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Heidelberg - is it really that bad?

I lived in Heidelberg for a year when I was in Junior High (a long time ago). I am planning a trip next spring to Europe and I was thinking of spending a night in Heidelberg as stop over between the Rhine and Rothenberg. I remember it being a great place. Does it really not make it into Germany's best 3 weeks? Does anyone have any hotel suggestions?

Posted by
18228 posts

I spent a night and a morning in Heidelberg over 20 years ago and don't regret it. My wife was there on a tour when she was in college and had a good time drinking with the students. If you want to go there, don't let someone else's "list" deter you. Go.

Posted by
5496 posts

H'berg is OK, a nice enough place, but not so exceptional that I'd include it as one of Germany's top destinations. But yeah, go back, see the changes. That's always interesting.

Posted by
1986 posts

There are tons of places we have been, enjoyed and go back to over and over again that arent on RS lists. he doesnt cover everything thats worthwhile. Dont onlly rely on one person's opinion, read other material. We enjoyed heidelberg

Posted by
18228 posts

"Does it really not make it into Germany's best 3 weeks?" . . . . . ¶ That one really has me confused. I liked Heidelburg much better than the hyphenated spa/casino town up the river, but guess which one is on the RS list?

Posted by
1346 posts

Rick's business model is to focus on a few places that he can re-visit and review each year. His description of those few places - including sights, rooms and restaurants - is thorough and useful. However,I would not use Rick's limited guide to set my itinerary. His guide is a good supplement. There are more comprehensive guide books; I prefer Michelin Green Guides......I visited Heidelberg for work a few times. My family would accompany me on these army business trips. We enjoyed the city and its sights......Heidelberg has a special meaning to you. Of course, I think that you should go.

Posted by
30 posts

My husband and I started our 3 week trip to Europe with a 2 night stopover in Heidelberg this last May (we flew into Frankfurt and then headed to Paris from there). We found it to be a charming town and a great place to get our feet under us. We enjoyed the castle, a great dinner (one of our best in Germany), a run along the river, and an evening walk along the Philosopher's Trail (if I remember correctly). I would say go and enjoy.

Posted by
669 posts

I think James might be on to something! We had a very magical night in Heidelberg our first night in Germany the last visit (my first visit back in 16 years). The old town and the Christmas market..and an informal Christmas concert music students were putting on- so much fun! It's a fun university town underneath the tourist stuff. We stayed at the hostel, which fit our needs that particular night, but I am sure there are much better places to stay. Go and enjoy!

Posted by
669 posts

Ah, James, I wouldn't put Ansbach in a guidebook, either. I do think it's a nice enough town, though- more for living than for tourist activities. Heidelberg is definitely worth a trip, though, even if Rick doesn't like it. Mainz used to have a lot of military (lived there six years), as did Wiesbaden. Mainz and Wiesbaden together are as worthy of visits as other mentions in the books- with the Dom, the Chagall windows, the Roman ruins, the ships, the Gutenburg museum, and the spas in Wiesbaden.

Posted by
1346 posts

Rick has recommended Würzburg and Nürnberg for years. They have had substantial military presence relative to the size of the communities. (I was assigned to each at different times.)......Bamberg and Regensburg are two gems with limited military presence that are given a miss in his book.....He completely ignores most of northern Germany, with or without military presence.....I have trouble reading a bias against the military in all this.

Posted by
2779 posts

Just last night I saw a program on German TV calling Heidelberg the "Ibiza a the Neckar". Every night, especially Thu-Sat there are hundreds of people aged 18-28 bawling and partying in the streets of the old town... Like in Las Vegas they can now party pretty much 24/7 and people now come from as far as Mainz, Karlsruhe, Würzburg to enjoy one of those "toxicated" party nights. Noise levels at night were higher than during the days, neighbors said... I would put it in my schedule if I was that age group (or maybe close to it) ;-)

Posted by
84 posts

I was in Heidelberg some years back...as an American G.I. no less...and had a very nice time. It would not surprise me if Rick has an issue with the U.S. Military but since he's never really stated this in his books or shows it doesn't matter to me much one way or the other. On a related note if they close the base in Mannheim I wonder where the U.S. Army Stockade will be?

Posted by
8064 posts

You don't see any mention of Mainz or Wiesbaden in the books either. As to Heidelberg and Mannheim closing, they will all be moving to Wiesbaden. Personally, I like Heidelberg and find it very pretty. I would much rather go there than Rüdesheim.

Posted by
12928 posts

Rick's books are not comprehensive guides, nor are they intended to be. They are introductions to the highlights of the European countries, aimed mostly at the first-time or novice traveler. He tends to focus on a few regions in a country with the highlights he prefers, a mix of big-city cultural icons and smaller places which seem to be chosen for their old-world charm, scenic beauty, attractions like castles, museums and cathedrals, or other special attributes. And he tends to write off places that have been altered by a strong foreign presence, either tourists or residents. Some he writes off as "too touristy", like Grindelwald and Zermatt in Switzerland, and some he simply ignores, like the Spanish beach towns so beloved by the Brits (probably with good reason there). . . But I don't see it having anything to do with an anti-military bias. If you look at a map, he actually ignores a good 2/3 of Germany. Draw a curving line from Frankfurt through Nurnburg and Dresden to Berlin, and you'll see he ignores everything above that line. And many places below the line also are passed over, like Stuttgart, which is a vibrant modern city but probably lacks the old-world charm factor. Just east of there, however, is a lovely wine-growing region, the Remstal, which is scattered with charming villages and worthy of recognition, with nary an American G.I. (or any other American) in sight, and that region is also unmentioned. . . . There's no real pattern, other than the fact that he can't include it all. . . . As for Heidelberg, I haven't been there in 40 years myself, so I can't weigh in. Does he actually pan it, or just omit it from mention?

Posted by
12761 posts

About Ansbach being included in a guide book...I would include it...it's historical. If about everything north of the Main River is left out, that shows how much, or rather how little, he really knows about Germany and what his partiality is, doesn't it?

Posted by
791 posts

I lived there from 06-08 and have visited it several other times in the past 10 years. Heidelberg is a great town, and I can't understand why RS would pan it. Sure it's crowded with tourists but no more so than Venice and he promotes the hell out of that place. If you do go, the main highlight after the castle is to go across the river and take a stroll along the Philisophenweg for the absolute best views of the city. There's even an old sketching of what Heidelberg looked like from up there in the 1600's before the castle was destroyed. It's cool to compare it against what you're looking at now. If you like German food, there is also a restaurant there called the Schnitzelhaus that serves 103 different kinds of schnitzel. In short, Heidelberg is more than worthy of a visit.

Posted by
791 posts

James, I'm inclined to agree with you on RS' feelings toward the military however he does recommend Vicenza highly and we've got the biggest Army base in Italy here. I guess his love of Palladio trumped his dislike of the military in our case...

Posted by
12040 posts

Rick's dismissal of Heidelberg has always puzzled me as well. I really wonder if he's ever visited, or if he's visited in the last 20 years? It has all the things he usually loves, and it really doesn't even have that many tacky souvenir stands (compared to Rothenberg and Baden-Baden...). And it's fundamentally a student town, first and foremost, American GIs present or not. If you walk through the Altstadt, you'd have no inkling that there were any Americans stationed in the city. Of course, walk down Römerstrasse (which no casual touris would do), you'll see plenty of the miltary. Because this topic comes up every now and then, perhaps if we yell loud enough, Rick will take another look at Heidelberg? Hotel recommendation? Hotel Hollander Hof, right by the bridge.

Posted by
12928 posts

Mark Twain found a lot to like about Heidelberg; he spent several months there and wrote some hilarious essays about his experiences.

Posted by
18 posts

We spent our first night in Heidelberg on our recent trip. Stayed in the Hotel Heidelberg, which has an S-bahn station right outside the front door and the train will take you straight down to the old town. The hotel was inexpensive and very nice. Spent our first night wandering around the old town and the next day touring the castle. It's a pretty town to visit and wouldn't write it off.

Posted by
8 posts

Excellent, consider me there. Thanks for all the responses.