My mom visited Heidelberg when she graduated college and described the city to me as a “cute, college town with fun bars with a castle.” I couldn’t describe it more perfectly! There is a river that separates the two halves with an iconic bridge that connects the two sides. The castle is best visible from the center of the bridge, high up on the mountain.
There are many restaurants and bars, and in fact, we went to a restaurant/bar called Vetter which is also a brewery. We were able to have an authentic, freshly brewed German beer along with bratwursts: true German style!
We stayed in the Pension Jeske in the center of Heidelberg. I learned after I booked it that a Pension is a type of hostel, but the Jeske downplays itself if that is true! If you want to stay in an authentic, antique hotel, this is the spot.
You can’t beat the location of the hostel, only a short block to the town square, right off the main shopping street, a stone’s throw from all restaurants and bars, and just around the corner from the tram to go up the mountain to the castle. And only 55 euros for the night! There are different types of rooms, from a shared bath to a private bath to 2 bedroom room. My boyfriend and I stayed in a room with a shared bath but since we were the only guests on that floor, we had the enormous, very clean, well decorated bathroom to ourselves! Our room’s decorations were a true Victorian style with an antique cupboard and wash basin.
The hotel recently went through a renovation so everything was new and updated but the style wasn’t changed. Once inside the door of the hotel, we had to go up a curved staircase that felt its age. Our whole experience staying here took me back a few hundred years, which is exactly how everyone should experience Heidelberg!
The Heidelberg castle was very unique. It’s in the process of being restored, but they are still giving tours. We did not do a tour for lack of time, but we did visit the wine cellar and old apothecary. The apothecary is now a museum and very interesting to see the old bottles and drugs that we still use today, and how they were made back then. To get to the castle, you can walk up the mountain or take an old train that runs on a pulley system. The castle is the first stop, but then the train goes up to another stop where you can switch trains, get on an older train, and go to the top of the mountain. Views from the castle on the mountain are superb.
German Christmas Market
Heidelberg also has a Christmas market in December and January. There is an ice skating rink, food stands, and an outside bar! James and I went ice skating and while he skated around the rink like a pro, I looked like a toddler learning to walk. Then, we got some bratwursts and said goodbye to Germany!
A few interesting tidbits about Heidelberg:
- Everyone spoke excellent English, and usually more languages than just German and English. They all downplay their English and say they don’t speak it well, which I don’t understand. Everyone we talked to sounded 100% fluent!
- All of the music was in English. All radio channels played American music (though the DJs spoke German).
- All of the STOP signs said STOP, not the German equivalent.
- Restrooms weren’t free. They cost usually 0.50 euros.
- When we went ice skating, we had to pay separately to go ice skating, rent the skates, and hold our shoes. In America it is all included in one bill, but in Germany it was more expensive because we had to pay for everything individually, including holding our shoes. Strange.
- The Gothic and Renaissance style architecture gives the city a much older feeling than anything in America. You really feel the city when you feel its history.
- We were told that a sausage sandwich we had at one restaurant was called a Nuremburger, like the city Nuremburg in Bavaria. So Nuremburg has a sandwich named after it, and it’s delicious!