After a whirlwind week of road tripping from München to Bad Kötzting near the Czech Border, along the Alps to Schloß Neuschwanstein and back to München again, I was ready for a solo retreat to Heidelberg.
Heidelberg’s official song “Ich Hab’ mein Herz in Heidelberg Verloren” translates to “I lost my heart in Heidelberg” and was first recorded in 1925 by Fred Raymond. This schlager version came later and can be heard all over town.
Between Two Bridges
Between the Theodore Heuss Brücke and the Alte Brücke lies the Alt Stadt (old town). Views from both bridges and along the banks of the Neckar River are stunning.
Hotel Goldener Hecht
I stayed in the historic Hotel Goldener Hecht located right at the entrance of the Alte Brücke, as pictured above in yellow. These gate towers are the most popular site in the city and was approximately seventeen steps from my door.
Tourists roll in at all hours to take photos, pose with the monkey, and watch small tankers chug by along the peaceful River Neckar.
Drinking coffee and people watching from the privacy of my bedside window each morning felt so posh.
Theodor Heuss Brücke
Heuss was a celebrated journalist who became the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany in the late 40s. This bridge, his namesake, frames the opposite side of the Alt Stadt just across from the Alte Brücke.
Between the two bridges lies a gorgeous tree-lined promenade and views of the castle.
Directly behind the hotel is the Heidelbergschloß (castle) and the Königsstuhl, which you can just barely see the tower of on the top left of the photo below. Walking across the Alte Brücke provides an excellent view of the castle.
It was a short walk from the hotel to the Fußweg leading up the mountain toward the castle. You can walk up the trail for free, but mein Herz was really set on taking the funicular. In the Kornmarkt square, there is a Bahn station that goes directly to the castle.
The Heidelberg castle is the most prominent Renaissance castle outside of the Alps, and it sits nearly 300 feet above street level overlooking the entire city.
Built in the 1200s, this fortress was partially destroyed twice by lightning and several additional times by fire and warfare in the 1500s and the 1700s.
Once inside the courtyard, there is the Deutsche Apotheke Museum, a few restaurants, and the largest wine barrel in the world which holds nearly 60,000 gallons.
As you leave the courtyard and walk toward the garden, you have a great view of the towers.
The Heidelberg Funicular
Do not miss your chance to go all the way to the top of the mountain Heiligenberg! After taking a modern train to the castle, there is a separate connection platform at that station to board the funicular and ride up to the Königstuhl (king’s seat).
Station Königstuhl has a small outdoor cafe, the Tinnunculus falcon viewing park, the Forest Adventure nature park, the Fairytale Paradise park, an exhibit on the Bergbahn, and some other interesting looking places I did not dare enter.
Here you are 1,804 feet above sea level and 1,436 feet above the city.
However, I found the Maschinenraum (Machine Room) below the station and got to check out all the gears and levers as they were cranking and pulling.
The Tinnunculus falcon viewing park looked like it would have been brilliant in warmer weather, but in the middle of February the birds had all taken shelter out of sight.
A trail of sculptures leads to the Forest Adventure park and Paradise park accessible by car, but there was no activity today due to such cold weather.
After an hour or two at Königstuhl I was freezing. Droplets of water on my coat had turned into ice, so I made my way back down to Old Town.
There are more places to eat in Old Town than anyone could conquer in a few days. Once I reached the Kornmarkt station back at street level I wandered through many of the central squares, taking inventory of all the restaurants.
Steingaße (Stonegarden) is the short street that begins at the Alte Brücke gate, meets the patio of Goldener Hecht. It stretches another block or so until it intersects with the main street, Haupstraße, one of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in all of Europe.
Hauptstraße begins near the Karlstor gate by Heidelberg University and leads all the way through Alt Stadt to Bismarckplatz. approximately 1.5 miles to where it meets Theodor Heuss Brücke.
Most streets in the Alt Stadt are made of cobblestone, and there are numerous cafes, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, department stores, hotels and bakeries.
They were selling fresh Bienenstich for crying out loud. Bienenstich!
On my first night, I ate at a place around the corner with no sign. What drew me in was the graffiti and old school hip hop vibe. From outside under the neons, it looked like a dive but inside it is spacious and surprisingly tidy. They were blasting Dr. Dre and then gave me something called “The Heavy Breather” so my suspicions were quelled.
From my credit card statement, I learned the restaurant is called Joe Molese Burgers. I could hardly get through a single, but they have triple burgers covered in any type of sauce or add-on you could imagine. Now that I have seen the photos on their site, I definitely sold myself short.
Another great place to eat is called Bier-Brezel. My #foodgoals for the day had been to find Rahmschnitzel, and it came with salad and spätzle. I opted in for the Moroccan mint tea service also.
Just outside the window is the Heiliggeistkirche (Holy ghost church), and it is open for free inside tours.
The Philosopher’s Way is another hot spot in Heidelberg. Poets, philosophers, writers, professors, and scholars including Martin Luther, Mark Twain, and Victor Hugo walked this path. It is still utilized by students and other visitors when a little inspiration or time to reflect is needed.
From the busy hub of Bismarckplatz where Hauptstraße reaches the Theodor Heuss Brücke, I took Uferstraße to Bergstraße in order to reach the beginning stairs of the 1.5 mile Philosophenweg nature walk.
The trail follows along the Neckar River from an elevated curve in the mountain and ends with Schlangenweg trail which leads you back down the mountain to the Alte Brücke.
I have heard the Philosophenweg is best enjoyed by taking the route in reverse but did not have time to retrace my steps.
This highly respected college was built in the late 1300s and remains one of the most prestigious academic and scientific centers in Germany and worldwide. Campus architecture is gorgeous.
The Student Jail was first used for misbehaving university students as early as the 1600s when being jailed became a rite of passage for many students.
Inevitably the jail turned into a party house, and now the building serves as a living memoir of campus life and of those who stayed. The museum contains their works of art, political expressions, artifacts, furniture, books, plans for rallies, and other student activities over the centuries.
On my last night in Heidelberg, I went downstairs into Hotel Goldener Hecht’s restaurant and had Wurst’l, Bratkartoffeln, Weinkraut, and a Jever.
I went into Vetter’s Brauhaus one last time as well. Vetter’s has won awards worldwide for having the strongest alcohol content in their beer, upwards of 33%. Even after a full liter of helles, the barmeister was nudging me to try more of their brews.
We had an ongoing joke that since I was only a few doors down from my hotel, I could just go tie a rope around the door and hang on to the other end until it was time to reel myself back in.
With a nice buzz, I stepped out into the frigid air for one last view of the castle and a walk around Old Town before tucking in
Next morning, on the train to Köln.