Where to Stay in Heidelberg

SD › Best Places to Stay in Heidelberg
Updated: January 31, 2023
By Santorini Dave

Our Favorite Heidelberg Hotels

• 5-Star Hotel: Europäischer Hof
• Boutique Hotel: Arthotel Heidelberg
• Cheap Hotel: Hotel Panorama
• Family Hotel: Boutique Suites Alte Zigarrenmanufaktur
• Best Indoor Pool: Europäischer Hof
• Best Outdoor Pool: Hotel Berger
• Near Train Station: NH Heidelberg

Hotel in Old Town Heidelberg.

Hotel-Restaurant Hackteufel in Old Town (Altstadt) Heidelber.

The Best Area to Stay in Heidelberg

Justly regarded as one of the most beautiful towns in Germany, Heidelberg lies at the beginning of a wooded gorge where the Neckar River flows out of the Odenwald hills into the Rhine plain. In addition to its picturesque location and romantic ruined castle (Schloss), Heidelberg retains a pristine medieval old town, having come through World War II largely unscathed. It’s also famous for its university, Germany’s oldest, founded in 1386. It’s the student population – some 40,000 out of a total population of 160,000 – that saves the old town from being little more than an open-air museum these days, with much of it divided between tourist businesses and university departments.

Most of the city lies beyond the relatively small Altstadt (old town), though as a visitor you are unlikely to stray far from it. You’ll get a lot better choice of midrange and budget hotels in the Bergheim and Weststadt neighborhoods to the west of the old town, near the train station, while some of the best boutique hotels – and views – can be found across the river in Neuenheim. With more time its worth driving, or riding the trains, up the Neckar Valley into the Odenwald, where tiny river towns retain their fairytale architecture. But for most visitors, just wandering the narrow streets of the Altstadt, taking in the half-timbered house and street cafes along the pretty riverside or around the lofty walls of the Schloss, is enchanting enough.

Today Heidelberg lies in the state of Baden-Württemberg, near the Hesse border, but it was once the capital of the Electorate of the Palatinate, one of Germany’s many princely states within the Holy Roman Empire. The town was virtually destroyed in the late 17th century during wars with the French and became something of an academic backwater after the capital transferred to Mannheim in 1720. It’s been a popular stop on the tourist trail ever since, with American writer Mark Twain one of its most celebrated visitors – he wrote about his 1878 stay in “A Tramp Abroad”, including his memorable raft journey down the Neckar (you’ll see Twain quoted and commemorated all over town).

Heidelberg Travel Tips

  • While it’s relatively easy to explore the Altstadt on foot, to reach the outer neighborhoods, train station, or Neckar Valley towns you’ll have to use the city’s excellent and integrated bus, tram and train systems.
  • Heidelberg is fairly small so there’s not much point in renting (or using) a car while here, but a car can be useful when exploring the Neckar Valley and Odenwald regions.
  • Frankfurt Airport is the nearest international gateway to Heidelberg (50 miles/80km). Frankfurt Airport Shuttles will deliver you to Heidelberg in around 1 hour. Otherwise, most visitors arrive by car or by train: Heidelberg main station (Hauptbahnhof) is around 2 miles/3km from the Marktplatz in the Altstadt – most people take a tram between the two.
  • Thanks to the university, you’ll find many more English speakers in Heidelberg than in other parts of Germany, but don’t assume everyone can understand you.
  • The HeidelbergCARD (1 day €21; 2 days €23; 4 days €25) provides free entrance to some sights, including the Schloss and Studentenkarzer (Student Prison), plus free public transport; the two-day card is the best value assuming you need to use trams/buses, will visit lots of museums, and intend to visit the castle.
  • The Altstadt is best explored on foot, but it’s easy to rent bikes for trips further afield – there’s a bike path all the way up the Neckar Valley. See VRNnextbike, Call a Bike, Heidel-Bike, or Joyrides for e-bikes.
  • Free wi-fi is available at hot-spots all over the Altstadt and throughout the city. Look for “Heidelberg4you”.

The Best Places to Stay in Heidelberg

Best Neighborhoods in Heidelberg for…

  • Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timers/Sightseeing: Altstadt or Bergheim/Weststadt
    Heidelberg is a relatively small city, and almost everything you want to see lies in the Altstadt (old town). It’s also the most attractive part of town by far, and home to the best restaurants, bars, and shops. It can, however, get very busy and very expensive – hotels here often fill up on major German holidays or for major university events. For cheaper rates consider the generally newer hotels in Bergheim/Weststadt, west of the old town. These hotels tend to be a lot closer to and convenient for the train station, especially with luggage; once checked in, getting to the old town is easy by tram or on foot.
  • Most Romantic Neighborhood: Altstadt/Neckar Valley
    With its charming half-timbered buildings, medieval churches, and beautiful riverside walks, the Altstadt offers heaps of romantic atmosphere: Arthotel Heidelberg, Backmulde, and Zur Alten Brück are all great choices for couples. There are also lots of places to dine and drink, from graceful old-fashioned restaurants like Die Kurfürstenstube, to historic Café Schafheutle (with its quiet garden) and cozy cocktail bars like Bent Bar. Alternatively, consider a few days in a more traditional German inn along the Neckar Valley; with views of the wooded hillsides, winding river, and picturesque German towns that have changed little since the Middle Ages. There are some especially good options in the old spa town of Bad Wimpfen: characterful Hotel Herberge zur Traube and the more boutique-like Hotel Neues Tor.
  • Best Neighborhood for Eating & Drinking: Altstadt
    Though there are plenty of places to eat and drink in other parts of the city, you’ll find the best choice of restaurants and bars/nightlife in the Old Town. Top choices of a long list include the high-end German food at Restaurant zur Herrenmühle and Scharff’s Schlossweinstube in the castle itself; the Schnitzelhaus Alte Münz (Neckarmünzgasse 10) for around 100 versions of German schnitzel; historic Café Schafheutle for breakfast, coffee, and cake; Restaurant Romer for a splurge; and Persian food at Persepolis, for something different.

    At night, a mix of tourists and students keep things lively throughout the old town, especially along Hauptstrasse and in the clubs around Marktplatz. Zum Roten Ochsen is a touristy but essential old tavern, built in 1703 and serving just about every famous person who passed through town since the 19th century. Nearby, the Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg serves great beer and also operates the even more historic Zum Sepp’l. For a more contemporary evening, Bent Bar whips up excellent cocktails, while Cave 54 is a late-night club and live venue. You should also check out events and live concert venue Kulturhaus Karlstorbahnhof.

  • Best Neighborhood for Shopping: Altstadt and Neuenheim
    The city center’s biggest shopping area is around Bismarckplatz and Sofienstrasse at the western end of Hauptstrasse, between the Altstadt and Bergheim. Here you’ll big box retails like H&M, the Galeria department store, the more budget Das Carrémall, posh Darmstädter Hof Centrum, and men’s clothing at Kampmann Heidelberg. From here, car-free Hauptstrasse runs east through the Altstadt, lined with all sorts of stores, from TK Maxx to specialist shoes, fashion, and cosmetics boutiques. The Plöck street runs parallel to the south, featuring specialist stationers to skateboarding shops. You’ll also find indie boutiques along Unterestrasse.

    Over the river in Neuenheim, Brückenstrasse is another popular shopping street, with several German bookstores, art galleries, and fashion, jewelry, and perfume boutiques. Highlights include the Coccon Bekleidungshaus (Brückenstrasse 10) fashion store, Brückenparfümerie Kramer for perfume, and Galerie Ostendorff for fine art. A weekly market is held on Neuenheim’s historic market square every Wednesday and Saturday.

    • For local candy and chocolate, pay a visit to Heidelberger Studentenkuss on Haspelgasse in the old town.

  • Best Neighborhood for Local Vibe: Handschuhsheim
    You’ll get a feel for small town Germany and leave the tourists far behind by spending time in the Handschuhsheim district just to the north of Neuenheim. As well as a handful of historic buildings – the Tiefburgcastle, the Schlösschen (“little castle”), the grand Friedenskirche (Peace Church) and the Roman Catholic St.Vitus church – there’s the whimsical Füllhaltermuseum (Dossenheimer Landstrass 5), dedicated to the history of the fountain pen (the Kaweco brand was founded in Handschuhsheim in 1883, though it’s now based in Nuremberg). Café Tiefburg is a central spot for coffee near the castle, while Cantinaccia (Italian) and Alt Hendesse (German) are top choices for dinner. Handschuhsheim is just 7 minutes by tram from central Heidelberg, but the Auerstein, Hotel Das Lamm, and DK Deutscher Kaiser are good places to stay overnight.
  • Safety in Heidelberg
    Heidelberg is very safe, and though the usual precautions should be taken at night, it’s highly unlikely you’ll have any problems.

The 4 Best Places in Heidelberg for Tourists

1. Altstadt

The Altstadt (old town) of Heidelberg is the historic heart of the city, and where almost everything you want to see is located. Though there are plenty of attractions here, it’s enjoyable to simply stroll the narrow streets, taking in the medieval architecture and atmosphere. You’ll see plenty of students – this is also the traditional home of Heidelberg University, though its departments now straddle several neighborhoods.

The main street, Hauptstrasse, runs east to west from the modern part of the city to the Marktplatz, the central square, which is studded with cafes and dominated by Heiliggeistkirche, the city’s handsome main church (climb the tower for sensational views of the old town). To the north, pretty Steingasse leads to the fairytale pinnacles of the Brückentor, gateway to the graceful Alte Brücke, the old bridge over the Neckar. The Brückenaffe, “the brass monkey of Heidelberg” statue is a favorite selfie spot here. To the east of Marktplatz lies a couple of more attractive squares: the Kornmarkt (which leads to the castle cable car), and Karlsplatz, surrounded by university buildings. Keep walking east and you’ll pass the Völkerkundemuseum, a tiny ethnographic museum with old photos and textiles from all over the world but especially Asia, before Hauptstrasse ends at Karlstor, an 18th-century ceremonial arch overlooking the river.

Heading west from Marktplatz, a side street leads to the fascinating President Friedrich Ebert Memorial, a museum dedicated to Germany’s first elected president, Friedrich Ebert, who was born here in 1871. Further west lies Universitätsplatz and the old university building, home to the Universitätsmuseum, which chronicles the university’s history; the Alte Aula, a stately 19th-century assembly hall; and the Studentenkarzer (student prison), livened with the graffiti of former inmates. Nearby, the Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit church) features a beautiful white-washed stucco interior. Heidelberg’s biggest museum is the Kurpfälzisches Museum, loaded with all sorts of art and historical artifacts from across the region. Highlights include Tilman Riemenschneider’s Altar of the Twelve Apostles, and a replica of the 640,000-year-oldjawbone of Homo heidelbergensis (“Heidelberg Man”) discovered in 1907 southeast of town.

The real highlight of course is Heidelberg’s romantic castle, the semi-ruined Schloss Heidelberg, perched romantically on the hillside above the old town. You can take the Bergbahn funicular (cable car) from the Kornmarkt, walk up steep steps to the main entrance, or stroll up the more gently rising (but still a stiff climb) Burgweg, a lane that runs up to the back entrance overlooking the town and the huge castle towers. Inside the castle is an odd little Pharmacy Museum (included with entry) and the famous Grosses Fass (aka the “Heidelberg Tun”), a giant 18th-century wine barrel the size of a small cottage. It’s worth strolling the extensive gardens that surround the castle for more views of the city and river below. To get inside the palace proper and see some of the reconstructed rooms and halls, you must take a guided tour (extra).

• Staying in the Altstadt makes sense for most visitors, though hotels are generally expensive here, and can often fill up – you’ll find better deals in Bergheim and Weststadt.

2. Bergheim and Weststadt

The western end of Hauptstrasse comes to an end at the busy commercial shopping area of Bismarckplatz, with Bergheim district beyond. This is one of the city’s modern commercial neighborhoods, with large sections occupied by Heidelberg University and the main train station at its western end. There are a few things to see, but its main appeal is its spread of contemporary hotels and hostels that tend to be cheaper than those in the Altstadt.

The Sammlung Prinzhorn on the university campus is a curious museum dedicated to art produced by people with mental disorders, some 6,000 works created by inmates of psychiatric institutions worldwide between 1840 and 1940. Also here, the Heidelberg outpost of Body Worlds – the controversial exhibit that displays real-life cadavers in various stages of preservation. The museum is inside the Alte Hallenbad (old swimming pool), a restored Art Nouveau building that also contains Hotel Bergheim 41 and a couple of restaurants. Opposite the station is the iconic stainless steel “S-Printing Horse”, said to be the largest horse sculpture in the world.

The Weststadt district just to the south of Bergheim is a lot more attractive architecturally, its streets lined with late 19th-century Wilhelmine and Gründerzeit-style villas and homes. The big draw here is also its cache of attractive hotels, cheaper alternatives to the Altstadt. But there are also a couple of impressive churches, St. Bonifatius and the Christuskirche, and the Bergfriedhof cemetery, where some of Heidelberg’s greatest minds were laid to rest, including Weimar-era president Friedrich Ebert and sociologist Max Weber. The Heidelberg New Synagogue is also here, completed in 1994.

• There’s not so much choice when it comes to eating and drinking in these neighborhoods, but what there is tends to be good quality and caters to students and locals more than tourists.

• We’ve also covered the adjacent Bahnstadt district here.

3. Neuenheim

The north bank of the Neckar River, across from Altstadt and Bergheim, lies Neuenheim district, with almost half of it given over to university buildings. You’ll get the best views of Heidelberg from this side of the river, and there is a cluster of hip, good quality boutique hotels too. Zoo Heidelberg is here, along with the university’s stunning Heidelberg Botanical Garden. Brückenstrasse is the main north-south street, lined with shops and restaurants, but the most rewarding thing to do is to hike the 1.5-mile (2.5-km) Philosophenweg (“Philosopher’s Walk”), a paved footpath that rises up the slopes past a series of stunning viewpoints. From here paths continue to the summit of Heiligenberg, and around a series of small monuments and statues. Sunsets are especially spectacular. You can also cut back to the Alte Brücke and the river via the Schlangenweg (Snake Path). Aficionados might also want to check out the Institut für Geowissenschaftenmuseum (Institute of Geosciences), home to the original lower jaw of Homo heidelbergensis and a ton of fossils, minerals, and rare rocks.

• There are some great cafes and restaurants in Neuenheim: Café NOMAD, Le Coq Restaurant & Bistro, Chocami patisserie, Eisdiele Amami ice cream shop, and many others.

4. Neckar Valley and the Odenwald

It’s worth escaping the city for at least a day to explore the Neckar Valley, a wooded gorge created by the twists and turns of the river as it cuts through the Odenwald hills. The valley is lined with small, pretty towns, connected by riverside footpaths and bike trails – it’s all very traditional and atmospheric, with hillside castles, medieval lanes and churches, and architecture straight out of a Brothers Grimm tale. The best stretch of the river is the 38-mile (60km) section between Heidelberg and the old imperial city and spa town of Bad Wimpfen. Wimpfen’s artfully preserved old town is full of medieval monuments such as the Blauer Turm (Blue Tower), part of the old castle or Kaiserpfalz. On route to Wimpfen there’s plenty to see, from the narrow streets of Hirschhorn and Eberbach, to the Wolfschlucht (Wolf Gorge) and Margaretenschlucht sandstone gorges and the romantically sited Hornberg Castle. If you have time to go deeper into the Odenwald, there’s plenty of biking and hiking to be had through forests and fruit orchards, valleys and small market towns. Highlights include the Felsenmeer (“Odenwald Rock Sea”) near Lautertal-Reichenbach, the Odenwald Freilandmuseum, an open-air museum of rural life in the Odenwald, and the old towns of Miltenberg, Walldürn, and Michelstadt.

• DB regional trains zip up the Neckar Valley from Heidelberg throughout the day, providing access to all the main villages and towns. To go deeper into the Odenwald it’s best to rent a car.

Other Heidelberg Neighborhoods

We’ve covered our favorite neighborhoods to visit and stay in more detail above, but with more time these districts are also worth checking out:

  • The wooded slopes of Ziegelhausen, some 2.5 miles (4km) east of the Altstadt along the river, are part of Heidelberg’s most rustic neighborhood, providing a taste of Neckar Valley scenery if you don’t have time for a longer trip. Specific sights include the Textilsammlung Max Berk, which displays the rare textile collection of industrialist Max Berk (including a massive array of quilts). Historic Neuberg Abbey was established in 1130, and today you can visit the main church or take monastery tours. For a quieter stay than in the city center, good hotels here include Hotel Neckarlux, Garni Steinbacher Tal, and Zum Waldhorn.
  • Rohrbach is Heidelberg’s “wine village”, 3 miles (5km) south of Altstadt, surrounded by small vineyards. As well as a few wine shops along central Rathausstrasse (Weingut Hans Winter has its own store at Weingasse 2),the Melanchthonkirche is a beautiful church on Bierhelderweg, contrasting with the strikingly modern St. Johannes church on Herrenwiesenstrasse; there’s also the Heimatmuseum Rohrbach (local history museum) in the old Gröschl bakery on Lindenweg, and the Rohrbacher Schlösschen, an 18th-century country mansion, now a special events venue and part of Heidelberg University Hospital. Our favorite hotels here are the Hotel Rose, Boardinghotel Heidelberg, and Leone D’oro.
  • If Heidelberg is really booked up, consider staying in Mannheim, a 15-minute train ride away. Good hotels in Mannheim, steps from the main station, include the Holiday Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Stye Hotel, Staytion Hotel, and budget Premier Inn Mannheim City Centre.

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