Planning a one day in Heidelberg itinerary is an excellent idea for those looking for a quick getaway to a historic German city within easy reach of Frankfurt. Whether you visit for a day trip or for an overnight, there’s no denying that it is a lovely destination.
As soon as you reach the town your eyes will find the magnificent Heidelberg Palace tower above the city. Located on the Neckar River and south of Frankfurt, the city of Heidelberg is a perfect place to visit. With its eternal beauty and deep history, you might even be enchanted to stay longer.
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How Many Days in Heidelberg?
As a beautiful and historic city with a charming market square and imposing castle, you may be wondering how many days to spend in Heidelberg in order to do it justice and see the top site.
The good news is, if you’re short on time, just one day in the city is enough to take in the central highlights. In fact, it can even be visited as a day trip from Frankfurt!
Its compact nature means that a one-day itinerary for Heidelberg is an excellent way to see the city.
However, if you have more time, there are still plenty of things that can keep you occupied in and around the city.
For example, for people wanting to spend 2 days in Heidelberg, you’ll be able to wander outside the central area and explore the northern parts of the Neckar River or different museums that interest you.
If you are planning to spend 3 days exploring the city and its surrounding area you can add a stroll around the zoo or botanical garden.
No matter the length of your trip, you’ll find ways to perfectly fill your days and experience the city to the fullest. If you need help deciding how many days are right for you, continue reading to better plan your perfect visit to Heidelberg.
Getting To & Around Heidelberg
If you want to go on an organised day trip to Heidelberg from Frankfurt there are several options. This half-day tour and this guided day tour focus on the highlights of the city with a professional guide.
If you want to do the trip independently, getting from Frankfurt to Heidelberg is as easy as hopping on an ICE high-speed train at the Frankfurt Central Station headed to Mannheim, then switching there to an S-Bahn to Heidelberg.
The trip should take less than an hour and you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful countryside on the way.
There are also buses that can take you to the desired destination. You can reach the city conveniently from most European cities such as Hamburg, Brussels, Cologne or Dusseldorf. You can view train and bus schedules here.
Of course, Heidelberg is also easily accessible through other modes of transportation. For example, if you’ve rented a car then you can drive to the city following the signs leading to Heidelberg. You can browse rental car options here.
If you’re getting to the city by rail, Heidelberg’s main train station is located a bit outside of the city’s old town and historic centre, so you will likely want to use the public transport system to, at the very least, get to all of the main sites.
Once you arrive in the city centre you’ll be able to get around on foot since most of the main attractions are very close to each other and you can opt for a tram or bus ride to any of the further points of interest. Like in most German cities, you’ll have the option to buy single-ride tickets or a HeidelbergCard.
With the HeidelbergCard you’ll have the added bonus of unlimited rides on public transportation, as well as free entry or discounted prices at main attractions and restaurants in the city.
1-Day Heidelberg Itinerary
This route through Heidelberg will guide you through the highlights of the city within the confines of a single day.
Heidelberg Old Town
Once you arrive in the city, you’ll start your journey at the Altstadt, the old town of Heidelberg. This part of the townhouses numerous shops, pubs, restaurants and more. Of the war-damaged areas, Old Town was luckily not one of them. From here you have a perfect view of the striking castle on the hill.
As you walk around, you’ll come across a famous street called Hauptstraße that runs through the entirety of the Old Town. The road is also known for being one of Europe’s oldest and longest pedestrian zones.
After getting a feel of the Old Town, you’ll make your way towards the hill to Heidelberg Castle or Schloss Heidelberg in German.
Once a full castle made for royalty, it is now left in ruins after centuries of damage from war, fires, and natural decay. The first construction of the castle dates back to the 13th century, with the most recent additions dating to the Renaissance. Soak in the historic atmosphere when you visit the ruins.
Right below the castle, you can have a look at the world’s largest wine barrel in the Heidelberg Tun. Down in the castle’s wine cellar you can experience the grand barrel and all its glory and learn about its history while sipping on some wine or dancing on top of the barrel.
There’s no doubt that this beautiful castle is one of the best places to visit in Heidelberg.
Kornmarkt and Heidelberg Marktplatz
After the castle, on your way to the iconic Alte Brücke, you’ll pass two stunning and quaint city squares – the Kornmarket and Heidelberg Marktplatz.
You’ll notice that although near to each other in the heart of the city, the squares are unique and beautiful in their own way. Annually in December, you can visit the city’s Christmas market in the cute Kornmarkt, which not only brings in the holiday joy and spirit but also people from far and near.
As the main gathering spot for centuries, the Heidelberg Marktplatz has seen its fair share of terror back in the Middle Ages when the square was used for executions of criminals.
However, now you can shop on most days and stroll the fresh market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, in case you visit Heidelberg on one of those days you’ll know where to buy fresh produce, flowers and more.
As you continue towards the river, you will see the Heiliggeistkirche, or Church of the Holy Spirit in English, which holds tons of the city’s history and is conveniently located right in the middle of Old Town. It’s an unmissable stop on a Heidelberg day trip itinerary.
This church was where Heidelberg University was founded and it holds the church’s founder’s grave in it.
Visitors can climb up 208 steps to enjoy a lovely view of the city. If you continue on Hauptstraße, you’ll pass by a historical yet well-preserved house that was one of the few to survive the Palatinae War in the city called the Haus zum Ritter or the house to the knight St. Georg.
Additionally, along the way, you can take a peek inside the charming Jesuitenkirche, or Jesuit Church, which is the heart of the city’s Roman Catholic community.
Next, you’ll walk across the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge), less commonly known as the Karl Theodor Bridge named after its creator. Before getting all the way across, stop around halfway and take a look back at the castle. Visiting the Old Bridge is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Heidelberg.
The magical view you’ll get has been printed on countless postcards and now you get to see it in person. Once you get across you can follow the Neckar west to reach the snaky path known as the Philosophenweg.
The peaceful Philosophenweg, its name is thought to come from philosophers and university professors walking the same path, can spark some inspiration and give you a taste of nature.
Established in 1386 and thanks to its ripe old age of 636 years, the university is the oldest university in Germany. Its official name is the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, but people usually call it Heidelberg University. The school ranks high in not only Europe but also compared to other prestigious universities around the world. You can admire the university on your own.
To finish off your day with some calm and mesmerising sights, after the university, you can wander around the park along the river called the Neckarwiese.
Now that you’ve successfully completed your one day in Heidelberg, you can decide to extend your trip or head back to Frankfurt.
While Heidelberg in one day is enough time to see most of the city’s popular sights, if you wish to extend your trip by a few days, there are definitely additional activities and fun things to do in Heidelberg.
For those looking to spend 2 days exploring Heidelberg, there are excellent and slightly longer walks or hikes you can do to get into nature and see the city through a different lens.
On your second day, you can head north of Old Town and across the Neckar River to find Heiligenberg, also referred to as All Saints’ Mountain.
Also on the Heiligenberg, you can walk through the Heidelberg Thingstätte which is an open-air theatre that is now a cultural monument but is also used for events. The seating and stage look quite spectacular as it appears to be built into the hill and allows for great acoustics.
To get a breathtaking view of Heidelberg and the river from higher up, you can hike the Odenwald Mountains up to the Königstuhl hill. On King’s Seat Mountain, visitors can hop on a historical train that takes you to the top where you can get an incredible panorama extending to even the Black Forest.
On the Odenwald, you’ll also find the Dilsberg Fortress, which is a castle ruin that was built around the 12th century. You can walk around the village and castle grounds, as well as enjoy a full 360° view of the surrounding Odenwald forest and river.
If you still haven’t had enough palaces, just around 15 minutes by car or about 45 by public transportation, you can visit the Schwetzingen Palace.
For travellers who want to see more of the city and plan to do 3 days in the city, the city is your oyster and you’ll find plenty to do.
If the weather allows it, you can visit the Heidelberg Zoo on your third day or tour the oldest botanical garden in Germany. In case the weather is better on the second day, you can always exchange the days or mix and match certain activities.
If you’re interested in archaeology and art you can find it at the Kurpfälzisches Museum in the Palais Morass.
If apothecary history is more your style, you can tour the Deutsches Apotheken-Museum and learn all there is to know about the city’s pharmaceutical history located right in the Heidelberg castle.
Where to Stay in Heidelberg
Hotel Zur Alten Brücke – Located near the Old Bridge, this 3-star hotel is an excellent choice for visitors to Heidelberg. They have a range of lovely rooms on offer, an excellent breakfast available in the mornings and the perfect location for exploring this beautiful German city.
Hotel Europäischer Hof Heidelberg – Those looking for luxury will love this opulent hotel located in the centre of old Heidelberg. They have countless plush rooms available, a number of great amenities available, castle views and there is even a spa for guests to enjoy.
Staycity Aparthotels Heidelberg – These apartments are a great choice for those who want to have their own space in Heidelberg. They have a great central location, all of the amenities and convenience of a hotel and a number of fully-furnished flats to choose from.
Lotte – The Backpackers – If you’re visiting Heidelberg solo or on a budget, then this hostel is an excellent place to rest your head. They have a range of dorms and some private rooms to choose from, a great location for exploring the city and good common areas and self-catering facilities for guests to use.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Heidelberg hotels!
As you will soon see for yourself, spending one day will definitely allow you to get to know the dreamy and sweet city of Heidelberg. However, if after your first day, you feel like you want some more time in this fairytale destination then it’s no problem, there’s plenty to add to your Heidelberg itinerary. Just don’t forget your crown and enjoy your trip!
Are you planning to visit Heidelberg? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!