Why you need to get to the adorable German town of Heidelberg!

Blend into the old square of Heidelberg…

You’ve started on a high note. Peak high. A ride on one of the most scenic train journeys in Europe stretching from Cologne to Heidelberg. Your mind is resonating with the sensory explosion, courtesy the Rhine river valley panorama. Little towns with tiny German houses, pointy old churches and broken medieval stone fortresses from Roman times. Hills rich with lush foliage, rolling vineyards, landscaped terraces and curvy roads kissing the gushing river that sparkles with the rays of sun. And you’re contemplating a strange paradox. In the birthplace of cuckoo clocks where keeping time is everything, how does time manage to stand so still? As if the journey wasn’t magical enough, you land in one of Deutschland’s most adorable towns…Heidelberg. Three million tourists a year. But why should statistics give anyone nightmares?

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First, find a hideout

Someplace quiet, someplace nice, someplace pretty, don’t think twice. Check into Hotel Villa Marstall….its a a small boutique hotel with 18 rooms and minimal staff. Views of the Neckar river adorned with its quaint old wooden arched bridge from some windows. Few minutes walk from the old town. And breakfast in stone cellars. Jackpot! Lights out at the front desk when the clock strikes 8 pm. No reason to panic…its not a dorm. The main entrance locks up early, but you can let yourself in with the room swipe card. How’s that for a touch of home?

Head for Marktplatz

Barely five minutes of walk and you’re setting foot on the cobblestones of Marketplatz, the pulse of Heidelberg’s historical city center, Altstadt. The display boards tell all…the square layout, its landmarks and their historical significance. This has been the town’s hub since Middle Ages, not just for markets, but for all public proceedings…good, bad, and ugly, including beheadings, tortures and witch burnings. But that was then. Gory has now given way to glory, but the ancient tradition of people gathering continues. Before you even realise it, you’ve blended in seamlessly. As if you were always part of its throbbing canvas of life. Feel it. Get a peek of the hill castle…explore it later. 

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Savour sweetness

Pretty old buildings in soft lemon, cream, peach and teal colours line the square on three sides. The tall and narrow facades with gabled roofs are evenly and tightly packed together, their windows cheerfully brightened with colourful petunias and geraniums. At floor level, an array of cafes or shops sell local produce, candles, clothing, beer mugs and decorations. Stroll in and out of the inviting doorways, walking into an odd art gallery or a music shop. Pick up something local…like a dozen assorted schneeballen (they last up to a few weeks)…large tennis-ball shaped pastry, deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, nuts, caramel and even champagne. (Know more about the schneeballen) Does the store owner stay in the quaint house above…and had it been his family home since centuries, you muse while he packs your purchase into a crunchy white paper bag. It feels inconveniently sized and hard…how on earth do you bite into one of these? Only one way to find out!

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Trace eternity

Stop at one of the most photographed buildings in the square and step back in time. The iconic Ritter Hotel is the only original 17th century house that exists in the town today. It had even served as a temporary town hall when the Town Hall was destroyed in 1693. Talk about survival! While taking several pictures of the brown sandstone facade, renaissance-era columns and the carved figures, notice the inscription on the front “Persta invicta, Venus” (Remain Forever Unconquered, Beauty). Indeed, the elegant building constructed by a French cloth dealer had retained its charm over centuries.

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Shop at the Church

The limelight of the square? Clearly the odd-shaped, 600-year old Gothic-styled Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit). You need to take a circle around its almost 60 meters long and 20 meters wide perimeter to familiarise yourself with the unique structure of this red sandstone building. That baroque roof was added later to replace the one that burned down…can you believe it? Soak in the salmon coloured interior, tall columns, high ceilings, and pretty patterned windows. Wonder about the wall that once split the space into two halves – Catholic and Protestant. Unusual is the word for it. The 15th-century tomb of the church’s founder, King Ruprecht I, and his wife, Elizabeth, their carved likenesses still distinct, are preserved inside. But the strangest element is the circle of tented stalls outside the church walls, sandwiched cosily between its buttresses, selling everything but religious souvenirs! Indulge yourself…go shopping at the Church. 

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Debate life sentences

At the left end of the Marketplatz, near the 18th century baroque style Town Hall (Rathaus) with its bell tower, balconies, dormer windows, arched entryways and a colourful coat of arms, is another interesting structure. The large Hercules fountain statue is a favorite resting place for people to catch their breath. Now chew on this. In medieval times, criminals were chained here and left to take their last breaths! How ironical is that?

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Munch on lunch

Despite the astounding buzz of activity, there’s something utterly enjoyable about Heidelberg’s Marktplatz. Intelligently designed layout, maybe? Because you never have a full view of the whole square from any angle. Lunch on your mind? Grab the last free outdoor table at a busy corner bistro before hunger pangs get the better of you. German meals can wait for later. Large helpings of hearty tomato soup, garnished with big dollops of cream? Thinnest, crunchiest pizza served on a rustic wood plate? Sure! Sounds of the organ waft from the Church, chimes sound from the Town Hall bell tower and a street musician strums Bach on his violin. Music is all around and you heart is singing. If your instinct tells you that Heidelberg will go down your memory lane as one of the loveliest places you have visited, believe it. Fuel up and get ready to conquer the map. You’ve barely scratched the surface. The whole town is waiting to be discovered. Including the Heidelberg castle on the hill with views to kill for.

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To be continued…

 

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Blend into the old square of Heidelberg, one of the most adorable towns in Germany #germany #medieval town #german town #heidelberg

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42 thoughts on “Why you need to get to the adorable German town of Heidelberg!

  1. Would love to visit this quaint town of Heidelberg someday. There seems to be a lot going around, and am sure time would seem to fly, when one starts exploring. That food looks delicious, making for a good meal, in the midst of exploring.

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  2. We have never visited Germany. Thanks for taking us outside of the big towns. Hard to believe that this little town has so many visitors! Would love to visit when it is a little quieter. A market visit is definitely what I would want to do. And probably not at the stalls by the church. Glad they are no longer doing beheadings! The schneeballen sound tasty. Looks like there are so many interesting things to see in town. Thanks for introducing us to Heidelberg.

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  3. Love Heidleberg! I was there during the holidays and got to enjoy the Christmas market in the Marketplatz. A very different experience from the beheadings, tortures and witch burnings of long ago… thank goodness.

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  4. I love Heidelberg! The whole town just exudes so much charm! I don’t believe I tried a schneeballen when I was there, it sounds delish! The hiking trails around Heidelberg are spectacular too and provide some amazing views of the city. It’s years since my last visit and your photos have given me major wanderlust to return!

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  5. Greta pics that brought back fond memories for me. I loved visiting the castle and was amazed at the age and size of the world’s largest wine barrel. What I found even more amusing was the dance floor on the top. Did you see it?

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  6. I’ve not spent a lot of time in Germany, but Heidelberg certainly seems like a great place to introduce the me to all the small town german delights! I’d go just for the Schneeballen to be honest! I love how you have given us tidbits of history to bring the article to life!

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  7. It looks beautiful. I have visited many German towns (I worked in Germany for a while when I was much younger) but strangely have never been to Heidelberg. The Marktplatz looks absolutely delightful with a wonderful atmosphere. I am a huge fan of German confectionery also. I imagine the Schneeball was delicious?

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  8. Yep! Yep! Yep!
    I’ve been to Heidelberg, and indeed it IS adorable!

    It’s so quaint that somehow, as a university town, it reminded me of York in the UK! And in fact, not only is Heidelberg University the oldest university in Germany, but it was also founded in 1836, making it one of the oldest surviving universities in the world! It’s awesome!

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  9. This sounds like exactly the type of place we love to visit! And it sounds as though the journey getting there is more than half the fun! It is absolutely charming, I love the mix of history and markets and cuisine. I also love stays in boutique hotels, so would absolutely check out Villa Marstall for a stay. Your photos capture it all extremely well!

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  10. Even within Germany, Heidelberg is considered a true jewel. The sceneries are like from a fairy tale for sure – and after all, the University is really famous. Usually, I’m rather into hearty food, but the Schneeballen with the different fillings look like the perfect snack of sin.

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  11. Amazing views and breakfast in stole cellars!? I’m sold!! Vila Marstall sounds absolutely lovely and so does everything else on your itinerary list! I can’t get over how cute the houses are and not only do I wanna visit Heidelberg now, I’m tempted to move into one of the peach houses!

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