Heidelberg, the fourth stop on a May 2015 journey around Germany, France, and Spain, is a quaint college town with stunning architecture but it kind of lacks true and authentic character; to some, it’s not seen as very unique. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely thought it was beautiful overall, it was really fun to walk around and explore, my visit to the castle especially was actually very interesting, and we ate fantastic pizza in the city center, but there was so much about it that was touristy. Just to be clear, I had fun during our one night in Heidelberg and found it was definitely worth visiting.
In German class junior year of high school, my teacher divided the lessons of the class into chapters with each chapter being a different German city. One of these cities was Heidelberg. Each student had to do a report in front of the class on facts about Heidelberg, which included the “Sehenswürdigkeiten” which means “sights worth seeing” in German a.k.a. tourist attractions. I can clearly remember going into an obnoxious amount of detail about what you can find, do, and see in Heidelberg just because I found this sort of thing way more interesting than, for example, my math homework. So when I decided to go to Germany, I made sure to include Heidelberg on the itinerary, despite the fact that Rick Steves dislikes it so immensely. His description of it is as follows: “This famous old university town attracts hordes of Americans and any former charm is stained almost beyond recognition by commercialism.” Since presenting to my class, I had deleted my Powerpoint on Heidelberg, but could still pretty clearly remember all the main sights worth seeing.
When we first arrived at the train station, we took a bus to our hostel and didn’t get off when we were supposed to so we ended up in a residential neighborhood on the other side of the River Neckar where the bus was dropping kids after their day of school. I am actually glad we didn’t get off when we were supposed to because I enjoyed seeing that part of everyday, normal German life. Eventually, the bus did turn around at a dead-end street where people were walking their cute dogs in a park and we made it back to the stop near the hostel after about a thirty minute ride.
We stayed at Lotte The Backpackers Hostel right below the shadow of the castle which was run by such a nice woman, Carmen, and was in such a great location in the Old Town area of Heidelberg. It was extremely clean, the people were really friendly, and the way the open kitchen was run made me very happy. I loved being able to grab some cereal (that muesli stuff that Germans seem to eat often is my favorite thing ever. I’d never had that before coming to Germany) whenever I wanted. Sydney, Kyla, and I made a friend in our dorm room, Goun, from Gyeongju, Korea who was traveling around Germany. She had just come from Strasburg and was staying much longer in Heidelberg than we were, as we were only there for a night.
Goun recommended that we walk along the Philosophen Weg which I had already wanted to do, having learned about it in German class, so the three of us agreed to do that before dinner. She had hiked all the way to the top where there was a little tower (see the picture below that I took from the castle the next day), but the three of us were feeling too lazy to do that. Plus, we didn’t even bring hiking shoes.
The view from the trail was pretty breathtaking. After hiking up the steep little trail just to get on the Philosophen Weg, we only walked for a few minutes before stopping on some benches to enjoy the view and just sit around and hang out.
In addition to taking that nice little hike across the bridge and up the hill, the three of us strolled around Old Town, just taking in the sights. In the cobblestone square outside of the Heiliggeistkirche and the Rathaus, there was a plethora of merchants selling touristy items that we were very much willing to buy. I bought a Heidelberg magnet to join my collection of magnets, a cute used blue and white striped scarf (that I later lost after tying it to my purse), and some postcards to send back home to family and friends.
That evening, we each got a delicious pizza in the town square, only about a quick one or two minute walk from our hostel. The three of us all love both pizza and ice cream, and I think Heidelberg was probably the start of our infatuation with these two foods during our trip to Europe, as this was the first (but not the last) time we ordered pizza. We also got ice cream after walking around for a great deal of time trying to find the best place from which to buy ice cream.
On our second and last day in Heidelberg, after walking in its shadows for too long, it was finally time to see Schloss Heidelberg (that’s the castle for you English speakers). Sydney wasn’t feeling up to it that day, but Kyla and I decided that we wanted to go walk around the grounds for a few hours before our train was to leave for Munich later that afternoon. So he chilled back in the room while we made the trek up the hill.
Kyla and I dreamed of being princesses as we walked around the grounds. “Imagine living here and your Dad being the king and you just chilling, looking out windows at the kingdom below, wearing pretty dresses and stuff,” we said. It was pretty ignorant of us but very enjoyable. We ended up choosing not to take a tour to save money, so we didn’t know exactly where to go a nd what to do, but just looking around was enough. Plus our time was limited as we had a train to catch later.
The Apotheke Museum inside the castle was actually very intriguing and interesting for the two of us as we appreciated the fact that it was in both German and English. I very much enjoyed just taking time to look around at all the artifacts, samples, and what-not in there. The museum really provided me with factual information about a subject I had never learned much about at all.
The view from the balcony overlooking the city was breathtaking. I especially found the cannons like the one in the picture below very fascinating.
There was a small and overpriced little restaurant as well as wine tastings inside, but what really captivated me were the giant wine barrels. There was one big enough to walk on and around. Of course that meant that huge bunches of tourists were congregated there snapping photos. It was still pretty cool regardless.
I really enjoyed my visit to Heidelberg, but after just a day (which was the perfect amount of time to see what we wanted to see), we were off to Munich by way of a spectacular train ride. I even purchased a delicious picnic while still in Heidelberg for the ride: