Heidelberg: arguably the most romantic city in Germany
It’s springtime again, and as Paris has not been giving us the greatest weather, my husband and I decided to hop on a train to Heidelberg, Germany. Just over three hours from gare de l’est with a quick transfer in Mannheim, picturesque Heidelberg is the perfect destination for one of the many long weekends in May, or any other time, really.
Once you have arrived at the main station in Heidelberg, walk outside to the tourist office and purchase a HeidelbergBEWelcomeCARD. Available for one, two, or four days, this handy card includes unlimited use of Heidelberg’s convenient public transportation system of trains and buses, a ticket to the Heidelberg Castle and German Pharmacy Museum, plus discounts on tours, museums, restaurants, shopping and more. A city map and guide are also included.
Here, a list of things not to miss in this fairytale German city:
- Where to Stay A short tram ride from central station and the old town, Hotel Deutscher Kaiser is a charming, modern establishment with comfortable beds and a delicious German breakfast of fresh rolls, yogurt, eggs, fruit, meats and cheeses included. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself drinking your coffee in the morning to the tunes of Creedence Clear Water Revival or Eric Clapton: this friendly hotel owner is a fan of American classic rock. Additionally, there are several cafes, a park and castle ruins nearby.
The friendly, non-touristy hotel Deutscher Kaiser, ten minutes by bus from the old town
- Heidelberg Castle (Schloss) From Kornmarkt, take a funicular 300 feet above the city and visit the vast remains of this enchanting castle. Around the year 1400, Prince Elector Ruprecht III first inhabited the castle and it remained a regal residence for nearly 400 years. Destroyed by lightening in 1764 and again in 1693 during the War of Palatine Succession, it was not reconstructed until 1800 by Count Charles de Gramberg.
Today, the castle ruins are among the most important renaissance structures north of the Alps. From the Great Terrace and the gardens, visitors are graced with a magnificent view of the city and the river below, as well as the vibrant green mountains across the way.
Heidelberg Schloss ruins: still beautiful after over 700 years
The castle houses the Heidelberg Tun, the world’s largest wine barrel. Built in 1751 by Prince Elector Karl Theodor to hold the wine paid as taxes by the wine producers of the Palatine, the barrel is seven meters high, eight and a half meters wide, and has a dance floor built on top of it.
For those interested in the history of German pharmacies, visit the German Pharmacy Museum located in the Otto Heinrich building of the schloss. Elegantly detailed apothecaries from the 17th to 19th centuries with their vials, herbs, scales and flasks have been put on display for all to admire.
The German Pharmacy Museum located inside the castle
3. The Philosopher’s Walk (Philosophenweg) Given it’s name because of the philosophers and professors from the nearby Heidelberg university that used to walk here for inspiration (and probably still do), this path is known to be one of the most scenic in all of Europe. Located across the river Neckar from the castle, this uphill trail is best taken in the late afternoon during warmer months after midday temperatures have fallen. The view of the town and the castle from the Philosopher’s garden is stunning. Here, plants such as cypress, lemon, cherry and bamboo trees thrive in a Mediterranean climate.
The relaxing Philosopher's Garden in full bloom
4. The Old Town (Altstadt) Extending for a mile between Bismarckplatz to the west and Karlstor to the east, this is the oldest part of Heidelberg. Filled with shops, restaurants, marketplaces and museums, the long pedestrian street Hauptstrasse takes you all the way through. Enjoy a stein of pilsner in Universityplatz, visit the Palatinate museum, pick up mouthwatering chocolates from Chocolate Company Heidelberg or a bottle of authentic Absinth from Alte Brennerei. For hearty German bratwurst, fresh pretzels and refreshing beer, head to Brauhaus Vetter. The two giant boilers with pipes connected to the tap tell you that this is a bona fide brewery.
Heidelberg beer in the old town
- The River Neckar On a nice day you’ll see the lawn of the Neckarwiese (riverfront park) packed with sunbathers and picnickers from the Theodor Heuss bridge all the way to the Ernst Waltz bridge. For a pretty promenade, start from the Theodor Heuss bridge on the north bank and walk east along the river to the Old Bridge (Alte Brucke). Rowers glide by on the sparkling water, couples sit at boat cafes, and young families bike along the path. If you like bikes, this is your city. They are indeed everywhere. Cross the Old Bridge and you’re back in the Old Town, just in time for an ice cream.
Sunbathers along the River Neckar
Many say that Heidelberg is one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Wouldn’t you agree?
© 2012 Pasa’s Paris