Heidelberg

For other places with the same name, see Heidelberg (disambiguation).

Heidelberg is a city in the state of Baden-Württemberg in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Old Bridge and Heidelberg Castle

Understand

It is no secret that Heidelberg is a jewel among German travel destinations. Heidelberg is located in the Neckar river valley right where the legend-rich Odenwald (Forest of Odes or Odin) opens up towards the plains of the Rhine Valley. Heidelberg is home to the oldest university in Germany (est. 1386). With 28,000 students, the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität (or Ruperto Carola, the Latin equivalent of its name) is one of Germany's larger academic institutions and boasts the full spectrum of an ancient academy, from Egyptian Studies to Computer Linguistics. The faculties for Medicine, Law and Natural Sciences are considered to be among the best in Germany. The university fostered the establishment of several other world class research institutions such as the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the European Molecular Biological Laboratory (EMBL), Center for Molecular Biology (ZMBH), Max Planck Institutes for Medicine, Astronomy, Nuclear Physics, among others. Generally speaking, Heidelberg is an academic city with a long and rich history and is similar in many ways to cities such as Cambridge or Oxford (Heidelberg and Cambridge, England are twinned).

During WWII, the city was almost completely spared allied bombings which destroyed many of Germany's larger inner cities. As a result, Heidelberg has retained its baroque charm of narrow streets, picturesque houses and of course the world-famous Schloss (castle ruins). After World War II, the US Army built large barracks at the southern end of the city. Heidelberg's 149,600 inhabitants thus include not only 28,000 students at the university but also nearly 20,000 US citizens, almost all of them soldiers and their families. With hundreds of thousands of tourists flocking to the city annually, Heidelberg is truly a culturally diverse and international destination, despite its small size.

Over the years, Heidelberg has attracted numerous artists, intellectuals and academics from all over Europe and has sometimes been referred to as Germany's unofficial intellectual capital. People who have lived and worked in the city include the poets Joseph von Eichendorff, Jean Paul and Goethe, scientists such as Bunsen and Kirchhoff, philosophers such as the founder of the "Illuminati" order von-Knigge, atheist Ludwig Feuerbach, existentialist Karl Jaspers, political theorist Hannah Arendt, architect Albert Speer, and many more. Mark Twain wrote in A Tramp Abroad:

:...Out of a billowy upheaval of vivid green foliage ...rises the huge ruin of Heidelberg Castle, with empty window arches, ivy-mailed battlements, moldering towersthe Lear of inanimate naturedeserted, discrowned, beaten by the storms, but royal still, and beautiful.

Get in

By plane

ICE Train from Frankfurt or Stuttgart Airport to Heidelberg

You can travel to Heidelberg via ICE (Inter City Express), Germany's fastest train, running at up to 300 km/h (180 mph) on German rails. For more info and booking see [bahn.de DB's website].

Both Frankfurt and Stuttgart airports have train stations inside the terminal. Frankfurt Airport even is a major ICE-train stop.

Reservations are not necessary; just buy your ticket at the counter or machine after you land. Credit cards are accepted; most staff speak English. It might be necessary to change trains (only once) at Mannheim, Stuttgart, or Frankfurt Central Station, but it is still likely to be faster than the bus. One way prices: Frankfurt €24.50 (ICE), Stuttgart €26 (IC) €38 (ICE).

Lufthansa Shuttle Bus

Lufthansa provides a shuttle bus from Frankfurt to Heidelberg for €23 one way (taking one hour) and €44 round trip. If you have a Lufthansa Ticket, you get €2 discount.

Minor Airports

By train

By car

The A5 connects Heidelberg directly to Frankfurt and Karlsruhe. It's easy to reach from any direction.

Get around

The city runs a small rather effective system of trams and buses. The two most important nodal points are the main station and Bismarckplatz. Bus #32 and #33 connect the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) with the old city area; detailed maps, schedules and routes can be found online. A mountain railway runs between four stations (including the castle), linking the old city on the level of the river with the summit of the Königstuhl Mountain, about 400 m (1312 feet) above the city.

The "Heidelberg Card", a tourist pass that includes public transportation, many museums, and the lower section of the mountain railway (a separate fare is required for the upper section), can be bought at the tourist information center located just outside the main station.

See

Castle at Heidelberg
Jesuitenkirche Heidelberg
View of Heidelberg Castle from The Old Bridge

Do

The city boasts more than twelve cinemas, over eight theaters, including

Guided Tours

Buy

Eat

BBQ & Beer - On sunny summer days the "Neckarwiese" ('Neckar meadow', northern bank of Neckar river, just west of Bismarckplatz) is full of people relaxing in the sun, having a Barbecue or a beer... This place also offers a nice view to the castle. You will have to bring your own grill, beer and steaks. Cheap grills to use once are available at the "Bauhaus" do-it-yourself store at Kurfürsten-Anlage 11, just 200m south of Bismarckplatz. Nice way to mix with locals.

Snacks - Along the Hauptstraße, which runs through the center of town, you will find several bakeries that serve local specialities including “Brezeln” (pretzels). Department stores have a nice selection of delicatessen stalls called “Markthallen” where you can eat everything on the spot.

Cafes - Many of the cafes in Heidelberg set up outside tables when the weather is fair, and these are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. A popular destination for summer cafe beer sipping and lounging is the Marktplatz, which is adjacent to the Heiliggeistkirche.

Meals - The Haupstraße is plentiful with an amazing variety of restaurants. Dishes tend to be served in large portions, relatively inexpensive and of good quality. You can find something for almost every taste including Japanese, Indian, Italian, Chinese, German and Bavarian. American fast food and "Döner" restaurants cater to the budget conscious and late-night crowds.

Drink

More than 300 bars, pubs, clubs, discothèques and the like, from Bavarian style tourist restaurants with deer antlers on the walls to extremely left-wing student bars which reserve the right to refuse police officers entry to the bar. You name it. Find your place and enjoy yourself. Heidelberg knows no curfew. Most bars close at 1AM, but especially the students bars are often open until the early morning. Although the locals—even the police officers—are used to drunk tourists as well as to drunk students, please be calm on your way home and do not riot. As a remnant of the student revolts, Heidelberg has the largest ratio of policemen per capita and you may find yourself in the arms of an officer much faster than you think.

If you are a young person and happen to discover one of the student parties (which are quite numerous but advertised mostly by word-of-mouth), you scored the jackpot. Get inside, get a (dirt cheap) beer and have fun. But try and avoid being recognised as a tourist. No party ends before 3AM and many run until 6 or 7AM. Either Untere Straße or the Zieglers (Heidelbergs oldest students' bar) are frequently crowded with students.

Recently, most pubs close much earlier in the night, even on the weekends at around 2AM. Just move to one of the numerous clubs, which usually have no entrance fee this late at night.

Be Safe

Heidelberg is an extremely safe city (even by German standards). However, women walking alone at night should take the usual precautions they would do anywhere else. Walking along the northern Neckar banks at night would not be advised, except in groups, particularly by the Studentenwohnheime (dorms). The shrubs are thick and it is very dark.

Usually there won't be any problem. If you are a bit 'paranoid' you can take a Taxi. If you are from New York, you might think they are cheap - if you are from East-Europe or Asia you will feel like they are ripping you off... use as needed. There are also "Frauentickets" available for women, you can buy these coupons for €8 and they will cover the fare for anywhere in the city.

Don't walk on bicycle lanes! - Really don't! (they are often painted in red, but always separated from the pedestrian lanes by a white line): Heidelberg has more cyclists than motorists, and many of them have a rather cavalier way of riding. The southern parallel street to Hauptstrasse (called Plöck) is the main traffic channel for student cyclists between Bismarkplatz and University Square. During the day it can be such a buzz, it's already a sight worth visiting. But watch out: Many cyclists feel safe from the tourists there and lose all their good manners.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, November 01, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.