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Heidelberg - Overrated or Not?

Thinking about stopping in Heidelberg on our way Frankfurt from the south. I've read thats it overrated and touristy, but I've also read that its magnificent. I'd like an opinion from the seasoned Germany travelers out there. If it makes any difference, both my wife and I have seen a lot of Germany over the years and have seen many big cities and small towns and we tend to prefer the latter. Is Heidelberg worth the stop for a seasoned traveler?

Posted by
6647 posts

I was only there for part of one day and it was many years ago (before today's tourist crush) but I liked it enough that I would maybe stay there for a night if I return to Germany. I'm a sucker for college towns because I love the vibe, but that's usually away from the main tourist hangouts. I also tend to like scenic towns, especially river/lake towns and I thought Heidelberg very scenic. I loved the castle area but of course that's the most touristy area.

How long were you thinking of spending there? A day, a night, a couple of nights?

Posted by
961 posts

I lived there for two years 1998-2000 and loved it. Was near the castle for Silvester 1999-2000. Used to visit a lot but think we over did it. I have taken family there from the US for visits. A day and overnight to see the Altstadt and castle is nice.

Posted by
1927 posts

1 day is enough to explore the city. Spend more time if you are using it as a center from which to do day trips.

Posted by
948 posts

I think it is worth a stop. A day or two is enough for me for Heidelberg itself, but I have also used it as a base for some day trips. I liked it enough that I went back, and would go again.

Posted by
5726 posts

It's okay. There's a fair number of pre-war buildings, and the town has a pleasant river setting, The Neckar Valley and Odenwald destinations and others nearby as well are collectively far more interesting, IMHO... Michelstadt, Miltenberg, Bad Wimpfen, Heppenheim + the Bergstrasse towns, along with Guttenberg Castle, all make staying in Heidelberg more worthwhile if it is also used a travel base.

Posted by
7357 posts

Somewhere between overrated and magnificent is the correct answer. Closer to magnificent. More like "worth a visit".

Been there twice, ten years apart. I think it got a bad rep because it used to be a major center for the US Army so there was a lot of Americanized stuff (but really not in the historic center), and some people didn't like seeing so many Americans in uniform around town. But I think that's mostly gone away. I think it has a very nice central shopping square, and the castle looming over the town is just what you want a castle to be. Its a much more interesting medium-sized city to visit in that general area than Baden-Baden IMO. A bit of Martin Luther history as well.

Posted by
8361 posts

I like going to Heidelberg a lot. There is more to see here than just the castle and riding the funicular is fun. The Apotheke museum is pretty good. The Student Prison is my favorite thing to see in Heidelberg. The Jesuit church, though not very old, is stunning. The Aula at the university is cool.
Lots of beautiful architecture and neighborhoods.

Rick wrote his descriptions back when the military had a huge base there and told readers not to bother visiting here. The military is not there any more.

The town is well worth a visit. If you can be there when the "burn" the castle, that is impressive.

Posted by
142 posts

NOT overrated. We've spent several months in Germany, and we spent a week in Heidelberg last year and loved it. It is a nice mix of traditional and younger/hipper thanks to the university. Because of the university, we might have worried it would be overrun with binge-drinking beer louts, but it wasn't like that at all (this was mid-December). It has magnificent architecture and a great setting, but also was very warm and friendly. It does serve as a good base for daytrips, and the Neckar River valley is quite beautiful. 100% recommend.

Posted by
2168 posts

Speaking of Martin Luther, today is his birthday and mentioning it here means I don't have to do a Happy Birthday post for him this year, yay.

Luther publicly presented a lot of the material in his famous theses at the university in Heidelberg some months after they had been famously posted -- keep in mind that they were written in Latin, so talking at Heidelberg was an early opportunity for German speakers to actually hear what he was arguing about. (Most people of course didn't care about the theological issues in the theses, they were just excited at an excuse to foment conflicts between various stakeholders in the region and the pope over in Italy)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kj5igoDedw

Posted by
218 posts

Lovely town! Enjoy walking everywhere. College students mingling around. Been there twice. Not overrated. I say go.

Posted by
2494 posts

We have included 2 nights here on our upcoming trip in April, but part of the reason is it was on the itinerary of my very first trip to Europe in 1984 and I don’t remember much about it, so I want to revisit.

Posted by
227 posts

I would never listen to people saying a town/place is overrated. In their eyes it might be true but maybe not in my eyes. If one saying Heidelberg is overrated what places in town did they visit? What did they expect? Did they catch the spirit?

And if one is thinking that pictures not matching the reality well in their eyes might be true but many others would not agree. What I usually do is watching several homemade YouTube videos because there you see the reality.

Yes Heidelberg is touristy but so is Rothenburg (even worse in my opinion) but nevertheless a lot of Americans must see Rothenburg :-)

To make a long story short - I did like Heidelberg.

Posted by
29278 posts

I've visited Heidelberg several times and never been disappointed. Sometimes people go places because they are nice, and some may be tourists (I am and maybe you) but that doesn't make it touristy...

Posted by
4830 posts

Heidelberg is the first place I visited in Germany. I had no idea what to expect - this was a last-minute trip (meeting up with a friend who was travelling all around Germany and going along with him for a few days) so I hadn't planned anything. And I was really pleasantly surprised!

Posted by
825 posts

I like Heidelberg, but each to their own.

I will say this though; if you have any interest in Astronomy Heidelberg is a "must" visit. Both the ZAH Center for Astronomy and the Max Plank Institute are in Heidelberg.

Posted by
69 posts

Hi, Marcus.

For a couple of years, I lived in Heidelberg (HD) and worked at the Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy. I consider HD an "adoptierte Heimatstadt" because of how significant that time was for me.

I've sent you a message that points to "my 38 highlights from home" which may help with decision and planning.

Posted by
13530 posts

Regardless of the opinions on Heidelberg, I went there the first trip in Germany in 1971, a given just as (west) Berlin was.

Heidelberg is an intellectual and cultural center plus it was one of the few cities that escaped destruction in the war, not bombed out, raked by artillery fire, as were Nürnberg, Kassel, Cologne, etc.

On the preference for small towns, I have that interest too, numerous such places in eastern and North Germany fit the bill.