bridge. This pedestrian only bridge connects the Alstadt with the opposite bank, where you will find the next stop on your perfect day in Heidelberg!
Heidelberg is all about the views and the Philosophenweg is no exception. The Philosophenweg, Philosophers’ Walk, is located across the Neckar River in the hillside. This path has sweeping views of the Neckar River below and the Heidelberg Castle across the river. Depending on which side you come from, you will either have to take a set of stairs or a winding ramp up to the Philosophenweg. Yet, once you are at the top, there is a flat pathway to follow. While this walk may seem daunting, don’t skip this on your Heidelberg itinerary.
The climb up the Philosophenweg is very much worth it. You will be rewarded with stunning views of the city of the city and castle. This walk was named for the professors and philosophers who would go up here for a quiet place to contemplate and enjoy the view. It is easy to see how this view inspired these philosophers. I found a bench and simply enjoyed the view for awhile; the way the Neckar River glistened below and the Heidelberg Castle towering over the rest of the city. This is one of the best places to visit in Heidelberg as it offers an incredible view of the city.
Authentic German Dinner
To end your time in Heidelberg, I suggest having an authentic German meal in Alstadt. On my first trip to Heidelberg, we ate at Tavern to Spreisel, a traditional German restaurant that can accommodate groups. This restaurant had a cozy atmosphere and hearty food. On my second visit, I choose a more causal dining experience. We stopped at a ready to be served deli on Hauptstraße for authentic German Potato Salad and meatballs. There are ample restaurants serving traditional German dishes. There’s no better way to end your one day in Heidelberg than with a hearty meal.