Located in southwest Germany, the charming town of Heidelberg stands proud as one of the most romantic cities in the country. With its historic buildings, picturesque location along the Neckar River, and plentiful tourist attractions, adding Heidelberg to any European tour will surely provide beautiful memories and adventure.
This riverside city is famous for its gorgeous architecture and incredible castle dating back to the Middle Ages. It’s also a popular university town and is home to the oldest university in Germany. While things to do in Heidelberg mainly consist of sightseeing and visiting fascinating museums, there are also activities for the whole family to enjoy, such as a day at the Heidelberg Zoo or taking a trip out to Europa Park, one of the largest theme parks in Europe!
Let’s dive into the fun and best things to do in Heidelberg, Germany! When you visit Heidelberg, prepare to be treated to fantastic scenery, delicious food, and breathtaking architecture from another time. Explore historic sites or wind down at an amazing jazz bar or local brewery. Either way, your next trip to the south side of Germany will surely be unforgettable, with a stop in Heidelberg!
Show Table of Contents
- Things to Do in Heidelberg, Germany
- 1. Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Heidelberg)
- 2. Old Town (Heidelberg Altstadt)
- 3. Karl-Theodor Bridge
- 4. Heidelberg University
- 5. German Apothecary Museum
- 6. The Heidelberg Tun
- 7. Kurpfälzisches Museum
- 8. Heidelberg Botanical Gardens
- 9. Heidelberg Zoo
- 10. Philosophers’ Walk
- 11. Heidelberg Highlights Segway Tour with Castle
- 12. Culinary Tour of Heidelberg
- 13. Schwetzingen Palace
- 14. Day trip to Europa Park
- What are the top tourist attractions in Heidelberg?
- Are there any guided tours available in Heidelberg?
- What are some good restaurants and cafes in Heidelberg?
- Most significant landmark – Heidelberg Castle
- Best park – Heidelberg Botanical Gardens
- Best free activity – Walk around Heidelberg’s old town
- Best activity for kids – Spend a day at Europa Park
- Best activity for adults – The Old University of Heidelberg
- Best food – Kulturbrauerei
- Best nightlife – Cave 54
- Best place to stay – House of Hütter
Things to Do in Heidelberg, Germany
1. Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Heidelberg)
Address: Schlosshof 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Germany is home to over 25,000 castles, the most of any European country! The Heidelberg Castle is a key landmark in the city and certainly one of the most visited sites. Towering over 200 feet above the town, the castle ruins provide impressive panoramic views of the town and Neckar Valley.
The castle has arguably seen more destruction and rebuilding than any other castle in Germany. Even as early as 1400, the castle had been destroyed and rebuilt by Prince Elector Ruprecht III. It later became the regal residence of Heidelberg’s imperial rulers. The current version was restored in 1883.
This medieval castle offers not only the perfect city view but also a glimpse at the world’s largest wine barrel. In addition, Heidelberg Castle hosts numerous festivals, most of which take place in its scenic courtyard.
The Castle Festival is one such event held between June and August. It features choral music, folk, jazz, theater, and opera, making it one of the best places to have fun while in Heidelberg.
To visit the palace’s interior, you must book a guided tour. Tours in German and English happen frequently throughout the day. Admission includes the use of the funicular railway as well as access to the courtyard, great tun, and the Germany Apothecary Museum, which are all incredibly interesting things to see while in town.
See Related: Best German Food to Try
2. Old Town (Heidelberg Altstadt)
A visit to any historic German city wouldn’t be complete without touring its old town. Market Square is at the heart of the old town, where the city hosts many of its largest events, including the annual Christmas Market.
The Hauptstraße, the main throughway, is a long street dividing the old town from Bismarckplatz to the Rathaus. The long walking area features numerous shops, charming old buildings, cafes, and restaurants.
It’s also home to the famous Haus zum Ritter, the oldest surviving building in Heidelberg. The and formerly served as the town hall.
Today, the building serves as a welcoming hotel under the name Hotel zum Ritter St. Georg. The hotel has a wonderful rooftop terrace where you can admire the town’s fortifications and is just a short walk away from Heidelberg’s main train station.
Another interesting place to visit in the old town is the Church of the Holy Spirit. This gothic church is located in Market Square and is the largest church in Heidelberg. It was built between 1398 and 1515 and is one of the most visited churches in Germany.
Foodwise, the old town is definitely the place to be. Head to Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg for a true taste of German cuisine and a fun beer garden! In the evening, enjoy live music and drinks at Cave 54. Music legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, and Louis Armstrong have made appearances at Cave 54.
3. Karl-Theodor Bridge
Address: Am Hackteufel, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Commonly referred to as the Old Bridge by locals and visitors, the Karl-Theodor Bridge has become one of the most famous bridges in Germany. The bridge, which has since been immortalized through various paintings, poems, and other contents, spans across the Neckar River to join the Neuenheim and Altstadt districts of Heidelberg.
The famous bridge is named after the architect and builder who erected its red sandstone arches. The Old Bridge is over 600 feet long and is characterized by its two white towers on both sides. You’ll find many tourists enjoying a romantic stroll along this magnificent structure as they enjoy the view of the city.
For a different perspective, consider enjoying a 50-minute river cruise along the Neckar River. This river cruise takes visitors past many of Heidelberg’s top attractions, including the town hall, Heidelberg Castle, and the Karl-Theodor Bridge.
4. Heidelberg University
Address: Grabengasse 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg is not only a romantic city but also a historic university town. Heidelberg University (Old Campus) sits on the southern side of the Hauptstraße. The university is the oldest in Germany, having been established back in 1386 through instructions of Pope Urban VI.
It was also the third university to be established under the Holy Roman Empire and among the oldest surviving universities globally. This popular university also has a museum, which is located on the ground level of the Old University building. And when not in use, visitors are free to see the great hall, as well as the famous former student prison.
To many people, the former student prison is usually the most memorable place. The prison served as an incarceration center for students found misbehaving within the university, with stays lasting from two days up to four weeks.
The incarcerations are evident today through the many graffiti the students left during their time there. The student jail was operational from the 1780s until 1914.
5. German Apothecary Museum
Address: Schloss Heidelberg, Schlosshof, 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg’s German Apothecary Museum houses one of the largest collections of pharmacology artifacts in the entire world. This museum goes by various names, such as the German Pharmacy Museum or the Deutsches Apotheken-Museum, and is one of the main Heidelberg tourist attractions.
If you want to experience the unfiltered evolution of medicine, the German Pharmacy Museum offers the perfect opportunity. The displays are meticulously set up, consisting of various apothecary shops from varying historical periods that show the exact pharmaceutical evolution in Germany.
There is also a “children’s pharmacy” where kids of all ages can put their science caps on and experiment with making various teas. Admission to the German Apothecary Museum is covered under admission to the Heidelberg Castle. All the content here is either in German or English, making it easier to understand for many visitors.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Düsseldorf, Germany
6. The Heidelberg Tun
Address: Schloss Heidelberg, Schlosshof, 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Another amazing thing to see at Heidelberg Castle is The Great Heidelberg Tun. It is a massive wine vat housed within the castle’s cellars.
The original wine barrel was built in 1591 and held over 130,000 liters of Palatinate wine, but it was later destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War. It was replaced by an even larger barrel, which could hold up to 200,000 liters of wine, in 1664.
The third enormous wine barrel, built in 1751, is the current great wine barrel, with this one holding up to 220,000 liters. Seeing it up close really gives you a better perspective as to how large it actually is – it’s difficult to comprehend from a picture alone.
The King’s Hall and The Ladies’ Building are on either side of the Barrel Building at Heidelberg Castle. This was a very practical choice as many parties would be held in these rooms, so the wine could be pumped directly through a pipe to both buildings. Like the German Apothecary Museum, you can visit the Heidelberg Tun with a single admission ticket to the castle.
7. Kurpfälzisches Museum
Address: Hauptstraße 97, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
The Kurpfälzisches Museum, also known as the Palatinate Museum, is a museum of art and archaeology located in the heart of the old town. It features many works from the private collection of art historian Charles de Graimberg. This museum focuses on art and artifacts from Heidelberg and the surrounding areas.
The amazing collection of artifacts and works of art includes pieces from the Middle Ages to the present day. You can find many paintings by renowned artists such as Marie Marcks and Peter Ackermann. Their work represents the city as it was during the 20th century before much of it was destroyed during World War II.
In addition to the thousands of photographs, books, archaeological finds, and sculptures, the museum is home to more than 2,600 paintings, some of which date back to the 15th century. If you’re looking for things to do in Heidelberg that combine art and history, a visit to the Kurpfälzisches Museum is an absolute must!
8. Heidelberg Botanical Gardens
Address: Im Neuenheimer Feld 361, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
If you’re looking for a relaxing oasis to simply stroll around and take in the scenery, check out the Heidelberg Botanical Gardens located on the grounds of Heidelberg University. The botanical gardens are used for research purposes by the university as well as to protect plant species that are at risk of going extinct, but it’s also free for the public to visit.
The Heidelberg Botanical Gardens were founded in 1593, making it one of the oldest botanical gardens in the entire world. The garden boasts over 13,000 individual plants representing 4,800 species. In addition to the peaceful outdoor gardens, there is also a large greenhouse that houses tropical plants and fascinating flowers.
Every month, the Heidelberg Botanical Gardens hosts fun events for both adults and children. If you love the relaxing ambiance of this part of the city, I highly recommend staying nearby at the Marriott Heidelberg Hotel. This hotel is located across the Necker River by bridge and is just a five-minute tram ride to the old town.
9. Heidelberg Zoo
Address: Tiergartenstraße 3, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
The Heidelberg Zoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. It’s a great place to relax and have fun with the entire family.
The zoo is home to more than 2,000 animals from 150 species – from tiny beings like Walkingsticks to enormous Asian elephants. You can find animals that are local to the Lower Neckar Valley area as well as animals from across the globe.
The zoo is divided into five large areas called districts, including the farm district, bird district, and monkey district. One of the most interesting parts of the zoo is the elephant and Africa district, which includes amazing animals such as the gentle Asian elephant, Damara zebras, and fierce tiger python.
Besides admiring these beautiful creatures, the zoo has lots of activities to keep your family busy all day. There are several playground areas throughout the zoo as well as a small petting zoo. The zoo also has scheduled feeding times in various districts, so you can watch your favorite animals enjoy a meal.
10. Philosophers’ Walk
A stroll down Philosophers’ Walk is a great way to enjoy the stunning scenery of Neckar Valley and to get some fresh air a bit away from the city. It is one of the closest hiking trails to Heidelberg and gets its name from the many professors, philosophers, and writers (including Mark Twain) who walked this path to clear their heads and gain some solitude.
The path is located on the north side of the river and runs parallel to Saints’ Mountain. Visitors can enjoy incredible views of Heidelberg City and Heidelberg Castle from the trail. The walk’s starting point is not far from the Karl-Theodor Bridge, so if you’re staying near the old town without a car, it’s not a problem to get to on foot.
Enjoying a light hike on the Philosophers’ Walk path is one of the best free things to do in Heidelberg. If you’d like to enjoy the path with minimal crowds, I highly suggest visiting early in the day or close to sunset. Just below the path, you can find the beautiful House of Hütter hotel. This quaint boutique hotel features a private spa and gorgeous views of the Neckar River.
When you’re short on time, the absolute best way to see a new city is by joining a guided tour. This Heidelberg Segway Tour is fast and efficient while still hitting all the best and most famous places the city has to offer.
The two-hour-long tour gives you a chance to discover the incredible sights of the city as you go through scenic countryside along the Neckar River, riding on a Segway. This ride will also take you to Heidelberg Castle, where you can take in the stunning panoramic views from its ruins.
The starting point is at Neckarmünzplatz, progressing on Segway over the city’s Old Bridge to the side of the river. You have a chance to see the Neuburg Abbey, an ancient site full of history dating back to 1130. Other things to see in Heidelberg during this tour include the Ziegelhausen neighborhood, the Carl Bosch Museum, and Wolfsbrunnen restaurant, which was well-known for its glamorous design and hosting famous artists and royalty.
One of my favorite things about visiting a new city or country is sampling all of the regional and traditional foods. I feel like it’s one of the best ways to get to know what makes a city unique from anywhere else. One of the best ways of doing this is going on a guided food tour with a local!
The tour is a four-hour culinary expedition taking you through the narrow streets of the city’s Old Town. Here, you’ll have a chance to enjoy Heidelberg’s specialty dishes as well as international cuisine that’s become popular in the city. You can sample regional dishes, sweet treats, and even homemade pasta.
Your culinary experience starts at the city’s old town hall. From here, you’ll get a guided tour of the old town as you make your way past all of the town’s most famous landmarks. The tour is a perfect opportunity for you to enjoy various local dishes, from different typical Heidelberg restaurants, in just a few hours.
See related: Traditional German Christmas Food
13. Schwetzingen Palace
Address: Schloß Mittelbau, 68723 Schwetzingen, Germany
Just 15 minutes west of Heidelberg, you’ll find yet another beautiful castle to visit – Schwetzingen Palace, an old summer residence for a prominent family centuries ago. Its origins date all the way back to 1350, when it was a moated castle, but took its current form in 1697 after alterations.
The palace is massive, especially considering its expansive gardens, a main attraction for visitors to explore. Its English and French sections, lake, various temples, and Mosque have been exceptionally well-preserved over the centuries. The palace’s theater continues to host opera and other performances during the village’s annual festival.
Schwetzingen Palace is closed in the winter months between October and March but can be visited in the warmer season on a guided tour. The same is available for the gardens, but visiting independently without a guide is also an option. The village of Schwetzingen can be reached by car or bus line from Heidelberg.
14. Day trip to Europa Park
Address: Europa-Park-Straße 2, 77977 Rust, Germany
Finally, one of my favorites! If you like rides, characters, waterslides, and other theme park fun, don’t miss the chance to take the 90-minute drive south to Europa Park, located in the town of Rust and near the French border.
The best way to describe Europa-Park is like a Europified Disneyland, in a good way. There are character mascots (including a mouse), a giant golf ball ride, and a Main Street-esque stretch of shops and food. However, most things are Euro-themed – each section of the park is a different country of the continent, complete with their cuisines, architectures, and cultures.
As a Disney fanatic, I was hesitant about such a concept, but I was impressed with Europa Park’s experience. Admission tickets are reasonably priced, and the park is easy to reach by car or public transport. Plan to be there the full day, as the park is huge!
What are the top tourist attractions in Heidelberg?
The top tourist attractions in Heidelberg are the Heidelberg Castle, The Karl-Theodor Bridge (Old Bridge), and the student jail at the Old University of Heidelberg. The Heidelberg Zoo is also a popular place for families with children.
Are there any guided tours available in Heidelberg?
What are some good restaurants and cafes in Heidelberg?
To enjoy some truly authentic German cuisine, you must stop by Kulturbrauerei. The old town is also filled with charming restaurants and cafes; you can’t go wrong stopping by one of the eateries in Heidelberg Altstadt.
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.