Monday, July 20, 2015

Heidelberg, Germany for Trekking, Tasting and Theatre This Summer

The former royal city of southern Germany, Heidelberg, is known for its culture, cuisine and castles and makes a rich destination for summer Europe travelers.  

"It is questionable whether there is a stranger place than this in the history of human crime," Mark Twain commented after spending a night in the “Karzer,” a prison for students that can be seen on a tour of Heidelberg's university. 

Perhaps because it is a college town, this region of Germany has also become a center of hiking, trekking and wandern, as the Germans like to say.  Families can mix active outdoor adventures with history, guided tours and great eats for an all-around enriching vacation.

Heidelberg on Your Feet

Hiking to Buchwald from the Heidelberg downtown; photo courtesy Heidelberg Tourism Marketing

Hikers and those in search of relaxation can explore the forest and surroundings close to the city, and take advantage of tour packages called “Active Heidelberg for Hikers” that include overnight accommodations, a visit to the castle, a guided tour along the famous Philosophers’ Walk to the Neuburg Abbey, and a three-course dinner in the romantic Old Town. A hiking map and a HeidelbergGuide are also part of the package.

Active families visiting the city can tackle the 330-meter-high Holy Mountain (Heiligenberg) on their own. This mountain offers great views of the Heidelberg Castle, and trails still have remnants from the Celtic, Roman, and Medieval times dating back to the 5th century; many are preserved, restored, and can be seen on the circular hiking trail called the Keltenweg (Celtic Trail).  

Super active families can head straight to the Burgensteig, another hiking trail through vienyards and forests which starts in Heidelberg. The route leads 120 kilometers above the Bergstrasse from the Heidelberg Castle to Burg Frankenstein, just a few kilometers south of Darmstadt. More than 30 fortresses, castles, and places of worship can be found along this trail.

Heidelberg on Your Stomach

Heidelberger Schloss seen from the distance; photo by Mende, courtesy Heidelberg Marketing.

If you've built up an appetite from hiking, or are just hungry all the time, consider booking the Delectable Heidelberg day tour run by the city's marketing office.  This three-hour appetizer combines a tour of the Old Town with a real Kurpfälzer menu and a visit to two traditional Heidelberg restaurants. A knowledgeable guide stops for samples at each place, plus stories, "magic elixirs" and a sweet chocolate promise (you'll learn what that is) dating back to 1863. It is being offered Fridays at 5:30pm;  June 26, July 24, August 28, September 25, October 30 and November 27, 2015.

For the 2015 summer season, Heidelberg Marketing and the Heidelberg guides are offering additional public guided city tours. The Tour of the Old Town is the most popular walking tour through Heidelberg. Be it the Church of the Holy Spirit, the Jesuit Quarter, Germany’s oldest university or other sights – every stop in the Old Town has its own history. During the summer months, the 90-minute tour begins daily at 10:30 from the main entrance to the old Town Hall; on Fridays there is an additional tour beginning at 6pm and on Saturdays at 2:30pm. English language tours are given only on Thursdays and Saturdays at 10:30am.

The City and Castle Sightseeing Tour takes a bus along the Neckar River to the Old Bridge, and then continues on to the castle. The cable car brings you back to the Old Town. From Thursday to Saturday, the sightseeing tour begins at 1:30pm with an English language tour departing the “Karlsplatz” bus stop at 3pm. 

The University of Heidelberg tour calls on the Studentenkarzer, the historic students’ prison, one of the stops during the public tour leaving Saturdays at 2:30pm. Other stops during the tour include the University Library, which houses the world famous medieval song collection “Codex Manesse”, and the “Alte Aula” or Old Assembly Hall / Old Auditorium of Germany's oldest university. The meeting point is the Universitätsplatz (University Square), Löwenbrunnen.

Heidelberg from a Seat

My Fair Lady is being presented as a musical this summer; collage by Annemone Takke

The annual Heidelberger Schlossfestspiele (Castle Festival) is again featuring performances of children’s theater, plays, concerts, musicals and movie soundtracks at the city's castle. Between June 24 and  August 2, 2015, the Theater and Orchestra Heidelberg are hosting one of the most well-known and popular open air theater festivals in Germany. A first this year will be dancing in the Dicker Turm (“Fat Tower”) of the castle.

This year, the audience can look forward to William Shakespeare’s  “Romeo and Juliet” in the castle courtyard. There will be a production of Rapunzel and a new dance performance, “Penumbra,” as well as the classic family musical “My Fair Lady." The concert program starts with arias from Handel and Mozart, and ranges from Italian opera to musical favorites.

Heidelberg Marketing offers an exclusive package tour for the 2015 Heidelberger Schlossfestspiele that includes accommodations, a visit to the Festival, dinner, walking tour of the Old Town, and a cruise on the solar-powered boat “Neckarsonne.” 

Planning a Visit to Heidelberg

This summer, from July 31 to August 28, 2015, families can take advantage of a 3-for-2 Special which allows them to stay in the city three nights for the price of two, and receive the HeidelbergCARD (free public transportation, a castle ticket including a ride on the funicular railway, discounts on tours, museums, restaurants, and shopping). This hotel offer as well as all of the city sightseeing tours can be booked by calling the Tourism Hotline at +49 (0)6221 5844444, visiting Heidelberg, or going in person to the Tourist Information Office at the Main Station and in the City Hall; reservations can also be made through the booking office of the Heidelberg Marketing GmbH – Telephone +49 (0)6221 5840-223/-225, or by emailing (Outside of the business hours, tickets can also be purchased directly from the tour guide at the starting point.) 

More information about the area can be found in FTF's Visit to the Schriesheim Festival trip journal, and is also available at Heidelberg, or by telephone at +49 6221 58 40224/-226. 

With so many choices, let us know what you plan to do and see!

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