If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now you’ll know I’ve spoken a couple of times about my time studying abroad. The beginning of this month marked a whopping 2 YEARS since I left England for my semester in Heidelberg, and it honestly feels like a world away.
It really was such a great experience for me and I would honestly recommend it to absolutely anyone (as I’ve said previously here), but I would also recommend Heidelberg as the perfect place for anyone to escape to long term or just for a city break. So, I thought I take some time to talk about this very small city in Baden-Württemberg that completely stole my heart.
Heidelberg is the perfect mix between the old and the new, the urban and the green. It is easily accessible on a short journey by shuttle bus or a direct train from Frankfurt International Airport, and yet it is a place I’m still surprised so few people have heard of – hence why I have called it a hidden gem!
Tucked cosily between a numerous mountains, the city is made up of a number of different areas, including the Altstadt, or Old Town, right in the centre, which is my favourite part of the city. It’s full of various shops, coffee houses, bars and restaurants all housed in buildings dating back centuries giving it a real authentic and romantic feel.
During my six months here, we spent the majority of the time eating, drinking, partying and (sort of) studying in this part of the city.
I say sort of studying because it really wasn’t unusual for us to stop ourselves for a Weissbier or Weinschorle (beer or regional white wine spritzer) and fries between classes. There are a number of squares dotted throughout the Altstadt which are perfect for stopping off, people watching and catching the sun in the summer with a nice cold beer.
Aside from the copious amount of beer and wine we drank, we also lived on a strong diet of Currywurst, crepes and Flammkuchen (a local dish similar to a pizza). However, the city’s best restaurant is most definitely Schnitzelbank and it’s a must if you’re visiting.
My mum and I found Schnitzelbank on our first night in Heidelberg while flicking through suggestions on TripAdvisor and we were completely in love straight away. The restaurant is an old wine shop tucked away, just off the main street, serving traditional German food including delicious Bratwurst, Sauerkraut and Bratkartoffeln.
What you really come here for though is the amazing atmosphere and you must get there early! Inside there is only space for around 15 people (at a push), with most tables being shared between groups. This is no problem though as everyone is welcoming and chatty and happy to share their own stories and listen to others.
The Schloss, or Castle, is which sits just looking over the Altstadt, is also a must see and I think I ended up going about ten times with various friends, family members and other peoples’ family members.
The 14th century home of Prince Elector Ruprecht III can be reached either by foot by Bergbahn (cable car). It is not only stunning, but it is also home to Europe’s largest wine barrel (who knew right?!), a sight that really has to be seen to be believed as my dad found.
The views from the very top of the mountain also have to be seen to be believed and are accessible by an additional, very old cable car from the castle which is not really built with those with a fear of heights. If you make it though, in very German style there’s also a little bar at the viewpoint so you can enjoy the spectacular mountains and the view of the River Neckar with a beer! Now that’s motivation!
The River Neckar runs right through the city and in the summer its banks are the perfect place to relax if you’re not feeling the more built up Altstadt. At this time of year, thousands fill the park areas around the river playing games and picnicking, barbecuing and drinking, but it’s another world from the rowdy affair you’d expect here on a sunny day in the UK. Instead, it’s rather calm and a welcome break from the busy streets of London on a Saturday night.
You can also take boat trips along the Neckar, as you may have guessed, and visit a couple of the other small towns on the way. I would really recommend doing this, and at €15 it’s completely worth the money. On a clear day you can sit on the very top deck of the boat and take in full 360 views of the stunning surroundings, including vast forests, towns and, of course, the mountains. Food and drinks are also available on board (including beer, obviously), so it’s easy to make a day of it and really make the most of visiting the area.
While was excited to see my family and friends when the end of the semester came around, I did feel sad to leave this beautiful part of Germany and all the friends I had made throughout my time there.
It really is a beautiful and captivating place to be and I couldn’t recommend it as a destination enough, there is so much more I could and maybe will write about.
It is the perfect long weekend trip; a great place to relax and to be a part of that isn’t too touristy. A proper hidden gem.
Have you visited Heidelberg before? Where are your hidden gem locations?