I’ve already described the wonderful experiences I had in the Capital of Christmas – Strasbourg, one of the most famous spa towns in the world Baden Baden and a charming little city of Colmar. I visited these cities during Christmas time when they became especially idyllic. Now I want to add the city of Heidelberg to the list. Being on the most popular tourist destinations list in Germany, it’s also a university city, a stronghold of literature (since the end of 2014, Heidelberg is UNESCO City of Literature) and a very romantic city. Its romantic charm is bestowed by the splendid riverside, charismatic old bridges and buildings and of course the castle ruins overlooking the city center. During the wintertime, Heidelberg’s charm becomes reinforced with the Christmas spirit and activities, which makes this city even more attractive for a curious traveler.
I went on a day trip from Baden Baden to Heidelberg. It took me less than an hour and only 20 euros to get there on the fastest train. There are numerous trains from Baden Baden to Heidelberg and you can take a look at their schedules here.
Ready to see what Heidelberg has to offer? Let’s start!
Top 10 Things to Do and Places to Visit in Heidelberg in Winter
1. Feel the Magic of the Christmas Market
You need to see the Christmas Market in Heidelberg because it’s so much fun! This year it will be opened from the 25th of November till the 22nd of December. The mixture of Old Town charm and smells of mulled wine, roasted almonds and gingerbread is a recipe for the fairytale atmosphere and you’ll experience all of it during the Christmas celebrations in Heidelberg. Find out more about Christmas Markets in Heidelberg here and get yourself a cool 1.5 hour Christmas Market walking tour here.
2. Become a Child at the Ice Rink
You can find one of Germany’s most beautiful ice rinks in Heidelberg. Just imagine how cool it will be to have some fun at the ice rink after spending half a day at the Christmas markets. Located near Heidelberg Castle and accompanied by the Christmas music, this ice rink can fill you with many unforgettable moments that you’ll bring home from your trip.
3. Indulge in Eating
Since you’ll be spending time on the Christmas Markets there will be a lot of opportunities to eat some delicious stuff. Things I would recommend are:
- famous Bratwurst, or if you like your dishes to be spicy Feuerwurst
- special kind of pizza called Flammkuchen
- Kartoffelpuffer (it’s something like a deep-fried version of hashbrown patty)
- spiced Weißglühwein (you can ask to add rum or Jägermeister if you want), and you can also take the mug with you just like in Strasbourg
- if you’re a vegetarian you’ll find plenty of options at vegan stalls
And of course lots of candies, waffles, heart-shaped cookies, and other delicious and festive looking sweets.
4. See Heidelberg Castle
Aside from Christmas related activities, there are several attractions in Heidelberg that one definitely has to explore when visiting this cozy city. One of them is the Heidelberg Castle. If you’re not fond of learning about the history of the castle you can just take photos from afar or walk around it. But if you would like to learn more about this magnificent construction (which I recommend), I’d advise taking a tour to learn about the castle’s history, take a look at the pharmacy museum and enjoy the stunning views of the city from castle’s terrace. And don’t miss the giant wine barrel, because it’s the largest one in the world!
5. Walk the Old Bridge
The Old Bridge, which is also known as Heidelberg’s Karl Theodor Bridge unites the old town with the newer part of the city. Since the 13th century, it’s the 9th bridge that was erected in this place and its latest iteration was built in the 18th century by Prince Karl Theodor, hence the name.
The bridge is a part of the former city wall and you can still see the old stone entrance from the side of the old town.
6. Stand in Awe in Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit)
The next must-see attraction of Heidelberg is the Church of the Holy Spirit. Its history dates back to 1239, but as it often happens with ancient religious construction like this, it often changed its religious denomination and was used by Protestants as well as by Catholics at different times.
In the 20th century, it was finally decided that it will be a Protestant Church. Aside from the beautiful interior and exterior of the church, you can enjoy an incredible view of the city from the church’s tower.
7. Soak the Spirit of the Old Town
An old European city should have an old town. Although you will be seeing some part of the old town while exploring the Christmas Market, I’d recommend you to be a more considerate tourist and to wake up before the Christmas Market’s open to explore the old city more thoroughly in a still atmosphere.
It will allow you to soak up the spirit of the old town without any distractions. Explore the old city’s main street (it’s the world’s longest pedestrian shopping street), Town Hall (or Rathaus), the University Prison and the Hercules fountain along with the old city’s beautiful old buildings. No matter what plans you have, seeing the old town is a must among other places to visit in Heidelberg.
8. Explore the Historical Buildings
To feel the spirit of the city even better, you need to explore many of the city’s historic buildings. In addition to the town hall, pay special attention to:
- Old University
- Kongresshaus Stadthalle
- Zum Ritter
- University Library
- Marstall & Heuscheuer
All of these spectacular buildings have a rich history and are totally worthy of your attention. Read more about Heidelberg’s historical buildings here.
9. Drink Beer at Vetters Brauhaus
If you’re fond of German beer than you need to pay a visit to one of Heidelberg’s breweries. There are a number of them in the city, but I’d recommend you to go to the Vetters Brauhaus and try a variety of Heidelberg Beer. This brewery is one of the most popular restaurants in Heidelberg and their beer is brewed in accordance with German’s purity law. It’s located not far from the Old Bridge gate from the side of the old city so you can pay a visit to Vetters before or after seeing the bridge.
10. Buy Chocolate & Bring Memories Home
We all love to bring souvenirs home and if you’re fed up with traditional magnets you can go with the chocolate. The greatest places to shop for chocolate souvenirs in Heidelberg are Students Kiss at Knösel, Heidelberg Bonbon Manufaktur, and Pralinmanufaktur Vorbach. No matter which of the three shops you choose, the chocolate you buy there will serve as a great reminder of your trip to romantic Heidelberg city (until the chocolate becomes a memory itself).
Recommended Heidelberg Tours
- Walking Tour in the Old Town – this exciting tour will allow you to discover the romantic, historic and exciting sides of Heidelberg. You’ll see the city’s most favorite attractions along with less known places that form a unique mosaic of Heidelberg’s past, present, and future.
- Private Tour With Castle Visit – those who prefer private tours to group tours will find this 3-hour walk fascinating. In addition to the Old Bridge and the Church of Holy Spirit, it includes a walk along the Germany’s longest pedestrian zone, a castle visit, the largest wine barrel in the world and unique insider’s information which you won’t be able to find in any guidebook.
- Romantic City Tour – since Heidelberg is famous for being the city of romance this tour uncovers its romantic and historical sides. Only two hours of time, but a whole lot of expressions.
Places to Stay in Heidelberg
- City Partner Hotel Holländer Hof – a 3-star hotel with an outstanding location in the Old Town district. Most rooms have views of River Neckar and air conditioning. In the morning you can enjoy tasty breakfast buffets or less substantial business breakfasts.
- Boutique Hotel Heidelberg Suites – Small Luxury Hotels of the World – located within a short walking distance from all major attractions it’s a boutique hotel with stylish suites and a private spa. Most suites offer a view on Heidelberg Castle and the Old Bridge. The in-house Scharff’s Restaurant is located in a ship that overlooks the river.
- Hip Hotel – this hotel offers you to live in a historic 250-year-old building in the Old Town. In addition to this, it has a perfect restaurant, central location, and beautiful rooms. What else could you ask for?
Places to Eat in Heidelberg
- Restaurant zur Herrenmühle – one of the greatest places in the city, if you’re looking for authentic German experience. Located in the charming ivy-covered house with shutters this restaurant serves local food and recreates a welcoming, traditional atmosphere.
- The River Café – the River Café is an excellent place for those who find the tourist bustle of the Old Town hectic. Here you will be able to relax and taste some delicious food away from the noise.
- Red Die Grüne Küche – one of the best vegetarian restaurants in town. Their selection of meals is so big that you may find it difficult to make a decision. One remarkable thing about it is that many carnivores are visiting this place on a daily basis because of how tasty the food is.
After visiting Heidelberg I can understand why they call it a romantic city. But it’s difficult to put this understanding into words, so you’ll need to visit and feel Heidelberg yourself to comprehend it too.