One photo, of the view between the Alte Brücke (the 'Old Bridge') and the stately dilapidation of the castle, should be enough to convince you to visit Heidelberg. This view of beautiful, timbered, Baroque Germany at its best triggered the advent of German Romanticism. Songs, poems and stories were written, pictures were painted, and all in tribute to Heidelberg's beauty. Heidelberg is also famous for being a university town - it's often referred to as 'Germany's Oxbridge' -so there's a lively cafe culture, and plenty of choice when it comes to choosing the best places to stay in Heidelberg.
400 years ago Heidelberg was home to the Hortus Palatinus, gardens dubbed 'The Eighth Wonder of the World' and the remains are still a wonderful arrangement of plants, statues and fountains. From here you've another spectacular view over the city.
Heidelberg's Old Town is a beautiful, cobblestone warren of Baroque and half timbered buildings sitting underneath the half ruined fortified castle. You can walk up to the castle or take the 90 second funicular. After visiting the castle you can funicular upward to the 'King's Throne', 1800 feet up. Your effort will be rewarded with Rhine views from a beer garden.
Some of the original university buildings, dating from the 14th Century, are open to the public. Including the students gaol or Studentenkarzer. This is where students who disturbed the peace ended up. There are lots of great stories about student duels and pranks.
In amongst the lovely buildings, the Gothic inspired Holy Spirit Church stands out as one of the loveliest. It's also a fascinating religious building in that, starting from 1706, it was used by both Catholics and Protestants at the same time - with only a wall separating them.
The town is seriously busy during the summer months, so if you want to book a bed in one of the best places to stay in Heidelberg you'll need to be organised and plan ahead. Alternatively come off season, when the streets are quieter and you can get a real feel for this atmospheric place.
Built in 1472 the family run Hirschgasse is the oldest hotel in Heidelberg and the oldest student duelling house in Germany. Rooms and suites are traditional yet luxurious with great views of the castle. Michelin starred dining in Le Gourmet restaurant.
Classically elegant, yet modern. Beautiful rooms and suites in creams with attractive paintings and boutique lighting. An unusual boat restaurant, rooftop terrace bar, and spa. A grown up spot, but family friendly too.