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Are you visiting Heidelberg?

Heidelberg is considered one of the most romantic cities in Germany. It’s famous for its castle and its university. Did you know that Heidelberg university is the oldest in Germany and among the oldest surviving universities worldwide?

The university isn’t the only medieval heritage. Heidelberg Castle dates back to the early 1200s, and the cute Old Town is full of traditional buildings.

Heidelberg is a fantastic day trip, but it’s also a lovely city to use as a base while you explore southwestern Germany. To help you make the most of your time, we have put together this guide about what to do in Heidelberg in one day.

AT A GLANCE

Are you short on time and still need to book your trip? Then check out the following resources:

Hotels in Heidelberg:

Travel to Heidelberg by train or by bus.

Book a tour to visit Heidelberg and the Black Forest on a day trip from Frankfurt. Or check out these tours in Heidelberg:

One Day in Heidelberg

#1 Heidelberg Old Town

Street in Heidelberg Old Town

One of the best things to see in Heidelberg is the Old Town. Start your day here by strolling along Hauptstraße. With a length of 1,8 kilometres, Heidelberg’s main street is one of the longest pedestrian zones in Europe.

While walking along the street, watch out for historical houses. Stop by the Hotel zum Ritter to admire its Renaissance facade from 1592, or take a look at the Haus zum Riesen, a former city palace which now houses parts of the university.

Hauptstraße is the best street to explore if you want to find a cafe or restaurant. In summer, you’ll see tables on the streets where you can sit down and enjoy a drink or a meal. You can also find shops here, and shopping is one of the more popular activities in Heidelberg amongst day trippers.

If you follow the main street to the east, you will eventually see the Church of the Holy Spirit on your left. Shortly afterwards, you reach the market square.

1h

#2 Marktplatz

The Church of the Holy Spirit in Heidelberg Marktplatz

Marktplatz, or market square, is one of the oldest squares in the city. It’s a must-see, even if you only have 1 day in Heidelberg. In summer, you can find many cafes here, while in December, you can walk amongst the Christmas market stalls.

On the western side of the square, you’ll see the Church of the Holy Spirit.

Between 1706 and 1936, a wall separated the interior of this church. The choir belonged to the Catholics, while Protestants used the nave. In 1936, that wall was taken down, and now the building belongs entirely to the Protestant church.

Opposite the church, on the eastern side, you can see the Town Hall of Heidelberg. The fountain in the middle of the square is called Herkulesbrunnen and is a reminder of the struggle to rebuild the city after the 30-year war.

30min

#3 Kornmarkt

Statue at Heidelberg Kornmarkt

If you follow the main street, the next square you’ll reach is Kornmarkt.

This square originally served as a milk and herb market. Today, you can find a column with a statue here, but the real reason for coming is the view of the castle.

If you visit Heidelberg in one day, you must focus on the main attractions. That’s the Old Town and the castle, and Kornmarkt beautifully combines a view of both. Keep walking around to get the best angle for your photos, and then continue south to get to the funicular.

10min

#4 Heidelberg Castle

View of Heidelberg Castle from the Philosophers Way

Despite being in ruins, the castle is the most famous sight in Heidelberg. It’s often associated with the Romanticism that swept across Europe in the 1800s, and many artists found inspiration here.

The easiest way to get to the castle is by taking the funicular. You might have to queue, so if you’re short on time, you can also consider walking.

The funicular stops at the castle and then continues to the top of the nearby mountain. You have a great view from the top station, but as it takes a long time to go up and involves a lot of queueing at an intermediate station, we recommend skipping the mountain.

You still have many great places to visit in Heidelberg in one day, so you should focus on the castle next.

View of the courtyard of Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle belonged to the Prince-Electors of the Palatine, who lived here for centuries until the Nine-Years War in 1688. During that war, the soldiers of Louis XIV of France destroyed the castle, and the building was never fully restored.

Start your Heidelberg Castle tour by admiring the view. Just after you exit the funicular, you can see the Old Town of Heidelberg below you. The Church of the Holy Spirit you visited earlier towers above the other buildings.

Inside the castle, you can wander through the former halls and look at the exhibits. Two points of interest stand out. The first one is the Apothecary Museum, where you can see many “healing ingredients” from former times.

The second one is the world’s largest beer barrel, which is a must-visit during your stay.

Once you’re done exploring the castle, use the funicular to return to the Old Town.

2-3h

#5 Alte Brücke

Heidelberg Old Bridge view from the side

Alte Brücke translates to Old Bridge. This bridge is a must-see in Heidelberg, even though it’s not as old as the name would suggest.

It dates back to 1788, and it got its name in the 1800s when the city of Heidelberg finished construction on a second (newer) bridge across the river. Even though the Alte Brücke is only around 250 years old, the foundations underneath date back to the Middle Ages.

Previous constructions were made from wood, but floods and wars destroyed those bridges eight times before Prince Elector Karl Theodor decided to construct one out of stone.

Heidelberg Old Bridge

The gate on one side of the bridge is part of the medieval city wall and dates back to those times of wooden bridges.

After crossing the bridge, you can take some of the most iconic photos of Heidelberg, with the bridge in the foreground and the castle in the background.

30min

#6 Philosophenweg

View of Heidelberg
View of Heidelberg from the Philosophenweg

The Philosophenweg, Philosophers’ Way, is a path running along the northern side of the river Neckar. A small footpath called “Schlangenweg” takes you up here from the Old Bridge.

The Philosophers’ Way is the last item on our list of things to do in Heidelberg in one day. If you still have enough time, we recommend going for a walk along this path. You will come past multiple viewpoints from where you can take great photos.

From up here, you can walk a loop and go westwards until you reach the next bridge, the Theodor-Heuss-Brücke. Cross the bridge, and you’re back at the beginning of the Old Town.

30min-1h

Practical Information

Is Heidelberg worth visiting?

Heidelberg Marktplatz

We hope our itinerary above has convinced you that it’s worth squeezing a Heidelberg day trip into your Germany itinerary.

Heidelberg is a beautiful city; you could easily stay here for a few more days without getting bored. Why not visit the Kurpfälzisches Museum, where you can learn more about the history of Heidelberg? Or go and discover the curious story behind the student prison at the university.

Back in the day, some European universities punished students by sending them to their own prisons. Swearing or being late with returning your library books could get you anywhere from a few days to a week or two in a tiny prison cell. Not many of those prisons have survived, but some examples of cells you can visit are in Heidelberg and Tartu in Estonia.

If you decide to stay for a few more days, you could also make a day trip from Heidelberg to the Black Forest. The easiest way to get there is by renting a car, as the Black Forest is not very accessible by public transport.

How to get to Heidelberg

View of Heidelberg Old Bridge from above

There are a few airports near Heidelberg, but you can’t fly to the city directly.

If you’re coming from abroad, the largest airport nearby is in Frankfurt. From Frankfurt, it takes around one to two hours by train to Heidelberg. Another alternative is to fly to Stuttgart, from where you can also reach Heidelberg within the same amount of time.

As we’ve already mentioned, staying in Heidelberg overnight is nice, but you don’t have to. We visited on a day trip from Frankfurt to Heidelberg. Stuttgart is another great city to use as a base, and if you wanted to, you could even organise a day trip to Heidelberg from Strasbourg.

Small street in Heidelberg

The easiest way to reach Heidelberg from nearby cities is by train. You can research train connections and buy tickets online on Omio or directly on the German Bahn website.

Be aware that you have two types of trains going to Heidelberg. The cheaper but slower ones (often abbreviated with RE) and the more expensive high-speed trains (IC or ICE). If you’re planning a day trip to Heidelberg, it might pay off to buy a day ticket that allows unlimited travel on the RE trains.

If you’re on a budget, you should also look into bus schedules. From Frankfurt to Heidelberg, for example, you can take a Flixbus, which is often cheaper than the train.

How to get around Heidelberg

Heidelberg is a compact city, so it’s easy to explore the highlights on foot. We recommend taking the funicular up to the castle, but if you enjoy walking, you could also hike up.

If you arrive by train, you need to get from the central station to the Old Town. It’s a 20-minute walk, or you could take the tram line number 5 to Bismarkplatz.

Where to stay in Heidelberg

Heidelberg as seen from the castle

You can find lots of good accommodation in Heidelberg if you decide to stay overnight. Here are a few options:

Mid-Range: Hote-Restaurant Hackteufel is a family-run hotel in the Old Town of Heidelberg. With its prime location, it’s the perfect place to stay and explore the city. You have a restaurant downstairs in the hotel, where you can try the regional cuisine. Click here to see prices and availability!

A bit more comfort: Hotel Europäischer Hof is a five-star hotel at the edge of the Old Town. Even though it’s got a long tradition and dates back to 1865, its rooms are modern and elegant. Make sure to check out the spa and pool while you’re here. Read reviews and book your stay now!

Budget: Lotte – The Backpackers is a highly-rated hostel (the average rating on booking.com is above 9) in the Old Town of Heidelberg. It’s clean, the staff is friendly, and there’s free cereal and milk. Click here for more information!


We hope you now have a good overview of the best things to do in Heidelberg in one day. It’s a fantastic city to visit, and we’re sure you’re going to love it as much as we do.

Before you leave, make sure also to check out our other posts about Germany. Here are some that you’ll find helpful for planning your trip:

Until your next adventure!

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Author

Ilona is a world traveller passionate about sharing her experiences and giving advice to fellow travellers. Having visited over 70 countries, she is always excited about her next trip.

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