Heidelberg, located in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, is a city that has a large place in my heart. I had the privilege of living in this city for over three years while stationed there as a member of the U.S. Army. Even with all that time, there are still things I wasn’t able to see.
One of the most powerful sights is the Heidelberg Castle, which sits atop a 250-foot hill overlooking the Rhine-Neckar River. Construction began in the 13th century. Twice it was nearly destroyed due to war. Rebuilt in 1802, the castle and city of Heidelberg have grown over the past two centuries in both their economy and also their culture. Mainly a university town and historic area, Heidelberg also has notable industries which makes it an important city to the country of Germany.
The oldest university in Germany is Heidelberg University. It keeps the city young and the nightlife fresh. I had a chance to befriend a few German students of the “Uni” (their term for college) and was shown around the town by young adults like myself.
Next to the university is Germany’s longest car-free walking zone. The Hauptstrasse stretches 1.6 kilometers and we spent many weekends walking along it to eat, drink, and take in the sights. The Hauptstrasse is known as a tourist and local hot spot for shopping and people watching. Shops, boutiques, restaurants, cafés, wine bars, breweries, and taverns line the cobblestone road all the way down to the castle. Saturdays are filled with travelers and locals eating and conversing in the warm weather during the summers. Sun bathers and picnics fill the grass on the river banks and amateur photographers shoot almost everything they see.
Another way to view the city is by taking river boat rides along the Rhine-Neckar River. Boat rides can last several hours or even several days depending on the package you choose.
An interesting fact that sets Heidelberg apart as a tourist attraction is the fact that it was almost completely spared of allied bombing during World War II. Other major cities were nearly leveled and had to be rebuilt using modern day technology and architecture. Heidelberg’s history and architecture from previous centuries is preserved for all to see and to study for years to come.
If the sights, sounds, and tastes of the downtown area of Heidelberg aren’t enough, the markets and festivals will surely entice the traveler. From late November to just before Christmas, many cities in Germany transform into winter wonderlands. The markets or Marktplatz are filled with fresh foods, chocolates, souvenirs and plenty of gluhwein, a hot wine served on on the chilliest of evenings. I witnessed these markets during my time there and it’s something I would definitely return to see.
Almost every building in the city has a story which makes Heidelberg completely unique and one to add to your bucket list. If you’re one for old buildings and interesting architecture, Heidelberg is sure to impress. In my opinion, no trip to Germany is complete without a few days in Heidelberg.