It has been too long since we’ve been able to take a day trip somewhere! Thankfully, we were able to visit the lovely city of Heidelberg, Germany.
Heidelberg was very touristy but we also found some aspects of it that made the day trip very special. Right off the bat I’ll say – go early in the day if you can and bring comfortable walking shoes. Some fun facts about Heidelberg to get you started:
- Its university is the oldest in Germany and is one of the highest ranking in all of Europe.
- Heidelberg has the oldest public library in Germany as well.
- World War II history permeates this place, and General Patton died in the hospital there.
- Birthplace of Michael Fassbender (sorry, I had to).
We started out in the Altstadt (Old Town) area, walking up and down the vendor-filled streets and admiring the giant church and main square. Parking in the nearby Kornmarkt parking garage was surprisingly cheap and central. I recommend going during the week if possible, like we did; I can’t imagine how busy it gets on the weekends or holidays! But I’m guessing during the Spring and Fall would be a lot better as well. There seemed to be more and more swarms of tourist groups as the day went on, so we were happy to have made an early start. Outdoor seating was plentiful but occupied.
We got amazing gelato from That’s Gelato, perfect for the hot day that it was, and enjoyed some flavors that aren’t typically offered.
We then switched from the stroller to a carrier for Thom and trekked up to the Heidelberg castle. There are a lot of stairs to get to the top where the castle is, but you can also pay to take a little tram there from the same building as the Kornmarkt parking garage. Centuries of battles have left the castle in ruins, while attempts to rebuild and renovate it have been all but abandoned. You can walk the lawns and get amazing panoramic views of the castle and city for free.
Heiligenberg (Holy Mountain, or Saints’ Mountain) is directly across the Neckar River from the main part of Heidelberg. You can hike up using the Philosophenweg, or Philosopher’s Walk, a trail named so for the scholars and university professors who traditionally used to stroll it while discussing philosophy. We chose to drive since we’d done a lot of walking already and I don’t regret it 🙂 This was my favorite part of the day since we got away from the crowds and noise and basically had the area to ourselves. We walked the forest trail to the Thingstätte amphitheater, previously used for propaganda events during the Nazi era. This deserted place was a little eerie considering the history but was still fascinating. You can check out some pictures during that time here if you’re interested.
Higher up the “mountain” still were the ruins to the 11th century St. Michael’s Monastery, or Michaelskloster. I think it was built inside of some 5th century B.C. ruins but the research wasn’t very clear on that point. There were signs showing what each room used to be and I tried to picture what this structure looked like in all its glory as I wandered them. There were a couple of still-standing towers on one side that gives a view of Heidelberg.
It’s free to explore both the monastery ruins and the amphitheater, so I definitely recommend these if you have the time and desire to have a quiet area to yourself. There’s a beer hall there if you need a bite to eat or a coffee as well 🙂
All in All
As far as family travel goes, we used both a stroller and carrier for this trip. The jogging stroller worked well for hiking on Heiligenberg to the monastery and we wouldn’t have been able to go up all of the stairs to the castle without the carrier. I will say it was probably the best Thom has ever been on a day trip like this so we were really thankful.
What made coming to Heidelberg worth it to me was finding the quiet, wooded area of Heiligenberg and seeing the ruins and amphitheater (despite the blisters from all the walking!). While the number of tourists wasn’t ideal, we explored on our own and had a really special day trip together. It was way overdue!