Upon recommendation from our Heidelberg Castle tour guide, we went directly to the Philosopher’s Walk after visiting the Castle and town to try to catch the Castle at sunset from the Walk.
The Philosopher’s Walk is a well-mainained path that runs from the newer part of town and ends with steep stairs down to the Alte Brücke (or you can turnaround if you are mobility inclined, or just want to avoid the steps!). Our castle tour guide recommended starting the tour in the newer part of town so that we would be looking at the castle the entire walk (and not back at the castle), but we started at the Alte Brücke, because it was closer to the Castle, and ended in the new town, very close to our dinner spot – Dorfschänke!
The stairs near the Alte Brücke are not scary (I hate heights!) or that tough, but it was steep – bring water. At the top of the hill, there are great views of the Castle and the old town. The path is pretty level after the hill and ends in the new part of down after walking by some gorgeous homes.
The Philosopher’s Walk is entirely free. However, it is not worth it at all if it is raining. I would allow at least an hour for the entire Philosopher’s Walk.
Our first stop in Heidelberg was Schloss Heidelberg, or Heidelberg Castle in English! We got really lucky. It was supposed to rain, but when we arrived it was warm and sunny. We went right up to the Castle as soon as we checked in to our hostel, just in case the weather changed. I would recommend doing the same; if rain is forecasted, take advantage of any sun to visit the Castle, as its largely open air.
The Castle is located above the Altstadt, and there are two ways to get up to the castle – walk or take the funicular (an elevator/train that goes up the side of the mountain…err, hill). We opted to walk. The walkway is paved and consists of a series of steps. I had to make a stop on the way up to catch my breath (and I blame the jet-lag/dehydration from the free trans-atlantic vino…), but it wasn’t a bad walk. In reality, the walk is steep and not recommended for the mobility impaired, but it is most certainly doable for able-bodied adults. The finicular costs €6 and includes admission to the castle grounds, so its effectively free. Take your pick!
When you get to the top, you can walk around the outskirts of the castle for free, but to enter into the true castle “grounds” and/or the interior of the castle, you have to buy a ticket. You can purchase the tickets on the spot from the gift shop at the top of the hill.
While the castle is “ruined,” I thought it was in pretty good shape and there is a lot to see! There are two options to see the actual castle – € 6 to walk around the castle grounds (included with funicular ticket) or €10 to take a guided tour of the interior AND walk around the grounds. We decided to take the English tour of the castle, which started at quarter-past every hour. Our main motivation was to see the interior, and this tour is the only way to see the interior of the castle. The tour lasted about an hour. It was good. The guide told a lot of history about the castle. It was also interesting to see some of the interior rooms – they were decorated nicely and it shed some light on the Castle’s history. I would certainly recommend the tour, but I wouldn’t consider it a “must do,” especially if you are short on time or cash. Note – there are no pictures allowed in the castle interior.
After our tour, we went to see the Great Tun, which is the largest wine vat in the world. The Wine Vat was HUGE and it used to be filled with a mixture of different types of local wine – yuck! Note – there are two large wine vats, make sure you make it past the first one to see the really large, old wine vat! There is also a wine bar right next to the Great Tun selling local wine and wine flights at a very low cost. For example, I ordered a local red wine flight for €7. The pours were very heavy and the bar tender explained each type of wine in the flight. She even asked us about our preferences when putting together the wine flight. What a great deal! Craig had a reisling flight, which he enjoyed as well. The wine bar also sold glühwein (a spied wine, served on ice this day, but usually warm) and a souvenir tasting glass (filled with wine for €3), which we all had to have!
We decided to try to make the Philosopher’s Walk around sunset, per our tour guide’s recommendation, so we missed the Apothecary Museum (located in the castle grounds with free admission). When walking out of the Castle, be sure to leave time to take in the great views from the Castle. We must have taken 100 pictures of the town. Such a gorgeous part of Germany!
Some notes – there is a cafe or two on the castle grounds serving snacks/lunch. I recommend taking some water with you to the castle. There is a lot of walking. You do not need reservations for the cafes on site or the wine bar at the Great Tun. It’s all very casual.
In September, Dan and I embarked on Eurotrip2014 – an eleven day trip to Hiedelberg, Germany, Munich, Germany (our biennial Oktoberfest trip!), Hallstatt, Austria and Salzburg, Austria with his brother, Craig, and our friend, Pryor. We hosteled it up and traveled by train – just like college…kind of. So much fun!!
Our first stop was Heidelberg, Germany for two days and two nights. Heidelberg is a town on the River Neckar in South-West Germany, about an hour from Frankfurt and three hours from Munch. It is in the Baden-Wurttemberg state, has a large university and is right in German wine country! Because so many people have asked, I will go ahead and tell you that I choose to weekend in Heidelberg first due to its proximity to the Frankfurt airport and Munich, and then due to the castle and generally hearing that the town made for a nice stop. The main focus of Eurotrip2014 was obviously Oktoberfest, but I wanted to see another town in Germany, as well, and Heidelberg fit the bill! Mark Twain’s review didn’t hurt either!
After settling in and checking into our sweet hostel, Lotte – The Backpackers (it was seriously an awesome place to stay and so inexpensive), we went straight to Heidelberg Castle – the one must-see attraction in Heidelberg. The Castle has gorgeous views of the city. We took the guided English tour, which allowed us to see the Castle’s interior and gave us the history of the castle.
After touring the interior and the outdoor grounds, we stopped for a wine tasting at the Great Tun, aka the largest wine vat in the world, which just happens to be in Heidelberg Castle. Viewing the Great Tun is included with your castle ticket and a wine bar has been set up next to the Great Tun offering wine flights at a great price. Three heavy pours of local wine for €7!
After our wine, we made our way down from the Castle and walked across the Alt Brücke to the Philosopher’s Walk to try to catch the Castle at sunset. As promised, the Philosopher’s Walk had some great views, although I am not sure the views are any better at sunset.
For dinner on our first night, we dined at Dorfschänke, which was very close to the end of the Philosopher’s Walk (or beginning) in the New Town. This was our first real meal of the trip, and it was so delicious!! Their speciality is Flamkuchen, a local pizza-type dish in sweet and savory. We tried both! YUM!
We got really lucky the next day – it was scheduled to rain, but it turned out to be a perfect day – sunny and in the seventies! Heidelberg is such a gorgeous town. Beautiful sceneray, beautiful flowers everywhere. We took some great pictures while strolling through the town!
We started the day at Cafe Gundel for coffee and breakfast (well, cake).
After breakfast, we toured the the Church of the Holy Spirit, which, aside from the Castle is the centerpiece of the town. There is a little market near the church on saturdays, but we slept through it… We went stright up the Church’s bell tower to take in the town views from the top. The walk to the bell tower was steep and very narrow, but the views were lovely. Totally worth the €3! We also checked out the inside of the Church, which dates to the 1400s and is loaded with history and rotating art displays.
After touring the Church of the Holy Spirit, we spent the rest of the day shopping in the Altstadt. Some of our favorite finds were: Schneeballin (a round dessert from a few towns over), local beers at Brauhaus Vetter and Kulturbrauerei and the gummy bear stores!
Schneeballen! I had the champagne one!
Gummy window displays! A cake, soccer game and Oktoberfest-themed gummies!
We also visited the Heidelberg Monkey near the Alte Brücke. Touching it is supposed to bring good luck or something like that…It just seemed like a dirty monkey to me. We all took pictures, but its really just a tourist trap.
We ended the day by making a withdrawal from the Schnitzelbank! Haha- I had to say it! The Schnitzelbank is not a bank at all, but a small restaurant/wine bar in old town. It was delicious!
And, finally, one last picture of the castle at night! Until next time, Heidelberg!! We had such a great time!
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