FREE Heidelberg Walking Tour Map Germany - Self Guided Do It Yourself Tour
FREE Heidelberg Walking Tour Map Germany - Self Guided Do It Yourself Tour
FREE Heidelberg Walking Tour Map Germany - Self Guided Do It Yourself Tour
FREE Heidelberg Walking Tour Map Germany - Self Guided Do It Yourself Tour

Free Heidelberg Walking Tour:

Walking Tour Location: Old Town Heidelberg
Style: Do-It-Yourself Walking Tour (Self Guided
The Old Bridge (Alte Brücke)
End: Scheffel Terrace (Scheffelterrasse)
Walking Distance: 1.5 Miles (+.5 miles each way for Philosopher’s Path)
Time: 1 Hour for Walk (with attractions 5-6 hours)
Fun Scale: 9 out of 10

Overview of Old Town Heidelberg:

While the North side of the Neckar River was home to Celtic and Roman forts, the Southside blossomed in the Middle Ages into the well-preserved Old Town Heidelberg to see today.  Heidelberg served as the capital of the Electoral Palatinate of the Rhine for 600 years (1085–1690) and was one of the main residences of the powerful Wittelsbach family for just as long (1214–1803).

With powerful standing in the Holy Roman Empire, Heidelberg grew under the shadow of its mighty castle which is still one of the best in Germany to visit today.  One this free Heidelberg walking tour, we will take you through the sights that shaped Old Town from the impressive castle and Germany’s oldest university (founded in 1386), through Medieval Squares and over one of the most romantic bridges we’ve been to.

Heidelberg Walking Tour:

1. The Old Bridge (Alte Brücke):

About The Old Bridge: There has been a bridge at this location over the Neckar River since the Romans established a wooden one in the 1st Century.  After being rebuilt in stone, the bridge collapsed and there wasn’t a new one over the river until 1284.  Today’s bridge is the 9th version since Medieval times and strolling it is one of the best things see on our free Heidelberg walking tour.

The Neckar River once served as the border between the Electorate Palatinate of the Rhine (South) and the Electorate of Mainz (North) which required the bridge to be heavily fortified in the Middle Ages.  On Sebastian Münster’s engraved drawings of Heidelberg (Cosmographia) from 1550, we get a glimpse of what the bridge looked like through Medieval times.  It shows us that the bridge had a wooden roof over it and in addition to the double-tower gate on the South, it also had the Monkey Tower Gate (Affenturm) on its Northern end.

Most of the rebuilds were because of ice damage and although the Old Bridge survived invasions during the 30 Years War in 1622, the 7th one was leveled in the Nine Year’s War in 1689.   For almost 20 years after, there was only a ferry to cross the river.  Rebuilt twice more (1706 & 1799) the middle of the bridge was damaged in 1945 by retreating Nazi forces as the Americans closed in and had to be repaired.

Today on the Northern end of the 9-pillar bridge, there is a large statue of the Roman Goddess Minerva (8th pillar) sits where a guardhouse once stood.  Next to her was a statue of martyred John of Nepomuk Statue (9th pillar) from 1738 which fell into the Neckar River during the Flood of 1784 and now sits along the Southbank.  This was slightly ironic as the Saint had been tossed into a river when he was murder in Prague.  In the place of another guardhouse on the Southern end is a large statue of Elector Karl Theodor (8th pillar) who constructed the current bridge in 1788.

2. Old Bridge Tower (Brückentor):

About The Bridge Gate Towers: The 92-foot-tall twin towers of the Old Bridge Gate leading into Heidelberg is the town’s second most iconic feature after the mighty castle.  There have been round twin towers above this entrance into town since at least 1400s when they were part of Heidelberg’s Medieval fortifications.   The earliest depiction of this wonderful gate was from a woodcut image of town by Sebastian Münster in 1527 as well as some engravings from 1550.

After surviving floods and wars over the centuries, the gate towers were fitted with their current canopy roofs in 1714.  The Western Tower (called the Guild tower) has three Medieval dungeon rooms and the Eastern Tower has a spiral staircase that leads up to the small apartment of the bridge guard over the middle archway above the gate.  Paid tolls were enforced at the gate for any foreigners crossing the bridge until 1878.

3. Bridge Monkey Statue (Brückenaffe):

About The Bridge Monkey Statue: Very funny statue once used to make fun of the Bishop of Mainz while also asking Heidelberg citizens to have self-reflection.

4. Neckar Riverboat Cruises:

About The River Boat Cruises: Pretty cool.

5. Horse Stables Arsenal (Marstallhof):

About The Horse Stables Arsenal: Now the University Cafe.

6. Main Street ( Hauptstraße):

About Main Street: The longest pedestrian zone in Germany and is filled with shops.

7. Student Prison (Studentenkarzer):

About The Student Prison: Very cool.

8. Market Square (Marktplatz):

About Market Square: Main square since the 1300s.

9. Knight Saint George Hotel (Hotel Zum Ritter St. Georg):

About Hotel Ritter: Since 1592

10. Church of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggeistkirche):

About The Church of the Holy Spirit: Main church in town.

Tavern Location: Dominikanerstrasse 6.  Tavern Hours: Daily 9:30am-11:30pm; warm meals from 11:30am-10pm; outdoor beer garden open Easter until early-October.  Tavern Website: Here.

11. Grain Market (Kornmarkt):

About Grain Market: Virgin Mary Statue.

12. Karl’s Square (Karlsplatz):

About Karl’s Square: 3/4 the way up the steps you will notice a vertical marker in the cement of the railing.  This line marked the divide between the holy domain of the Bishop and the that of the common man who lived in the village below.

13. Hill Funicular Lift (Bergbahnen):

About The Hill Funicular Lift: Since 1890

14. Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Hiedelberg):

About Heidelberg Castle: Since 1214.

15. Palatinate Gardens & Scheffel Terrace (Scheffelterrasse):

Other Sights Near Old Town:

16. The King’s Chair (Königstuhl):

17. Philosopher’s Path (Philosophenweg):

18. Holy Mountain (Heiligenberg):

19. Heidelberg University Library:

20. Karl’s Gate Tower (Karlstor):

21. Neckar River Park (Neckarwiese):