One of the perks of moving to a new city, especially if it’s abroad, is the fact that we always pay more attention to our surroundings, to every detail the regular resident overlooks.
That’s exactly what has happened to me during the last two and a half months, since I started living in the dream come true of Romantic authors, the city is almost from the pages of a fairytale: Heidelberg.
A regular tourist spends here no more than 2-3 days, enough to visit a city of 150,000 inhabitants, but as a result of my several encounters with vacationers here, I realized many of them did not get to experience part of what makes Heidelberg unique. If you are about to visit the city, or are thinking of returning, then this is your perfect city guide.
The very first and most remarkable landmark any visitor with a pair of eyes on their face gets to see is, of course, the Heidelberg Castle or “Heidelberger Schloss” in German. It doesn’t matter whether you are a regular tourist or an adventurous backpacker, this is a must-see. It is not without reason that this year it ranks as the 2nd most popular tourist attraction in Germany according to the German National Tourism Board. However, it is not only the castle which grabs your attention.
A common mistake made by tourists is going back to the city as soon as walk out the gates, but if you decide to turn left instead, your steps will lead you to the castle gardens, which at the time they were built were regarded by contemporaries as the eighth wonder of the world.
You should walk to the very end of the gardens and then turn left, to the long terrace.
If by chance you visited the city during the last few months, you will have come across a metallic structure half blocking the combined view of the Castle, the city, the Old Bridge, and the valley. But from about one week ago, this structure is no longer there, now the terrace invites the visitor to admire a sight that leaves no doubts as to why Heidelberg inspired dozens of writers and poets in their artworks.
Do not miss on your way back the Ginkgo tree, a unique and oriental tree planted in this garden in honor of a poem by Goethe. When admiring, do check where you are standing: stepping on one of its fruits will result in an unbearable stink getting stuck to your shoe.
When coming back to the old part of the city or Altstadt (do not take the funicular, it’s expensive and the views are not worth it), no matter what route you take, you will run into several majestic building crowned by various flags with an architecture completely in line with the style of the Castle. Most of these buildings actually belong to fraternities, which as a result of being home to the oldest University in Germany, are numerous in Heidelberg, and it has to be mentioned, not very much loved.
One of the most remarkable sights of Heidelberg can also be found right on the other side of the river: the Philosophenweg or philosophers’ way, named like that originally by the university students as a result of the romantic and inspirational atmosphere floating all around it.
Less crowded than the castle, the philosopher’s way is a perfect spot to stop by, take a beer and admire the scenery right from the other side of the city, especially at night, when the tourists are gone and only a few locals remain there.
When it comes to the Altstadt, you should invest at least one hour to stroll through its picturesque streets filled with Baroque style buildings, going for a walk to the river, and of course crossing the Old Bridge or “Alte Brücke”. If you follow the street where the bridge ends back to the city, after a few meters on your left-hand side you will find a bar called Vetter. This tavern homes the once strongest beer in the world according to the Guinness book of World Records, at 33% of alcohol, and brews some of the best beers to be found in the city.
Last but by no means least, if you decide to go out at night the street one should head to is undoubtedly Untere Straße, where -even if Heidelberg is not the most active city in terms to parties- open pubs will be found every night. In case of any indecision, you should go to Destille, an alternatively decorated pub with music ranging from classical rock to modern indie, and if you are fond of beers (how could one not feel so in Germany?), do not forget to ask for their Kellerbier or “unfiltered beer”.