I’ve been obsessing over pictures of Heidelberg on my instagram feed for over a year now. I had never thought to visit here before and then all these gorgeous pictures of fairytale castles and meandering streets started showing up on my feed and I knew that I just had to go somehow.
Did you know that Mark Twain was once lucky enough to call this charming city home and Heidelberg inspired his book “A tramp abroad”. Now I love to write but I am no Mark Twain so I’m going to leave it to him to set the scene.
“The town lay stretched along the river, it’s intricate cobweb of streets jeweled with twinkling lights. Behind the castle swells a dome shaped hill, forest-clad, and beyond that a nobler and loftier one. The castle looks down upon the compact brown-roofed town; and from the town two picturesque old bridges span the river. I have never enjoyed a view which had such a satisfying charm about it as this one gives”
Those of you that know me, know I love all things twinkling lights, cobwebbed streets and glorious castles all ready for exploration so you didn’t have to convince me twice to put Heidelberg pretty high up on my bucket list. If you haven’t already you need to add this hidden gem to your bucket list immediately. Can you even be considered a serious traveller if you haven’t been?
From Frankfurt it is only a short train ride to Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof. If you are following my story you will know that for the last few years I’ve been suffering the severely debhilitaing disease that is Lyme, which is why instead of visiting those places on my bucket list I would distract myself from the hellish pain and isolation by looking through instagram for places to find for if and when I got better. Through research I had found a Lyme treatment with an 85% success rate in Frankfurt so while I was there I just knew I couldn’t get so close and not tick Heidelberg off my list.
The first weekend was a no go as I was too weak but by some miracle on the Saturday after I finished up my treatment I felt the best I had in the 17 years of being sick and I knew that it was now or never. So we grabbed the S-Bahn to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof and quickly bought our train tickets. A return trip 2nd class cost us €96 for two tickets and I’m sure had we researched we probably could have found a better deal but like I said we were grabbing the bull by the horns.
The train ride doesn’t feel long and there are so many charming villages along the way to keep you entertained. One very charming, winding, twinkling light street almost had me hitting the emergency brake button and I still need to find out where this was so if anyone knows please spill the beans (Yes I know! One place ticked off the bucket list and another added but that’s how I roll).
Once we arrived at Heidelberg I immediately wanted to see the famous castle and being careful not to overdo it we got a taxi straight to the top. But if, unlike me, you have the energy the cobbled walk up to the castle looks so beautiful and it will really give you the opportunity to take in just how delicious this city is. There is also the option to walk to a certain point and get the funicular railway to the top.
Heidelberg castle did not dissappoint. As Mark Twain aptly described it, it has a sandstone facade and is beautifully set against the lush rolling green of the mountains. It was October when we arived so the autumnal hue of the trees really added to the fairytale feeling of this castle. After spending what seemed like hours soaking up the views of the city beneath we went inside. You are greeted by the most amazing courtyard that makes you feel like you are stepping back in time and I couldn’t help but stand still for a minute and wonder about all of those that have stood here before me. It is literally breathtaking. Inside the castle is the largest wine barrel I have ever seen and a very cool Apotheken Pharmacy museum with all sorts of weird concoctions.
We walked back down to the old town along the cobbled path from the castle. Going down certainly looked easier than going up with some spectacular views along the way and again my mind was drawn to those that walked this path before me. The history is almost tangible if that makes sense. It is quite a short walk actually considering how high up the castle is and I managed it without difficulty. We landed in Kornmarkt a gorgeous little square which is one of the best places to just sit and take in the views of the castle. In the corner of this square is where you will find the path up to the castle.
Following through from this square is the larger Marktplatz or market square. Sit here and drink a coffee and listen to the chiming bells of the stunning Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit). If you are lucky you may even catch a wedding at the town hall or Rathaus. In fact we came across three weddings the day we were there which probably gives you an indication of how romantic this city is. It was here that Mr. Lavin spotted the Lindt shop with chocolate bonbons of any flavour as far as the eye can see. He truly got sucked in and manged to spend a whopping €18 on pic’n’mix but it was his birthday and he didn’t get cake and I dropped his birthday dinner all over the floor (that’s another story) so he was entitled!
This area of Heidelberg could almost be French and it reminds me a little of Montmartre in Paris. From the Altstadt or Old Town you will find the main street or Haupstraße which is like the artery of the city. It is the longest pedestrian walkway in Europe and expands over a mile east to west alongside the Neckar River. This is a shoppers dream with most of the high street shops that can be found in the UK such as Mango, H&M, Fossil and Lush (you could smell it from a mile away!). This is what I loved about this city. It combines the old and the modern to perfection. Such pretty facades with all the comforts of modern living.
If Mr. Lavin could have his chocolate then I could have Christmas. We stumbled across Käthe Wohlfahrt which is a shop filled with Christmas perfection all year round! Now in July it might have seemed overkill but at a time filled with a chill in the air and spiced pumpkin lattes, visting a Christmas shop felt almost compulsory. Entering the many levels of this shop felt like we were peeling the layers of the onion that is Christmas and man was it good. This shop is filled to the brim with Christmas tree ornaments, nutcrackers, schwibbogen, incense smokers and pyramids as well as gifts for all occasions and I left full of Christmas cheer much to the delight of my husband who at this stage couldn’t take any more sugary sweetness.
The side streets of the Haupstraße shouldn’t be overlooked. Here you will find quaint cafes, restaurants and wonderful architecture. These side streets are less packed with tourists and are more authentic. What a great excuse to purposely get lost exploring.
Down one of these side streets you will find the Alte Brücke which was under repair at the time of our visit. The old bridge isn’t really that old. Technically it is only 70 years old. It was rebuilt as an exact replica of the old bridge after it was bombed by German troops at the end of WWII to stop Allied forces from entering Heidelberg.
And so our trip to Heidelberg came to an end as I needed to get back to Frankfurt and I had to be very careful not to overdo things. On a side note trains between the two cities run pretty regularly so you don’t need to factor in a strict timetable on your trip. There is still plenty to do in Heidelberg and we both fell in love with what this city had to offer so for sure we will be planning a return journey.
Check out my Frankfurt City Guide here.